Thought Niagara Falls was just for summer? In fact, the world’s most famous waterfall is equally as spectacular in winter. There are even some stunning sights in winter that you can’t see any other time of the year – and we think everyone should experience them.
When snow and ice descend over the region, it creates a whole new magical landscape. A visit to Niagara Falls in winter could tie in perfectly with a flight to Toronto to witness the splendours of the season. Toronto is full of Christmas markets while the Ontario countryside is ideal for winter sports like snow-shoeing and dog-sledding.
If your inner Ice Queen or Snow King is longing for a fairy-tale holiday, then find out why Niagara Falls could be just the thing…
1. See the falls covered in ice
The spray from the falls coats everything in a glittering, shimmering layer over winter. There are magnificent icicle formations everywhere you look. You could even see them up close to the face of the falls if the Journey Behind the Falls is open (the walkway occasionally closes in bad weather).
You can expect to see swirling ice floes along the Niagara River as sections of slower-moving water freeze over. In very cold winters, the falls themselves freeze leading to a spectacular cascade of ice where the water usually drops.
In 2015, Will Gadd became the first person to ascend the Niagara Falls on an ice climb (on the American side of the falls). Red Bull sponsored his record-breaking ascent and amazed onlookers didn’t know it was going to happen. You never know, perhaps someone will climb the falls while you visit!
2. Enjoy longer illuminations
Thanks to earlier sunsets and darker evenings in winter, you can enjoy the falls illuminations for longer. The illuminations light up the face of the falls in spell-binding colours and it’s a favourite sight of anyone visiting Niagara.
The illuminations turn on from 4.30pm to midnight in November and December, and 5pm to midnight in January. It’s perfect if you are travelling with kids. You don’t have to stay up past their bedtime for them to see the incredible lightshow!
The special lights are housed in the Illumination Tower next to Queen Victoria Place, on the roof of the Table Rock Centre and at other strategic locations around the falls site. The lights had their most recent update in 2016 to modern, efficient (and colourful!) LED lights, but the illuminations have existed since 1925.
3. Walk the Festival of Lights
Arguably the most enchanting attraction at Niagara Falls, the annual Winter Festival of Lights will run this year from 18th November to January 31st. This 8km long trail hugs the river along the Niagara Escarpment and the Dufferin Islands, winding its way through more than fifty light-wrapped trees.
The light sculptures on the way are dazzling and include angels, moose, deer and bison. The largest Canadian-American flag in the world is here and there’s even an illuminated Noah’s Ark! Kids and adults alike will love it. From the 3D laser shows to the Deck the Falls Holiday Walking tour, it would be a crime to miss it.
It’s free to enter the Festival of Lights (although donations are suggested). Extra experiences include weekly firework displays and the Festival of Stars Concerts. Why not stroll the Festival of Lights before taking in the illuminations on the falls at the end of your walk? You’ll be just in time to catch a fireworks display.
4. See the falls from a different perspective
Helicopter rides operate over the falls all year round. It’s a spectacular way to see the falls in any season but we believe winter offers something extra special. You can really see the frost and ice floes from the air and appreciate the magic of the snowy landscape.
Niagara Helicopters operate flights year-round. From the exhilarating moment of lift off when your stomach drops away, to soaring over the thundering water for those bird’s eye views, there’s no experience quite like it. It’s previously featured in the Top 50 Winter Experiences in Canada.
The route takes you past the Whirlpool, the Niagara Rapids and Rainbow Bridge before flying over American Falls and the iconic Horseshoe Falls. You can even combine your heli-tour with a visit to one of the many wineries on the Niagara Wine Route. Which brings us nicely to our final recommendation…
5. Indulge in some ice wine
The Niagara Region is home to some of the most fertile wine-growing soil on earth. There are more than 15,000 acres of grapes and over 70 wineries here. But what makes this region truly remarkable is its production of exquisite ice wine.
Only a few choice regions in the world can grow ice wine and Niagara is famous across the globe as a producer. Ice wine takes a very special set of circumstances to be produced. The weather must be cold enough to freeze the grapes on the vine. They are then harvested in the middle of the night to avoid the morning thaw.
The freezing process concentrates the juice in the grapes. The resulting wine is like nectar of the gods – sweet, light, rich and impossibly fruity. It’s no wonder estates like Inniskillin win awards year after year for this delicious drink.
Will you be tempted to visit Niagara Falls over winter? We’ve got a fantastic deal for a city break in Toronto from just £399 per person for flights and a hotel. You could easily pop over to Niagara for a day trip as it’s only 90 minutes away!