A million solar eclipse enthusiasts expected at Niagara Falls

April 2, 2024 - 5:49 PM
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Tourist take photos in front of Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada June 28, 2022. (Reuters/Carlos Osorio/File Photo)

 From vintage train rides costing almost $4,000 per person to hotel rooms listed at $1,600 a night, businesses in and around majestic Niagara Falls are preparing to cash in on the April 8 total solar eclipse – with around a million visitors expected.

The dramatic waterfall, situated along the Canadian-U.S. border, is in the path of the eclipse, and many people are splurging on hotels and rentals in advance to experience the phenomenon at one of North America’s natural wonders. Demand has pushed up prices of hotels as people making last-minute plans book the last of the available accommodations.

The eclipse will be a busy time both on the Ontario side and the New York side of the waterfall, with numerous special activities planned.

Many enthusiasts are planning to drive thousands of miles (km) across Canada to be there when the moon’s shadow covers the sun for about three to four minutes starting at 3:20 p.m ET. For Canada, this marks the first total solar eclipse since 1979, with the next forecast for 2044.

Jim Diodati, mayor of the Ontario city of Niagara Falls, predicted “by far the biggest crowd that we’ve ever had” on the Canadian side for the eclipse. Diodati estimated that up to a million people will be there, compared with the 14 million who typically visit during the course of an entire year.

“Clear weather is the cherry on top,” Diodati said. “I’m just keeping fingers crossed and hoping.”

Most hotel rooms are booked and prices are higher than usual, according to Janice Thomson, president and CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism.

Many hotel rooms were priced at C$1,000 per night and above – and some boasting views of the falls even reached around C$2,200 ($1,620).

The region, which includes the municipalities of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, is one of the most heavily booked Airbnb ABNB.O destinations in Canada for the eclipse, according to the lodging service.

John Percy, president and CEO of regional tourism promotional agency Destination Niagara USA, said in a press release that he expects the eclipse to bring “the largest influx of visitors we’ve ever seen” to the U.S. side of the falls.

Party atmosphere

Hotel company Hilton’s HLT.N property that overlooks the falls is hosting a “parking lot party” offering eclipse views from its outdoor venue along with live music, a DJ and food trucks – priced at a C$10 entry fee, which includes a pair of protective solar eclipse glasses and a souvenir drink cup.

Hilton’s falls-facing rooms, which typically cost about C$200 a night, were priced at more than C$1,000 for the eclipse period. Prices at Marriott’s MAR.O Sheraton Hotel were upwards of C$1,000 a night, compared to about C$250 a night for a weekend later in the month.

On the U.S. side, a vintage train will be taking people from New York City to Niagara Falls, with tickets at nearly $4,000 per person.

Niagara Falls-based hoteliers and business owners have had the event on their radar for years, hoping to recoup losses they experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses are staffing up.

Gabriel Gabrie, owner of Bravo! Pizzeria & Grill in Ontario’s Niagara Falls, said the solar eclipse will bring “more people and more luck.”

“I am calling back our staffs from the previous year and training them again. We are expecting to have a full house,” Gabrie said.

Some visitors like University of Toronto physics professor Jason Harlow will travel with their families.

“Seeing something that’s so rare and so beautiful – to see the stars come out in the day – yeah, something that my kids will remember their whole lives,” Harlow said.

($1 = 1.3568 Canadian dollars)