Niagara Falls in winter is a magical experience!
UPDATED: February 2019
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. To escape the crowds and view Niagara Falls in a whole new light, why not consider visiting Niagara Falls in winter?
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. While it’s spectacular in the summer, Niagara Falls is brilliant in all seasons. Thankfully, the off seasons are a little less hectic, especially during the winter. Is it cold? Yes, pack your parka. Is it worth braving the cold to visit? Of course! Niagara Falls is a spectacular dazzler in the winter.
Niagara Falls Winter: Seeing Niagara Falls Frozen
One of the main reasons to visit Niagara Falls in winter? You want to see Niagara Falls frozen! Frozen waterfalls are absolutely stunning and offer entirely different scenery in comparison to what they look like during the other seasons. Sections of the waterfall become frozen over. The chilling mist rises up above the Falls and surrounds you at times.
Layers of ice and snow bury the rushing water down below. Only small sections of the Niagara River are visible; you can still observe just how fast the water is flowing. Dense clumps of snow and ice cover the protective fences and barriers, feeling as hard as the concrete beneath them. Trees and plants are completely frozen and cling to the rocky cliff edges. Seeing Niagara Falls in winter is nothing like visiting in the spring, summer, or fall.
When to Visit Niagara Falls in Winter
When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls in winter? If you want to see Niagara Falls frozen or partially frozen, make your way there after it’s been freezing cold for a while. After many days of frigid and freezing weather, Niagara Falls will begin to grow more frozen and icy. I’ve heard that when it gets really cold that you’ll see huge chunks of ice floating over the waterfall itself. That is beyond cool! See what I did there!
Niagara Falls in February
I’ve updated this article as we went to see Niagara Falls in February after experiencing a lot of freezing weather. As always, it was absolutely gorgeous. Niagara never disappoints. The American Falls were mostly frozen over, and the Horseshoe Falls was frozen down below. Clumps of snow and ice were everywhere and covering every surface: barriers, trees, plants, you name it. The water is powerful, as always, no matter the season.
Niagara Falls in January
Back in 2015 when I first wrote this article, Justin and I arrived to Niagara Falls from Toronto with our friend, Shannon and her boyfriend. We traveled to Niagara Falls in January to see exactly how magical the waterfall appeared. We reached Niagara Falls in the afternoon, which would typically be the busiest point of hte day in the summer. However, there weren’t any crowds of people to battle for a prime viewing spot. Visiting Niagara Falls in winter is way less crowded, cheaper if you’re going to spend the night, and it’s far easier to find a parking spot (and also cheaper!).
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 in winter from any location as we never had to wait for someone to move out of the way. Here are a few photos from back when we visited Niagara Falls in January 2015.
What to Wear
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 winter coat, scarf, hat, and mittens/gloves. Layers are your friend.
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.
What to Do in Niagara Falls in Winter
Other than seeing the Falls themselves, you might be wondering what else you can do. Thankfully, Niagara Falls is always exciting and alive. There are always plenty of things to do in Niagara Falls. While some of the main Niagara Falls attractions close down in winter (Hornblower Cruises, White Water Walk, and the Whirlpool Aero Car are all closed), there are so many attractions that remain open in all seasons.
Journey Behind the Falls
Journey Behind the Falls, a Niagara Parks attraction, remains open all year long. You’ll have an alternate perspective of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls on this adventure. Take a self-guided walking tour through 130 year old tunnels to experience the power of Niagara.
There are multiple cave entrances where you can see Niagara Falls plummeting down right before your eyes. The best part of Journey Behind the Falls is the observation deck at the end of the tunnel system. Standing right beside Niagara Falls is an experience like no other. While I’ve only visited this attraction in the summer and fall before, I am certain that standing beside Niagara Falls in the winter would be absolutely incredible. Check out the Niagara Parks website for hours and information.
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, we thought it would be fun to try our luck as well. While the slot machines are always tempting, Justin and I really like the electronic roulette machines that are situated around an actual roulette wheel.
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.
Margaritaville Niagara Falls
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 Niagara Falls 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 among 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…
The Skylon Tower is open for business if you’d like to get an aerial view of Niagara Falls. It’s a revolving restaurant with non-stop gorgeous views out the window. It isn’t cheap dining up there, but it’s all about the experience. You get admission to the observation deck included with your meal, as well as the fun glass elevator ride.
A trip to Niagara Falls isn’t complete without walking up and down Clifton Hill. There are so many amusements and attractions along Clifton Hill, like wax museums, arcades, and indoor mini golf. While some of the attractions are a little cheesy or tacky, it’s oddly charming. The Niagara SkyWheel is open all year long and you won’t have to wait in any huge lineups. I recommend riding the Niagara SkyWheel at night when the Falls are all lit up.
For craft beer fans, check out Niagara Brewing Company on Clifton Hill. They have award winning beers, as well as local specialties, such as the ice wine beer. Open to the public since 2015, they’re serving up quality brews right in the heart of Niagara Falls, so be sure to stop by for a tasting or a pint.
Seeing More Frozen Waterfalls
Niagara Falls also happens to be near the city of Hamilton, the waterfall capital of the world. If you’re still looking for more waterfalls to view in the winter, check out these five epic Hamilton waterfalls (though none are quite as massive as Niagara).
Where To Stay
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.
- Embassy Suites Fallsview: Enjoy a brilliant view of Niagara Falls and treat yourself to a luxurious experience. Check out its hotel reviews.
- Marriott on the Falls: We stayed here for Justin’s birthday once and I can vouch that it was awesome. Check out its hotel reviews.
- Hilton Fallsview Hotel: Soak up the beauty of the Falls right from the comfort of your own hotel room. Check out its hotel reviews.
Getting There From Toronto
If you have access to a car, driving there on your own is the easiest way to reach Niagara Falls from Toronto. If not, you can book a tour to Niagara Falls from Toronto that includes transportation, lunch, and some attraction tickets. Here’s another discounted tour option that includes transportation from Toronto.
Here’s a short video that I took of Niagara Falls in the winter (January 2015).
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