Looking to get into the festive spirit? Pay a visit to Niagara Falls USA this holiday season and you’ll find a Christmas calendar brimming with activities to get you and the whole family in the mood. From meeting The Man himself to ice skating (and even ice sculpting!), there’s a tinsel-topped event happening every day in the county. You’ll soon discover Niagara Falls USA is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving!
1. Each year, from the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the eve of the Epiphany, the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine goes aglow for the Fatima Shrine Festival of Lights. The event features some 75 twinkling displays to wander through, with the highlight being the shrine itself, decorated with a life-size nativity scene and festooned in Christmas foliage. (November 23 through January 5)
2. Christmas sweaters at the ready! The annual Light Up Lockport event sees a day of festive celebrations, all centered around the town’s much-anticipated “big switch.” Around the tree, you can also get in the holiday spirit with carriage rides, hot cider and the hotly contested tacky sweater competition. (November 30)
3. Jingle Falls USA is back this year, which means Niagara Falls will once again celebrate its festive Christmas carnival packed with activities from ice sculpting to complimentary horse and carriage rides on Old Falls Street. Looking for something for just the grown-ups? Costume up for the city’s “Santa Con” — a fun bar crawl where participants dress up in festive gear! (November 30; December 7 and 14)
4. Want to check if you’re on the Nice List? Santa Claus will also be parking his sleigh at the magical Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda this season. Expect fun activities like crafts and games, hot chocolate and tasty treats — and carousel rides, of course! (November 30; December 7, 14 and 21)
5. The sweetest way to indulge this holiday season is by heading to the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute for cooking demos, cookie decorating and the main event: the Gingerbread Wonderland. It’s not just sweets on offer, though — expect holiday crafts, live entertainment, face painting, storytime, Santa visits and more. (Weekends from November 30 through December 22)
6. The annual Festival of Trees brings a taste of “tinsel” town to one of the region’s top attractions: the Niagara Power Vista. As well as learning all about the hydroelectric wonder of the mighty Niagara River, visitors can enjoy the spectacle of dozens of Christmas trees, decorated by local nonprofit groups and bedazzled with energy-saving twinkle lights. (December 1 through 31)
7. If you can’t make it to the North Pole this season, pay a visit to the winter Christmas Cottage in Lockport. This free, family-friendly attraction offers a sleigh-load of Christmas fun, from a Christmas train chugging around the cottage, to meeting the head elf and reindeer. Don’t forget to mail your letter to Santa Claus, too. (December 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19 and 21)
8. Lewiston brings a vintage flavor to its holiday calendar with the Historic Lewiston Tour of Homes. Here, visitors can go behind-the-scenes at wonderfully decorated historic cottages while enjoying a delicious dessert sampling. While in town, check out the Village of Lewiston Christmas Walk with carolers, complimentary carriage rides and meet-and-greets with Santa Claus. (December 7 and 8)
9. To add a little extra merry to your Christmas, toast to the season along the fabulous Niagara Wine Trail USA. The region is hosting a weekend of “Holiday Happenings” where guests can shop for gifts while sampling local wine, mead and cider. Tickets (from $27.50) include three tastings and a commemorative wine glass. (December 7 and 8)
10. Fancy experiencing a merry medieval wonderland? Old Fort Niagara’s annual Castle by Candlelight sees its Colonial fortress transformed into a yesteryear yuletide. It’s all thanks to its candlelit vibes, paired with evergreen boughs and floral displays. Expect live entertainment, from carols to canon firings. (December 7 and 14)
11. Lace up those skates — it wouldn’t be Christmas in Niagara Falls USA without family and friends lacing up for an evening on the rinks. Visitors have myriad options across the county, from the Lewiston Family Ice Rink to the Cornerstone Ice Arena in Lockport. Budget about $12 per person including skate rental.
12. Love a Christmas jingle? This December, Grammy-nominated pianist Jim Brickman brings his holiday show back to the beautiful Rivera Theatre in North Tonawanda. The family-friendly extravaganza will feature a festive playlist of holiday classics and popular hits, with special-guest vocalists at the ready. (December 18)
Click here for a full list of festivities and events.