Of course there’s a time and place for wax museums, cotton candy and Screamers House of Horrors, but if you’re looking for something a bit less contrived, here are my suggestions for how to spend a memorable day around the Niagara Region of Ontario.
1. Visit the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. There’s a reason this town is swarming with visitors in the summer months! Beautiful centuries-old heritage homes dot the waterfront, the boulevards are lined with blooms, and big old shade trees provide relief from the sultry afternoon sun. Friday evenings showcase free concerts in the park at the end of the Main Street, where children can splash in the local wading pool while parents and grandparents enjoy the music.
2. To get from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake drive the Niagara Parkway. It’s not the fastest route, but definitely the most scenic. The road winds along the Niagara River (which flows from Lake Erie, over the falls, and into Lake Ontario) passing beautiful riverfront homes and gardens, orchards and vineyards, a butterfly conservatory and even a giant whirlpool in the river.
3. Visit a vineyard! (Or two). There are so many grape growers in the Niagara region (over 70 at last count) that I’d be hard-pressed to recommend which one to visit. I would, however, recommend picking one boutique (cottage) winery and one larger vineyard, just to compare and contrast the different-sized operations. Be warned! If you’re not already an oenophile, you’re likely to feel so seduced by Niagara’s sumptuous, elegant wine culture that spending $50 on a bottle of reserve Merlot starts to feel like a good investment.
4. Visit a local fruit grower. Niagara’s climate is not only ideal for growing grapes, but also tree fruit crops such as cherries (July), peaches, plums and apricots (August) and pears and apples (September). Fruit stands are everywhere – just look for the roadside signs – making it easy to purchase fresh produce from local growers and distributors. But even better is to wander into an orchard and pick a basket of fruit yourself. Parkway Orchards, near Niagara on the Lake, offers this. Again, keeping your eyes open for roadside signs is another way to spot lesser-known pick-your-own orchards.
5. Rent a bicycle and cycle along the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail. Don’t rent an aggressive mountain bike or road bike. This flat and pleasant cycle route requires the supreme comfort and relaxation of a classic cruiser. The trail originates at Butler’s Barracks on the Niagara-on-the-Lake Common, and continues for 650km; go as far as you like! In the first 5 km, you can see where the Niagara River empties into Lake Ontario, cycle past historic Fort George and the Shaw Theatre, and stop at Kurtz Orchards and Peller Estates winery.
Our Toronto guides love to take travelers on day trips from Toronto to the Niagara area. Next time you’re visiting Ontario, consider getting in touch with one of them to customize an itinerary for the perfect day in this beautiful and charming part of Canada.