Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada is home to one of the world’s greatest waterfalls, and it is one of the most visited places in the world. People flock here to witness its majestic beauty by the millions – an estimated 22 million people visit Niagara Falls each year (including both the Canadian and American sides). As you can imagine, it can get very busy here, especially during the summer months. As Justin and I live about an hour’s drive from the Niagara region, we hardly consider visiting in the summertime. We’ve both been fortunate enough to visit the Falls on numerous occasions during the warm summer seasons with our families throughout the years. It doesn’t mean that I would ever grow tired of seeing Niagara Falls – of course not! However, we would have to contend with the droves of tourists, traffic jams, and over-inflated parking costs. And did I mention the massive crowds of people?
Thankfully, the off-seasons are a little less hectic, particularly during the winter. Is it cold? Yes, pack your parka. Is it worth braving the cold to visit? Hell yeah. Niagara Falls is a spectacular dazzler in the winter. Sections of the waterfall are frozen over. The chilling mist rises up above the Falls and at times, surrounds you. The rushing water down below is covered with layers of ice and snow, with small sections visible so you can still observe just how fast the water is flowing down the river. The protective fences and barriers are covered in dense layers of ice that are as hard as concrete. Trees and plants are completely frozen and cling to the rocky cliff edges. Seeing Niagara Falls in the winter is nothing like visiting in the spring, summer, or fall.
We arrived to the Canadian side of the Falls down from the Toronto area with our friend, Shannon and her boyfriend. Shannon decided that she wanted to make a trip to the Falls to celebrate her upcoming birthday. We reached Niagara Falls around mid-afternoon, which would typically be a prime time of day to visit in the summer. It was cold outside, but the sun was shining brilliantly. Regularly, it would take us a while to navigate through the crowds of people to find an expensive parking spot, if we could find one at all. In the winter, we quickly drove down the streets and found a spot in a parking garage by the Fallsview Casino for $5 – all day parking. You’d never find that in the summer!
As we walked down to the path that runs along the edge of the Falls, we saw only a few people here and there. It was always easy to view Niagara Falls from any location as we never had to wait for someone to move out of the way. I highly recommend that you dress warmer than you think you should. The mist from the Falls makes it even colder. Definitely pack a warm coat, scarf, hat, and mittens. Then, you’ll be treated with awesome views like these ones.
During your walk along the Falls, you can always take a break and hop inside one of the shopping areas. That’s what we did when we got a little too cold. There are opportunities to get Tim Hortons coffee should you desire a hot beverage. After you’re finished gazing at the stunning waterfall from several places along the path, you might want to get back indoors for a while.
For Shannon’s birthday, she wanted to go to the Fallsview Casino to try her luck at the slots. While Justin and I aren’t frequent casino goers by any means (I think we go once every few years!), we thought it would be fun to try our luck as well. On a Sunday afternoon, the casino was quite busy. It still wasn’t difficult for us to find a few slot machines all in a row so we could sit together. In the end, I lost $60 and Justin wound up winning $120 – not too shabby!
In the lobby of the casino, there’s this funky looking fountain that lights up all different colors. Many people were taking their photos in front of it, and we followed suit.
WASTING AWAY AGAIN IN MARGARITAVILLA
After you’re done spending your hard-earned dollars at the casino, why not pretend that you’re at a tropical destination? We walked across the street to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for some drinks. I know that you might not want to think about drinking a frosty margarita on a cold day, but we were actually a bit thirsty after being indoors at the casino. Shannon and I both got the same drink, the “Tropical Hurricane”. Wow, this drink was much stronger than I expected! It was still very fruity and tasty. Funny enough, this was my first time ever frequenting a Margaritaville, despite visiting numerous Caribbean islands! While the bar wasn’t really busy, we still had a great time chatting amongst the four of us. Oh, and don’t worry, you’ll get to hear the Margaritaville song….several times. Searching for my lost shaker of salt…
There are several other activities that you can do in the wintertime at the Falls. Many of the attractions along Clifton Hill are open, including the Niagara SkyWheel, without the line-ups. The Skylon Tower is open for business if you’d like to get an aerial view of Niagara Falls. A couple of years back, Justin and I dined at the Skylon Tower where they have a special vegan menu if you ask for it! It isn’t cheap dining up there, and you’d know it as there aren’t any prices listed on the menu. Eating there for lunch, along with a glass of wine, set us back about $90. However, it’s a revolving restaurant with non-stop gorgeous views out the window. And, you get admission to the observation deck included with your meal, as well as the fun glass elevator ride. Also, I’m sure that it is much cheaper during the winter to stay overnight at any hotels by the Falls! I highly recommend choosing a hotel with a view, especially considering that the waterfall is lit up at night. There are also fireworks every Friday night by the Falls.
Here’s a short video that I took of Niagara Falls in Winter: