Visiting Niagara Falls in the Offseason

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Niagara Falls Flickr Photo by jas-gd

Niagara Falls Flickr Photo by jas-gd

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.

Bargains Everywhere!

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.

Ice sculpture

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. 

A Canadian expat that has been living abroad in Asia since 2003, Carrie moved from China to Taiwan in 2006 to teach English as a Second Language. Today, she and her husband are co-owners of Reach To Teach Recruiting . Carrie also works as a freelance travel writer and photographer, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on Google+ or on Twitter @globetrotteri.

8 responses to “Visiting Niagara Falls in the Offseason”

  1. Andrew Morgan

    The Falls are beautiful this time of year, don’t you think? It seems like you don’t, but without a doubt, it’s my favorite. I’m always happiest when I see the cold fury pouring from over the drop, rise back in natural defiance. I love to watch the falling moats crystallize into climbing castles. I cheer for waves that lap into ladders, leading the way higher and higher with every splash. Yes, this is my favorite time. The colored lights pool brightly on snowy blankets, but all you can do is shiver. I can see in your eyes you long for more warmth, but you just can’t seem to budge. You stand transfixed by the power. By the pull. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many others have stood where you do now and many others, I can promise you, will again. It’s a matter of temperature, you see…

    When it is warm, the masses come, and sway in misted droves. You come to see the wonders; a writhing sea above the water. You point and marvel and smile and clap and march your young and your old. You congest the cliffs with your screams and shouts but still, you don’t hear a thing.

    When it is warm, you bring your toys along and try to capture the Greatness. You point and shoot and document everything, invading as you please. You zoom and pan and shutter and snap but your new eyes never see me. You stand on solid ground, clucking and clicking and demand to take the water as well.

    When it is warm, you come to fish and cast your lines and nets. It is not enough to take the water, you want all it’s possessions too. You reel in while I reel back, our simple minuet. Will you never understand? It takes more than sticks and strings to lure me.

    When it is warm, you turn to daredevils, relinquishing to the pull. So many onlookers you attract with such darkened anticipation. You take on the current and your courage and think that’s all that you must brave. You are, as your saying goes, a barrel of laughs.

    When it is warm, you play dress up and flock onto toy boats. You come to see the power up close on maids that are anything but maiden. You cluster around and look up at the water as I look through the water up at you. Safely you cling in your little bunches, vile and ripe as can be.

    When it is warm, you swarm like a hive by the escarpment, evading those who made you. You congregate then desecrate and continue your parents’ upheaval. You sing and dance and twirl and prance always out of reach from the watching banks.

    When it is warm, you come and throw your new daughters off cliffs, then wail and cry to the growing crowds, like that wasn’t your plan to begin with. But I hear you clearly, like we were the only ones. I hear your fears that you’ll be caught and your silent pleas for forgiveness. I only hear your babies’ fears, but only for a moment.

    When it is warm, you troll for strewn riches trying to regain all that was lost. You try to undo the damage that you create, gathering all your broken babies and bottles. You stuff them in bags and black beds and then rise to the top to begin it all again.

    The Falls are beautiful this time of year because when it is cold, most of you stay away.

    When it is cold, your boats don’t sail and your seas slowly part and your toys all get put away. You stay up top where the freezing water slows and the great, crystal castles have climbed.

    When it is cold, away from prying eyes, I come out of the water and play amongst the mist, ice and snow.
    When it is cold like this, I blend right away, into jagged rock and winter and watch you brace from the powers at hand.

    On cold days like this I breathe your air, and smell you on your ripping wind.
    On cold days like this I can claw up frozen waves and reign like I am the King.

    But on a cold night like this, when no one is watching, I can finally reach you.

    The End

  2. Mike

    So, the prices are cut during winter. I think I could still have fun time visiting Niagara falls. I can even capture photos of a different and unique mood of the waterfalls.

  3. Michael

    My dad is really inspired to go to Niagara Falls. We’ve been like to 20 countries across the globe. Still, we have gone to this magnificent waterfalls. My dad has promised to go here by the end of the year. I am so excited!

  4. Thomas @ World Wild Travel

    The Niagara Icewine Festival in January is a great event. You can visit a number of wineries and taste amazing food that complements the wine. You can stay in Niagara to take advantage of hotel deals, and get a tour company to pick you up. I highly recommend it!

  5. Adrian

    One thing I learned from now is that Visiting in Off season , is much helpful without much hassle. Thanks for this , Carrie.

  6. Will

    I love Niagara Falls in the winter time. It’s like visiting a different world. In the summer, there’s so many people- I’m not the biggest fan.

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