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History of the Festival

As Canada’s foremost illumination festival, the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls attracts visitors from across Ontario, Canada, North America and beyond.

It began in 1983 when the Niagara Falls, Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau (now Niagara Falls Tourism), the City of Niagara Falls, The Niagara Parks Commission and numerous local businesses banded together to create a lighting festival.  From humble beginnings, the Winter Festival of Lights continues to enchant and delight its many wintertime visitors.  It has grown from attracting approximately 250,000 visitors and 35 motor coaches to over 1.5 million visitors and nearly 1,000 motor coaches.

In 1992, the Winter Festival of Lights entered into an agreement with Disney Canada Inc. that saw the creation of the Enchantment of Disney® displays and the appearance of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at Opening Ceremonies.

In the past decade, the Festival has expanded its illuminations into the City and throughout the Niagara Parks to include the world’s largest, illuminated Canadian-American Flag, the re-illumination of Niagara’s iconic Skylon Tower, the spectacular Zimmerman Fountain display, and the Religions of the World displays, just to name a few.  And all of the Festival’s current illuminations utilize energy-efficient lighting products and technology, which has greatly reduced the Festival’s energy consumption.

Meanwhile, the Festival’s economic impact on the Niagara Falls winter tourism season has been outstanding.  A 2012 economic impact study conducted by Enigma Research Corp. found that the Festival attracts more than 1.5 million attendees annually and has an economic impact of $25 million on the local economy.  With the level of increased business activity during the tourism industry’s ‘shoulder season’, the Winter Festival of Lights has directly contributed to a longer and busier winter season and the extension of employment for many local residents.

In 2009, the Festival launched the TD RINK at the Brink, which offers outdoor, open-air, ice skating in an iconic setting located just a snowball’s throw away from the Horseshoe Falls.  With its magnificent view you can enjoy the breathtaking experience of the mighty cataracts from a new perspective!

Over the years, the Winter Festival of Lights has been honoured by many festival and travel tourism organizations.  In 1999, the North American Bus Association proclaimed it the Number One Event in Canada.  The Festival was also named a Top Five Festival in Ontario by the Ontario Motor Coach Association; was recognized by the National Tour Association for its success in generating revenue in the off-season; and in 2002, won the Attractions Canada Award for Best Cultural Event.  Since 2006, the American Bus Association has included the Winter Festival of Lights on its Top 100 Internationally Known Events list, consisting of the most recognized events across North America.  For the past seven years, the Festival has been named to the Top 100 Ontario Festival list by Festivals and Events Ontario, and since 2009 it has been honoured as a Festival of Distinction by Festival and Events Ontario.  While just last year, canoe.ca included the Winter Festival of Lights in its Top 10 Canada’s best winter festivals while Frommer’s Travel placed Niagara Falls on its list of Top 10 decorated cities.

The Festival operates as a not-for-profit corporation led by a board of directors that still reflects the unfaltering support of its founding partners, with seats reserved for The Niagara Parks Commission, the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls Tourism.

Today, the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights hosts many festive events and activities including Lighting Ceremony; Fireworks over the Falls and Sparkle Lighting Awards.  While Niagara Falls plays host to Canada’s largest New Year’s Eve Concert and numerous stage productions and dinner theatre shows.

A visit to Niagara Falls during the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights has become a tradition for millions and we invite you to Make it Your Winter Tradition from November 15 to January 12, 2015!

Image Library

The Image Library contains high and low-resolution images and logos of the Winter Festival of Lights and related events.  These are made available for use by the media and tourism operators (tourism associations, tour group operators, hotels, airlines, etc.).  A username and password is required to gain access to the Image Library.  This can be secured by emailing media(at)wfol.com or calling 1-800-563-2557 ext. 246.  All images are copyright protected, as such when using photos please ensure that the Winter Festival of Lights receives a photo credit as follows:
© WFOL.com

Visit the Image Library

Downloadable Press Kit

The 2013 Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights Press Kit is available below, please click below to download the sections.

1. Schedule of Events 2013-2014

2. History

3. Economic Impact

4. Awards

5. Press Conference Press Releases (for additional press releases please click the Press Release tab above)

6. Map of Illumination Route

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