Colored lights on the cascade of Niagara Falls.

Horseshoe Falls illuminated at night. Photo © macfromlondon/123rf.

The most popular nighttime activity in Niagara is watching the illumination of the falls. Every night, 21 powerful lights illuminate all three of Niagara’s waterfalls, starting just after dusk. From January through April, the illumination ends at 10pm; during the rest of the year, the lights stay on until midnight.

The lights project soft colors onto the falls, creating an amazing, surreal effect. The best place to appreciate the illumination is along the gorge rim, from the brink of the falls to the Rainbow Bridge. The slowly changing colors are visible from different vantage points, as well as from the Skylon Tower and Niagara SkyWheel.

Another nighttime tradition is the fireworks display over the falls, visible at 10pm on Friday and Sunday evenings from late May through September 1. You can watch the pyrotechnics from the same places as the illumination. Particularly good vantage points are the Skylon Tower, the lawn near the Parks Police Headquarters, and the Rainbow Bridge. The fireworks last 10 minutes and also occur on holidays such as Canada Day and the Fourth of July.

Each year, the biggest festival in Niagara Falls is the Festival of Lights (citywide, mid-Nov.-Jan.). More than one million tourists visit the falls during the festival to view 120 animated light displays at the Dufferin Islands. There are religious and cultural displays, as well as those with seasonal scenes and Disney characters. The festival is best explored on foot or by car. The park is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights as you slowly drive on the main road. At the park exits, volunteers collect donations—typically people give $5-10 per car—which help fund the festival.

When winter is over, it’s time for Springlicious (Queen St., 905/356-5444, 1st weekend of June, free). This grassroots festival, occurring over the first weekend of June, celebrates the best of Niagara Falls in food, music, and drink. There’s a carnival and rides for the kids, a local talent contest, and free music performances each evening on the main stage. Running concurrently with Springlicious is the Niagara Falls Beer Festival, set along Queen Street and showcasing innovative beers from local microbreweries.

Also celebrated on Queen Street is Canada Day (Queen St., 905/356-7521, July 1, free). This patriotic holiday, celebrated on July 1, commemorates the unification of the Canadian Provinces, which eventually led to their sovereignty. The festivities include a parade along Queen Street, entertainment on the main stage at City Hall, food vendors, and a car show. The evening culminates in a fireworks display over the falls at 10pm. Traffic can be heavy with tourists and locals enjoying the fireworks.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Niagara Falls.