Winter Festival of Lights – The Countdown Is On!

The countdown is on – here in Niagara Falls, we’re getting ready to launch one of our favourite celebrations of the year.

The Winter Festival of Lights is when the city really gets dressed up, in holiday greens, reds and whites and takes on a whole new look you cannot help but fall in love with.

This year’s festival kicks off Nov. 16 with a full day of fun activities in Queen Victoria Park across from the Horseshoe Falls.

It culminates with the ‘flipping of the switch’ ceremony on stage, which reveals the tourist area in all its newly lit glory.

After that, the festival – which is free, and makes for a lovely way to tour Niagara Falls after dark on foot or in your vehicle – runs until Jan. 12.

A few of the lighting displays you will not want to miss include one called The Niagara, outside the Floral Showhouse not far from the top of the falls.

It’s described as a tall pillar of brilliant white lights, which appear to cascade from top to bottom. Or how about one called Passage – an interactive tunnel of light you can walkthrough. It’s in Queen Victoria Park.

And check out the Winter Polar Bear, which is about twice the size of a real polar bear (but this one is illuminated). Snuggle up for a photo with her, the exhibit is at Dufferin Islands.

And who doesn’t love the Ninja Turtles (at least, what kid doesn’t love them). These lit-up giants in shells are based along Victoria Avenue in the Clifton Hill district.

Head just a little south of the Falls area and check out Cummington Square in Chippawa. It, too, will be all decked out for Christmas in bright holiday colours.

That’s just a start. There are a lot more displays situated all along the route. They look beautiful on a cold, crisp autumn or winter night with snow or frost on the ground.

A good place to start the eight-kilometer festival tour is through Dufferin Islands, and from there proceed past the falls.

After that, head up Clifton Hill and then skip over to the Fallsview area and around Lundy’s Lane.

Every year, a highlight of the festival is the annual New Year’s Eve concert, which has been broadcast in part across Canada. No details have been released yet for this year’s show.

Throughout the festival, the skies over Niagara Falls will also be lit by fireworks, starting on opening day Nov. 16.

In total there will be 25 nights of fireworks over the falls including every Friday night from Nov. 22 to Jan. 10.

As well, there will be fireworks every night from Dec. 21 to 30 and Jan. 1 to 5, plus New Year’s Eve at 9 p.m. and midnight, and Jan. 11 and 12.

Performances all start at 9 p.m. unless otherwise posted.

The festival, sponsored by Ontario Power Generation and a host of other businesses, was launched 37 years ago and now receives worldwide media attention, attracting close to 1.8 million visitors each year and 450 motor coaches.