Take your dog to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area – Even During Winter Wonderland

Attach a two-metre long leash to your pup, and yes, Balls Falls is dog-friendly, even during Winter Wonderland when 1.5 kilometers of trails are illuminated for after dark celebrations.

For decades, I’ve been going to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area in Lincoln, Ontario (near St. Catharines), but it wasn’t until I took my dog did I really experience the kilometres of managed trails, waterfalls, and bridges … several bridges. But I suppose that’s to be expected with a watershed area.

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Leashed, well-behaved dogs (I’m not sure mine passes) can join you on the 1.5 kilometre illuminated circular trail past the 1800s heritage buildings including a working mill and along the Niagara Escarpment and Twenty Mile Creek.

Dogs at Winter Wonderland

Dogs, unfortunately, aren’t permitted in the buildings during Winter Wonderland, but that’s a small part of the experience. This winter experience is all about the Holiday Trail lined with lights, tramping along the gravel paths (please stay on the trails), and trying to get great photos of your pup poised on the steps of an 19th century chapel or any of the other ‘selfie’ stages.

Ball’s Falls Conservation Area is part outdoor edge of the Niagara Escarpment site designed to engage with nature in a groomed trail, bridges across the waterways, occasional staircase up the side of an incline kind of way. It’s also part historic preservation site, once the village of Glen Elgin, with a working 19th century grist mill, chapel, log cabin, and occasional representations of First Nations who clearly inhabited the site long before Europeans arrived.

Ball’s Falls Holiday Festivals

Ball’s Falls, run by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, is also the site of several annual festivals throughout the year, including the Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts show (not dog-friendly but a tradition since 1974), and a fall festival event that also focused on walking trails, which I took my previous dog to, and he had a great time.

I remember my experience at Ball’s Falls with my first dog fondly, because it was just prior to his CCL accidents and eventual decline into dimension thanks to aging. Balls Falls was the site of his still youthful energetic revery. He was a fall festival kind of pup.

Today, my black and white two-year-old Sprocker is a winter-loving pooch, still young enough to not be impacted by any cold weather limitations. Most dogs we met along the trail had coats on, like my pup, and seemed to enjoy the outing, though not with the same excitement level mine exhibits.

Be sure to venture over the short bridge beside the last mill building to take in the 27-metre straight drop lower falls luminated in blue. Even my puppy was enthralled by that vision, for a moment.

Cost of tickets – Dogs Free

Tickets to Winter Wonderland are $12 for adults, includes parking, but you must pre-book for either a 5pm or 7:30pm time slot. Winter Wonderland runs until January 8, 2023, but the park is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm all year for outdoor enjoyment with your dog. The Centre for Conservation is open 9 am to 4 pm. Ball’s Falls Conservations Area, 3192 Sixth Ave, Lincoln, Ontario.

What Other Winter Wonderland or Christmas light shows in Ontario are dog-friendly?

Glad you asked – here’s a list of a few places to take your dog to enjoy holiday light shows:

1. Illumi Mississauga, Ontario and Laval, Quebec

Called a ‘dazzling world of lights,’ Illumia is a long trail through a site equivalent to 10 football fields in size is designed by Cavalia, best known spectacular horse shows. There are 14 magical universes to meander through, taking about one to two hours to complete.

Dogs on leash are welcome. The company plans to host special dog nights, but as of now (according to a phone call I made), people can bring leashed dogs.

Christmas light show in Kitchener, Ontario
  • Tickets: range from $30 to $40 each and must be pre-purchased for a time slot
  • Location: 7174 Derrycrest Drive, Mississauga, Ontario and 2805 Boulevard du Souvenir, Laval, Quebec
  • Dates: December 2022, until January 29, 2023

2. Twinkle After Dark, Mississauga, Ontario

Twinkle After Dark is a one-kilometre outdoor walk past historic buildings, holiday projections, costumed characters, and festive music punctuated by thousands of lights. Thursdays after 8 pm are dog-friendly. Purchase tickets online only and book a timeslot.

  • Tickets: Around $20 each but use Mad15 for 15% off at checkout
  • Location: Country Heritage Park, 8560 Tremaine Road, Milton, Ontario
  • Dates: November 24, 2022, to December 28, 2023.
niagara falls festival of lights dogtrotting.net

3. Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Canada’s largest free outdoor light event, Winter Festival of Lights, stretches all along the Niagara Parkway and through Dufferin Islands, so you’ll have to drive it. There are places to get out and take pictures of your pup (I did here years ago with my previous dog), and I’m looking forward to driving through with my Sprocker this year.

  • Tickets: Free
  • Location: Niagara Parkway, along the edge of Niagara Falls, Ontario
  • Dates: November 12, 2022, to February 20, 2023

4. Magic Lights, Ottawa, Ontario

Take a carload of people, including your dog, to Magic of Lights drive-through holiday experience. A winding path takes you through a series of digital LED animations. Benefit for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

  • Tickets: $23 to 29 per car
  • Location: Wesley Clover Parks, 411 Corkstown Road, Nepean (Ottawa), Ontario
  • Dates: November 18, 2022, to January 7, 2023

5. A Holiday of Lights Spectacular, Vaughan, Ontario

A walk-through experience that both you and your dog can enjoy (on specific dates), A Holiday of Lights Spectacular that features 1.5 million LED lights synchronized to music, axe throwing, Blizzard Bar, photo ops, vendors and even midway rides. Dogs must be leashed.

  • Tickets: $20
  • Location: 80 Interchange Way, Vaughan, Ontario
  • Pet-friendly Dates: Nov. 30, Dec. 2, 8, 10, 16, 18, 27, and 29. January 1, 3, 5, and 7. Note: food truck for dogs from the Bark’nBakery on these nights only.

6. Victoria Park Winter Wonderland, London, Ontario

Victoria Park Winter Wonderland is lit up for the holidays. This outdoor park open to the public and of course dog-walkers is lit up with 75 ,000 glowing lightbulbs.

  • Tickets: free
  • Location: Victoria Park, London, Ontario
  • Dates: December 2, 2022, to February 28, 2023

Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria.

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