Travel Guide to Canada
If you’ve been to Niagara, it is time for another look. And if you’ve never visited, there hasn’t been a better time to come.
Cruise high above the iconic Falls in a helicopter, dine by the spray, sip wine in Canada’s famous wine country, or watch the sun set over one of the world’s wonders. From the wild waters of the Falls to the rolling beauty of wine country, the Niagara Region has never been more ready for its close up!
AWESOME FROM EVERY ANGLE
For visual impact, nothing beats the Falls, no matter how you view them. A Hornblower catamaran cruise will take you right up to the base of Horseshoe Falls (www.niagaracruises.com).
For a different view, and to really understand the immensity of the Falls, 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. niagarahelicopters.com). Want a more sybaritic way to enjoy the Falls? Dine with a first-class view at the newly renovated Table Rock House Restaurant where you can enjoy fine local cuisine and wine while watching the flow. Wake up and see 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). For something totally out of the ordinary, book a roundtrip flight experience with FlyGTA Airlines from Billy Bishop Airport, in Toronto, to the Niagara District Airport, and then enjoy a day of wineries and vineyards and wine tastings (www.flygta.com).
FIREWORKS AND ILLUMINATIONS HIGHLIGHT THE FALLS
Niagara has long been famous for the artful lighting of the night Falls, but now it is even more spectacular, with energy-efficient
LED lighting technology.
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. Try a forty-minute Hornblower Fireworks Cruise, with a glass of wine and an appetizer in hand, to really celebrate the spectacle of water and light.
CONNECTING WITH THE ENERGY OF NIAGARA
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 popular activity
is Namaste Niagara, a yoga series organized by Niagara Parks and held on select Sundays during the summer. There are two options to choose from: private access to Journey Behind the Falls, a 45-minute yoga workshop right at the brink of the Falls and brunch at Queenston Heights Restaurant or a guided meditation walk at White Water Walk along the Niagara River and breakfast at the Whirlpool Restaurant (www.n iagaraparks. com/events/event/namaste-niagara).
WANDER THROUGH WINE COUNTRY
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 Niagara-onthe-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). 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 TO SIP AND SAVOUR
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).
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 an international award-winning vintner who makes excellent reds and whites under the Fancy Farm Girl label (www.sue-annstaff.com). Westcott Vineyards is another family-run winery in a relocated 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.westcottvineyards.com).
CANADA’S SPIRIT BLOOMS 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 celebrates the complicated and inspiring history of the area. Take the 2.5 km (1.6 mi.) “Beyond The Gates” stroll through 250 years of rousing Canadian history, or relax in one of the Red Chairs on the grounds or watch historic recreations, musket demonstrations and cannon firings.
Niagara Parks is building a public art initiative, beginning with an art installation by Gordon Reeve called “Niagara Strait” in the Botanical Gardens.
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 tulips planted by Niagara Parks within Queen Victoria Park that explode with colour in the spring.
THRILLS BY THE BRINK
Adrenaline junkies will rejoice at WildPlay’s MistRider Zipline to the Falls which whistles you along the edge of the Falls for a breathstopping 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 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).
Barrel along the Niagara Speedway, a multi-storey raised spiral go-cart track that is guaranteed to be a thrill ride. It was the first of its kind in Canada and one of the largest in North America (www.cliftonhill. com/attractions/niagara-speedway).
NIAGARA GOES GOURMET
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. Niagara Parks will be hosting Pop-Up dinners at iconic locations throughout the season, a chance to meet local chefs, taste the terroir and enjoy an evening by the Falls.
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.back house.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 .13 th street winery. com). They have also launched a B&B style cottage on the property for those who want a quiet base for exploring wine country. 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). The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette was recently named the best new restaurant in Canada by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine (www.pearlmorissette.com).
DRAMA ON THE LAKE
Niagara-on-the-Lake is well-known for the Shaw Festival, and this season is featuring a production of the hit musical Brigadoon, in addition to other classics like Cyrano de Bergerac and The Glass Menagerie (www. shawfest.com). But this historic town also offers good shopping 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 well-supplied with bed and breakfast establishments, like the Historic Davy House Bed & Breakfast Inn (www.davyhouse.com).
Niagara has upped the excitement factor, adding breathtaking adventures, refined culinary experiences and outstanding 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).