Northern Lights Festival


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The Northern Lights Festival is a renowned expansive, prized, and esteemed display of Christmas lights. The festivity in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada starts from the second week of November and will last up to January. The best thing about this celebration is that it attracts more than 20,000 guests and visitors every year.

The Northern Lights Festival is the innovation or creation of Marie Walpole that started in the year 1987. This is considered one of the great and extensive winter light shows happening in Canada.

Northern Lights Festival
Festival highlights

About 25 km of lights strings as well as 400 lighted designs are presented over the city streets and parks. Northern Lights Festival is named one of the top 100 festivals in Ontario for 2009 by Festivals and Events Ontario, an industry association.

In its twenty-first year in 2008,  it was slowly converted to LED fairy lights from conventional incandescent lights out of value and respect for Mother Earth.  This effort aims to minimize or reduce operating expenses, enabling the operators of the festival to make the size and degree of the festival lights bigger.

Festival Dates (2023 – 24)

Synonymous with wintry weather in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, for over 30 years, the Northern Lights Festival will shine bright again this 2023.

The annual festival kicks off on November 18, 2023 and will last until January 7, 2024.

This is a nightly show along the Sydenham River in downtown Owen Sound as well as at Harrison Park. The place will be open starting 5pm to 10pm.

How to Get to Owen Sound Ontario Canada

Owen Sound, the country seat of Grey Country, conveniently situated is a city located in the northern portion of Southwestern Ontario, Canada. This is situated at the Sydenham and Pottawatomi Rivers’ entrances or openings on a cover of Georgian Bay.

Owen Sound is easily accessible from regional highways 6 and 10 to the south, and to the west is Highway 21. Coming from the east portion, Country Road 26 enfolds Georgian Bay and makes for a beautiful and picturesque drive to Owen Sound from Collingwood.

There are three ways to get to Owen Sound from Toronto. If you ride on a bus, it takes four hours and fifteen minutes to reach the place; this is the recommended option. However, if you travel by bus via Guelph, you will get to this place in five hours and forty-four minutes, which is considered the cheapest option. If you have your own car, it will take two hours and forty minutes to reach the place.

If you’re in Canada, you might want to check out these other captivating lights festivals as well:

Tonga Lumina

Niagara Falls Festival of Lights

How Much it Costs to Visit the Fest

You can enjoy the magnificence of this place during the Christmas season with hundreds of light displays flashing and blinking along the Sydenham River banks in downtown Owen Sound as well as at Harrison Park, and the best thing about it is that admission is free.

You can take pleasure in a superb and brilliant view without spending any amount. All you need to pay is for food and accommodation.

Weather and What to Wear

The month of November brings the cold season to Ontario, Canada. The first two weeks keep on with the beautiful autumn weather; however, that starts to change into the freezing winter weather with temperature decreasing harshly into the range of 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 45.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Towards the last week of November, Ontario starts to experience snowfall, which slowly accumulates an estimated 83.8 mm or 3.3 inches of snow. Many nights keep cold as the blizzards pull in. There’s a sharp increase in rainfall to 2 inches or 50.8 mm across 14 rainy days. The rainfall adds to the chilly on most days, considering the sunshine time drops to five a day.

When going to the Northern Lights Festival, you need to wear waterproof softshell trousers with thermal leggings.  It is also advisable to wear Merino wool base layers to keep warm and feels good to the skin, and what is more, it doesn’t smell.

It is also advisable to use an insulated jacket; look for big and warm with a hood as well as pockets.  It is advisable to wear Mitts to keep your hands warmer. You will need a good mitt if you are standing around at night watching the lights. It is best if they are big enough to fit over other gloves. Liner or thin gloves are advisable for under mitts.

You can also wear a warm and windproof hat for head protection, and for feet, you are advised to wear arctic boots and woolly socks as you need more insulation when standing in the snow for many hours.

Where to Sleep

There are lots of hotels in Owen Sound where you can stay until the festival ends. Here are some of the three popular hotels to consider:

Comfort Inn

This hotel offers warm hospitality, superb customer service as well as clean and comfortable rooms for you and the whole family. The hotel is conveniently situated at the heart of four main highways, 6-10-21 and 26.  Comfort Inn have all the amenities visitors and guests are searching for, such as free sunshine breakfast, daily newspaper, wireless internet, guest computer, and local calls.  Room features include air conditioning, coffee or tea maker, housekeeping, fridge and microwave, flatscreen TV as well as a hairdryer.

Nights Inn Owen Sound

If you are attending the lights festival with friends or family members, then Nights Inn Owen Sound is the best place to stay. This is a family-friendly hotel. The hotel offers visitors an array of room amenities, including a flatscreen TV, air conditioning, a refrigerator, and a microwave. Getting online is not a problem as they offer free wifi. The hotel provides a 24-hour front desk as well as an express check-in and check-out to make the visit or stay even more pleasant.

Best Western Inn On the Bay

This is a hotel in Owen Sound, Ontario that specializes in offering superb service with an English style property, which shows Georgian Bay’s panoramic sight. Staffs are friendly, the rooms are a clean, full-service restaurant, and there are also pet-friendly rooms, which makes this the best hotel to stay in during the festival.

Where to Eat

Your Northern Lights Festival will be more memorable if you try some of the best restaurants in Owen Sound. Some of these restaurants include:

Chuck’s Roadhouse Bar and Grill

This is a best place to bring your friends and kids for a nice family dinner after seeing the festival of lights. This is a purposely catered grill to make each customer feel that at home setting while eating. Steak is their main offering.

Walker House

This is another good place to dine with the family. Foods are great, customer service is exceptional, and the staff is amiable. They offer American cuisine.

Casero Kitchen Table

If you love Mexican food, then this place is best for you. The place is hygienic and relaxing, and the staffs are very friendly and welcoming.

More Things to do In the Area

1. Inglis Falls

One of the most stunning natural attractions in the area, Inglis Falls is a 18-meter high waterfall where the Sydenham River meets the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. The falls are located in the Inglis Falls Conservation Area, which offers various trails for hiking and excellent spots for photography.

2. Owen Sound Marine and Rail Museum

This museum offers an exciting trip back in time, focusing on the history of marine and rail transport in the region. Located in a historic CN Rail Station, the museum showcases several exhibits and artifacts that help explain Owen Sound’s significant role as a transportation hub.

3. Tom Thomson Art Gallery

Named after one of Canada’s most famous painters, this gallery is dedicated to the work of Tom Thomson and his contemporaries. The gallery houses an extensive collection of Thomson’s artwork as well as rotating exhibitions featuring other Canadian artists.


1. Where can I park?

Parking is generally available at designated areas near the festival grounds. Due to the popularity of the event, we recommend arriving early to secure a spot. Some parking may be free, while other lots may have a fee.

2. Is smoking allowed?

The festival is a family-friendly event, and as such, smoking is not permitted in the festival grounds. There are designated smoking areas located outside the main event areas.

3. Can I bring my pet?

Pets are generally not allowed within the festival grounds for the safety and comfort of all attendees. Service animals with proper identification are an exception.

4. What are the festival dates?

The festival takes place from November 18, 2023 to January 7, 2024.

5. Can I bring outside food and drinks?

Outside food and beverages are generally not allowed within the festival grounds. There are plenty of food and drink vendors on-site to keep you refreshed and fueled throughout the event.

6. Is the event wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the Northern Lights Festival in Owen Sound strives to be as accessible as possible. Most areas are wheelchair accessible, but some trails or paths may be difficult to navigate.

7. Are there restroom facilities?

Yes, there will be clean and well-maintained restrooms available at various locations throughout the festival grounds.

8. What should I wear?

Considering that the festival takes place outdoors, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Comfortable shoes and layers are recommended.


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