It had been an exciting day already: my helicopter ride with Niagara Helicopter had given me a close-up aerial view over Niagara Falls and my visit to the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory had made for a perfect winter escape to a tropical sanctuary. But more adventure was yet to come.
View through the glass dome at the Fallsview Casino Resort
Appropriately strengthened from my very late lunch at “The Famous”, a 24-hour upscale diner at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, I was ready for my evening explorations. First on the menu was the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights. Every year from early November to early January, more than 125 animated lighting displays decorate the city. In total more than three million lights illuminate the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland.
Sculpture in the grand concourse of the Fallsview Casino Resort
Just driving out of the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort I was greeted by lighting displays in the form of white and blue snowflakes that were mounted on the light poles. On my left hand side at the end of Murray Street I drove by an entire collection of illuminated characters called the “Enchantment of Disney” displays. I turned right onto the Niagara Parkway and shortly behind the Horseshoe Falls I was greeted by the Canada/US Illuminated Flag.
The Canada/US Illuminated Flag
I continued my drive southwards along the Niagara River and reached an area referred to as Dufferin Islands whose circular roadway featured an extensive collection of illuminated displays called “The Great Canadian Outdoors”. Trees were decorated in thousands of colourful lights and a whole menagerie of brightly illuminated Canadian animals, including wolves, bears, fish, squirrels, beavers, deer, moose, buffalo and many more flanked the road. The highlight of this area was Noah’s Ark, whose orange, red and green lights were reflecting in the water.
Illuminated animal displays at Dufferin Islands
All the lighting displays of the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights can be viewed free of charge, but a group of volunteers was available at the end of the Dufferin Islands displays to accept donations which go to enhance the lights and displays. The Winter Wonderland along the Niagara Parkway includes other lighted displays such as a horse & carriage, an arrangement of grapes and wine, a menorah and a nativity scene. Even a display of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officers stood on guard.
Disney characters come to life
The Enchantment of Disney displays at the foot of Murray Street include such popular Disney characters as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, the Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Mickey Mouse and Disney’s Pixar Cars. In addition to the lighting displays, the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights also features frequent fireworks which are scheduled to run daily between December 26, 2007 and January 6, 2008.
An illuminated presentation of Cinderella
Together with the colourfully illuminated waterfalls these displays made for a truly enchanted environment. The mighty Niagara Falls themselves are illuminated throughout the entire year, a tradition that has been institutionalized since 1925 when the Niagara Falls Illumination Board was put in charge of illumination. But special lighting displays of the Falls were undertaken much earlier, for example in 1860 when a spectacular light display of the Falls celebrated a visit by the Prince of Wales. In 1901 special lighting was installed as part of the Pan American Exposition that was being held in Buffalo. Six year later, the General Electric Company illuminated the Falls for several weeks with 36 powerful projectors.
Driving down Murray Street