Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights: Tinker Bell meets T-Rex

By Dave Brown   Trail Canada

Christmas season is around the corner, and with it comes memories of taking decorations from storage, and of course, dragging out the strands of electric light sets and creating outdoor displays. Anyone looking for inspiration in decorating for Christmas would do well to visit the Winter Festival of Lights held in Niagara Falls. The festival traditionally begins on the first Saturday in November and ends after the first weekend in January. During its first year of operation in 1983, this Festival welcomed approximately 250,000 people and 35 motor coaches. Since then, the celebration has grown tremendously with attendance now over 1.2 million visitors and 940 motor coaches. This year marks the 24th anniversary of Canada’s largest light show, and it promises to be as spectacular as any of the past Festivals.

Enchantment of Disney

Children of all ages will enjoy the main attraction which begins at the base of Clifton Hill and includes many impressive multi coloured light featuring Disney characters. Walking southwest towards the Horseshoe Falls it is easy to appreciate the lights and the colours, but equally striking is the imposing size of the steel structures which hold the bulbs. From Snow White and Tinker Bell to The Lion King and Aladdin, each of these displays represents a tremendous investment in time, technology, and creativity.

Life in Niagara Display

Continuing along the parkway, the world’s largest animated Canadian/American flag welcomes visitors to the Festival from both sides of the border. There are also a number of displays which pay tribute to the regional significance of: the grape and wine industry, the war of 1812, and the importance of travel and tourism upon the local economy.

Dufferin Islands

Another focal point of the Festival is located on a 10-acre plot alongside the upper Niagara River known as the Dufferin Islands. This park was originally formed by glacial drift, and the islands were further extended by the Ontario Power Company in the 1900s with rock fill excavated from the river. There are a total of eleven small islands and the bridges and walking trails have been temporarily blocked for the Festival. The trees, which are illuminated with nearly 200,000 energy efficient LED lights, create the illusion of a "candy cane kingdom". A Noah’s Ark display showcases a variety of Canadian wildlife. There are also many dinosaur displays which offer a glimpse of creatures which inhabited the earth even before the formation of Niagara Falls.

Fireworks over the Falls

Every Friday at 9:00 p.m., visitors will be treated to a charming exhibition of fireworks above the Falls. Starting on Boxing Day the fireworks will be shown at the same time each night until New Year’s Eve (which will provide two versions, one at 9:00 p.m. and then at 12:00 p.m.).

Countdown to the New Year

Classic rockers Foreigner, Canadian guitar great Colin James and pop newcomer Justin Hines will get the party started New Year’s Eve in Niagara Falls. Each year, the Festival hosts a free concert in Queen Victoria Park which draws approximately 30,000 people. This year, the event is nationally televised, with live coverage running from 11:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on CH and CanWest Global affiliate stations. The presence of security and policing will be on-site to ensure people's safety throughout the night.

Other Related Events

There are also a tremendous variety of musical and dramatic events, as well as numerous family and children’s activities planned for the Festival. This year a candlelight stroll has been organized for Saturday, December 9th, originating at City Hall Centennial Square with the lighting of candles. The stroll continues along Queen Street in the historic downtown district. Participants will enjoy the sounds of chorales and choirs, and even a visit with Santa planned for the little ones. The spectacle created by the lights reflecting in the snow on a cool evening and the majestic glow shining from the natural ice bridge that usually forms at the base of the Falls, is sure to create lifelong memories. Be sure to bundle up, and don’t forget to take your camera; the light show and the beauty of the Falls is certain to inspire "shutter bugs"!

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