PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Lots of people from our area visit Niagara Falls in the summer, but what about the winter?
There are some great deals and more going on than you may realize. Plus, on the Canadian side the exchange rate helps a little, too.
Laura Lloyd and her family drove up from Vandergrift to see the falls.
Lloyd: “It was little over four hours.”
Highfield: “That’s not bad.”
Lloyd: “I know!”
In winter, snow and ice transform the thunderous falls. And you can afford to stay places that might be too expensive during the busy summer season.
For instance, in July, a room at Embassy Suites, with a view of the falls, a jacuzzi and a sitting room goes for $330 a night in American money. But on Travelocity, we found the same room going for $147 a night in January – plus a $30 food and beverage credit.
Amy Montero, formerly from Greensburg, was staying in one of the suites at that hotel.
“No way could we have gotten that in July. I’m mean it’s a whirlpool suite with a falls view,” said Montero.
At the Comfort Inn, next to bustling Clifton Hill, you can get a room for $123 in American money midweek in July. However, this December, the same room goes for $70.
They also have an indoor pool, and in winter, spokesperson Joel Noden said, “You get a slightly better deal on some of the packages. We throw in some meal coupons.”
Another way to save is by getting a room without a view of the falls. At a Sheraton near the falls, a room with a city view is $30 less.
The falls are lit up every night, but this time of year, there’s also the Winter Festival of Lights. It features elaborate lighting displays near the falls and in the Dufferin Islands park area. 1.5 million people view the lights every year, according to the organizers.
“We want to make sure that they’re making this their winter tradition. We want them to come back every year and see what’s new,” said spokesperson Tina Myers.
There are a bunch of new displays this year. It’s all free, although donations are appreciated.
The Niagara Ice Wine Festival in January is also worth checking out.
Bruce Nicholson from Inniskillin explained that grapes aren’t picked until December or January in the dark of night when it’s coldest.
Highfield: “So when it’s 15 degrees out, that’s when you’ll pick these grapes?”
Nicholson: “Yes, and what happens is the water within the grapes will start to freeze but leave the juice behind.”
The result is a concentrated and rich-tasting wine.
Debi Pratt, also from Inniskillin, says that the festival has really become an event for wine lovers.
“There are indoor activities, but there are lot of outdoor, street festivals, ice carvings, ice bars, real ice bars,” said Pratt.
At the Fallsview Casino, John Legend, Smokey Robinson, The Beach Boys and Rick Springfield are all scheduled to perform this January.
The Skylon Tower’s Revolving Dining Room is also open year-round. The floor below you actually moves, one full rotation every hour, as you dine and watch the falls.
But don’t pay full price. It’s easy to find coupons at brochure stands, so you can get half off your second meal.
When it comes to food, eating farther away from the falls can save you money. We had a hearty breakfast at the Falls Manor Restaurant for about $8 in U.S. money. A similar breakfast at a chain restaurant near the falls ran almost $15.
For $19.95 (a little less in U.S. money) Niagara Parks offers a pass in the winter that allows you to go behind the falls, visit the Butterfly Conservatory and see a show called Niagara’s Fury. Individually, visiting all those attractions would cost $38.
Something called the Niagara Skywheel runs year-round, too. You can take in the views on the giant ferris wheel for $11 for adults. The enclosed “bubbles” you ride in are heated.
Spend $25.95 (less in U.S. currency) and get a pass to visit the Skywheel and several other spots on Clifton Hill, including glow-in-the-dark miniature golf.
If you can muster the courage, get suited up and try indoor skydiving. A massive jet of air keeps you suspended in mid-air (until you fall down).
It costs $70, but travel brochures often have $5 off coupons. (There’s a six-guest-per-coupon limit.)
As for the exchange rate, lately it’s been working in American tourists’ favor, but if you’re going to use a credit card, check to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee. Those fees can add up, but some cards don’t charge them at all.
Finally, adults have to have a passport or passport card to drive into Canada and return to the U.S., but many people don’t realize that kids don’t need them.
If they’re with their parents, children under 16 only need a birth certificate as long as you’re not driving and not flying.
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