Travel Guide to Canada
If you’ve been to Niagara and think you’ve seen it all, it is time for another look. And if you’ve never visited, there hasn’t been a better time to come. Niagara rocks, as it never has before.
Clifton Hill is undergoing a facelift, there are new adventures to experience and the journey to the foot of the Falls has gotten far more sophisticated. In Wine Country, intimate restaurants in boutique wineries are reinterpreting the Niagara dining experience and the Shaw Festival has a blockbuster musical and internationally famous performers. The arts, the gardens, the nightlife—all are blooming in Niagara this year. From the wild waters of the Falls to the rolling beauty of wine country, the Niagara Region is ready to dazzle you!
CHOOSE YOUR VIEW OF THE FALLS
For visual impact, nothing beats the Falls, no matter how 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 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 (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 recent major investment 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.
MINDFULNESS IN THE MIST
It is 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.
SIPPING AND SAVOURING
It isn’t 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 Icewine 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 Niagaraon-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.cool chardonnay.org).
Companies like Crush on Niagara Wine Tours offer visits to the vineyards (www. crushtours.com). 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. niagarahelicopters.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 resituated 200-yearold Mennonite barn. The winery makes a bubbly that will blow your socks off and serves fresh and tasty lunches on the verandah (www.westcottvineyards.com).
CELEBRATING CANADIAN HISTORY IN NIAGARA
History abounds in Niagara, and it is no surprise that the area is busy with special events and celebrations to showcase Canada’s early history.
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 barbecue, musket demonstrations and cannon firings, concluding with a concert and fireworks display.
Niagara Parks is planning a series of pop-up dinners at different prominent places along the Niagara Parkway, while the Botanical Gardens will feature a new public art installation by Gordon Reeve called “Niagara Strait.”
The Butterfly Conservatory celebrates Ontario’s native species, as well as being home to over 2000 butterflies from all around the world.
Not to be missed are the 25,000 red and white tulips planted by Niagara Parks within Queen Victoria Park that explode with colour in the spring.
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 to 12 (www.wildplay.com).
New this summer in the on-going Clifton Hill redevelopments, is the Niagara Speedway, a 12-m (39-ft.) multi-storey raised spiral go-cart track that is guaranteed to be a thrill ride. It will be the only one of its kind in Canada and the largest in North America.
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 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.13thstreet winery.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 this season is featuring British actor Stephen Fry in Mythos A Trilogy: Gods. Heroes. Men. as well as a sumptuous musical, Grand Hotel. 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. niagarasfinest.com/harbour). The Prince of Wales Hotel is a Victorian-style hotel located close to the Shaw Festival theatres and shopping area. The town is also wellsupplied with bed and breakfast establishments, like the Historic Davy House Bed & Breakfast Inn (www.davyhouse.com).
GET EXCITED IN NIAGARA
Niagara has upped the excitement factor and this year is offering breathtaking adventures, refined culinary experiences and exceptional cultural riches—and then there are the Falls themselves! They never get old. 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 (www.visitniagaracanada.com; www.niagarafallstourism.com).