Talk about being a bright light on the Niagara Falls skyline – the Winter Festival of Lights has been lighting up the winter nights near the Horseshoe Falls for decades now.
The nights never look so gorgeous in Niagara Falls as they do around Christmas time, all because of the world-famous festival.
This year’s celebration opens late November and runs through to January 31. It’s an eight kilometre-long showcase of the happiest, brightest, most festive showing of Christmas colours you’ll see anywhere.
And it’s free, though donations are gratefully accepted along the route by volunteers, with money raised going toward improving each year’s lights and displays.
The Niagara Falls Tourism agency estimates more than a million people each year take the drive along the Niagara Parkway between Dufferin Islands and heading into the city toward the falls to enjoy Canada’s largest lights festival – a breathtaking show of beautifully lit, larger-than-life displays showcasing the history and joy of the holiday season.
The festival is the unofficial kickoff to the Christmas tourism season in the Falls, and is also one of the best times of the year to see the waterfalls in their most majestic state when the trees and plants are often coated in a thin layer of diamond ice. Many years, an ice bridge forms at the bottom of the Niagara River below the falls, temporarily linking Niagara Falls, Canada, with its companion city in the U.S.
Some new displays have recently been added to the Festival of Lights lineup: there’s an Inukshuk in Dufferin Islands, and kids will enjoy the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles displays along the promenade on Victoria Avenue.
As well, there is a 3D projection mapping show on the Oakes Hotel on Fallsview Boulevard, and the Canadian Niagara power plant is lit as well. Laser light shows are staged four times each night
Those join some of the longtime favourites familiar to fans of the festival, like the 3D Canadian wildlife displays of bison, moose and deer in Dufferin Islands, Noah’s Ark, and the illuminated Skylon Tower, which dominates the city skyline. Of course, trees all along the way are also decorated with lights.
Last year’s festival drew an estimated 1.3 million visitors, including 71,000 vehicles that passed through Dufferin Islands to view the displays there. The Winter Festival of Lights was founded in 1982 and several times has been named as a Top 10 Internationally Known Event by the American Bus Association.
Opening ceremonies on November 18 will be held in Queen Victoria Park. Throughout the festival there are regular laser light shows, a weekly fireworks display, the nightly illumination of the falls themselves, the Deck The Halls walking tour and other activities.