While Niagara is an exciting destination no matter when you go, you might want to check out one of the many seasonal festivals that bring the region to vibrant life each season, year after year. As a hotspot for foodies and wine lovers, fans of nature and art, this Canadian region hosts a wide variety of exciting and stimulating events. These are 10 unmissable Niagara festivals, from the falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Mark them on your calendar and make sure you reserve some time for one or more of these, whenever you happen to visit!
Visiting in Spring or Summer?
Lucky you! The spring and summer are ideal for outdoor festivals, natural discovery and world-class theatre performances. During peak tourist season, we recommend these outstanding events:
1. The Shaw Festival
A summertime trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the renowned Shaw Festival. From its debut in 1962, this theatre festival has grown from a first season of just eight performances to an annual institution, producing hundreds of performances across four venues from April to October.
While each season does tend to include at least one play by the eponymous George Bernard Shaw, the festival has expanded to include plays by Shaw’s contemporaries, like Oscar Wilde, as well as Shakespeare (this year’s included Henry V). You can also enjoy classic musicals (past shows include My Fair Lady and Sweeney Todd), and pieces from emerging new playwrights.
While the big-name musicals are usually performed in the large and impressive purpose-built Festival Theatre, several plays each year are staged in quirky venues like the repurposed Courthouse Theatre and the charmingly vintage Royal George Theatre, all in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Catching a Shaw show is a great way to end an evening in Niagara, or if you’d like to make it back to Toronto for the night, the festival offers both matinee and lunchtime performances.
In short? This festival is essential for any theatre lover on a spring or summer visit to Niagara. For more information on the upcoming program, see the official website.
2. The TD Niagara Jazz Festival
Each summer, music venues, parks and public spaces across Niagara are filled with both Canadian and international musicians for the TD Niagara Jazz Festival. The schedule is packed full of both ticketed and free events, including many that are all-ages and family-friendly. International and Canadian jazz acts take the stage to perform for large audiences, making for a perfect summery outing.
You’re sure to find what you’re after, whether it’s a romantic evening listening to jazz at a wine bar in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a sunny day listening to bands outdoors while the kids play in the park, or a relaxing day listening lakeside. Many free outdoor events also feature fun extras like food trucks, culinary and wine tastings and crafts, making for a great daytime activity for visitors of all ages that’s also budget-friendly.
3. Namaste Niagara
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lifelong yogi or a beginner at practicing yoga – Namaste Niagara is a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor yoga experience. Trade in the four walls of your regular yoga studio for an expansive and up-close view of Niagara Falls. Namaste Niagara is a summertime yoga festival that brings local yoga teachers in to lead 45-minutes practices on the Journey Behind the Falls observation deck.
Since it’s normally open to the public, attending a Namaste Niagara yoga class means that you and your fellow yogis will have this incredible viewing platform all to yourselves to practice with the backdrop of the Falls thundering behind you. After your class, your registration price includes a scenic breakfast at a restaurant on the Niagara Escarpment: the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow yogis and experience the local food scene.
Read related: The Best Places to Eat Around Niagara Parks
4. Niagara Peach Festival
This weekend festival packs in all the best parts of a summer celebration – good food,lively music and tons of atmosphere under the summer sun. The long-running Niagara Peach Festival takes over Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Queen Street for one day each August to set aside the much-loved grape and let peaches have the spotlight. Local bands and street performers take turns providing the soundtrack to this street fair featuring local bakeries’ peach desserts as well as Niagara farmers selling locally-grown, fresh delights. This festival really proves that Niagara isn’t only a one-fruit town!
5. Niagara Folk Arts Festival
The 2018 edition of the Niagara Folk Arts Festival marked the 50th anniversary of this popular event, and the festival’s dedication to celebrating the multicultural community in Niagara shines through in its entertaining and inclusive schedule of events.
Canada’s oldest continually-running heritage festival, this family-friendly event features dances, exhibitions, art exhibits, and meals that aim to honour the many cultures native to the Niagara region. It’s often held in the springtime, but make sure to check the official website for updates on the next edition.
Perhaps most notable is the Stone SoupStock event, an evening of local music and global soup! Soups from a variety of different cultures are cooked by Niagara-area chefs and offered on an all-you-can-eat basis for a flat ticket price. This is a fun and quirky way to try different soups (with a side of art and music) from all over the world– and all in one place!
Visiting in Fall or Winter?
If you’ve planned a trip to Niagara in the fall or during the wintery months, there are still plenty of excellent festivals to enjoy. From the joy of harvest celebrations to dazzling light shows, here’s how to infuse your low-season trip with fun and celebration.
6. Niagara Icewine Festival
Beginning in mid-January and continuing until the end of the month, the Niagara Icewine Festival embraces Canadian winter and celebrates one of the best things to come from it – icewine. Icewine takes advantage of the cold winter climate by harnessing the concentrated sugars that result from frozen grapes to create a sweet dessert wine. Ontario is the largest producer of icewine in the world, and Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries are some of the best places on earth to taste this unique regional product.
In 2019, the Niagara Icewine Festival kicks off on January 11 with an Ice Wine Gala, followed by tasting events at wineries throughout the area. Attend just one event or opt for a Discovery Pass to make a weekend of it! This is a great way to discover the riches of local winemaking, and experience the charms of a truly Canadian creation.
7. Winter Festival of Lights
Now that we’ve satisfied your sense of taste, how about a feast for the eyes? The Winter Festival of Lights is a series of dazzling events that will make venturing outside on even the chilliest of winter evenings worth it. From November to January, a stunning eight-kilometre-long route along Niagara Falls’ most famous sights is decorated with incredible light displays, perfect for an after-dinner stroll or an evening event unto itself.
Displays range from fireworks to life-size animal sculptures to Christmas-themed scenescapes to traditional tree-based designs. Clifton Hill, Queen Victoria Park, the Dufferin Islands and even the Falls themselves are draped in mesmerizing and highly creative light displays, allowing both residents and visitors to see Niagara Falls in a whole new… light. Best of all? The displays are completely free to visit!
In 2018, the festival kicks off on November 3rd and continues through January 31st, 2019.
8. Taste the Season
Foodies, take note: ‘Tis the season to sample all the delicious food and wine the Taste the Season festival has to offer! Each November the festival partners with dozens of acclaimed Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries to offer visitors curated food and wine pairings at each establishment.
The perfect pick-me-up in a normally grey month, there is no better way to experience winter in Niagara than to spend it hopping from winery to winery for this unique gastronomic experience, which runs on weekends throughout November this year (you can purchase tickets here).
We recommend you purchase a $55 Touring Pass, which includes one locally-produced food and wine pairing at each participating winery. The pairings are listed online and range from icewine and dessert, to Merlot with steak and mushrooms, to Chardonnay and soup, so there is a great option for every palate.
Festival-goers can pass a cozy winter’s day at a single winery or spend the weekend tasting at several, making this pass a very versatile option for short-term tourists and long-term residents alike. The event lasts nearly all month, so there is plenty of time to explore the participating wineries. If you’re a foodie spending November in Niagara, Taste the Season is a must!
9. Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival
The long-running Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival started in 1974 in Lincoln, Ontario, and has remained an annual tradition ever since. From its first year running, the Thanksgiving Festival proceeds have gone to fund conservation and environmental programs, so not only is this festival fun to attend, you know that your small entrance fee is helping to protect this beautiful region.
Situated just south of the quaint town of Jordan, the Ball’s Falls area provides a tranquil setting for a four-day autumn celebration filled with music, food and festival games. During the annual event, generally held in October around Canadian Thanksgiving, over 170 vendors provide the food, fun and entertainment, including a market full of local designers and craft makers. Browse handmade clothing, jewelry, pottery and bath products, and when you’re feeling hungry, why not try one (or more, we don’t judge) of the many homemade pies from local bakers? This cheerful ensures that visitors aren’t just okay with leaving summer behind, but are excited about jumping headfirst into fall!
10. Annual Chrysanthemum Display
Niagara isn’t only a destination for foodies and nature lovers; it’s also a hotspot for horticulturalists. One must only visit the amazing Floral Clock to notice that the Niagara community highly values the beauty of flowers. Taking place every November at the Niagara Falls Floral Showhouse, the annual chrysanthemum display is certain to banish any budding winter blues.
Read related: Three Iconic Niagara Flowers, and Where to Enjoy Them
Walk amongst the rainbow of incredible colours of the floral display, which includes many flowers that are not commercially available and have bloom diameters of over eight inches – displays like these will impress even those who are missing their green thumb. Tickets are reasonably priced, making this a wonderful and budget-friendly autumn festival to enjoy!
In 2018, the display runs from October 27th through November 18th.
Looking for other great seasonal events in Niagara?
Make sure to keep informed about what’s going on in Niagara, year-round by consulting our monthly and seasonal events calendars. From pop-up dinners and wine tastings to floral showcases, fireworks and live music, there’ so much to see and do, all year long.
Also check out our guide to the Top 10 things to see and do in and around Niagara Falls, from natural wonders to vineyards, helicopter rides and shopping at quaint boutiques.
About the Author
Jaclyn Gruenberger is a Canadian writer and travel enthusiast. She loves hiking, photography, the ocean and a good road trip, which is why she moved to British Columbia and then Australia before returning to her home city of Toronto, where she lives now. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.