Niagara-on-the-Lake is a great destination to explore for a weekend. From boutique hotels and many wineries to great restaurants and wonderful theater, it has much to offer. My top recommendations of what to do include:
As a lover of theater, the Shaw Festival was one of the reasons that I wanted to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Festival Theater runs from April to October and presents world-class plays and musicals in three venues. The Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre and The Festival Theatre are located at 10 Queen’s Parade in the main facility. The third is located at the Royal George Theatre at 85 Queen St. When I was there, I attended a very good production of the Hound of the Baskervilles and the excellent musical Grand Hotel. Both were in the larger Festival Theatre. The venues are downtown so you can stay in town and walk to the performances. There are a number of good restaurants a short walk away, that you can visit before or after you attend. The venue itself has a casual cafe, bars, a beautiful garden and lovely outdoor seating. Throughout the season you can attend tours, readings and post-theater discussions. It was an excellent experience and I highly recommend it.
The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is surrounded by over 20 wineries that you can visit when you are in the area. There are even more as you head west towards Hamilton, Ontario. It produces some excellent icewine, whites and reds. According the Wikipedia, “icewine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing for a more concentrated grape juice to develop.”
Make sure to visit the following wineries:
Ravine Vineyard: The winery and vineyards are located on a family farm that has been in the family since the 1860’s. It offers tours and tastings. They produce a number of whites, reds, sparkling wines, a rosé and an icewine. They also have a casual restaurant onsite with great patio seating that is a great spot for lunch. 1336 York Road in St. Davids, ON south of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Inniskillin: This is a large winery with excellent wines. They produce four kinds of sweet icewine, a number of chardonnays and rieslings plus pinot noirs, merlots, red blends, cabernet francs and cabernet sauvignons. I am not a big white wine fan, but really enjoyed the cabernet franc and the cabernet. They have a second winery in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia southeast of Vancouver. 1499 Line 3 at the Niagara Parkway.
Stratus Vineyards: This vineyard has one of the loveliest tasting rooms that I have been to on any of my travels. Just seeing the elegant tasting room is well-worth the trip, but their wines are a must to taste.. Their Stratus Red is a full-bodied, red blend and the Stratus Syrah is a peppery red wine with the taste of black cherries. Both were excellent to taste. They also produce a number of Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc, Cab Franc and an Icewine. 2059 Niagara Stone Rd.
Marynissen Estates: Marynissen Estates is a small winery, that began growing their own grapes in 1975, and features their icewines, whites from gewurztraminers, chardonnays and rieslings and reds from pinot noirs, blends, merlots and cabernets. I thought the pinot and the cab were both very good.
Peller Estates Winery and Restaurant: This is a large winery and tasting room where you can enjoy tours and tastings. The Winery Restaurant offers Sunday brunch and lunch daily. In the evenings, you can enjoy a five course dinner with wine pairings. 290 John St. E.
Other Things to Do
Beer lovers will enjoy visiting Niagara Oast House Brewers. This is a local microbrewery set in an old barn from the 1800’s, that is located just southwest of downtown at 2017 Niagara Stone Rd. Here they make a number of saisons, ales, IPAs, porters and stouts. Their tasting room, known as The Beer Shed is large and quite fun. They also have the Beer Patio which is a two story outdoor terrace and deck in the the rear of the facility. They serve food including barbecue which I saw them cooking out back! They also feature special events.
RiverBrink Art Museum: Having read about this small art museum, I stopped by on my way back to Buffalo. Located at 116 Queenston St, Queenston, ON, this private home on the Niagara River was converted to a private art museum in 1996. It features works that explore Niagara on the Lake and Canadian Heritage. It manages the Samuel E. Weir Collection that includes Canadian, European and American paintings. You can see works from the collection as well as temporary exhibitions of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts.
Fort George: Located just east of downtown, along the Niagara River, is the Fort George National Historic Site. It is an historic military structure that was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812. 51 Queen’s Parade. You can visit the site, tour the rebuilt buildings and barracks and see the canons along the earthen walls. I enjoyed my walk through the Fort as my last stop in town.
My local friends also recommend visiting the Niagara Historical Society Museum if you want to learn more about the history of the area. 43 Castlereagh Street.