Niagara Falls Festival Of Lights – Canada’s Ultimate Illumination Festival!
Niagara Falls is one of the most visited sites in North America, but once a year, thousands of people flock to Niagara, not to see the thunderous falls, but to see the Winter Niagara Falls Festival of Lights, Canada’s foremost illumination festival.
The festival has run every year since 1950 and the two waterfalls at Niagara have been lit in rainbow colours during the winter season most years since 1925, following the launch of the ‘Niagara Falls Illumination Board’. Nowadays, the lights run from November to February with fireworks before, and during, the Christmas and New Year weekends adding to the spectacle.
Digging through its history and development, it is said that the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights around year 1983 managed to attract 250,000 people. Since then the celebrations have steadily grown and the attendance now stands at over 1.3million visitors and 1060 motor coaches each year. Planning for the festival is a year round job, with staff investigating new and creative events and entertainment all the time.
Light displays used to focus exclusively on the falls. The first occurred in 1860 using Bengal lights (a kind of firework), for a visit by the Prince of Wales. Electricity was used for the first time in 1879, to welcome the Governor-General of Canada, the Marquis of Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise, but the modern Niagara Falls Festival of Lights began in 1983, when Niagara Falls, the local tourism bureau, and local businesses got together to establish it. The lights have steadily spread out from the falls, through the Queen Victoria Park and the Niagara Parkway, and into the city. Where there were once 250,000 visitors, there are now one million.
Modern Niagara Falls Festival of Lights
Today’s Niagara Falls Festival of Lights kicks in over 125 animated lighting displays and three million tree and ground lights which can be enjoyed around the Niagara Park Winter Wonderland, including displays such as the world famous Enchantment of Disney, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Fort Erie Racing, a Nativity Scene and the World’s largest illuminated Canadian-American Flag.
Most of these striking events take place in the heart of the Niagara Falls adjoining to the great Falls themselves. The lavishly decorated 5 kilometer route stretches from the Dufferin Islands all along the Niagara Parkway, neighboring to Niagara Falls and past the Rainbow Bridge to the Whirlpool Bridge also known as the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland. These include nearly 2 million lights and light displays in the form of:
- Attraction of Disney (featuring the ever famous Walt Disney classics)
- Canadian-American Flag display which is the world’s largest animated feature.
- ‘It was the Night Before Christmas’ audio-visual display,
- A Display of Menorah.
Every Friday evening you can witness spectacular fireworks which will leave you spell bound. These and many more await your experience in Niagara, it is a thrill you can’t find in other festivals around the world.
What To Expect At Niagara Falls Festival of Lights
If you are on the Canadian side, the place to visit during the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights is the Duffin’s Island Park. The park’s lighting displays feature familiar images from Canadian wildlife, including bears, moose, beavers, wolves and buffalo, together with some illuminated dinosaurs. The bad news about the Duffin’s Island Park is the fact that it is a single lane going one way and hence nose-to-tail traffic. The really good news is you’ve time to get out and take photos or just sit and admire the view. Colored lights reflecting from the snow make great pictures, if you’ve a steady hand or a tripod.
The Queen Victoria Park gardens is another option that also shine brightly with displays along the sides of the Niagara Parkway (handy for slow drive-by viewing on cold winter evenings) and also among the trees and bushes designed for leisurely walks on the trails. Wrap up warmly and join the throng, you’ll be glad you did.
Make sure while you are wondering around, you get to witness the most popular features of the festival – the Enchantment of Disney illuminations. These spectacular lighting attractions depict scenes from Disney movies such as Fantasia – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Little Mermaid, Toy Story and Winnie the Pooh.
To add more to the excitement, there is no admission fee to view the illuminations (although donations are gratefully accepted). That being said, there’s more than just the thousands of light displays to see during the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights, visitors can enjoy 20 nights of spectacular fireworks as they explode high over the mighty falls and there are also a variety of concerts and events during festival. Such concerts and events visitors have enjoyed at the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights over the years are Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Niagara Falls Comedy Fest, a variety of singers from the Niagara Gospel concert series, including The Martins and The Beene Family, The Mantini Sisters, Charley Price, The Golden Age Variety Show, The Misty Kids Show and the Nutcracker Ballet.
You can also expect to see flower shows, a lavish Christmas-themed musical and spectacular firework displays throughout the whole period. There is also a comedy festival and a series of concerts featuring everyone from country music superstars to unknown local acts.
Perhaps the biggest attraction is the Rink at the Brink, which will give you the opportunity to enjoy ice skating against the stunning backdrop of the waterfalls. The temporary ice rink is in place from the beginning of December until the end of February, giving locals and visitors the chance to test their skating skills. Temporary ice rinks are a familiar sight in cities across the world when winter comes, but none of the others come with spectacular views over one of the world’s most famous natural attractions.
Lastly, pay attention to the weather as it plays an important part during the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights. In years when the temperature sits around zero, the falls have more water than ice, which means the American falls, which have much less spray (and face the lights directly) reflect the colors better than the Canadian or Horseshoe Falls. Except this when going to the festival depending on the time of year and side of the falls you will be at.
Everybody Wins During the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights!
How long are lights on?
The Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights runs from November to January 31. Both the illumination of the Falls and the Festival’s illuminations occur nightly from 5:00pm to midnight.
How do i purchase Niagara Falls Festival of Lights tickets?
Tickets for most of the events listed are available for purchase (M-F 9am to 5pm). You may order them by calling toll-free at 1-800-563-2557 x 240. Otherwise, contact the organization listed within the event listing.
For ALL Group inquires contact the Festival office at 1-800-563-2557 x. 240 or 905 374-1616 (local calls) during regular business hours (M-F 9am to 5pm). For all other events, contact the number listed with the event.
Where can i park?
The Falls Parking Lot, a paid parking lot operated by The Niagara Parks Commission, is located across from the Table Rock Welcome Centre along the Niagara Parkway. It does offer free parking usually after 5:30pm during the Festival. Visit www.niagaraparks.ca for details. Another ideal location is the Skylon Tower parking lot located on Murray Hill (a.k.a. Snowflake Hill). Lastly, there is limited free parking within Dufferin Islands.
Crossing the US / Canada Border to Get to Attend the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights
If you are driving in from the US, be sure to find out what identification is necessary: Do US Citizens Need a Passport to Enter Canada?
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
- Great Wolf Lodge – “Great Wolf Lodge” is a big name in the world of indoor water parks. The original is in Wisconsin Dells, (“the indoor waterpark capital of the world”), and Great Wolf Lodge has colonized a bunch of other towns with its rustic-styled resorts and lavish indoor water parks: Kansas City, Sandusky Ohio, Williamsburg, VA, Sheboygan WI, Great Wolf Lodge Poconos– and now, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
- Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort – The 2.5 million square foot complex includes more than 3,000 slot machines and 150 gaming tables, a 368-room five-star hotel, fine-dining restaurants, 50,000 square feet of meeting/conference space, a health spa, a retail facility, a 1,500-seat theatre and more.
- Americana Waterpark Resort & Spa – Americana is a unique Niagara Falls indoor waterpark resort offering the ultimate family vacation retreat! Features include: indoor waterpark, spa, restaurant, arcade/snack bar & more.
- Best Western Plus Cairn Croft Hotel – Located just minutes from the Falls our indoor courtyard style hotel is perfect for a Niagara winter getaway. Now with Doc Magilligans Irish Pub on site.
- Courtyard by Marriott Niagara Falls – Located in the “centre of it all,” the Courtyard by Marriott offers 258 newly renovated and spacious guest rooms allowing you to relax, refresh and recharge during your winter wonder-cation.
- Compare Niagara Falls Hotel Rates – Use this tool to find more hotels
If seeing this multitude of activities and watching one of the most beautiful wonders of the world interests you, you may be looking for accommodations near the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights. The Comfort Inn Clifton Hill is conveniently located on Clifton Hill, where all the excitement lies, and just a 5 minute stroll away to the beautiful Niagara Parks and the home of the Falls and the Festival of Lights.
You can’t find any other better location than this, backed up with a Traveler’s Choice award by Trip Advisor for a “Top 10 Hotel for Families”, it’s a spacious, family friendly hotel that offers a wide variety of discounted package deals with its “Build-A-Package” option. When you reserve your room online, you will be prompted to an opportunity to select from attractions that you may wish to visit, retail discount options and dining discounts. You can easily add these on to your bill and have your vouchers ready for you at check-in to further optimize the convenience of your stay.
Can’t Attend The Niagara Falls Festival of Lights?
Even if you are unable to schedule your trip to coincide with the Niagara Fall Festival of Lights, you are sure to want to visit Niagara Falls during your Canada holidays. The city may be relatively small, but its location next to the spectacular waterfalls means there is plenty for people to see.
Niagara Falls are on the US-Canadian border and two of the three waterfalls are actually in the US. But, the biggest and most spectacular of the falls, the Horseshoe, is in Canada and anyone looking at the natural attraction from the northern side of the border will also have a fine view of the American fall.
There are plenty of ways to view this most spectacular of sights and whatever method you choose, you are sure to remember the experience for the rest of your life. You can see the waterfalls from the air, either from the observation deck of the Skylon Tower or as part of a helicopter ride, or choose to get a little bit closer.
As well as paths close to the waterfalls, there are tunnels located near the base of the Horseshoe fall from where you can watch the water cascading down. You may get a bit wet in the tunnels, but that is nothing compared to the soaking you will be subjected to if you take a ride on the Maid of the Mist. The famous boat takes passengers on a tour of the falls and gets close enough for people on the deck to be hit by the spray – but don’t worry, the operator provides everyone with a waterproof.
In conclusion, If you are thinking of taking a holiday to Canada you are almost certain to be considering a trip to see the world-famous Niagara Falls. But as per this article have already explained, the magnificent waterfalls are guaranteed to be a highlight of your break whenever you visit them. But, if head to the city of Niagara Falls during the winter you will also be able to enjoy a man-made attraction – the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights.
With so much to see and do for both young and old, the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights continues to be one of the biggest events in the North American festival calendars; don’t you think it’s time you became enlightened?
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