Niagara Falls in November

Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Brian Williams. Originally published on Milliver’s Travels in November 2011.

THE FIRST TIME I saw Niagara Falls it was during the summer months. I never gave a thought as to how it would look during the colder months—it just seemed like a summer activity. But when my mother-in-law Sandi came to spend Thanksgiving with us, taking her to see the Falls was the ultimate day trip we could think to give her. She lives in Texas and was not going to have a reason to visit Niagara any time soon from her home base.

So, what’s a little brrry weather when you can see one of the great sights of the world?

American Falls

American Falls seen from the Canadian side

Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Falls (aka Horseshoe Falls) with its incredible plume

We drove the three-and-a-half hours from Youngstown, Ohio to the Canadian side of the Falls (our preferred side) on the day before Thanksgiving. We predicted that the family-oriented holiday where most people want to be at home would give us an advantage over the usual tourist hordes and sitting in lines at the border gates. And we were right.

Contrasted with the swarming crowds of American, Canadian and international faces you see at the Falls during the summer, this was pretty sedate. But we liked it. It matched the more sombre mood of the Falls produced by the chilly season.

Afternoon sun

Late autumn afternoon sun on the rocks

Up behind Horseshoe Falls

Up behind Horseshoe Falls we found another kind of late-autumn pretty

One thing I loved about seeing the Falls in the summer was being able to watch the cheery Maid of the Mist tourist boats ply back and forth between American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. (Passengers wear rain gear to try to avoid getting totally soaked at the foot of Horseshoe Falls.) Disappointingly, the boats were already in dry dock in anticipation of the the ice bridges that form across the river during winter.

Surprisingly, the Ferris wheel was still operating—but I wonder how many brave souls paid to feel their faces in the wind at that height. We noticed that the hardy types were also still prepared to put on wet-weather gear to get as close to the falls as they can. Special viewing platforms are provided at the bottom of both falls for this purpose.

Maid of the Mist dry-docked for the winter

Maid of the Mist dry-docked for the winter

Niagara Ferris wheel

The Ferris wheel over the tops of leafless trees

At the foot of American Falls

Brave spectators in wet-weather gear at the foot of American Falls

Naturally, you can’t go to the Falls without going crazy with your camera. This time, though, I let Brian do all the picture-taking, which meant I could relax and soak in the experience of seeing the Falls in such a contrasting season. One of our biggest delights was the double rainbow that graced Horseshoe Falls the entire time we were there.

I enjoyed watching my mother-in-law taking pictures to her heart’s content. She’s an artist and she kept exclaiming about the way the bare tree branches looked against the water and noticing other visual subtleties that perhaps the average tourist misses.

Double rainbow at Horseshoe Falls

My mother-in-law snapping a photo of the rainbow at Horseshoe Falls

We also had a great time watching people pose with a seagull standing on one of the rock pillars that holds the railings in place. This patient and rather austere character was not at all like some of the silly ones you see. He acted as if it were his job to pose for photo ops and he was going to do so in a dignified manner.

Posing seagull

He was too dignified to charge for his time

Despite the cold, the grass was still a vivid green—which looked almost strange against the bare branches of the trees and scrub along the banks up behind Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Niagara skyline

Niagara skyline above the green grass, with Skylon Tower to the right

Horseshoe Falls in close-up

The lip of Horseshoe Falls in close-up, being viewed by people on the American side

Brian was hoping to get a photo of himself standing next to the Nikola Tesla statue, which he didn’t get a chance to do the first time we visited Niagara. Brian’s an engineer and a fan of Tesla, having read several books about him. Sadly, they had the statue roped off.

From the Tesla Memorial Society of New York:

Nikola Tesla designed the first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls, New York which started producing electrical power in 1895. This was the beginning of the electrification of the United States and the rest of the world. Today, Tesla’s AC electricity is lighting and powering the globe. Nikola Tesla is the genius who lit the world.

Nikola Tesla monument

Left: The Nikola Tesla monument | Right: Double rainbow over the Falls

After dinner at Macaroni Grill a few blocks from the Falls (not recommended; this was the only time I’ve been disappointed by Macaroni Grill), Brian went down the hill to get his Jeep to save his mom from having to walk back to the car. He was gone a long time and we were starting to wonder what happened. But we were glad later when he showed us the night-time photos he took during his detour.

Skylon Tower and the Magic Castle

Left: Skylon Tower at night
Right: A light display across the street from Horseshoe Falls

American Falls at night

American Falls lit up for night-time, and the cityscape of Niagara Falls, New York

Horseshoe Falls at night

Horseshoe Falls at night. The plume looks almost ghostly.



Do the Falls actually freeze in winter? Scroll down on this Web page to find out:

Facts About Niagara Falls

Travel story I did the first time we visited Niagara, during summer:

Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side

Milli at Devi, Montreal

Milli at Devi, Montreal


Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is a long-time writer who also enjoys working with and helping writers. She’s a writing coach at Write More Words and runs an online course at Fear of Writing Online Course. These days a lot of her travel happens via her lifestyle of full-time house sitter. She’s currently house sitting in Tucson, Arizona, where the November weather is chilly, but sunny and pleasant, and flowers are still in bloom.


Originally published on Milliver’s Travels in 2011

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One Comment

  1. Sandra Williams says:

    That was fun to revisit! You got a lot of great photos, most of which I hadn’t seen before. I did get a laugh out of the dignified gull posing, but in that photo, it looked like he was standing on that lady’s head! Thanks for the memories.

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