Niagara Falls in the winter was not something we had thought of until we saw a Facebook Ad about a Niagara Festival of Lights Tour! The Festival of Lights is a free activity that runs from mid-November to mid-February.
Winter season in Niagara Falls is far less crowded and enjoyable if you dress correctly for the cold temperatures. A weekend trip to Niagara Falls is the perfect amount of time for a winter adventure!
If you enjoy winter travels, you might also enjoy exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during the snowy months, where you can explore ice caves and partially frozen waterfalls.
Niagara Falls Wonder Pass
Niagara Parks offers a wintertime Niagara Falls Wonder Pass, which provides a discount rate for visiting multiple attractions. The pass includes one-time admission to the following attractions: Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara’s Fury, Butterfly Conservatory, and Floral Showhouse.
We used the incline a few times and didn’t use the bus system at all. We attempted to use the pass for the bus, but the bus was running late, so we just walked to our destination instead.
A handful of coupons also come with the pass – $5 parking, free glass with meal purchase, % off gift store purchase, discount to the Sky Wheel, etc.
The Conservatory is located a few miles north of downtown, but no worries, the WEGO bus stops here. Parking is $5 at this location, one of the cheaper places to park.
Since this was our first stop, we redeemed our online purchase document for the actual pass.
Plan to spend 45 minutes to an hour checking out the 400+ types of butterflies on-premises (over 2,000 tropical butterflies). There are winding pathways that meander through a rainforest setting, complete with a pond and waterfall.
The most interesting part, in my opinion, is the Emergence window, where the butterflies were emerging from the cocoon.
Tip: Plan to hang your coat up on the free coat check – it is warm inside the conservatory!
Journey Behind the Falls
This journey takes you underground to get an up-close view of the waterfalls crashing down a couple of feet away. There are signs with history and stories along the way. Rain ponchos are provided.
Niagara’s Fury takes guests along with a cute little beaver as he re-discovers the history of the falls.
Once you learn how the falls were created, you venture into a moving platform where you get to experience dropping temperatures, water spray, and snowfall.
This activity takes about 30 minutes, but get in line about 20 minutes before your scheduled time. If traveling with kids, this will surely be a favorite activity!
Tip: Rain ponchos are provided.
The Floral Showhouse is located about a half-mile from the Table Rock Centre. The Floral Showhouse has a large collection of orchids, succulents, and other tropical plant species.
For the holidays, there was a large amount of holiday-type plans, such as Poinsettia. There were also some outdoor displays – treehouses, Victorian-era houses, and a train.
Evening hours and daylight hours are available. Visiting during the day was pretty, but the holiday lights would also be so beautiful in the evening!
Festival of Lights
There is a drive-thru display at Dufferin Island, which is sponsored by the Ontario Power Generation. It is recommended that you make a $5/car donation when exiting the park.
There is ample space to pull over and walk around to check out the displays throughout the park. The light display at Dufferin Island pulls over one million visitors each season!
Leaving the Dufferin Island area, head to other areas around Niagara Falls to check out the lights. The Lundays Landing portion was a huge disappointment (during our visit), as there were very few holiday displays/lights.
Once we had completed the driving tour, we went back to the hotel and took the Incline Railway down to the falls.
There are many light displays on the Niagara Parkway. Some of our favorite things were the interactive displays!
The “Impulse” was a series of seesaws that the lights and sounds are affected by motion. The “Passage” exhibit is composed of illuminated circles that change color and sound when you walk through them.
There is a fireworks display over the falls – check the schedule- but the fireworks display typically occurs on Friday nights. Note that the display only lasted about 5 minutes the day we visited.
Other activities to consider
Beyond exploring the Niagara FallsWonder Pass options, consider a few other options in the area!
Option 1: Niagara Falls Area
The Tunnel at the Niagara Power Station
The Tunnel at the Niagara Power Station is a historic tunnel that opened up for tours in 2022. The tunnel was constructed to carry water from the Niagara River to the power plant's turbines, generating electricity for the surrounding areas.
Today, the tunnel is no longer in use for generating electricity, but it is open for public tours year-round. The tour explains the history of hydroelectricity. The tour takes guests 180 feet below the Niagara Parks Power Station and to the 2200-foot-long tunnel, where there is a viewing platform.
Option 2: Day Trip to Buffalo, NY
Where to eat in Buffalo
Fat Bob’s Smokehouse proves to be a solid BBQ joint with an array of BBQ goodness. It was super yummy.
Anchor Bar, the home of Chicken Wings, is also a highly-rated place to grab a meal.
Martin House Complex by Frank Lloyd Wright
The Martin House Complex was built between 1903 and 1905 and is Prairie School style. There are two tour options – 1 hour and 2 hour.
There is a second Frank Lloyd Wright house located at 57 Tillinghast Place and the Walter V. Davidson House and a third Wright house located at 76 Soldiers Place, the William R. Heath House.
These homes are privately owned residences – no tours – sorry!
Skylon Tower is one of the top attractions in Niagara Falls. Enjoy the view of the area 520′ in the sky.
The ride to the top takes less than a minute via a glass-enclosed elevator; once at the top, views include the Niagara River, Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and the Great Gorge.
Besides a viewing platform, there is also a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower. The base of the tower is the largest indoor amusement area in the Niagara Region.
Where to stay in Niagara Falls
There are many hotels and restaurants available that are within walking distance of the falls. Most hotels will charge a daily parking fee.
During our visit, we stayed at the Comfort Inn Fallsview. The hotel charged a daily parking rate, but you could easily come and go as you pleased.
The room was basic, but it was clean and comfortable. The TV channel selection was not very good, but hey, you aren’t on vacation to watch TV!
Breakfast was included in the rate and was standard breakfast fare – waffles, cereal, eggs, sausage, etc.
The breakfast area was large, but the hotel layout was a bit awkward – we had to exit the hotel to enter the hotel in another area to get to the breakfast area.
The pool area connects the buildings, but you aren’t supposed to wear shoes in the pool area.
Places to eat in Niagara Falls
Just a short walk from the Comfort Inn, we found Turtle Jack's Niagara Falls; we made it in time for the turtle time happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6. The décor deserved an A+, as did the food!
Service was fair, but the amount of time it took to get the food was longer than expected, especially since the place was nearly empty. As we were leaving, the tables were filling up.
The restaurant is located in the Radisson Hotel and Suites Fallsview.
Day 1 Activities
Butterfly Conservatory – Allow 45 minutes
Festival of Lights – Dufferin Island
Fireworks over the falls
Day 2 Morning Activities
Table Rock Centre is an area with a few activities, restaurants and gift shops. (The Incline Railway transports you near this area.)
Journey Behind the Falls – allow 30-45 minutes
Niagara’s Fury – allow 45 minutes
Floral Showhouse – allow 30-45 minutes
Day 2 Afternoon Activities
Option 1: Niagara Falls area
The Tunnel at the Niagara Power Station – allow 2 hours
Shopping at the many Niagara Falls shops
Day Trip Option: Day trip to Buffalo, New York
Frank Lloyd Wright Martian House Complex – Buffalo, New York
Day 2 Evening Activities
Skylon Tower – allow 1 – 2 hours
Final Thoughts: Niagara Falls in the Winter
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy in Niagara Falls (without having to visit Buffalo). Even if the falls aren't partially frozen, it is still nice to see them in winter since they are much less crowded and cheaper!
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