There’s something magical about visiting Niagara Falls in winter season – though it’s much quieter than when throngs of tourists descend each summer, it’s still lively and offers lots of activities if you’re willing to brave the cold weather. The falls themselves have a totally different look too!
But don’t take my word for it – I’ve asked local travel expert Jordyn Leppard to share her best tips for visiting Niagara Falls in winter. If you follow her advice you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time!
Where to stay in Niagara Falls in Winter
Keeping in mind that Niagara Falls can be very cold in winter and sometimes the roads and sidewalks are slick, I recommend staying as close to the action as possible. Embassy Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview is a great choice among Niagara Falls hotels for a few reasons.
First, it’s right next to the Niagara Falls Incline Railway. That’s the most convenient way to get from the hotels and restaurants of Fallsview Boulevard to the attractions and actual falls view of Niagara River Parkway. You’ll save your time outdoors for when it actually counts!
Second, of all the hotels it offers the best view of Niagara Falls. Book a fallsview room and you can even enjoy the Niagara Falls fireworks displays without getting frostbite!
Your room rate includes breakfast at the hotel, but do be prepared for the hefty parking charge. That’s the case almost everywhere in Niagara Falls but I think the benefits of staying at Embassy Suites outweigh that cost.
Getting around Niagara Falls in winter season
Even in the winter, parking can get expensive in Niagara Falls. If possible, you want to avoid driving your car and parking in different areas for each attraction you visit.
Consider using the Wego buses or the Incline Railway to get around in the areas where parking is paid. If you’ve purchased an attractions package or your hotel has a resort fee, you may even get free Wego passes included. I recommend looking into the Niagara Parks Wonder Pass, which includes both the bus and Incline Railway for two days of unlimited use in addition to covering the major Niagara Falls attractions that are open in winter.
Tips for Niagara Falls in Winter
Check out all of the Niagara Falls winter events
Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights
The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights has been running for over 40 years and is Canada’s largest illumination festival. In my opinion, it’s the best part of winter in Niagara Falls. Installations are spread out across the downtown Niagara Falls but are predominantly along Niagara Parkway, in Queen Victoria Park and then into Dufferin Islands. A number of features are interactive like teeter totters, swings and a walk through tunnel.
It’s completely free however they do ask for donations when you drive through the portion at Dufferin Islands. Grab a fancy hot chocolate along the hot chocolate trail and go for a walk to see the Festival of Lights. As a bonus, certain nights will also feature fireworks over the Falls, and they’re also illuminated each night.
Niagara Icewine Festival
Niagara hosts 2 main wine festivals each year – the Niagara Wine Festival in September and the Icewine Festival each January. The Niagara Icewine Festival features the annual Gala at the Niagara Parks Power Station, as well as discovery passes to explore local wineries. Niagara Icewine Festival runs over several weekends in January but if you purchase your tickets early there are often discounts available (like Black Friday, for example).
If you’re able to attend the “Cool as Ice” Gala, it’s an upscale and unforgettable experience where you’ll dress up in your fancy clothes (think gowns and tuxedos) and dance, dine and drink the night away. They always include the region’s top chefs, include local art installations and live performers – plus icewine, of course!
The gala can be pricey so if you’re looking to enjoy the Icewine Festival for a lower cost (or you forgot to pack an evening gown,) you can grab a Discovery Pass. This allows to to check out local wineries at your own pace and enjoy different food pairings at each stop. It’s always interesting to see the different takes each winery has on their pairings, yet all so delicious!
Niagara Falls Christmas market
Though it doesn’t look like there will be a traditional Christmas market in Niagara Falls at this time, The Handmade Market has been running for over a decade and is the perfect opportunity to kick off the holiday season! You’ll find tons of one-of-a-kind holiday items, live music, a festive atmosphere and more.
As you can tell, the Niagara Falls winter festival game is strong!
Niagara Falls igloo dining
The patio weather is gone but dining out in your very own little snow globe is your chance to privately dine outdoors while staying cozy. There are a number of different options to reserve your own dome in Niagara but the Old Stone Inn restaurant is one of the closest to the main areas in Niagara Falls. Fielding Estate Winery is a personal fave. Trius Winery is also quite popular. If you reserve the dome at Konzelmann Estate Winery, don’t miss out on their peach wine – it’s divine!
Understand which attractions are available
While the winter season is delightful and charming, it’s good to temper your expectations about what attractions you’ll be able to experience. Maid of the Mist (on the US side) and Niagara City Cruises (on the Canadian side) both close for the winter. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to be out on the water getting soaked at that time of year anyway!
Thankfully there are plenty of indoor attractions to choose from. The Niagara Parks Wonder Pass is a great money-saving option that is specific to winter in Niagara Falls. Niagara Parks manages most of the core attractions that really showcase Niagara Falls the best. The Wonder Pass includes the Power Station and Tunnel, which highlights the history, architecture and technology behind utilizing Niagara Falls to generate hydropower. The Tunnel will also lead you out to a platform down below the Falls for spectacular views.
Your Wonder Pass gives you access to the following:
- Journey Behind the Falls (which is open in winter but very cold!)
- Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory
- Niagara’s Fury interactive 4D show
- Floral Showhouse
It also offers 2 days of Wego passes and the Incline Railway, so you’ll be able to easily get around town. The Wonder Pass is just a few dollars more than the Power Station alone, so it’s a great value!
Check out a water park
Niagara has not one, but THREE indoor waterparks where you can pretend like it’s not a winter wonderland outside.
Great Wolf Lodge has an excellent indoor waterpark that young kids especially will love. To enjoy this park, you must be staying at Great Wolf Lodge. It’s located along the parkway but further down, away from the Falls themselves but it’s a fun option for families who want to visit Niagara Falls in winter.
Americana is a family friendly and easily accessible waterpark that is located on Lundy’s Lane, a little outside of the main Falls area. Because of this, parking is free. You can stay at the hotel to use this waterpark or book a day pass. This is typically the most budget friendly waterpark.
Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is located within Falls Avenue Resort, near the bottom of Clifton Hill. You can purchase day passes on their own, or book a package at one of the attached hotels – Skyline Hotel, Crowne Plaza or Sheraton Fallsview.
Treat yourself to a Niagara Falls spa day
There’s something especially cozy about visiting the spa in the winter, and Niagara has some great options for your trip!
Christienne Spa is the only spa in Canada that offers an infinity hydrotherapy tub, and features views of both the Canadian Horseshoe Falls as well as the American Falls. It’s located near the bottom of Clifton Hill within the Sheraton Fallsview inside the Falls Avenue Resort complex.
Burning Springs Spa has great thermal pools for hydrotherapy, a Himalayan salt sauna, as well as a Finnish-style sauna cabin. Even if you don’t book a spa service, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon relaxing. Located inside the Marriott Niagara Falls Fallsview, it’s easily walkable from most of the hotels in the Fallsview district.
Enjoy Niagara Falls evening entertainment options
If you enjoy attending shows, be sure to check out the schedule at the Fallsview Casino and the Greg Frewin Theatre. The Greg Frewin theatre predominantly features a Las Vegas style magic show, but also hosts other performers and shows.
The OLG Stage at the Fallsview Casino is a newly built, world class theatre that hosts big name musicians, comedians and more. Not only does it get you out of the cold, but it can make for a fun night out with indoor access to the casino gaming floor, multiple restaurants and lounges, plus shopping.
Get away from the tourists for dining
Dining gets much more affordable (and sometimes better) when you leave the tourist area. For breakfast, Queens Coach, Stacked Pancake & Breakfast House and Flying Saucer are local favorites. For lunch and dinner, Lundy’s Lane has great options and free parking.
Dress for the cold weather
Dress warm! It can feel extra cold near the water. Close to the Horseshoe Falls, you’ll often feel mist falling on you, coming off the falls. This mist can feel freezing cold when you’re out walking around, and it also can make the ground slippery. Wear good boots or walking shoes and bundle up to stay warm.
The mist buildup looks beautiful though! You’ll see the street lights, trees, etc coated in a layer of ice that makes everything look like a dreamy winter wonderland. While the Falls themselves don’t completely freeze over, they frequently freeze partially forming an ice bridge.
It’ll be very different than visiting Niagara Falls in summer
Winter is the “off-season” for Niagara Falls. This often affects their hours of operation, especially mid-week. Check the hours before you plan your trip to make sure you won’t be missing anything important to you. The bonus is, you won’t face the heavy crowds that are typical in the summer!
What to wear in Niagara Falls in winter season
As with almost any cold place, the key for being comfortable when you visit Niagara falls in winter is to wear layers – and plenty of them. It’s often frigid outside (especially if you’re standing on an outdoor viewing platform getting sprayed) but toasty once you go inside a restaurant, hotel or attraction.
Start off with a base layer (aka long underwear) under your clothing. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – these base layers are very affordable and work well under most clothing.
You don’t need specialized “outdoorsy” clothing to visit Niagara Falls in winter. Your regular jeans and a sweater will suffice over your base layer.
Top it all off with a warm coat. I like to wear one that’s on the longer side so that it keeps more of my body warm (and dry). It can be helpful if your coat is waterproof or water resistant – that’ll protect you from both spray and wind.
Don’t forget about your feet! I recommend wearing a cozy pair of wool socks and weatherproof boots or shoes with good tread, especially if you plan on walking around much. Be sure to bring gloves and a hat as well.
Niagara Falls in winter FAQs
I guess that depends on your definition of “a lot” but over the last few years, Niagara Falls annual snowfall total has varied between 4 and 8 feet.
On a winter trip you can expect daytime high temperatures to be around freezing and nighttime temperatures to be well below freezing.
No, Maid of the Mist and Niagara City Cruises are both closed in winter. Fortunately there are plenty of other indoor attractions to enjoy in Niagara Falls in winter.
Yes! I love the magic of visiting Niagara Falls in winter season. That said, I recommend that you also plan to come back in the summer sometime so you can have both experiences.
It may look like you’re seeing Niagara Falls frozen over completely, but in reality most of the time only the top layer freezes as it flows into Niagara Gorge.
Before you go…
Are you thinking of a longer visit to the area? Find out how to spend a quick visit to Toronto on your way to Niagara Falls!
Still planning? Pin this for later!