Niagara-on-the-Lake

City Guide: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Written by Kerry Kriseman
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When it comes to cute-as-a-button Canadian destinations, it’s hard to top the charms of Niagara-on-the-Lake. As its name suggests, the village sits on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada, and is renowned for its tree-and-flower-lined streets, 19th-century buildings, world-class wineries and proximity to the majestic Niagara Falls.

Though millions of tourists visit that watery wonder each year, Niagara-on-the-Lake, just 20 minutes away, is imbued with postcard good looks and gastronomic allure that cast a lasting spell over visitors.

Why Visit?

 

Canada Niagara on the Lake

The picturesque tree-lined streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake are walkable and Instagrammable (Photo courtesy of Destination Ontario)

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake is an ideal destination for relaxation, recreation, and good food and wine. The idyllic village strings out along the edge of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes of North America, and is known for its crystal-clear waters and scenic beauty, especially at sunset when the sky is painted in hues of orange, pink and purple. The waterfront is also a popular spot for boating, fishing and biking.

Off the water, Niagara-on-the-Lake brims with lively restaurants as well as authentic shops and galleries. Theatre buffs will be pleased to know that it’s also home to the second-largest repertory theatre company in North America —Shaw Festival— which has become a Canadian cultural icon.

Wine lovers take note: the region is the world’s leading producer of Icewine, a late-harvest elixir made from grapes handpicked and pressed while frozen. But there are plenty of reds, whites, and rosés being made here too. Rest assured—your glass will never be empty.

 

Wine Tasting

The Niagara Peninsula is on the same latitudinal band as Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon in France, the Chianti Classico region in Italy and the Rioja region in Spain. No wonder Ontario wines are so good!

The combination of cool air from Lake Ontario (one of the deepest of the Great Lakes) and the Niagara Escarpment terrain have sculpted the perfect grape-growing and wine-making climate where Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Reisling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc vines flourish.

With more than 40 wineries to choose from, it’s impossible to take them all in (or maybe not), but here are a few standouts.

 

Canada Niagara on the Lake

During winter, an ice rink opens at Wayne Gretzky Estate winery. (photo courtesy of Destination Ontario)

 

Wayne Gretzky Estates

“The Great One” grew up only 90 minutes from Niagara-on-the-Lake and fans of hockey and wine should not miss  Wayne Gretzky Estates.

Upon entry, you’ll pass through a small museum with memorabilia from the legendary player’s career. The meandering property also features a The Whiskey Patio as well as a modern tasting room and a picturesque pond where you can enjoy charcuterie and other delectable snacks while sampling the estate’s signature Cabernet Merlot, Shiraz Cabernet and Icewines.

Weather permitting, visitors can lace up their skates and enjoy the ice-skating rink from December through March. Throughout the year, Wayne Gretzky Estates hosts various events, including live music and culinary events.

 

canada niagara on the lake

Sip and cycle your way through Niagara-on-the-Lake’s stunning estate vineyards and family-owned wineries with Niagara Wine Tours (photo courtesy of Destination Ontario)

 

Trius Winery

Dubbed “the most Instagrammable winery tour on the planet”, visitors will want to grab a spot on the swing in the Trius Sparkling Room, a stop on the tour at Trius Winery. Snap some souvenir photos before enjoying their signature rosé, paired with cotton candy on the elevated hot pink vineyard perch. Or try their award-winning red, white, and sparkling wines, and watch a sabrage demonstration

The winery’s signature Trius Red, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, is a must-try, especially if dining at the Trius Winery Restaurant. Reservations are necessary since Executive Chef Frank Dodd is renowned for executing a memorable farm-to-table meal.

Peller Estates

*Peller Estates, synonymous with luxury and excellence in winemaking. Peller’s storied history began in 1927 when 24-year-old Andrew Peller arrived in Halifax from Hungary with just $5 in his pocket and a winemaker’s dream. Now, decades after arriving in Canada, Peller’s modest Okanagan vineyard inspired a vision for generations of his family, with wineries in British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

Peller offers a range of premium wines, including its iconic Icewine. The signature tasting experience includes sampling wines in the estate’s 10Below Icewine Lounge, an igloo-like room made entirely of ice.

The Winery Restaurant at Peller Estates, led by Chef Jason Parsons, offers an exquisite dining experience, featuring dishes that pair perfectly with their wines,. On Saturday and Sunday throughout the winter months, the estate’s Winter Luxe Lounge offers the chance to enjoy a sumptuous meal on a heated covered patio under cozy blankets, followed by Icewine marshmallows at the fire pit, all prepared by the estate’s executive chef Jason arsons.

 

Canada

Ontario is the world’s leading producer of Icewine and a festival takes place in Niagara-on-the-Lake each January (Photo courtesy of Destination Ontario)

 

Two Sisters Vineyards

For oenophiles who enjoy small-batch, high-quality wines, stop at Two Sisters Vineyards. Founders Melissa and Angela Marotta-Paolicelli planted their first vineyard in 2007. The expansive 130-acre estate offers varietals, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

The sisters’ approach to winemaking is to let the varietals, vineyards, and vintage direct the winemakers’ efforts. Even if you can’t secure a spot on one of their tours, you can stop by their opulent tasting room or outdoor terrace. Kitchen76, the winery’s Italian-inspired restaurant, offers a menu that celebrates the best of local and seasonal ingredients, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely meal with a glass of wine.

Canada ontario

Magnificent Niagara Falls is just 20 minutes from town (photo courtesy of Destination Ontario)

See & Do

Niagara-on-the-Lake has plenty to do outside the glass too, including a sensory stimulating visit to NeobNiagara, a lavender and flower farm where more than 20,000 sweet-smelling plants and 2-acres of pick-your-own flower fields make a fun outing for all ages. The shop has products to take home, from body wash and shampoo to culinary products and essential oils.

Of course, you’ll want to see Niagara Falls and the town’s proximity adds an extra layer of appeal. Just a 20-minute drive away, visitors can experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the world-famous wonder and then return to the tranquility of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the elegance of the surrounding wine country.

From February to December, the renowned Shaw Festival puts on quirky comedies, bold dramas, and beloved classics for more than 250,000 people in three theaters around the village:: Festival Theatre, Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre. and the Royal George, a classic Queen Street venue originally built in 1915 to entertain troops garrisoned in town during the First World War.

A small Niagara-on-the-Lake museum is dedicated to the town and region’s 9,000 years of history, housing tens of thousands of artefacts, documents, photographs and books. They also offer historical walking tours between June and September.

If you’re feeling particularly active, rent a bike and two-wheel it along the Waterfront Trail, which runs 27 kilometres (almost 17 miles) between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Burlington.

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Find your perfect head-topper at BeauChapeau Hat Shop (photo courtesy of Destination Ontario)

Shop

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a delightful place to window shop or browse boutiques and galleries, such as Lakeside Pottery, showcasing unique stoneware since 1989.

Or drop by BeauChapeau Hat Shop, home to 10,000 hats in a wide range of eye-catching and simple styles for men, women and children.

Eat & Drink

Among the notable restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake is Treadwell Cuisine, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch, and renowned for its dedication to fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to create such dishes as Chardonnay-steamed P.E.I. mussels, lobster-stuffed Lake Huron whitefish, and slow cooked lamb served with seasonal vegetables from Ohme Farms.

The Old Winery Restaurant offers a rustic Italian dining experience, with a menu featuring wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and an extensive wine list.

For more casual fare, the Irish Harp Pub is cozy with all-day dining from a menu of soups, salads and burgers as well as traditional Irish pub grub, such as corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, Dublin steak and Guinness pie.  They also host weekly live music and Tuesday night trivia.

Some of the best ice cream in Canada is scooped at Cows, known for its rich, creamy goodness and bovine-themed branding.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Region is also home to many breweries and distilleries, such as Blackburn Brew House, Niagara Brewing Company, and Niagara Distillery. Find an expansive list HERE

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Make sure to enjoy the views over Lake Ontario on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s waterfront (photo courtesy of Destination Ontario

Where to Stay

The oft-photographed Prince of Wales Hotel is a Victorian-era standout, with ornate architecture, opulent interiors and bespoke art that provide a glimpse into the grandeur of yesteryear.

Stay in one of the 110 luxurious guest rooms, enjoy afternoon tea in the Drawing Room or dinner at Noble, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. The hotel’s Secret Garden Spa offers a range of rejuvenating treatments.

The historic Riverbend Inn and Vineyard sits adjacent to Peller Estates. The Georgian mansion has 21 rooms featuring fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and Frette Italian linens. There is a gourmet restaurant onsite too.

 

 

Whether you’re looking to try a glass of Icewine, explore the boutiques on Queen Street, watch the sunset over Lake Ontario or all of the above, Niagara-on-the-Lake is an unforgettable starting point for a magnificent Canadian getaway.

***

Good to Know: All visitors to Canada must present a valid passport, even when driving over the border

WOW! Factor: The Shaw Festival is the second-largest repertory theatre company in North America

Tip: Avoid disappointment, make advanced reservations and bookings for rooms, events, tables and tours. Summer is popular.

***

Author bio: Kerry Kriseman

Find more travel inspiration at BeSeeingYou

 

 

 

Kerry Kriseman
Kerry Kriseman is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Mass Communications/Broadcasting. Kerry worked in print media for the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) in various positions in the Newsroom and Marketing Department from 1988 to 1998. She has been the Public Relations Manager for Creative Clay, a St. Petersburg, Fla,, non-profit since 2008. Kerry is the author of Accidental First Lady: On the Front Lines and Behind the Scenes of Local Politics, published by St. Petersburg Press. The memoir recounts her 22 years as a political spouse to her lawyer-turned-politician husband, Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg Mayor from 2014-2022. Political life afforded Kerry remarkable travel experiences to destinations such as Morocco, Scotland, and Qatar. However, she also finds her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida just as engaging, with its world-class museums, local arts districts, diversity, and vibrant neighborhoods. Equally as enjoyable as travel are Kerry’s passions: dogs (her own Labradors and the guide dog puppies she raises), volunteer work, wine, trying new recipes, and challenging her baking skills with her new Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

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