Niagara Falls for the holidays: Five musts in this winter wonderland

Winter Festival of Lights, along the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Winter Festival of Lights, along the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

NICOLE FEENSTRA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

Just as cooler temperatures have little impact on the thundering waters flowing over the Horseshoe and American Falls, the stream of tourists and family-friendly events don’t stop when winter arrives in Niagara Falls.

From the colourful Winter Festival of Lights displays along the Niagara Parkway to the sweet lure of the Niagara Icewine Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Ontario city comes alive with a festive glow during the holiday season.

Here are five musts for travellers visiting Niagara Falls over the holidays.

A VIEW LIKE NO OTHER

A view of the Falls, voted as Canada’s top tourist attraction in a fall 2012 Canoe.ca and Sun Media reader poll, is a must-have feature when choosing your accommodations in Niagara Falls.

See photos from this trip: Falls Avenue Resort

We stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls during our chilly visit, a budget-friendly property within the massive Falls Avenue Resort complex. The hotel is located in the heart of the Clifton Hill tourist area and is located at the northern edge of the Winter Festival of Lights route (more on the festival in a moment), making it the ideal spot to kick off your walking tour.

We enjoyed stunning views of the American and Horseshoe Falls, illuminated by a multitude of colourful lights at night, while curled up in front of the fireplace in our cozy guest suite. The handy in-room bar fridge ensured that the bubbly Musque Spritz we picked up from Malivoire Wine Company on our way to Niagara Falls stayed perfectly chilled.

In addition to the Sheraton, Falls Avenue Resort hosts the Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls-Fallsview, Skyline Inn and Clifton Victoria Inn at the Falls for a total of 1,200 rooms. The three-acre indoor waterpark will be a favourite spot for kids, while adults can check out the always-open Casino Niagara or indulge while enjoying the view at the Christienne Fallsivew Spa. All are connected and accessible without setting a foot outside.

A restaurant by celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy is located at the Sheraton, while chef Massimo Capra has an eatery at the Crowne Plaza. See sheratononthefalls.com and fallsavenueresort.com.

LIGHT IT UP

The free-to-visit Winter Festival of Lights illuminates Niagara Falls through Jan. 31. More than 120 animated lights displays and millions of bulbs light up a 5 km stretch of the Niagara Parkway each evening. Salt trucks were running on both the road and sidewalks when we visited, but the far-reaching mist from the Falls is hard to combat, covering everything from the ground to the trees in a thin layer of ice. Wear good winter boots for your walk as it will be slippery. The two-storey Zimmerman Fountain is a twinkling blue-and-white delight, while the world’s largest Canadian-American flag display and the ornate Tunnel of Wish Lanterns from the award-winning Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival in South Korea are also stand-out displays. See wfol.com.

See photos from this trip: Winter Festival of Lights

MAKE IT A BLUE CHRISTMAS

Make it a true blue Christmas with Niagara’s Butterfly Conservatory. More than 500 vibrant Blue Morpho butterflies have joined the 2,000 free-flying butterflies of all varieties inside this indoor rainforest as part of a special holiday exhibit. The conservatory is a spectacular place to escape the chilly weather and walk among these colourful creatures. The butterflies aren’t shy, so don’t be surprised if one lands on your shoulder while you’re visiting. The Blue Morphos can be seen until Jan. 5. See niagaraparks.com.

COUNTDOWN TO 2014

Join 50,000 revellers at the brink of the Falls on Dec. 31 for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebration filled with fireworks and music. ‘Entertainment Tonight Canada’ will broadcast live from Queen Victoria Park for yet another year, with hosts Cheryl Hickey and Rick Campanelli being joined by musical guests Demi Lovato, Serena Ryder and Sam Roberts for the countdown. Fireworks will explode high over the Falls at 9 p.m. and at midnight. See niagaraparks.com.

TASTE THE SEASON

Extend the winter wonder of Niagara Falls beyond the holiday season by making a return visit for the Niagara Icewine Festival in mid-January. Niagara is known for producing some of the world’s best icewine and for three wintery weekends, participating wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Twenty Valley uncork their best icewines and pair this sweet nectar with gourmet food samples. Some of this year’s pairings include lobster chili with a Riesling icewine, candied bacon sandwiches with basil mayo and Pinot Gris, and fluffy pancakes with Vidal icewine. Hungry yet? A Discovery Pass gets you eight food and wine pairings across the region for only $40. See niagarawinefestival.com.


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