Niagara Falls is one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. Situated only an hour and a half away from Toronto, it makes an ideal day trip from the city. Visiting in the winter saves you money and offers a uniquely Canadian experience. I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Canada and can help you bypass the pricey tourist traps. This guide highlights free and discounted things to do in Niagara Falls in the winter.
1. Check out the beautiful ice formations
The mist from the falls turns everything around it into ice sculptures. The area surrounding the waters edge turns into a winter wonderland as soon as it hits -1°C even without snow fall. The ice covered plants and buildings are truly a beautiful sight. The best part is, the main attraction here is always free, whether you are driving or walking along the Niagara Parkway.
2. Smaller crowds
An estimated 30 million people visit Niagara Falls each year and summer is the busiest season. It can get crowded and expensive at this time of year. While of course an attraction like Niagara Falls will always bring in crowds, the winter visiting numbers are much more bearable and less people is something we can all appreciate!
Hotels in Niagara Falls offer deals in the winter to fill rooms. Check out websites like Booking or stay at an Airbnb. There are also parking deals at this time of year. For example, at Fallsview Casino (which is in walking distance of the falls) parking fees drop by up to 50% in the winter. If you aren't driving, consider going with Megsbus; a coach company where tickets get more expensive as seats are filled. They offer services to the falls and with less visitors in the winter, you can save on travel.
4. Winter Festival of Lights
The winter festival of lights is an annual display held from November to January. There are both walking and driving sections of the festival. The light displays are free with the option to donate. We checked out the animal themed Dufferin Islands display last year by car. There are kid friendly featuring themes such as the Ninja Turtles, which can be found at Clifton Hill. A map of the displays can be found on the website www.wfol.com
At 9 pm on Fridays throughout the winter there are free firework displays over Niagara Falls and every night during the holidays (Christmas to New Years).
5. New Year's Eve Concert
This annual free concert is right across the street from the falls! It can get a little crowded but an experience you won't soon forget featuring popular Canadian acts and two fireworks displays over Niagara Falls (9 pm and midnight). Check out the Niagara Tourism website here to see who's playing. It's outdoor so make sure you dress for extremely cold weather and bring a hot drink (there is also a Tim Horton's on Clifton Hill if you need to warm up).
6. Niagara Ice Wine Festival
The Niagara Ice Wine Festival offers a $45 Discovery Pass. This pass will get you an ice wine tasting and food pairing at 8 different wineries throughout Niagara for three weeks in January (there's 40 wineries to choose from!). Ice wine and many of these wineries are known for being expensive. This pass is a great way to try out local food and drink on a budget. Visit their website here: www.niagarawinefestival.com/.
Bonus: the drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-lake along the parkway is beautiful anytime of year.