Niagara fears crush of eclipse crowds on April 8; hopes for tourism revival

Niagara fears crush of eclipse crowds on April 8; hopes for tourism revival

Niagara Falls, the “world’s most famous address”, is accustomed to hosting a purported 14 million visitors a year and staging events to keep those visitors in the city for more than a quick peek at the falls. 

But what is happening on April 8th just seems different from other crowd-gathering events like the New Year’s Eve festivities, the Winter Festival of Lights or even the last big “one off” event when aerialist Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope across the Falls in 2012. 

“This is special in that it marries the natural beauty of the Falls with a once in our lifetime celestial event,” Janice Thomson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Niagara Falls Tourism, the Destination Marketing Organization that represents almost 400 tourism related establishments in the city and throughout the Niagara Region, tells the Pointer.

She is speaking to the solar eclipse, the natural phenomenon that occurs when the moon temporarily blocks the sun.  

On Monday, April 8th, as per the City of Niagara Falls website, “the solar eclipse experience is expected to start at 2:04 p.m. and last for about two and half hours April 8th.” 

The Niagara Parks Commission website states that Niagara Falls will be transformed “into a mesmerizing display of shadows and light”, while the Niagara Falls Tourism site boasts that the “sunny-day rainbow that hovers over the falls will become pink.” 

The culmination of the experience will occur at approximately 3:18 p.m when the sky will darken in Niagara for about three and half minutes, with just the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, visible, a part that is usually obscured by the bright face of the Sun.


The total eclipse will occur in Niagara Falls starting at 3:18 p.m.

(City of Niagara Falls)


Emphasizing the once in a lifetime nature of the event is that the last time Niagara experienced a total solar eclipse was 1925, with the next occurrence not until 2144. 

Niagara Falls will not be the only Niagara municipality to have a prime view of the eclipse. Port Colborne and Fort Erie will also be in the path of “solar totality”. The Weather Network has identified the latter as being the Canadian municipality that will have the distinction of the longest eclipse duration with an extra 15 seconds of darkness compared to the three minute and 31 seconds forecast for Niagara Falls, a fact trumpeted on the Town of Fort Erie’s website. 

The entire astronomical spectacle, a miracle of the cosmos that likely sparked biblical interpretations of God’s awesome power, is almost matched by the fascinating dilemma the eclipse has created in Niagara: The Region has declared a State of Emergency, to better prepare and marshal resources in anticipation of the descending masses; at the same time, the arrival of the eclipse promises to help return one of the country’s largest tourism draws to its former glory.  

In Niagara Falls, Queen Victoria Park will be the natural focal point for solar eclipse viewing, though the Niagara Parks Commission website notes that the best view will be in the opposite direction of the Falls, facing west toward the Niagara Falls city skyline. Niagara Falls Tourism is also promoting anywhere along the Niagara River Parkway, Table Rock, the Skylon Tower and Niagara SkyWheel as prime viewing locations.

The City of Niagara Falls is encouraging viewing at one of the City’s major parks (Fireman’s Park, MacBain Community Centre Park or Patrick Cummings Park) or by staying home, noting that local residents will just as easily be able to view the solar eclipse from their front or back yards.


The path of totality for the April 8, 2024 total eclipse.



Regardless of where one chooses to view the solar eclipse, eye safety is being preached.

The Region of Niagara’s website warns about looking directly at the sun, anytime, but especially not during the solar eclipse without proper eclipse glasses, that meet international safety standards.

When asked when the solar eclipse appeared on Niagara Falls Tourism’s radar, Janice Thomson noted:

“[A]bout two and half years ago, we were alerted about the solar eclipse from a member of an astrological society, who explained that this was a big event and would attract enthusiasts from around the world.”

For Thomson and the local tourism industry, those enthusiasts from around the world offer an opportunity for the destination to recapture some of the foreign visitation lost during the pandemic.

“Pre-pandemic, our bookings were 60 percent out of the country, mostly Americans.  With the restrictions there was a shift to Canadians and those closer to Niagara, as that market of travelers was not going to Europe and making Niagara as their choice of destination.”


Regardless of where you view the eclipse from, eye protection will be crucial.



Thomson first got a sense the solar eclipse was going to be bigger than even she may have anticipated when a few months out from the event, she learned most of the major hotels had a large number of bookings. The Niagara Regional Police Services (NRPS) website indicates that 98 percent of Niagara’s hotel rooms are booked. Thomson stresses, however, that there still are rooms available.

Thomson also takes comfort in that the majority of the bookings are for multiple days, with many visitors arriving on April 5th and not departing until the day after the eclipse.  

As for the anticipated number of visitors to Niagara Falls, it is difficult to predict. Various websites make reference to numbers, at least, in the six figures. At the end of 2023, the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Emergency Management – Western New York forecasted 1 million visitors to the American side of the Falls. A City Council report from Niagara Falls (Ontario) Fire Chief Jo Zambito noted:

“[N]o estimate is available for southern Ontario at this time. Caution must be used when considering estimated visitors for eclipses as travel may be spontaneous and difficult to predict.”

Janice Thomson admitted that without a formal ticketed event associated with the solar eclipse there is some unpredictability associated with numbers but she was confident that her members would be able to adapt, being used to large scale events.

Regarding the potential for 1 million visitors, Constable Phil Gavin, Media Relations Officer for the NRPS, did not discount the possibility. He told the Pointer: “[W]allenda had 150,000 visitors.  Yes, the number of million has been mentioned. We have looked at the 14,000 hotel rooms that have been booked and if there’s an average of 3 people in a room, the numbers add up.

A lot of people are booked in from the 5th to 8th and now into the 9th. So, it is hard to forecast an exact figure but we are planning for large numbers but there is a finite amount of space (in our communities), so there is a real possibility that we go above the number that the space can handle.”

It is the spontaneous visitors that concern Gavin. 

“If you live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and plan on the morning of April 8th to come down to the Falls, you may not even get here and you may be in the car for hours, with nowhere to stop, without access to a washroom. Make sure you have food, water and your medication, if you need it.”

Impulsive GTA residents may wish to consider taking a GO train to Niagara Falls. Special event service has been scheduled for April 8th, with three morning departures from Union Station in Toronto and four return trains throughout the late afternoon and night of the event. The trains will be expanded to twelve cars to accommodate possible increased ridership.

The NRPS website warns that traffic congestion, affecting local roads and provincial highways, will begin on April 5th, building until the event and continuing as visitors attempt to leave.   

The messaging to area residents has been similar with advice and tips on the City and NRPS websites that with the influx of visitors on April 5th locals should do their errands and get their supplies, groceries and gas prior to the weekend.

Such emergency preparation warnings may be another reason that the event seems different. Regional Chair Jim Bradley decided to take the extreme measure, declaring the recent State of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, ten days prior to the event: “[D]eclaring a State of Emergency under the EMCPA strengthens the tools the Region has at its disposal to safeguard the health and safety of residents and visitors and protect our critical infrastructure in any scenario that might arise.”

Interestingly, when addressing his Council at a March 12 meeting, Port Colborne Chief Administrative Officer Scott Luey indicated that while the municipality would be enacting their Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), he did not expect that Mayor Bill Steele would need to formally declare an emergency.

Constable Gavin, interviewed prior to the Regional Chair’s declaration, feels that the Police are prepared. The NRPS will have EOC’s throughout Niagara and have been working with their policing partners, such as the OPP and the Niagara Parks Police, as well as federal authorities,  the RCMP and Canada Border Services. Detectives will be deployed to the front lines on the day of the event and the service is getting support from London and Hamilton Police Services.

Constable Gavin: ”[T]here's a traffic and safety plan in place, with planned road closures but some of those closures could happen even earlier and sometimes there are organic closures, where the congestion will be such that no additional vehicles will be able to access.

“There are emergency routes that will be limited to local traffic and emergency personnel.”

The closure of Niagara schools on the day of the event should help lighten the burden on local roads. Niagara businesses are encouraged to stagger start times for employees or allow them to work remotely, if possible.  The Police are also hopeful that road construction and business deliveries will also be paused on the 8th in the three Niagara municipalities in the direct path of the eclipse. 

In the heart of the tourism area in Niagara Falls, the Niagara Parkway will be closed to vehicular traffic from Queen Street to Fraser Hill, all day on April 8th. Clifton Hill from Victoria Avenue to Falls Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at noon hour until midnight, along with Murray Street from the Niagara Parkway to Warren Avenue (Skylon Drive).

While it is anticipated that visitors will be arriving throughout the weekend, there is a certain likelihood that most will be leaving at some point on April 8th after the point of solar totality.

Constable Gavin agreed that the exodus is just as important as the arrival, especially getting travelers to the highways. He also hopes that visitors have planned for all contingencies on April 8th:

“(T)he challenge may be that a large number of visitors, who checked out of their hotels the morning of the 8th could be stuck without shelter on the evening of the 8th.” 

One possible mitigating factor to the mass exodus is a planned free concert in Queen Victoria Park. The Niagara Symphony Orchestra will be providing a musical “prelude” to the eclipse, resuming play after solar totality. The concert, in earnest, begins at 4:45 p.m., concluding at 10:00 p.m. when headliners the Glorious Sons complete their set.

Major free concerts in Queen Victoria Park had been a mainstay, especially, in conjunction with the destination’s New Year’s Eve festivities. The pandemic, rising costs and the fact that most hoteliers, who underwrite the event, already have full bookings on December 31st, has meant that the last major show was when Bryan Adams ushered in 2020.

Janice Thomson said there was a need for an event to provide the numerous visitors, many of whom will be families, something to do after the solar eclipse. She also notes that there are many special events leading up to the eclipse, with the Niagara Parks hosting a number of astrological-themed events and local restaurants planning special “eclipse-related” meals.

Although the Solar Eclipse is a once in a century event, Thomson is hopeful to build on the momentum of the weekend’s activities with a million dollar spring marketing campaign.  

National Geographic recently identifying Niagara Falls as #11 on its “Best of the World” list of travel adventures certainly helps, possibly ensuring that the World’s Most Famous Address remains on travel bucket lists when the next solar eclipse rolls around.



To keep updated on solar eclipse information readers are encouraged to visit the Niagara Regional Police Services and City of Niagara Falls websites. Should cellular and internet service be compromised on April 8th, the Police indicate they will communicate through local radio and television media.



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