Niagara Falls in winter - February
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Niagara Falls in Winter: What to Do & Visiting Tips

Winter is one of my favourite times to visit Niagara: beautiful lights illuminate the Falls and the surrounding area adding colour and life; ice buildup creates the illusion that the Falls have frozen over; crowds are fewer, and many attractions are still open. The winter holidays bring holiday cheer. A winter trip to Niagara is a very different experience than the summer. While it can be chilly, it’s also magical to see Niagara Falls covered in snow. This guide will help you plan what to do, festivals to attend, and adventures to try this winter in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links; if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

winter in Niagara

Is It a Good Idea to Visit Niagara Falls in Winter? 

Winter is a great time to visit Niagara Falls, especially covered in snow and ice. While summer is the busy season at the Falls, winter offers a unique view of the Falls not available in the summer and without the flocks of other tourists. Even in winter, this natural wonder never sleeps. The Falls keep flowing, so there are still plenty of things to do and experience during winter. Winter offers hotel deals, more parking spaces to choose from, and less waiting for the perfect view of the Falls. If you haven’t considered a winter getaway to Niagara, I suggest you reconsider.

snowy winter in Niagara Falls

How Does Niagara Falls Look in Winter?

Each year, Niagara Falls transforms into a winter landscape unlike anywhere else: icicles form alongside the Falls, the snow covers the rocks at the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls, and frozen mist coats the tree branches. Covered in snow and ice, Niagara Falls becomes very picturesque in winter. While it would be incredible to see the Falls frozen, they do not freeze over in the winter (other than in 1848, due to extreme temperatures and ice glaciers cutting off the water flow). 

niagara is open in winter

Is Niagara Falls Open in Winter? 

Yes, Niagara Falls is open in winter – even in the coldest weather. It is the off-season for Niagara, but most attractions are still available; only activities on the water are closed. Before you go, I suggest checking the schedule for any winter activity you wish to do in Niagara to ensure it’s open, but you can visit the Falls anytime.

What to Do in Niagara Falls in Winter

Here are some ideas of what to do in Niagara Falls during winter:

Winter Festival of Lights Niagara Falls

Visit the Winter Festival of Lights 

One of the top things to do in Niagara during the winter season is to visit the Winter Festival of Lights (WFOL). Every year for 101 nights from mid-November to mid-February, 5 pm to midnight, the Niagara Parkway and Dufferin Island transform into a winter wonderland. For 40 years, the WFOL has illuminated the city with over 3 million lights and 75+ displays as Canada’s largest free outdoor light festival. 

The new tunnel as part of the Niagara Falls WFOL

Living in Niagara Falls for part of my childhood, the WFOL was an annual family event for us, and now I continue to visit the festival every few years to share that experience with friends and loved ones. Bundle up and go for a walk along the route for an up-close experience, or drive your vehicle to stay warm and enjoy this popular self-guided winter light display. 

Here is a downloadable map of the festival route for your convenience. Prefer a guided tour? Check out this WFOL guided walking tour.

Note: Many attractions offer special winter activities this year to honour 40 years of the WFOL, and I have included them in this guide as options for winter things to do in Niagara. 

Get Up Close to the Falls at Journey Behind the Falls. 

Discover Niagara’s winter chill from the outdoor viewing platform at Journey Behind the Falls. Get as close as possible to the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, descending 125 ft into the Niagara Gorge to visit the upper outdoor observation deck and two viewing spots behind the falls. Hear the thunder of the Falls while you walk through the 130-year-old tunnel through its bedrock. 

Journey Behind the Falls was the first Niagara attraction I ever did when I was a teenager, and while I did it during the summer, I would love to see it in winter to get close to the Horseshoe Falls and see them covered in snow and ice. 

Note: The lower outdoor observation deck is closed in winter due to icy buildup.

New years eve in Niagara

Attend Niagara’s New Year’s Eve Celebration

On December 31st, Niagara Falls throws an annual New Year’s Eve concert in Queen Victoria Park. With the Falls as a backdrop, the free outdoor event is a fun way to ring in the new year and kiss the current one goodbye. I took part in Niagara’s NYE 2013 featuring Serena Ryder, Sam Roberts, and Demi Lovato, and it was a memorable night. If you like the band lineup for the upcoming performance, I recommend checking out Niagara Falls’s New Year’s Eve concert.

Note: Whether the NYE concert will happen in 2022 is TBD, with restrictions since 2020 due to the pandemic. 

Seeing the Horseshoe Falls illuminated is one of my favourite things to do in Niagara in winter

See Niagara Falls Illuminated at Night

Every visit to Niagara in winter should include seeing the Falls illuminated at night. Every night from dusk until late, Niagara Falls fills with colour from dazzling multi-coloured light projections. In 2016, LED lights replaced the previous lights, which now light up the American Falls and Horsehoe Falls with a wider array of colours and a more beautiful intensity. Walking by Niagara Falls in winter and seeing the lights illuminate the falling snow is magical; one of my favourite Niagara memories.

American Falls illuminated

Significant dates mark for custom colours of the Falls in support of charitable causes and holidays, including blue for Human Rights Day or pink and red for Valentine’s Day. This year, in addition to the regular nightly illumination, there is a special six-minute display during the 101-nights of Winter Festival of Lights happening at the top of the hour at 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm. 

How I imagine a helicopter view of Niagara, taken from the Skylon Tower

Take a Helicopter Tour Above the Falls

Want something thrilling to do in Niagara this winter? View Niagara Falls from the sky during a helicopter tour. This exciting tour combines adventure and a stunning bird’s eye view of Niagara for an unforgettable experience. Fly over and past many Niagara attractions, including the Whirpool Rapids, Niagara River, Skylon Tower, American Falls, and Canadian Falls, during your flight. 

Flights are available daily, and you can choose from daytime, or the new night Winter Lights and Flights Experience, in honour of the Winter Festival of Lights. A helicopter ride over the Falls is on my Niagara bucket list, and adventure lovers will want to add it to yours too.

Niagara Falls fireworks cruise

Hop Aboard the Niagara Fireworks Cruise 

To celebrate 40 years of the Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara City Cruises has a special Falls Fireworks Cruise available. For weekends in November, hop aboard a Falls Fireworks Cruise to watch the fireworks from a unique point of view, get close to the illuminated Falls, and admire the starry winter skies. The 40-minute cruise combines two attractions into one: the Niagara fireworks and a light mist version of the Voyage to the Falls. It’s a winter experience unlike any other in Niagara, and I hope they make it an annual event. 

Falls fireworks cruise

We boarded the boat at night, cruised past the American Falls until reaching the Horseshow Falls, and then headed under the Rainbow Bridge where we enjoyed the fireworks show. It was an incredible experience, and while I rode the US Maid of the Mist in the summer, I was so happy I did the Canadian one in winter! 

Tip: While they call it a light mist experience, the poncho they provide will not keep you fully dry as it doesn’t have arms, so plan to bring an extra hat, scarf and jacket to wear after the boat tour. 

Zipline with Incredible Views of the Falls

Ready for more thrilling winter adventures in Niagara? Soar past the American Falls while ziplining into the Niagara Gorge towards the Horseshoe Falls for an experience like no other. This 60-90 minute hands-free, fully-guided ride by WildPlay is enjoyed by thrill-seekers and those who want to zipline for the first time. During the winter months, admire the beauty of the snow and ice wrapping the Falls as you fly through the sky. 

While I’ve gone ziplining in Costa Rica, I have yet to try the Niagara Falls zip line and hope to soon. I have watched people zip line in Niagara; it looks like fun!

Niagara Falls Christmas Market shops

Niagara Falls Christmas Market

Start your holiday shopping or indulge in Christmas-themed treats at the Niagara Falls Christmas Market. From mid-November to mid-December, the market runs on weekends and offerings shopping from artisanal vendors, live entertainment, light displays, photo-ops, a skating rink, and more. Get into the Christmas spirit and warm up by the fire for a joyful holiday activity in downtown Niagara Falls. And if you are feeling extra festive, get your photos with Santa or the Grinch! 

Niagara Falls Christmas Market swings

During my visit to the Niagara Falls Christmas Market, I had so much fun interacting with the light displays and photo-ops and riding the see-saws and swings. I went right when the market opened at 5 pm, and it was perfect; more people were starting to arrive by the time I was leaving. 

Raise a Glass at the Niagara Icewine Festival

The Niagara region is home to some of the best icewine in Canada. Wine lovers look forward to the cold weather to indulge in this sweet dessert wine, often referred to as liquid gold. Each year in January, Niagara Falls hosts the Niagara Icewine Gala to celebrate the region’s best icewines and culinary scene. This 19+ event includes wine, beer, delicious food, and live entertainment and features wine from 35 wineries across Ontario.

Looking out over the Horseshoe Falls from the Skylon Tower observation deck

Observe the Falls From Up High at the Skylon Tower 

Get as high above the Falls as possible without a helicopter while at the Skylon Tower! Choose to stay warm during winter at their indoor observation area or bundle up and go outside to their outdoor viewing deck. See panoramic views of the Falls while almost 800 ft above Niagara Falls. On a clear day, see as far as Toronto and Buffalo from the Skylon Tower. I visited the Skylon Tower in late winter/early spring when the Falls were slowly waking up from their winter slumber, and oh, was it windy on the outdoor observation deck! 

Niagara Falls Skylon Tower dinner

Another way to visit the Skylon Tower is by enjoying a meal at their revolving restaurant. While I had dinner at the Skylon Tower in the spring, I would love to see it in winter. You can’t get a better view of the Falls while dining! Add a trip to the Skylon Tower to your Niagara winter itinerary.

Experience Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed 

Located in the restored Niagara Parks Power Station, experience the night-time light and sound show that is Currents. This interactive media show features projections that react to your presence while immersing you in the history of Niagara Falls and harnessing its power for over 100 years. See the water of the Horseshoe Falls transform during this 30-minute sensory experience through imagery, light, colour, sound, and music.

Niagara Falls hot chocolate trail is a perfect winter activity to keep you warm after exploring

Sip on Hot Cocoa at the Niagara Falls Hot Chocolate Trail 

A yummy winter activity, the Niagara Falls Hot Chocolate Trail is a fun addition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Winter Festival of Lights. This self-guided hot chocolate trail features 17 stops and 23 wild flavours of hot chocolate, ranging from classic to orange to s’mores (non-alcoholic and alcoholic options available). Warm up this winter with delicious hot cocoa from local restaurants each night from November to February. Perfect for a cold night exploring Niagara. 

Here is a map of the Hot Chocolate Trail to guide your sweet journey. While walking the hot chocolate trail, I enjoyed a chocolate orange hot chocolate from Niagara Distillery. It looked so pretty and was perfect before heading outside to walk along the Falls.

Niagara Falls fireworks

Watch Fireworks Over the Falls

There’s nothing like watching fireworks explode over Niagara Falls to make your trip more memorable. During winter in Niagara, there are continued Fireworks shows on weekend evenings from November through February, plus additional nightly displays over the Christmas holidays. The Niagara Falls fireworks displays can be seen from many points within the city, including the SkyWheel, your Fallsview hotel room, standing in front of the Horseshoe Falls, and more. Shows start at 8 pm and are weather dependent.

Here is the schedule of Niagara’s winter Fireworks for your convenience. 

Walk through the Tailrace Tunnel 

Discover an underground perspective of Niagara Falls by visiting one of Niagara’s newest attractions: The Tailrace Tunnel. Ride an elevator 180 ft below the historic Niagara Parks Power Station to the tunnel, leading to panoramic views from the observation deck at the river’s edge. 

Excavated over 115 years ago using only lanterns, rudimentary dynamite, pickaxes and shovels, the tunnel has been called a marvel of engineering. Learn the power station’s history and walk the same path once travelled by water to enjoy this new angle of the Niagara River and Falls. The Tailrace Tunnel is open year-round, so you can stop by while sightseeing in Niagara in winter.

Niagara SkyWheel in winter

Stay “Inside” at the SkyWheel 

A fun activity, even in winter, ride Clifton Hill’s SkyWheel day or night for incredible views of the Falls while staying “indoors.” Standing 175 feet over the Niagara skyline, the SkyWheel is Canada’s largest observation wheel. Enjoy the 8-12 minute ride in a climate-controlled gondola as you take in scenic views of the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and other Niagara attractions in comfort.

Snowshoe Along Niagara Parks’ Winter Trails

Admire winter in Niagara by getting outside and snowshoeing along Niagara Parks’ winter trails. On weekends from late December to late March, there are three snowshoe trails at the Whirlpool Golf Course. The self-guided trails offer multiple difficulty levels so all skill levels can experience snowshoeing in Niagara Falls. Bring your own or rent snowshoes on-site and enjoy the winter sights along the Niagara River Parkway from the scenic lookouts along the trails.

Visiting Niagara Falls in Winter

Here is what it’s like visiting the city of Niagara Falls throughout the winter months, and the months that feel like winter (late Fall/early Spring):

Niagara Falls in November - WFOL

November in Niagara Falls

While still officially fall, Niagara Falls in November can feel like the beginning of winter, hence why I included it in this guide. November marks the start of the Winter Festival of Lights, the Christmas Market, and brings Niagara into joyful vibes, which continue into December. My most recent visit to Niagara in November had no snow, but the lights still stole the show.

Niagara Falls in December

December in Niagara Falls 

It can be hit or miss for snow in Niagara Falls in December, but the holiday spirit is in full bloom. Festivals and markets are open and lively. The end of December brings the official start of winter and NYE celebrations, as one year ends and the next is ready to begin. November and December are great months to enjoy the festive side of Niagara and are among my favourite months to visit Niagara Falls. Visit after a light snowfall for a magical Niagara moment.

Niagara Falls in January

January in Niagara Falls

The coldest winter month, where daily highs are at or below 0°C, be prepared to bundle up while visiting Niagara Falls in January. Snow was everywhere, from the Falls to the ground, to the Niagara River. You almost couldn’t see the American Falls as there was so much snow and mist. January is an excellent month to visit for fewer crowds, hotel deals, and no lines for indoor winter fun in Niagara.

I had fun visiting Niagara in January with family, and enjoying some indoor activities up Clifton Hill, such as the Fun House and Movieland Wax Museum of Niagara Falls. We almost had the views of the Falls for ourselves! It was great.

Niagara Falls in February

February in Niagara Falls

During Niagara Falls in February, the Falls become covered in a thick layer of snow and ice. The air is crisp, and while it is cold, it tends not to be as frigid as in January. Visiting Niagara in February is one of the best months to see Niagara in its winter glory. The American Falls have a fluffy blanket of snow, and ice surrounds the Horseshoe Falls.

I travelled to Niagara during the February holiday weekend because the weather was pleasant. While it was busy in the afternoon, I found quiet spots to enjoy the falls and take photos, different from the crowds in Niagara in summer. Everyone was near the Horseshoe Falls’ edge to see the ice build-up, so I didn’t go close on this trip to avoid the crowds. Avoid visiting the Falls on Family Day Weekend if you don’t want winter crowds. 

Niagara Falls in March

March in Niagara Falls

While Niagara Falls in March can still be chilly, it has a mix of warmer days and marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Early March is still technically winter and can still bring snow. The Falls, while not covered in snow, still have snow and ice at the base that floats along the Niagara River. I visited the US side of the Falls on a lovely warm winter day, and while I didn’t wear a coat during the day, I had one for the cooler evening temperatures. 

Niagara Falls Winter Temperature 

During the winter, daily average temperatures for Niagara for December, January, and February range from 2°C to -1°C and night-time lows average -4°C to -8°C. The weather in winter is cold, windy, and snowy, with the wind chill and mist from the Falls making the temperature feel colder than the forecast. 

what to wear in Niagara Falls in winter

What to Wear to Niagara Falls in Winter

When packing for a Niagara winter vacation, you will want to dress in layers as it can get quite cold in winter. Wear essential outerwear items, including a warm winter coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and boots. For winter clothing, plan to wear pants or a skirt/dress with leggings, long-sleeve tops or sweaters. Wear more clothing layers than you think, and bring a day bag to carry any layers you remove or need to add when you plan to spend the entire day and night outside. You will want to dress warmly to have the best winter experience in Niagara, especially at night.

My typical winter outfit for a cold day in Niagara Falls includes a tank top, sweater, pants with possible longjohns underneath, winter coat, scarf, gloves, and boots. For a milder winter day, I wear a sweater, pants, coat, and boots.

American Falls in winter - March

Helpful Tips for Visiting Niagara Falls in Winter

  • Wear footwear with a good grip; so you don’t slip while walking on ice. Also, don’t try to run on ice, as you will fall. 
  • Bundle up and wear layers to keep warm. You don’t want to be cold, especially while walking around outside for hours.
  • Be prepared to get misted the closer you get to the Horseshoe Falls. If you don’t want to get wet, don’t get near the Canadian Falls.

If you find yourself in Niagara Falls during the winter, there is still plenty of things to do. While different than visiting in summer or fall, the winter offers fewer crowds and the magic of seeing the falls covered in snow and ice. So get outside and enjoy Niagara’s winter activities not offered at other times of the year. 

Planning on also visiting Niagara Falls, NY? Read these first:

Hope this information helped you plan your visit to Niagara Falls in winter.

Happy travelling!

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4 thoughts on “Niagara Falls in Winter: What to Do & Visiting Tips”

  1. I went to college a couple of hours from Niagara Falls and as much as I hated the cold, I loved visiting in winter. the views of the falls with the snow and ice is definitely stunning. I’d love to go back and check out that hot chocolate trail!

    1. I agree, seeing Niagara Falls covered in snow and ice is so stunning. I hope you get to visit again soon and try the hot chocolate trail 🙂

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