From family-friendly outdoor activities to concerts featuring longtime rock and R&B legends, tourism leaders in Niagara Falls say there will be something for everyone during the summer entertainment season. Officials announced an extensive list of events, which begin this weekend.
Officials from Niagara Falls USA, Old Falls Street and the Seneca Niagara Casino announced a lineup that starts with a free Memorial Weekend block party at Old Falls Street's Park Block this Saturday and Sunday. The events planned for the casino and Old Falls Street neighborhood, as well as the state parks, are wide-ranging and, as one official put it, expands the region's traditional tourism season.
"This used to be a three- to four-month destination, then it went to six months and now you're looking at an eight-month destination," said John Percy, president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA. "From April to October, even early November, the Maid is in the water. The Maid of the Mist, our water activities with the jet boats and the Cave of the Winds, everything is open for almost a consecutive seven or eight months."
Old Falls Street will also host a free Independence Day celebration on July 1 and 2 and has teamed up with Slow Roll Buffalo to host two planned "Pedal Parties," June 23 and August 4.
Free entertainment scheduled for the summer season includes interactive games taking place Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. until June 23, after which the games will be hosted daily. Also beginning in late June will be Friday night concerts, family fun activities every Saturday and live music every noon, also on Saturdays.
"One of the things that's so encouraging is making sure the locals are cognizant and aware of all the activities that are happening downtown, especially all the free programming that Old Falls Street offers," said vJason Murgia, general manager of Niagara Falls' Conference and Event Center and Old Falls Street USA. "We've been seeing the local community embrace it more and more each year."
Seneca Niagara Casino's entertainment plans include free movies hosted Friday nights from June 30 through July 28, beginning at dusk. Films to be screened this year include the satire Canadian Bacon (which featured many scenes shot in Niagara Falls), Miracle, Field of Dreams, Crocodile Dundee and Elf, the latter of which marks the casino's Christmas in July celebration.
The casino is also hosting several concerts featuring Gladys Knight (June 10), REO Speedwagon and Styx (August 18) and KISS (August 19). The Seneca Niagara Events Center will also host a disco party on June 24 hosted by Downtown Julie Brown and featuring the Village People, Sister Sledge, Rose Royce and the Trammps.
The New York State Parks Department will host several hiking and bike tours on Saturdays and Sundays from early July through mid September, at Niagara Falls State Park, Devil's Hole, Whirlpool State Park and at Artpark.
Tourism advocates in Niagara Falls have noticed how Canalside has given many a chance to rediscover downtown Buffalo. They believe it's also happening in the Cataract City.
"We are now being able to walk on our own two feet," Murgia said. "I think you'll see the hotel inventory is increasing dramatically. I think you now see all the activities associated with increasing hotel rooms coming online. Those are the things that we need to be that world-class destination that Niagara Falls is and should be."
Events will continue through the end of September, when Old Falls Street will host Oktoberfest.