The cusp of winter may not seem like the best time to visit Niagara Falls. From early November through early January, though, a section of the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls, Ontario, will be twinkling with holiday lights.
The 25th winter Festival of Lights turns on at 5 pm each evening through January 7, 2008. More than 125 lighted displays, some animated, and 3 million tree and ground lights illuminate the route.
The falls themselves are also illuminated nightly; hours during the festival are 5 pm through midnight. And fireworks are shot off over the falls at 9 pm Fridays through December 21, then nightly December 26 through January 6.
Even my teenagers got caught up in the magic when we visited the festival last December. After crossing the Rainbow Bridge into Canada, we headed to the Dufferin Islands Nature Area, where the theme for the lighted displays is the Great Canadian Outdoors (howling wolves and dolphins at play outlined in lights, for example).
This area is best viewed from the comfort of your car. While no admission is charged, a donation is suggested for maintenance and improvement of the displays.
On the way to the main display area along the Niagara Parkway is the Niagara Parks Floral Showcase, a conservatory hosting its annual display of poinsettias and other holiday plants. parking and admission are free this time of year.
To appreciate the many animated displays located along the Niagara Parkway between Clifton Hill and the falls, its best to park your car and walk. The parking lots located off Clifton Hill are less expensive than the lots closer to the falls, and you get to walk through Clifton Hill itself, with its array of restaurants, stores and unusual “museums” like Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Guinness World of Records.
When our family walked the 5-kilometer route on the Niagara Parkway, that’s a little more than 3 miles, we paused to enjoy the animated displays. The kids weren’t the only ones who wanted to linger; my husband and I were also entranced. A bit of snow on the ground or in the air adds to the magic.
Younger members of the party will take special note of the Enchantment of Disney display in Queen Victoria Park at Murray Hill, which features popular Disney characters done in lights.
If you can visit on a Friday night for the fireworks, Table Rock, near the Horseshoe Falls, is one of the best vantage points. However, you can also see the fireworks from many restaurants and hotel rooms. (Many hotels offer special packages during the Winter Festival of Lights. For a compete listing of accommodations, visit www.niagarafallstourism.com)
If you go
Winter Festival of Lights runs through January 6 in Niagara Falls Ontario Canada, about a 90 minute drive from Rochester. The event features light displays, illumination of the falls, fireworks and more 800-563-2557 or www.wfol.com