Why the Winter Festival of Lights is one of my favourite traditions

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

For those looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit you may want to check out the Winter Festival of Lights (WFOL), hosted by Ontario Power Generation in Niagara Falls.

The WFOL has been running for 37 years. For this season, the lights will be on display from November 16, 2019 to January 12, 2020 every evening from 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. The Festival was made larger this year, with an additional 20 light exhibits having been added to the eight kilometre long route that goes through Clifton Hill, Dufferin Islands, Fallsview, Lundy’s Lane and the Niagara Parkway.

While there are a handful of exhibits along Clifton Hill and near Fallsview Casino, the lights really start on Niagara Parkway, with small conical blue and white trees lining the street and icicle-type lights strung along real trees in the nearby Queen Victoria Park and along the road.

The most notable feature of this part of the route is the Zimmerman Fountain in the park with the glimmering blue lights which looks like a real fountain frozen in time. The Passage, a series of 20 illuminate circles set up like a light tunnel, also set up in Queen Victoria Park, make for a perfect photo opportunity.

Further down the Parkway, deeper into Queen Victoria Park, there are the illuminated teeter totters set in front of a backdrop of a number of brightly lit trees. They are a ton of fun, definitely worth getting out of your car and facing the cold winter weather made worse by the biting air coming off the falls.

The lights continue down the parkway and onto Dufferin Island, a nice park during the summer months turned into a canvas for the Festival during the winter. The island is filled with upscaled, three dimensional models of lit up Canadian wildlife, including polar bears, moose, woolly mammoths, wolves, deer and bears. The natural trees in and around the island are wrapped by bright, gleaming lights.

When you reach the end of the island, two employees positioned at a gingerbread house near the exit collect donations. While it is free to see the lights and enjoy them, in order for them to keep up the exhibits, like replacing the lights and even adding new ones year after year, then it’s recommended that visitors provide a donation.

The WFOL has been a winter tradition for my family and myself for as long as I can remember. It is one of the major things in my life that rings in the season for me. Driving down the parkway and through the island in my winter coat, mittens and a hat, with a cup of hot chocolate and Christmas music on the radio is one of my favourite holiday traditions.

So if you are trying to get into the spirit and have an evening to spare, I could not recommend the WFOL enough. Go with family and friends, experience the drive and interactive exhibits and enjoy!

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