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One weekend last February, my husband and I decided to pack up the kids and head north for an impromptu visit to Niagara Falls. We live in Ohio, so we knew it would be cold. What we weren’t expecting, though, was that so many attractions would be closed during the winter months.
Don’t get me wrong – the kids still had a blast, and it was far from a wasted weekend. But, I felt we missed out on some attractions because of the winter weather and didn’t get the full experience. Some attractions were closed, and a few others we just didn’t know existed until we’d already returned home, one of the downsides of an impromptu trip.
So, we’ve compiled this guide to exploring Niagara Falls in winter, so other families won’t feel like they missed out, too.
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Miss the Crowds While You Take in the Falls
Crowds are something I dread dealing with, especially when I have my kiddos with me. My youngest is 8 now, but I’m always so nervous I’ll lose track of them.
The winter season is the best time of year to visit Niagara Falls for families who want a fun experience with fewer people. Plus, the snow and ice on the landscape really add a different dimension to the natural beauty of the falls.
DON’T MISS! An Incredible Fall Trip to the Mountains of NH
Visitors can walk the observation deck and see the falls from the top of the observation tower. Or, have a meal and enjoy the winter wonderland that is Niagara Falls at the Top of the Falls Restaurant.
There’s also an option to view the falls from Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park, where families can also view the Horseshoe Falls. Most areas of the park are pet-friendly, which was great because we had brought our 4-month-old puppy along on the trip!
Make a Nighttime Trip to See the Falls
The falls are beautiful during the day, but the illumination at night adds something special. They are lit at dusk every night and sometimes have specific color themes for holidays.
Fireworks are another can’t-miss nighttime event at the falls. There are nightly showings around Christmas and New Year’s, and there are several Friday and Saturday fireworks on certain weekends through the winter, too! Niagara Falls keeps the schedule posted on their website, so be sure to check it out when planning to visit!
Other Attractions in Niagara Falls, New York
The falls aside, there’s a lot to do in Niagara Falls. There is plenty of hiking for families that enjoy outdoor activities through the Niagara Parks, even in the cold weather. The Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center leads to several trails around the gorge that cater to different skill levels, so there are trails for people who want a casual hike as well as those who want something more challenging.
The snow-capped landscape brings a whole new sense of beauty to Niagara Falls in winter- start planning your trip with our handy travel guide!
An attraction our family loved was the Aquarium of Niagara. While it wasn’t as big as some of the others we’ve visited, there was plenty to do. The best thing about the aquarium had to be watching the seals perform, which you can see in the clip below!
Some other attractions open in the Niagara region during winter include the At the Falls Arcade, Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, Niagara Adventure Theater, and several art museums. And, for adults traveling without kids, be sure to check out the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino!
Bring Passports to Visit the Canadian Side of the Falls
My boys were more than happy with what we could do on our weekend trip to Niagara Falls. They had a great time. For families spending longer than a weekend in Niagara Falls, though, it’d be well worth it to cross the Rainbow Bridge from North America into Canada, so everyone can truly experience all Niagara Falls Canada has to offer.
At Niagara Falls, Ontario, families can visit places like Clifton Hill, stocked with attractions like the Movieland Wax Museum, Ripley’s Museum, and the Butterfly Conservatory. Also, super fun is the 8-12 minute ride on the Skywheel – a giant Ferris wheel with a great view of the American side of the falls! Unlike the Maid of the Mist, the Skywheel is open year-round, weather permitting.
For visitors interested in scenery, Queen Victoria Park has a unique winter landscape complete with trees covered in mist from the Falls. Families also can’t miss the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights if they’re visiting in the colder months or the 15-mile Niagara Parkway that stretches the Niagara River between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
DON’T MISS! Best Secluded Beaches on the East Coast
For the best views of the American Falls, visitors can dine at the Skylon Tower. The highest floor of the Skylon Tower revolves for a 360-degree view of the entire city and the breadth of the falls, while the lower floor presents incredible views, with buffet-style dining….and a more affordable price.
When You Go
Hotels in Niagara Falls
For families that want to be close to the falls, there are several hotels at different price ranges. Our budget choice is the Wyndham Garden at Niagara Falls. It’s affordable but the beds are still comfortable and guests don’t miss out on amenities like an indoor pool, fitness area, game room, and restaurant.
For our family, the perfect place ended up being Hyatt Place Niagara Falls. We needed something pet-friendly, plus there was an indoor pool and hot breakfast. Swimming is a must on vacation no matter how cold outside it is, so this was really all we needed at a mid-range price.
Finally, for guests who don’t mind paying more for a luxury experience, we recommend the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino. This hotel is nothing short of luxurious, and there are several pampering amenities, including a spa and salon, pool, fitness center, shopping, and countless restaurants. Plus, there are regular shows from comedy to theater, and the on-site casino will keep guests entertained!
Getting to Niagara Falls from Los Angeles
It would take 37 hours (without breaks!) to drive from Los Angeles to Niagara Falls, so for most L.A. travelers, the best choice is traveling by plane. Direct flights to Niagara International Airport are only offered by Allegiant Airlines, but if you can get a flight straight there it likely only takes about 5 hours.
For travelers who don’t want to fly Allegiant, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is the best choice. After landing, guests can rent a car or take a cab and be in downtown Niagara in 30-40 minutes. It takes about 5 hours to get to Buffalo from Los Angeles, too, so the only added time is the car ride after landing at the airport.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.
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