For generations, Niagara Falls has been a summer vacation destination. Honeymooners and families alike have flocked to the spectacular falls to enjoy the splendor of nature as well as a wide variety of activities ranging from amusement parks and casinos to winery tours and spa treatments.
However, most of the time, once the cold weather hits, Niagara Falls is a virtual ghost town. Thanks to ice and freezing temperatures, access to the falls is limited, and many attractions on both the American and Canadian sides of the falls close or revert to a limited schedule. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’ a bad time to visit. In fact, visiting Niagara Falls during the offseason can be just as enjoyable – and more affordable – if you know what to expect.
Like so many seasonal destinations, Niagara Falls has to work hard to attract visitors during the colder months. That means winter deals are abundant in Niagara Falls, and hotels, restaurants and attractions slash prices and create enticing packages to encourage people to visit.
In fact, during the low season, many hotel rates are up to half off the high season rates, and the hotels around Niagara Falls offer specials that include dining vouchers, casino credits, spa credits and more. You’ll also find reduced rates on some popular attractions; the Niagara Parks Commission offers a winter version of their popular multi-attraction pass that gives you access to places like Journey Behind the Falls and the Butterfly Conservatory.
And just because the weather outside is frightful, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy typical vacation pursuits. The popular Maid of the Mist boat tour is closed from October through May, but you can still get wet and wild at one of the several indoor water parks in the area surrounding the Falls.
Things to Do
Every November, the local hydro-electric company siphons water from the river, reducing the water flow over the falls. This means that the falls may look slightly less impressive than they would in the middle of the summer, but they are a sight to behold, especially in midwinter when the surrounding area is coated with ice and snow.
In fact, plan your visit sometime between late November and early January, and you can take in the Ice Festival Niagara and the Winter Festival of Lights. The Festival of Lights is Canada’s largest light festival, and features breathtaking displays and shows, fireworks and more. During the Ice Festival, families can watch – or take part in – snow and ice sculpture contests as well as other family-friendly activities.
Beyond festivals, though, there is plenty more to do in Niagara Falls during the winter. There are multiple casinos on both sides of the border where you can try your luck or buy a ticket on the Canadian Rainbow Tour. On this tour, you’ll be able to get up close to the falls, as well as the Table Rock House, Great Whirlpool, Butterfly Conservatory and other attractions. And don’t miss the Konica Minolta Tower Centre, open year-round. The tower has been part of the skyline near the falls for generations, and offers outdoor observation decks as well as thrill rides, restaurants and shops.
The Niagara Falls State Park on the American side of the falls is open year-round as well, and during the winter you can still get great views of the falls as well as the lush landscaping and wildlife. And of course, several of the region’s museums are open throughout the year, including the Niagara Wax Museum of History, Aquarium of Niagara and the Daredevil Museum, where you can see exhibits highlighting the long history of stunts and feats that have taken place in the falls.
So while you might not see all of the same attractions that you would during the summer, when you visit Niagara Falls in the offseason you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds, lower rates and some special events that you won’t see the rest of the year. It might not be the most obvious winter destination, but you might find yourself wondering why you’d consider any other time for a visit.
Born and raised in nearby Buffalo, Belinda Orson has seen Niagara Falls in all seasons and considers winter the most beautiful time to visit.