Niagara Falls is a popular summer destination. Almost too crowded, some may say. Due to the fact that it is located on the border between the US and Canada, November through February can be freezing. Of course, you can see the Falls all year around, but are there other things to do in Niagara Falls in the winter? Or should you avoid Niagara Falls during winter? You might be surprised by the special events and attractions that you can visit in during the colder months.
Together with some of my fellow travel bloggers, I have put together this guide to help you decide if you should visit Niagara Falls in winter and plan your time accordingly.
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Niagara Falls in Winter: What to Expect
Niagara Falls is a beautiful place, but in the winter it does get cold. Expect high temperatures from 36° to 30° F and lows to be from 24° to 17° F and dress accordingly. (Check out this winter packing list for Canada and my list of general winter travel essentials for ideas) Even though it is cold, the Arctic high pressure dominates so most days are clear.
Is it worth seeing Niagara Falls in the winter when it is so cold? Yes, if you are lucky, you might get to see the Falls covered in snow. During the winter season, it may look like Niagara Falls is frozen with miniature glaciers and long icicles visible, but water is still moving beneath the ice.
Given the harsh weather conditions, some of the outdoor attractions close for the winter. You will not be able to do a Niagara Falls Boat Tour, the Cave of the Winds, White Water Walk, Whirlpool Aerocar, Zipline, or the Whirlpool Jetboat, but plenty of other attractions are still open. There are also some special winter festivals.
You can also expect that the Niagara Falls area will be much less crowded and hotels will be cheaper. The New York side of the Falls will be even quieter than the Canadian side. If you decide to go, check out my tips for planning your trip to Niagara.
What to do in Niagara Falls in the Winter
Don’t let the extreme temperatures keep you from visiting Niagara Falls. They still have plenty of winter events and attractions. There are also some indoor things to do in Niagara Falls.
See Niagara Falls From Above in a Helicopter
Recommended by Anisa
I can’t think of a better way to admire the icy Niagara Falls than from a helicopter! Niagara Helicopters offer their tours 364 days a year, as long as the weather cooperates. They cannot fly in the dark or when there are low clouds, so call ahead if the skies look questionable. You don’t need to book your helicopter ride in advance, they operate on a first-come-first-served basis and aim to keep the wait at 15 minutes or less.
We did the Classic helicopter tour in the summer and seeing Niagara Falls from that perspective was amazing. In addition to aerial views of the Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veils Falls, we could also spot the Whirlpool Rapids, Rainbow Bridge, and Queen Victoria Park. The helicopter ride only lasts about 12 minutes but it is definitely an experience I will never forget!
Take a Journey Behind the Falls
Recommended by Anisa
The Journey Behind the Falls offers a close-up behind the scene view of the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls). It is similar to the Cave of the Winds attraction you find on the American side except most of it is “indoors” and you don’t get as close to the water. Since the Cave of the Winds is closed during the winter, the Journey Behind the Falls is a good alternative. Make sure you bundle up since the viewing platform is outside.
Your admission price includes a poncho so you may get a little wet. First, you get to explore a series of tunnels where you get a peek at the Canadian Falls from underneath. Then you have the opportunity to go outside and view the Horseshoe Falls up close.
When we visited, the mist coming off the Falls was quite strong, so be careful using any camera equipment that is not waterproof. If you plan on using your cell phone for photos, be sure to get a waterproof case like this one.
Admire the Niagara Falls Illumination
Recommended by Anisa
Every night throughout the year, Niagara Falls becomes a light art masterpiece. Thousands of lights from three different locations work together to create this breathtaking view. In 2016, the existing Xenon lights were replaced with new, energy-efficient LED lighting technology that is more than twice as bright and offers a wider range of colors. Custom colors are used to mark significant dates and to show support for charitable causes. The schedule for the lights varies by day and can be found here.
Since it’s cold out, it’s best to observe the illumination from inside. Consider paying for a falls view room – it’s worth it. Then you can relax with a warm beverage and take in the view comfortably. If you don’t mind the cold, you can get a great view from Queen Victoria Park.
If you are looking for a hotel with a few of the Falls there are several options on the Canadian side. We stayed in a Falls View room at the Marriott. The Sheraton also has Falls View rooms.
Go For a Scenic Hike
Recommended by Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit
While you may think that hiking is a fair-weather sport, the trails say otherwise! One of the most iconic trails in Ontario, The Bruce Trail, runs all the way from Queenston to Tobermory, passing right through Niagara Falls. You’ll need a sturdy pair of hiking boots and some solid winter gear to keep you warm, but there’s nothing like having the trail all to yourself after a fresh batch of snow. The trail is mostly gravel but can be rocky at times so watch your step.
While it isn’t quite in Niagara Falls, if you’re looking for more waterfall action then DeCew Falls in St Catharines is waiting for you! Here there are two falls, the Upper and Lower DeCew Falls, and the Bruce Trail runs right by them. If you’re going to hike it all the way from Niagara Falls though, you’re in for quite the trek!
Have a Cold One at the Niagara Brewing Company
Recommended by Annick from The Common Traveler
This active brewery is located just 200 meters from the waterfalls on the Canadian side in the center of Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill houses many of the area’s indoor activities so Niagara Brewing is in the heart of the action. Passes for two sampling boards at Niagara Brewing Company are typically included in many hotels’ resort fee, so you may as well try them out.
Since craft breweries are all the rage right now, this place is crowded. Featuring both upstairs and downstairs areas, there is plenty of room for groups and families. Enjoy live music acts daily. Food is reasonably priced and delicious. Enjoy typical snacks such as guacamole and chips and wings, to heartier sandwiches with fries and even a charcuterie plate.
For the best deals, visit during Hoppy Hour for $4 brews. With beer names like Niagara, Honeymoon Peach Raddler, Amb Eh!, and Beerdevil, Niagara Brewing celebrates local history. Get out of the cold and enjoy a freshly brewed beer at Niagara Brewing.
Visit the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
Recommended by Roxanna from Gypsy with a Day Job
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center opened in the spring of 2018 to tell the personal stories of those involved in the Underground Railroad in the Niagara area. The city was a key stop for Black Americans seeking freedom from slavery, as it was the narrowest point to cross into Canada between Detroit and Maine. An entire network of citizens worked together behind the scenes to further the cause in Niagara Falls and the surrounding counties.
Finally, more than 150 years later, the stories of those who played a critical role in the Underground Railroad, and those who used it to get to freedom, are being told. Visitors are able to hear and read the very words of those seeking to escape, and those who aided in that escape. The Underground Railroad Heritage Center recreates historic scenes through multimedia displays and interactive exhibits and also ties them to the fight for freedom that continues around the world today.
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is not a large museum, but it is both educational and moving. It is located at the Niagara Falls, NY Amtrak Station and Customs Complex. The center is open year round but closed on Mondays.
Got to the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory
Recommended by Kevin from Wandering Wagars
The Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory is a massive greenhouse that is filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful butterflies. A walk through the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls is a perfect way to shake off the icy Niagara Falls mist and experience some summer temperatures. The butterfly conservatory has winding walking paths, flowering trees, flowing waterfalls and is accessible to almost everyone. A walk through this gorgeous butterfly museum is like a trip into a magical flying garden.
The butterfly conservatory is part of the Niagara Pass, so if you are combining it with other activities, you won’t have to pay any extra to enter. Make sure you dress in layers before visiting the butterfly garden though, they keep the temperature pretty warm in there, so your heavy winter clothes will make you sweat before too long.
Try Your Luck in the Casinos
Recommended by Christopher from the Traveling Mitch
Niagara Falls is known for many things, namely the falls themselves, but there’s a lot going on around the rushing water. There are not one but two casinos for your gambling pleasure in Niagara Falls. When the day is winding to a close and you want to add that extra sprinkle of excitement into the mix that’s where a trip the casino comes into play.
Personally, I’d recommend Fallsview Casino Resort as it’s a fairly classy establishment that allows you to feel like, even if you lost money, you gained something by being there. If luck just isn’t in your cards, then head on down to Casino Niagara after, another establishment which is good fun. Either way, you’re going to have a blast and may luck be ever in your favor.
Watch Niagara’s Fury
Recommended by Daisy from Beyond My Border
From weekly fireworks to nightly illuminations, Niagara’s beauty is amplified during these colder months. However, the cold may not be for everyone. On days when the Canadian winter proves too brutal, Niagara offers numerous indoor activities that can be just as exciting.
Niagara’s Fury is one such place. Tucked away on the side of Niagara Pkwy, the 4D attraction takes place in a 360-degree multi-sensory theatre. The family-friendly experience starts with an animated film explaining the origin of the falls.
Afterward, a simulation takes tourists on a bumpy ride over the edge of Niagara. A moving platform and special effects including snow, wind, and rain will accompanying grand visuals of the falls, truly capturing the beauty of Mother Nature. This is an attraction not to be missed, especially when trying to avoid the dread of the freezing winds outside!
Visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum
Recommended by Karolina from karolinapatryk.com
One of the great things to do in winter in Niagara Falls Canada is visit the famed Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Located just a few minutes from the ever-popular horseshoe-shaped falls along with other attractions in the Niagara tourist district, the museum is hard to miss and is definitely a must-see.
Established in 1964 on Clifton Hill, the Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum houses more than 400 exhibits of odd and incredible artifacts and records that may seem unbelievable until you’ve seen it with your own eyes – from shrunken heads and decorated Tibetan skulls to two-headed animals. These artifacts are collected from all over the globe by the adventurous world traveler, Sir Robert Ripley. They are available to the public in the museum’s Odditorium.
Another attraction is the Moving Theater which is basically a 4d cinema where watchers can experience the bumps, shakes, and turns on special seats as they watch action movies.
Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks houses the life-like recreation of popular celebrities and historical figures where you can take photos with your favorites.
They are open all year round. During winter, the museum is open from 11 am to 7 pm.
Check out the Views from Skylon Tower
Recommended by Anisa
Skylon Tower is an observation tower where you can get gorgeous views 775 feet above the Falls all year around, even in the winter. It takes only 52 seconds to get to the top of the tower in the glass-enclosed “Yellow Bug Elevators” and you get spectacular views of the Falls, the Great Gorge, Niagara wine district, and the skylines of Buffalo and Toronto. On a clear day, you can see 80 miles! You can purchase tickets to go to the indoor/outdoor observation deck separately or it is included for free if you dine at one of the restaurants.
They have a revolving restaurant and a more family-friendly buffet restaurant. Both are a bit pricey in my opinion, but you are paying for the experience and those views! Get more information and book your tickets/dining here.
In the concourse of the tower, they also have shopping, a family fun center, and you can see the movie Legends on Niagara Falls.
One additional bonus is that you can park there at a reasonable rate! It is a central location so you could leave your car there while you explore more of the area’s attractions.
Attend the Niagara on the Lake Ice Wine Festival
Recommended by Anisa
You can visit Niagara on the Lake to do wine tastings all year round. The best time is in mid to late January, though, when they have the Ice Wine Festival. The Niagara Region produces some of the best ice wine in the world. During the festival, you can attend the glamorous Niagara Icewine Gala or the more low-key outdoor street festivals. You can buy a Discovery Pass that includes eight unique pairings at your choice of over 35 wineries during the Ice Wine Festival in Niagara on the Lake. (If you are visiting NOTL during the winter but not at the time of the festival, check out this special winter wine tour.)
Niagara on the Lake is located about 17 miles north of Niagara Falls, so it makes for an easy day trip. There are over 100 wineries in the area that you can visit. In addition to the ice wine, the region produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and more.
Go To the Festival of Lights
Recommended by Liliane from My Toronto My World
One of the best things to do in Niagara Falls in winter is to visit the Festival of Lights. It’s one of the biggest light festivals in Canada and this year will be the 36th annual event. The city gets decked out in over 2 million twinkly lights and there’s over 8 km of lights that you can drive/walk past. The route goes through several of the Niagara Parks such as Dufferin Islands. The lights are also all around the town of Niagara Falls including bridges and light poles so just walking around seeing all the lights is a great way to explore the area.
The Festival of Lights is a good reason to travel to Niagara Falls in the winter! This year it kicks off on November 3, 2018, and runs through to the end of the January so there are plenty of opportunities to take in the lights. In addition to the lights, the festival also includes shows, fireworks, and concerts!
Have you been to Niagara Falls? Did you visit in the winter or summer? I would love to hear about your experience.
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