NI­A­GARA: EN­GAGE YOUR SENSES

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY BAR­BARA RAMSAY ORR

There’s some­thing per­son­ally sig­nif­i­cant about vis­it­ing one of the world’s nat­u­ral won­ders like Ni­a­gara Falls. A first view will take your breath away and make a per­ma­nent im­pres­sion, a re­minder of the awe­some power of Na­ture and of our place in the grand scheme of things.

It is some­thing you never for­get. From the wild wa­ters of the Falls to the rolling beauty of wine coun­try, the Ni­a­gara Re­gion is a tes­ta­ment to nat­u­ral majesty, and a ban­quet for all of the senses.

And for the mind? Ni­a­gara’s his­tory, the­atres, vis­ual arts and the new op­por­tu­ni­ties for meditation take care of that.

Ni­a­gara has you cov­ered, head to toe.

CHOOSE YOUR VIEW OF THE FALLS

For vis­ual im­pact, noth­ing beats the Falls, no mat­ter what an­gle from which you view them. The most fa­mous way to get an in­ti­mate look at this won­der is on a Horn­blower cruise, which will take you right up to the base of Horse­shoe Falls (www.ni­a­garacruises.com).

For a dif­fer­ent view, hover above the spray in one of Ni­a­gara He­li­copters’ flights, get­ting a bird’s-eye look at the area. Their new fleet of whirly­birds pro­vides the added com­fort of air con­di­tion­ing, lower noise lev­els and un­ri­valled safety (www.ni­a­gara he­li­copters.com). Want a more sybaritic way to en­joy the Falls? Din­ner at a Fallsview res­tau­rant, like El­e­ments on the Falls, lets you en­joy fine lo­cal cui­sine and wine while

watch­ing the flow. Even more re­lax­ing is wak­ing up and see­ing the morn­ing mist over the Falls from your bed­room win­dow in one of the ho­tels that of­fers spec­tac­u­lar over­views. Or see the rush of the rapids with a visit to the White Wa­ter Walk or on a jour­ney across the Ni­a­gara Gorge on the Whirlpool Aero car (www.ni­a­gara­parks.com).

To see the Ni­a­gara River down low, take a jet boat ride with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. Be pre­pared to get wet (www.whirlpool­jet.com).

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT

Ni­a­gara has long been fa­mous for the art­ful light­ing of the night Falls, but now it is even more spec­tac­u­lar. In a ma­jor in­vest­ment last year, the ex­ist­ing lights were re­placed with new, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED light­ing tech­nol­ogy, pro­vid­ing more than twice the pre­vi­ous light­ing lev­els, pro­gram­mable light­ing, and a wider spec­trum of colour.

In ad­di­tion to the nightly il­lu­mi­na­tions, there is the bril­liance of fire­works over the Falls. Ni­a­gara Parks con­tin­ues to host Canada’s longest run­ning fire­works se­ries in Queen Vic­to­ria Park, from May to Septem­ber.

Vis­i­tors in Septem­ber will not want to miss the On­guiaahra Sound and Light Show, a pre­sen­ta­tion by Ni­a­gara Parks that will com­bine the power of wa­ter, sound and laser lights to show­case the magic of Ni­a­gara Falls, pro­jected on a 100 by 35 ft. wa­ter and mist screen (www.ni­a­gara­parks. com/ni­a­gara-falls-events/sound-and-light­show.html).

MIND­FUL­NESS IN THE MIST, OR IN THE VINE­YARDS

It’s good for the body and mind to slow down, con­tem­plate and con­nect with your sur­round­ings, and Ni­a­gara en­cour­ages vis­i­tors to do just that. One of the new­est pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties is Na­maste Ni­a­gara, a yoga se­ries or­ga­nized by Ni­a­gara Parks and held on se­lect Sun­days dur­ing the sum­mer. Ad­mis­sion to the event in­cludes park­ing, pri­vate ac­cess to Jour­ney Be­hind the Falls, a 45-minute yoga work­shop right at the brink of the Falls and brunch at the Queen­ston Heights Res­tau­rant.

For those who like an in­dul­gence af­ter their work­out and meditation, Mega­lo­ma­niac Win­ery in Vineland runs yoga ses­sions on their out­door ter­race dur­ing warm weather,

with fan­tas­tic views of Lake On­tario, and the op­por­tu­nity to visit the tast­ing rooms af­ter­wards. They host live jazz nights too (www.mega­lo­ma­ni­acwine.com).

SIP­PING AND SAVOUR­ING

It’s not sur­pris­ing that the culi­nary scene and the winer­ies of Ni­a­gara now ri­val the Falls in pop­u­lar­ity. Year-round, vis­i­tors can tour, taste and feast at the many eas­ily ac­cessed winer­ies. In win­ter, vis­i­tors can “chill” at the Ice Wine Fes­ti­val. You haven’t re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced a “Nuit Blanche” un­til you have dined in the icy (but heated!) white tents set up on the streets of Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake on a chilly win­ter evening (www.ni­a­garawine­fes­ti­val.com). Be one of the first to try this year’s wines at the Ni­a­gara New Vin­tage Fes­ti­val, and in­dulge your love of fine white wines at the In­ter­na­tional Cool Cli­mate Chardon­nay Cel­e­bra­tion, or i4C, in July (www.coolchardon­nay.org).

Com­pa­nies like Crush on Ni­a­gara Wine Tours of­fer vis­its to the vine­yards (www.crush­tours.com), while Zoom Leisure Bikes or­ga­nizes cy­cling tours (www.zoom­leisure.com). An­other at­trac­tive op­tion is the Ni­a­gara He­li­copters wine tour where you can fly over the Falls and then take in the vine­yards by air, land­ing at a lo­cal win­ery for a tour and tast­ing or a gourmet meal (www.ni­a­gara he­li­copters.com).

WINES WITH AL­TI­TUDE

It’s easy to do your own in­di­vid­ual tast­ing tour as most winer­ies are well-signed and an ex­cel­lent self-tour­ing map al­lows you to choose be­tween large es­tab­lish­ments

and smaller ones that are ag­gres­sively push­ing the bound­aries of wine­mak­ing (www.winer­iesof­ni­a­garaon­the­lake.com/cta/ great­est-win­ery-tour).

How about a visit to On­tario’s only fly-in vine­yard? Sue-Ann Staff Es­tate Win­ery is a small bou­tique op­er­a­tion, with the tast­ing room in the fam­ily din­ing room. Owner and vint­ner Sue-Ann is also a pi­lot, and her win­ery is the only fly-in win­ery in On­tario with two grass run­ways and co­or­di­nates avail­able for touch down (www.sue-annstaff.com). Westcott Vine­yards is an­other small fam­ily-run win­ery, lo­cated in a re-sit­u­ated 200-year-old Men­non­ite barn. The win­ery makes a bub­bly that will blow your socks off and serves fresh and tasty lunches on the veran­dah (www.jor­dansta­tion­win­ery.ca).

CEL­E­BRAT­ING 150 YEARS OF CANA­DIAN PRIDE

His­tory abounds in Ni­a­gara, and it is no sur­prise that the area will be busy with spe­cial events and cel­e­bra­tions for Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial.

Fort Ge­orge Na­tional His­toric Site is an ac­cu­rately re­stored fort where cos­tumed in­ter­preters re-en­act his­tory (www.parks canada.gc.ca/fort­ge­orge). The Fort will salute Canada dur­ing a rous­ing Canada Day event, fea­tur­ing pe­riod mu­sic, a bar­beque, mus­ket demon­stra­tions and can­non fir­ings, con­clud­ing with a con­cert and fire­works dis­play. This sea­son Fort Ge­orge will also be pay­ing homage to au­thor Jane Austin with lec­tures, and a “Per­sua­sion” tea party.

Ni­a­gara Parks is plan­ning a year-long se­ries of pro­grams and ini­tia­tives to cel­e­brate the sesqui­cen­ten­nial around the theme of “Rooted.” There will be new pol­li­na­tor gar­dens through­out the parks and the on­go­ing Life on Dis­play in­stal­la­tion of minia­ture replica houses at the Flo­ral Showhouse.

A new ex­hibit at the But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tory will cel­e­brate On­tario’s na­tive species, in late sum­mer. The sig­na­ture event, Rooted, will in­clude the Ma­jes­tic Monarch Re­lease at the But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tory, and Nuit Vert: Din­ner Un­der the Canopy, pre­pared by lo­cal chefs.

Not to be missed are the 25,000 red and white tulips planted by Ni­a­gara Parks within Queen Vic­to­ria Park.

GRAB THE GUSTO

Adren­a­line junkies will re­joice at WildPlay’s MistRider Zi­pline to the Falls which whis­tles you along the edge of the Falls for a breath-stop­ping ride. Ex­pe­ri­ence the Falls in a whole new way: hang­ing from a 67-m-high (220-ft.) van­tage point on one of four par­al­lel zip-lines at speeds over 70 km/h (40 mph), along the edge of the Ni­a­gara River gorge and down to the Falls ob­ser­va­tion area.

In ad­di­tion, WildPlay’s new Whirlpool Ad­ven­ture Course presents the thrill of sus­pended ob­sta­cles and zip-lines above the Ni­a­gara gorge. It also in­cludes climb­ing, jump­ing, and swing­ing aerial games—a dif­fer­ent way to ex­plore the Ni­a­gara River —with op­tions for both ad­ven­tur­ous adults and kids aged 5-12 (www.wildplay.com).

GOURMET NI­A­GARA

Ni­a­gara is syn­ony­mous with good food, so it is log­i­cal that some of Canada’s celebrity chefs have moved to Ni­a­gara and are pro­duc­ing su­perb lo­cally-sourced food.

All of the Ni­a­gara Parks restau­rants are

now “Feast ON” cer­ti­fied, a cri­te­ria-based pro­gram that rec­og­nizes busi­nesses that use prod­ucts sourced as lo­cally as pos­si­ble, cel­e­brates lo­cal pro­duc­ers, and com­mits to show­cas­ing On­tario’s unique taste of place. Ex­pect fresh and in­ter­est­ing lo­cal dishes at all their din­ing places, like Queen­ston Heights Res­tau­rant, or Le­gends on the Ni­a­gara where you can en­joy a lo­cally sourced meal in the club­house and also get in a few rounds of golf on its renowned cour­ses.

There are ex­cel­lent af­ford­able din­ing op­tions in the area. The Backhouse, a Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake res­tau­rant de­voted to cool cli­mate sus­tain­able cui­sine, of­fers an in­ti­mate din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with a seat at the chef’s bar where you can sit by the fire and watch the cooks in ac­tion (www. backhouse.xyz).

Many winer­ies have de­vel­oped ex­cel­lent in-house restau­rants serv­ing lo­cally-in­spired food. The 13th Street Win­ery is a fam­ily-run win­ery with a brand new tast­ing bar and wine bou­tique, a sculp­ture gar­den, orig­i­nal Cana­dian art on the walls, and culi­nary art (think but­ter tarts) in the on-site bak­ery (www.13thstreetwin­ery.com). Creek­side Es­tate Vine­yards, which is pro­duc­ing some great Riesling and a de­li­cious un­fussy bub­bly, is serv­ing all things smoked—ribs, pulled pork, salmon— on the wooden veran­dah over­look­ing the vine­yard (www.creek­sidewine.com).

DRAMA ON THE LAKE

Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake is well-known for the Shaw Fes­ti­val (www.shawfest.com) and is fea­tur­ing Ge­orge Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan and Alan Ben­nett’s Mad­ness of Ge­orge III this year. But this his­toric town also of­fers good shop­ping along the his­toric main street and care­fully re­stored inns and manor house ho­tels, such as the el­e­gant neo-Geor­gian Queen’s Land­ing (www.vin­tage-ho­tels.com) or the in­ti­mate Har­bour House Ho­tel (www. har­bour­house­ho­tel.ca). The Prince of Wales Ho­tel is a Vic­to­rian-style ho­tel lo­cated close to the Shaw Fes­ti­val the­atres and shop­ping area. The town is also well sup­plied with bed and break­fast es­tab­lish­ments, like the His­toric Davy House Bed & Break­fast Inn (www.davy­house.com).

GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR IN­NER TOURIST . . . IN NI­A­GARA

Ni­a­gara has so much—and the Falls are just the begin­ning of the ad­ven­ture. Plan to spend some se­ri­ous time here to fully con­nect to the en­ergy of this ex­cep­tional place, and to ex­pe­ri­ence all that the re­gion has to of­fer ev­ery one of your senses (www.tourism­nia gara.com; www.ni­a­garafall­s­tourism.com).

NI­A­GARA FALLS MISTRIDER ZI­PLINE • SHUTTERSTOCK/JHVEPHOTO

WHIRLPOOL AERO CAR • ON TOURISM/GOH IROMOTO

NI­A­GARA-ON-THE-LAKE • ON TOURISM

JOUR­NEY BE­HIND THE FALLS • SHUTTERSTOCK/NICK STARICHENKO

FLO­RAL SHOWHOUSE • NI­A­GARA PARKS

NI­A­GARA-ON-THE-LAKE • SHUTTERSTOCK/KIEV VIC­TOR

NI­A­GARA PARKS BUT­TER­FLY CON­SER­VA­TORY • ON TOURISM/GOH IROMOTO

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