My name is Allison and I unintentionally lie to my husband and children every November, without fail.
Allow me to set the scene. It’s mid-November, the leaves have all fallen off of the trees, the days are shorter and getting greyer by the second. I grab my giant cup of coffee and proudly announce that this-this is the year I am going to enjoy winter! We’re going to learn to snowshoe and cross-country ski and enjoy all of the parks that are open around us. Then, before I know it it’s mid-January and I’m spending my spare moments wrapped in my Snuggie, dog on my lap, binging on some early 2000’s sitcom. But this Winter was finally different. My husband built a big skating rink in the yard which has been hours of fun for all of us and we were able to get out for some winter hiking. I find that we need to escape somewhere by the end of January to stave off the blues, even if it’s just one night away. This year however, we were able to pack up the kids and head to one of our favourite winter destinations, Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls in January is a different experience all together than Niagara Falls in July. In July you have to wait for someone to move out of the way so you can get your view of the falls, the crowds are big everywhere and hotels can be pricey. In January you can find spectacular views of the falls from any spot you’d like, hotels have great packages available and there are no lines at any of the attractions, especially Monday through Friday. The Falls themselves in Winter offer up magical scenes seemingly straight out of “Frozen”.
If your family can sneak away for a weekend or a couple nights through the week, you won’t regret it but if you are only able to get away for one night you can have the same great time. Here are 5 things not to miss in Niagara in January with your kids.
- Butterfly Conservatory: We had never been here until this year and it was a welcome tropical oasis during the blustery cold. Butterflies were everywhere and were so brightly coloured. Isaac had one land on his arm within the first 5 minutes. There are little feeding stations that were a butterfly feeding frenzy. Maddie was mesmerized by the waterfall. Along the wall lies a big window where kids can see the entire cycle of cocoon to butterfly. There were 100’s of cocoon’s of all sizes inside. There were some colourful poison frogs in a terrarium as well. It’s very humid so make sure to check your coat. School trips make for a busy environment and the staff said that those trips tend to start around April.
Cost: Adult $14.55 Child $9.45 Under 5 are free at all Niagara Parks attractions. This attraction is included with the Wonder Pass which until April 30th is $22.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages 6-12 Parking: $5.00
***Older kids may be more interested in Bird Kingdom. Birds freak me out so we haven’t checked this one out yet but I’ll have to face my fears and go because I’m sure my kids would love it. ***
- Wizard Mini Putt: This was amazing! It’s all black lights and glow in the dark paint and intricate, magical sculptures. Once inside you walk down a flight of stairs into what I imagine mini putt looks like at Hogwarts. Each hole had some twist to it that you wouldn’t discover until you’d hit the ball. Maddie loved her first mini golf experience and since it was the off season we could take our time since there weren’t people waiting behind us. There was more than enough to see to keep the kids excited and involved all of the way through.
Cost: Adult $9.99 Child $6.99
This attraction is included in the Clifton Hill Fun Pass which is a great value and offers a sampler of Clifton Hill attractions.
- Wild West Coaster: This is a 6D experience. You climb into your seats, put on your 3D glasses, strap in and the movie starts. Wind blows your hair and the seat jumps around. It truly felt like one of the old wooden roller coasters. It’s only about 5 minutes long but was super fun.
Cost: Adult $6.99 Child $4.99
This attraction is also included in the Clifton Hill Fun Pass
- Journey Behind the Falls: My husband and I check this one out each time we come and marvel at how these tunnels were dug all those years ago. Standing beneath the falls and watching the water rush down in front of you is a powerful experience. While Isaac thought it was pretty cool he didn’t truly “get” it so it may be better suited for him in a couple of years.
Cost: Adult: $11.50 Child: $7.50
This attraction is included with the Wonder Pass
- The Skywheel: The Niagara Skywheel is the tallest in Canada standing at 175 feet high. Once loaded the wheel goes around 3 times which takes between 8 and 10 minutes. From the top you can see both falls, Clifton Hill and the entire Niagara Falls area. The woman working the day we were there was named Tammy and she was so great. She had all kinds of info on this and other wheels like this around the world and made Isaac feel like a VIP. The wheel is pricey but it is also included in the Clifton Hill Fun Pass which I’d definitely recommend to save your dollars.
Adult: $11.99 Child: $6.99
We also rode the 3D Ghost Blaster and it was pretty great as well. There are ghost blasters that you use to blast the ghosts along the way and collect points. While my two kids enjoyed it, it may be scary for some kids under 5. Price: Ages 3+: $4.99
Special Mention goes to Niagara’s Fury which was closed while we were there but looks like a pretty cool attraction that we are looking forward to checking out next time.
A couple of quick tips: Although we happened to be there during the warm-ish January thaw this year, generally you can’t dress warm enough to be hanging out by the falls in winter. There’s no wind like the Niagara wind. Add freezing mist to the mix and it’s crazy brrrrrrrrrr…but I promise it’s worth it.
Parking is expensive everywhere but the lot behind the Skywheel was $7.00 which was the best we found that close to the attractions on Clifton Hill. We parked in the IMAX lot for $2.00 while watching the movie and left the car there while we were at Journey Behind the Falls.
We stay at the Embassy Suites whenever we travel to Niagara because I think it’s the best view of both Falls with clean, modern rooms. They regularly have great deals available too and I’m a sucker for a complimentary breakfast. We reserved a Jacuzzi suite on the 30th floor and it was beautiful. It was the only time we’ve been to Niagara and experienced thick fog. The view from our room was a wall of white. Luckily Isaac thought it was pretty interesting that we were high in the clouds. The Oakes, top floors of the Hilton and the Marriott look like they would have good views as well. Fair warning though that no matter what falls view hotel you choose there is an added 10% tourism fee which can be a shocker if you don’t know about it.
While the Incline Railway is more of a people mover than it is an attraction it is so much fun, especially for kids. Both kids enjoyed this.
If you’re unsure of what to do you can’t go wrong with the attraction packages from CliftonHill.com and NiagaraParks.com. If you are planning on going to at least a couple of the included attractions the passes are less expensive than purchasing separately.
Given the choice between Niagara Falls in January vs. July we would choose January, hands down, every time. We can move freely around without maneuvering the crowds or waiting in lines, and find great deals at beautiful hotels. While visiting Niagara Falls you are aware at all times that you are at a tourist destination so you might as well dive right in, clip your attraction coupons and enjoy all of the winter family fun.