Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls: What You Need to Know

Growing up in Niagara, you knew winter was just around the corner once you heard rumblings of the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls. Come the middle of November, it’s time to embrace old man winter as the festival’s light displays are sprinkled along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands and throughout Niagara Falls.

As a child, my parents would take me to see the lights as a Christmas tradition. We’d wander along the Niagara Parkway as my face lit up seeing Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters come to life in animated illumination. The Niagara Winter Festival of Lights sure has changed over the years and for the better! It’s a must-do holiday activity with so much to offer. Not sure exactly what to expect? Read on!

RELATED: If you’re a fan of these holiday lights, don’t miss this round-up of Christmas Light Displays in Ontario!

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About the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls

Also known as the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights, the festival was founded in 1982. It has evolved into Canada’s largest illumination festival. You’ll find at least fifteen displays dedicated to Canadian wildlife, incredible light shows and even the world’s largest Canadian-American flag! While the festival may have originally only been about the lights, it has since expanded to include markets, tours and more!

INSIDER TIP: If you’re looking for tips on planning your trip to Niagara Falls, be sure to check these insider tips tried and tested by yours truly.

The Winter Festival of Lights is continuously becoming bigger and better than ever each year since the route expanded to 8 kilometres in 2016. Traverse the Niagara Parkway into the Dufferin Islands and surrounding tourist areas to see all the sights and sounds! Niagara Parks has invested over $300,000 into lighting, programming and infrastructure improvements, which is most noticeably seen in Queen Victoria Park.

FUN FACT: If you’ve visited before 2016, you may notice that the Horseshoe Falls are looking brighter than ever upon your return! The Niagara Falls Illumination Board unveiled the enhanced Falls illumination system on December 1st, 2016! The upgrades included more than twice the previous lighting levels, programmable lighting capabilities and a broader colour spectrum.

This year, the Winter Festival of Lights runs from November 18, 2023 to January 7, 2024 with plenty of activities occurring throughout the 51 day celebration.

The Aura of Niagara's Winter Festival of Lights :: I've Been Bit! A Travel Blog

Things to Do at the Winter Festival of Lights

Walking around looking at pretty Christmas lights may sound chilly to you, but it’s a local tradition that people travel from all over to enjoy. Each year, the crew at OPG and Niagara Parks add more and more to this event. You’ll never run out of things to do at the Winter Festival of Lights!

WFOL Opening Ceremonies

The majority of my visits to the Winter Festival of Lights were evening strolls along the Niagara Parkway or enjoying the lights from the warmth of my car. However, in all the years I had been to see the lights, not once had I attended the opening ceremonies until 2016. I honestly didn’t even know there was such a thing!

From the cirque performances to the “Flip the Switch” ceremony, each year it gets bigger and better. Nothing beats the collective excitement as families and loved ones, locals and visitors, all come together and kick off the festive season. If you’re able to make it for the opening weekend, take the time and watch as they illuminate the entire parkway for the season!

Queen Victoria Park

As you saunter down the Niagara Parkway, enjoy the forests, angels and other beautiful light displays. Queen Victoria Park has seen quite the facelift over the years with a number of interactive installations being added for the 2023 season. Play on the see saws along with the twirling orbs as these public art pieces react to your touch – not to mention all the fun photo opportunities to be had with them!

Whatever you do, don’t forget to grab a photo in front of the iconic ‘Welcome to Niagara Parks’ rainbow! I swear that display has been there longer than I’ve been alive. If you start to get chilly, dip into the Table Rock Centre. This is also a great place to grab some souvenirs and enjoy the lights as you warm up inside.

Hot Chocolate Trail

Speaking of warming up, a warm cup of hot cocoa is always a good way to do so! For the past two years, numerous businesses in Niagara Falls have teamed up to create this delicious self-guided trail. Enjoy these sweet concoctions created by chocolatiers, chefs and mixologists at some of the area’s top restaurants and businesses across the city.

With 22 stops to choose from and over 35 unique recipes to choose from, the possibilities are endless! In case you’re wondering, there are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options so everyone can sip and savour these tasty beverages. Click here to see the full map and participating establishments.

Dufferin Islands Display

This area is one you do not want to miss! The Dufferin Islands are brimming with Canadian wildlife light displays of moose, buffalo, a 10ft tall 3D woolly mammoth and more. While most drive through this part of the circuit, you are able to park so you can truly experience the beauty on foot. Just note that walkways aren’t maintained in the winter so it’s a good idea to have proper footwear for your safety!

At the end of the route, you’ll find a donation station. While they aren’t mandatory, these donations go towards maintaining the beautiful light displays we all love and enjoy. Do your part and support the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls!

Christmas Flower Show at the Floral Showhouse

The Floral Showhouse’s Holiday Display will feature poinsettias, cyclamen, azaleas, free-flying tropical songbirds alongside their Life on Display exhibit. If you don’t feel like going inside, at least take a drive by and enjoy the outdoor holiday decorations!

Inside the Floral Showhouse During Christmas :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Inside the Floral Showhouse During the Winter Festival of Lights

Grab Dinner at the Table Rock House Restaurant

If you’d like to break up your visit, I highly recommend grabbing dinner at the Table Rock House Restaurant. Chef Matt Krupa brings his local and international expertise to the menu with many of the dishes featuring an old French flare. Table Rock is also FeastON Certified restaurant meaning many of the ingredients used are sourced right here in Niagara as well as Ontario. 

The menu changes seasonally meaning there’s always something new for your taste buds to enjoy. Dive into cozy pasta dishes and hearty eats all featuring local flavours. If you’re looking to treat yourself, their Prix Fixe Menu of three courses for $65 includes a starter, entrée and dessert.

Plus not only is the food fantastic but it offers some of the best views of the stunning Horseshoe Falls! Have I convinced you to eat at this awesome Niagara Falls restaurant? It’s a popular spot to eat at during a visit to Niagara Falls so I recommend making a reservation to avoid disappointment.

Nightly Fireworks Displays

As I said, the Winter Festival of Lights just keeps adding more and more incredible entertainment. For the first time ever in its history, the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights hosted the Cascades of Fire International Fireworks Competition in 2018! While these fireworks shows have come and gone, they’re still keeping the fireworks tradition with the OPG Winter Festival of Lights Fireworks Series.

This year, there will be 26 nights of fireworks starting Saturday, November 18th, 2023 and continuing every Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00 pm. During the holidays, visitors will be treated to nightly shows from Friday, December 22, 2023 until the finale on Sunday January 7th, 2024.

New Year’s Eve Displays

Ring in the new year at what’s arguably Canada’s longest-running New Year’s Eve event! Every year people flock to Queen Victoria Park for one of the best fireworks displays in the region! As of 2019, you can enjoy not one but two fireworks displays along with a variety of food and beverage options. While the first fireworks display will hit the skies at 8:00 pm, the second will ring in 2024 as the clock strikes midnight!

While this year there was no concert once again, hopefully there will be a free performance for New Year’s Eve in the future.

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Things to Know When Visiting the Winter Festival of Lights

Looking for some insider tips for visiting the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls? Here’s what you need to know when planning your visit.

Where is the Winter Festival of Lights?

The majority of the light displays are located along the Niagara Parkway at Queen Victoria Park, Table Rock and the Dufferin Islands. However, the festival continues to grow and is expanding more into the city with displays at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, on Victoria Avenue in Niagara Falls and more!

When Do They Turn the Falls Off?

Contrary to what some believe, the falls are never “turned off”. This may seem like a crazy question but you’d be surprised how many people ask it! If you’re wondering when they turn the lights off, the displays are on from 5:00 pm until midnight during the festival.

How Can I Avoid Crowds During This Niagara Lights Festival?

It’s not uncommon to see crazy line-ups as Christmas looms closer, but don’t let that deter you. One of the biggest tips I can offer is to plan your visit during the week as the lines grow on weekends. Also if there’s been a fresh batch of snow, you can guarantee the roads will be busier. While Christmas Eve is probably the busiest day of the season, going on Christmas day isn’t nearly as insane. Boxing Day is another busy one where you can expect a lot of foot and car traffic!

Inukshuk Display at the Niagara Winter Festival of Lights :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

What Should I Wear When Visiting?

If you’re planning on doing some walking, be sure to wear layers. While you may be cozy inside your car or hopping venues, things can get chilly if you’re walking along the Niagara Parkway. There are a number of places to pop in and warm up like Queen Victoria Place or the Table Rock Centre if you get chilly.

Do I Need a Car to Visit the Winter Festival of Lights 2023?

You don’t necessarily need a car to visit. If you’re staying at a hotel in Niagara Falls close to Clifton Hill, it’s quite easy to walk to the light displays. However, walking from Queen Victoria Park or Clifton Hill to the Dufferin Islands is about 2.5km which will take you at least 30 minutes so you’ll need to plan accordingly! If you’re unable or unwilling to walk a long distance, I’d recommend enjoying the festival from a car.

Is There Free Parking in Niagara Falls?

Unfortunately, this is very hard to come by. However, all lots near Queen Victoria Park as well as in the Dufferin Islands are owned by Niagara Parks so your parking dollars are going to support the upkeep of the Niagara Parkway as well as festivals and events like this one!

When Should I Visit this Niagara Falls Festival of Lights?

Honestly? You should really visit more than once. Each year the festival grows, adding displays throughout the Niagara Parkway and surrounding area.

Wide View of the Dufferin Islands Light Display at WFOL :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Get Festive in Niagara Falls!

Niagara will be a busy place for these next few months, so plan accordingly and don’t miss out on all that it has to offer! There are various events during the weeks the festival is on, so be sure to visit Niagara Parks’ site and plan accordingly. If a trip just for the Winter Festival of Lights may seem like a bit much, it’s easy to turn your trip into a weekend getaway. The holidays are a busy time but with the festival running until January 12th, 2020, you can take advantage of the plethora of off-season deals Niagara Falls offers.

Will you be attending the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls this year? Have you attended previously? If so, what’s your favourite part? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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  1. Sarah

    November 18, 2017

    Looks amazing, when we went to Niagara Falls I was amazed at how beautiful the America Falls was as well. To see it all light up would be amazing

  2. Helen

    December 22, 2017

    i’ll be travelling on dec 25 with two young kids. Would you recommend WEGO or drive my own car given the cold weather?

    • Lindz author

      December 23, 2017

      That’s a great question! To see it all, I would suggest driving. There is some parking you can find near Clifton Hill to enjoy the Queens Park area more by foot, but to see the Dufferin Islands you’ll need to drive. I’d suggest doing a drive of it all and then stop and get out in the places that you and the kids are the most excited about! 🙂 I hope this helps and have a wonderful holiday!

  3. Josy A

    November 16, 2019

    Looove the look of this Lindz! We have only visited in the summertime, so I have never seen the lights. I mean Niagara is impressive all on its own, so this sounds epic!

    I love how christmassy it all seems, apart from the lit up falls – those look like they would fit in during a pride march! So pretty!!

  4. Andrea Peacock

    November 16, 2019

    I adore Niagara Falls, and the thought of the area being transformed into a Christmassy wonderland is so exciting! All the lights are so pretty!

  5. Brooklyn

    November 16, 2019

    My family is from Port Colborne, not too far from Niagara Falls. As a child every year we would go check out the lights.
    I usually can’t make it there for Christmas, but whenever I do go I beg them to go with me haha.
    They are so beautiful.

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