When the weather cools down, things heat up in Niagara Falls.
Cool festivals celebrate winter in Niagara, highlighted by an abundance of lights and delicious icewine.
“Already known worldwide as a great destination for a summer escape, Niagara is also recognized as a fantastic place to celebrate the best of a truly Canadian winter,” says publicist Stephen Murdoch.
No time to hibernate here as “just because the temperature drops and the snow starts to fall doesn’t mean the city slows down," adds Anthony Annunziata, vice-president of marketing for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa.
Two of the top 10 fests
The CAA Winter Festival of Lights and the Niagara Icewine Festival were on the top 10 list of Canada’s best winter festivals ranked by Canoe.ca, he said.
The light festival is marking its 30th season now through Jan. 31 with a “significant expansion” of illumination spectacles.
The display at Queen Victoria Park overlooking the Falls includes more than 125 animated lighting displays and three-million tree and ground lights within the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland. This includes the Enchantment of Disney displays and the world’s largest illuminated Canadian-U.S. flag.
The annual tradition attracts 1.3-million local residents and visitors from around the world, Murdoch said.
The TD Rink at the Brink (of the Horseshoe Falls), with outdoor skating, opens on Nov. 28. There are fireworks over the Falls every Friday at 9 p.m. through Jan. 25 and on New Year’s Eve while the thundering waters are illuminated nightly beginning at dusk.
Crowds will gather at the park for the free Rockin’ New Year’s Eve outdoor gala. The Christmas Concert Series at Club Italia presents Bobby Vinton on Nov. 25 and 26; the Oak Ridge Boys, Nov. 26 and 27; and Shawn Klush as Elvis on Nov. 26 and 27.
The Niagara Icewine Festival from Jan. 11 to 27 celebrates one of the region's most celebrated commodities. The highly prized icewine is made from grapes left on the vine to sweeten and then freeze. It is served up at wineries and venues during the festival as well as at a gala evening.
What a deal
The Niagara Parks Commission and the Royal Botanical Gardens are offering the Link to Paradise pass this month and next. It provides admission to three horticultural exhibits for $20 plus tax and includes the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory with 2,000 tropical butterflies and the Enchanted Rainforest.
Also visit the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse with holiday blooms and miniature village displays and the Royal Botanical Gardens and its Train Show in Burlington. The pass also provides free parking at the locations and bonus coupons for discounts for shopping and dining.
The Niagara Magic Pass on sale through April 14 provides admission to Journey Behind the Falls, tunnels that lead behind and to the foot of the thundering Horseshoe Falls, and the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. Also see Niagara’s Fury: The Creation of the Falls and receive two consecutive days of WEGO bus transportation.
There are also discounts for Niagara Parks’ gift shops, a sample at Pop & Lolly’s Candy Shop, tapas at Elements on the Falls, Bird Kingdom, SkyWheel, Skylon Tower Ride to the Top, Niagara Helicopters, IMAX Theatre and Greg Frewin Theatre.
The pass costs $29.95 or $24.95 for children, six to 12, plus tax.
What a view
As well as being the “closest hotel to the crest of Niagara Falls,” Marriott Fallsview’s location offers an ideal starting point for visitors to take in these great winter events,” Annunziata said.
The 432 suites overlook the park and guests can walk to the events and view the fireworks from their room. There’s also fine dining at the Terrapin Grille and relaxation at the Serenity Spa by the Falls.
Light festival packages are from $139 a night through Jan. 31 and there are specials for couples and families. www.niagarafallsmarriott.com; 1-888-501-8916
If you go
There is no charge to attend the light festival but “donations are gratefully accepted” to help enhance the displays. Suggested contributions are $5 to $10 a car and $1 per coach bus passenger. www.wfol.com; 1-800-563-2557; www.niagaraparks.com