Travel Guide to Canada
NIAGARA: ENGAGE YOUR SENSES
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).
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).