The Maid of the Mist has been docked, the trees are bare, and the wall that over looks the Falls is covered with icicles. Winter in Niagara Falls is very different than visiting in the popular summer months, but it still offers families a magical escape.
If the winter weather has you itching to get away, forget finding a sunny destination. Niagara Falls has a lot to offer families looking for a post holiday distraction. Here are 9 ways a visit to Niagara Falls can squash your family’s winter blahs.
1. CAA Winter Festival of Lights
The holidays may be over but if there’s still a little holiday lingering in your heart than the CAA Winter Festive of Lights is something you should checkout. Drive along the Niagara Parkway and be greeted with spectacular light.
Further up the road to the Dufferin Islands Illuminations area you head off the beaten path around the lake and discover a candy cane forest and other lighted surprises. The CAA Winter Festival of Lights display is free, however, a small donation, about $5-$10 per vehicle, is suggested at the end of the Dufferin Islands drive for continued maintenance of the lights.
2. TD Rink at the Brink
Nothing beats skating outdoors. Couple that with a rink overlooking the Falls. That’s the view you can expect from the TD Rink at the Brink. What a way to spend a winter day or to top off an evening visiting the CAA Winter Festival of Lights and you can enjoy it until February 28, 2013.
3. Friday Night Fireworks
It doesn’t have to be New Year’s Eve to enjoy spectacular fireworks on a winter’s night. Every Friday night at 9 p.m. until January 25, 2013 you can enjoy the bang, pop, and lights as the fireworks explode over the Niagara Falls.
4. Journey Behind the Falls
We’ve seen the falls from but Journey Behind the Falls takes you underground, behind the pounding, rushing water.
The observation deck at the base of the Falls offers a completely different perspective to the magnificent Falls but portal hallways are just as impressive. From two open viewing areas you can see the force of the rushing water and hear the thundering power as you stand behind Niagara Falls.
5. Butterfly Conservatory
I’ll admit we visited the Butterfly Conservatory to appease my youngest daughter but once we walked into the tropical environment we were all smitten. It’s like we were in another world. Butterflies whizzed by us, inches from our faces.
They perched on plants and the netted wall and even my oldest daughter’s shoulder. Some experiences you only need to do once but even my husband agreed he’d make another visit to the Conservatory, especially during the holiday season when you’ll find fairies and little huts hidden among the foliage.
6. Clifton Hill
If you’re looking for a crazy fun to balance out the natural beauty of Niagara Falls than you have to visit Clifton Hill. Where else will you see a super-sized Frankenstein coming out of a building eating a hamburger, a park filled with dinosaurs, or a building turned on it’s side? The kids were mesmerized just walking the main street, peering into windows and looking at the lights.
We had a chance to play some Galaxy Golf, a glow-in the dark mini putt course. The kids loved it and the colours were wild. We walked by Dinosaur Adventure Golf, which was open when we visited but it depends on the weather. The course took you through tar pits and volcanoes, past big and small dinosaurs and looked like a great mini putt game. Definitely on our future visit list.
You can visit the Simpsons and Indiana Jones at the Movieland Wax Museum, zap ghosts in a Ghost Blaster shooting laser-type ride, or just try your luck in the Great Canadian Midway. My kids are big fans of skeeball.
Our favourite feature within the Clifton Hill complex had to be the SkyWheel. This enclosed ferris wheel takes you 175 feet in the air. I forgot how much I don’t like heights when the wheel started to move but by the second rotation I was fine. The whole car is window, except the floor and ceiling, giving you an amazing view of the Cliffton Hill area but more importantly Horseshoe Falls and Niagara Falls. The wheel went around about five times and each time we were amazed with our view. What a great seat this would offer during the Friday night fireworks and the illuminated Falls.
8. Pirates, Mermaids, and Waterparks
You can certainly make a day trip to Niagara Falls but why not extend the fun with a night’s stay. The Americana Resort and Spa offers great family suites, including the Pirate and Mermaid themed ones, plus it has its own indoor waterpark. We had a chance to escape there after an afternoon visiting Niagara Falls making our winter weekend not so drab.
9. Saving on Family Fun
If you are planning on visiting Niagara Falls for a little winter fun, there are two ways you can save on some of the attractions.
Niagara Magic Pass
The Niagara Magic Pass grants you access to the Journey Behind the Falls and the Butterfly Conservatory, as well as the interactive experience, Niagara’s Fury, for a discounted price versus visiting each item on its own. Plus, 2-day WEGO bus access is included with your pass. That’s a big deal with you take into account the parking fees you may be paying to visit the various attractions. There was even a WEGO bus stop right outside the Americanan Resort and Spa where we were staying.
Clifton Hill Fun Pass
Enjoy the Movieland Wax Museum, Ghost Blaster interactive laser-like ride, Dinosaur Adventure Golf or Galaxy Golf (if Dinosaur Adventure Golf is open, you’ll have a hard time choosing between the two), the XD Ride Theatre, plus two admissions to the Niagara SkyWheel (you can see Niagara Falls during the day and then again at night). For added fun, you also get 10 midway tokens so you can try your luck at the Canadian Midway and collect tickets for prizes. Like the Niagara Magic Pass, the Clifton Hill Fun Pass saves you money from buying some of your favourite attractions individually. You have up to one year to use your pass should you not have time to visit everything in your visit so nothing gets wasted.
Just because the snow is on the ground doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. Niagara Falls offers both stunning natural and crazy supernatural attractions to keep a family entertained. Why no break up the winter blahs with a visit.
Thanks to the folks at Niagara Parks and Niagara Tourism for their assistance and hospitality.