The Niagara region is undoubtedly a popular tourist destination with all the wineries in Niagara-on-the- lake and one of the wonders of the world, Niagara Falls. It is definitely the busiest time for tourists visiting in the Summer months, but as a Niagara Region resident, I have to say that there are so many wonderful things to do and see in the winter time as well! It may be blistering cold, but the snow and ice adds an extra layer of magic – and you can avoid the summer stampeding crowds! I have compiled a list of festive and wintery things to do around the region. I hope you consider making Niagara your next winter destination!
1. Niagara Falls in the Snow and Ice
The Falls are a beautiful site to see, it’s no wonder it is one of the wonders of the world. During the winter months, the Falls surrounding vegetation becomes covered in ice, making everything look like magical sculptures. Sometimes when the weather gets cold enough, sections of the falls and Niagara river can freeze- which is definitely a site to see. Seeing the Falls in the wintertime is quite the experience, and not to be missed! As always the falls are also illuminated with coloured lights when it gets dark and the fireworks display is scheduled for every Friday night at 9:00 pm during the winter months! More information can be found here.
2. Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights
The Winter Festival of Lights, put on by Ontario Power Generation and Niagara Parks, is an extravagant light display, spreading across many locations from the Niagara Parkway and Dufferin Islands. Visiting the lights display has become a holiday tradition for locals and tourists, and features new displays and interactive illuminations every year. Take a wander around different locations such as Queen Victoria Park, or jump in the car and drive through the Dufferin Islands displays. Don’t forget to bundle up and put on some Christmas music! The light displays are even cooler with a hot chocolate in hand. More information can be found online here.
3. Outdoor Skating
Growing up, skating on our farms pond every winter was a cherished tradition. There are a few locations in the Niagara Region that offer outdoor skating, which adds to the festive nostalgia.
With the help of Vintage Hotels, Fort George National Historic Site along the Niagara Parkway offers outdoor skating under twinkling fairy lights- weather permitting. Skating is free, but there is a $5 fee if you need to rent skates. Warm up with some hot chocolate, or by the cozy firepits! Check their twitter account here before heading out, as skating is open depending on the weather being cold enough!
Another great spot for outdoor skating is at Gretzky’s Estates Winery. It is fitting to have a skating rink at one of the greats wineries! Skating costs $5 per person, and $10 for helmet and skate rentals. Check out their Facebook here (https://www.facebook.com/WayneGretzkyEstates), or Instagram here (https://www.instagram.com/gretzkyestates/) for updates on if the rink is open before you head out! Gretzky’s also offers an awesome wine and skating packages that would be perfect for a date night or outing with your bestie! Date and Skate Packages are valid on Fridays, cost $49 per couple, plus taxes, and includes:
- Skating for 2 with rentals
- 2 craft cocktails from The Whisky Bar
- 1 warm pretzel to share
- Wine tasting flight for 2
I think I may have to treat someone to a skate and date night because that sounds way too fun!
4. Niagara Wineries: Niagara Icewine Festival
The Niagara Region is famous for their wineries, which can be a fun outing in any season! Most wineries are open all year round for tastings and tours, depending on the winery. What’s extra unique about the Niagara region, is that it’s one of the only places that produces ice wine, besides Germany and Austria. Ice wine is a very sweet wine, often referred to as dessert wine, and can only be designated as ice wine when the grapes are naturally frozen on the vine below the temperatures of negative 7 degrees.
In January, the Niagara Icewine Festival takes place, and there are many ways to participate! You can purchase a Niagara Icewine Discovery Pass, which is the best way to discover Niagara wines during the winter. Each ticket costs $45 plus tax, which includes 8 wine and culinary experiences which can be redeemed at participating wineries. The tickets can be used by multiple people (limited to 8 pairings total), and can be redeemed at participating wineries on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from January 10th to the 26th. Tickets and participating wineries can be found here.
There are two other festivals that you can attend- The Niagara-on-the-lake Ice Wine Festival, and the Twenty Valley Winter WineFest. Both festivals have free admission, and priced tokens to purchase samples and food pairings from participating winery booths. The Twenty Valley Winter Wine Fest runs January 10-12, 2020, and the Niagara-on-the-lake Ice Wine Festival runs on January 18-19, and 25-26, 2020. Ice wine will sure to keep your weekends busy in January- just remember to bundle up! More information on these festivals can be found here.
5. Niagara on the Lake Old Town
Historic Niagara on the lake is a charming heritage part of town, with darling little storefronts and restaurants. It is a charming place to visit at any season, but it is extra special during the holiday season. The streets get decorated with beautiful Christmas decorations, lights, wreaths and even fully decorated Christmas trees line the street! It will surely make you feel like you are on the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie!