Tips for Visiting Niagara Falls in Winter

Jan 13, 2016

Some friends and I took an overnight trip to Niagara Falls, curious about what the town might have to offer over winter months. As we drove up Clifton Hill, old memories of arcades and haunted houses came to mind, but the biggest surprise was just how nice the Falls are in winter. Some attractions close during colder months, but with fewer customers, the locals who staff the restaurants and souvenir stands had more time to chat. Along the way, we were lucky to collect a few tips and reasons for visiting when the temperature drops:

  1. For starters, mist from the thundering rapids turns the trees into glassy sculptures, and as winter progresses, gigantic icicles creep in from the sides. The temperature hadn’t quite dropped enough for us to see this unique sight first-hand, but a second trip towards the end of February may be worth the 1.5-hour drive from Toronto. A quick search will show why our waitress called this time of year a "photographer's paradise."
  2. Through January, the CAA Winter Festival of Lights transforms the area into a wintry playground. A popular seasonal activity, the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland features more than 125 animated light displays, including the world's largest Canadian-American flag and gigantic Disney characters. Admission is free, though a suggested donation of $5-$10 per car helps with maintenance.
  3. Whether looking for family fun or romance, skate on the TD RINK at the Brink. This outdoor refrigerated skating rink is operational through February and, in the words of the festival's website, is a "snowball's throw from the 'brink' of the Horseshoe Falls." Families tend to take over the ice during the day, while couples enjoy the late afternoon and evening. Admission is $7 and kids younger than 7 are free.
  4. Stay over a Friday night to enjoy fireworks above the Falls -- a tradition for nearly 140 years. The Falls are illuminated nightly, but this extra bang is visible only on Friday nights. Good vantage points are not hard to find, and include many hotel rooms, restaurants, and even the skating rink.
  5. As the thermometer's mercury drops, so does the cost of hotel rooms and attractions across the region. The Canadian Top 20 often features deals for Niagara properties, which usually include extras like vouchers for dining and arcades. If a serene getaway with wine tastings is more your style, or if you want to extend your visit to the area, consider a night at the nearby Niagara on the Lake, just 25 minutes away by car.
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