Niagara-on-the-Lake: The Perfect Romantic Getaway
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario is the perfect spot for a couple’s getaway. It’s only 45 minutes from the Buffalo area, yet it seems a world away. This quaint town, with its 19th century architecture which makes you take a step back in time, is the perfect spot to take a romantic stroll with your significant other. It is known as the most beautiful town in Canada, as well as a national historic site.
My husband and I have gone there to celebrate our anniversary several times in recent years. There are a variety of things to enjoy, including the renowned Shaw Festival theaters, dozens of wineries, beautiful scenery, historic sites, world class restaurants and accommodations, and upscale shopping. While the actual town of Niagara-on-the-Lake covers over 51 square miles, most people are more familiar with “Old Town” Niagara-on-the-Lake, the area at the mouth of the Niagara River right by Lake Ontario, where the theaters, as well as many shops and restaurants, are located.
You need to have a passport or enhanced driver’s license to cross the border into Canada; if you don’t already have one, be sure to make arrangements to get one well in advance of your planned trip.
Last year we crossed over the Peace Bridge and spent a little time in Fort Erie before heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We stopped along the Niagara Parkway to enjoy the great view of the Buffalo skyline and explore Mather’s Arch, which is right near the Peace Bridge. We then stopped at Green Acres Restaurant on Garrison Road, which features old-fashioned comfort foods like ribs and a Friday fish fry.
Several years ago, we crossed over the Lewiston Queenston Bridge and stopped at Queenston Heights Park (right by the bridge). We climbed to the top of Brock Monument for a spectacular view of the Niagara River Corridor. (Note: this is a rather strenuous climb!) We later enjoyed lunch at the Queenston Heights Restaurant. These sites are open seasonally, May to September.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is synonymous with the world-renown Shaw Festival, a major Canadian Theater Festival which began in 1962. It features the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. The theater season runs April to November, with about 10-12 plays per season in 4 theaters located throughout historic Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake. Some of the productions scheduled for the 2014 season include Cabaret, The Philadelphia Story, and The Philanderer. Tickets are on sale at www.shawfest.com . It is recommended to make reservations for the plays, as well as overnight accommodations, well in advance, as they do book up quickly. I usually make reservations in March for our August anniversary trip.
Because of the ideal grape growing climate and soil along the Niagara Escarpment, the entire Niagara region is home to over 50 wineries, 27 of those located in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com). Each one has its own unique personality; some are family farms turned winery, while others are large state-of-the-art facilities. Over the years we have visited a number of these wineries, many of which are located close to the Niagara Parkway, such as Inniskillin and Peller. Jackson Triggs on Niagara Stone Road is probably the most state-of-the-art, while the family that owns Chateau des Charmes on York Road, has been making wine for several generations.
During our most recent visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake we stopped at the Niagara College Teaching Winery, located on the campus of Niagara College, just off the QEW highway. This is Canada’s only commercial teaching winery. They also produce wines for sale to the public. They offer tours and wine tastings, as well as beer tastings.
Accommodations, Restaurants and Shopping
There are hundreds of very nice accommodations in Niagara-on-the-Lake, from small, quaint B&B inns to large resorts. In the Old Town area choose from B&B’s as well as old-world style inns like the Pillar & Post and the Prince of Wales. Some require a minimum 2-night stay during the summer months, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
We stayed in the Old Town area a couple of times; it is very convenient, as you can walk to restaurants and shops, as well as to all four Shaw Festival theaters. We stayed and dined at the Charles Inn several years ago. They offered a pairing menu, pairing each course with a specific wine. It was a bit pricey but really good. We’ve also dined at Tiara at the Queen’s Landing, which has a waterfront view, and at Zees, which is located across the street from the Shaw Festival Theater.
On our most recent trip we stayed at the White Oaks Resort, which is located a distance away from the Old Town area, right near the Niagara Teaching College Winery. This resort features Liv, the only 5-star restaurant in the area, along with a spa. A new outlet mall, slated to open in the spring, is being built across the street. When the restaurant staff learned it was our anniversary, they even made a special dessert for us.
There are many upscale boutiques, gift shops, art galleries, and specialty shops located along Queen Street; you could literally spend hours browsing through them. Some of my favorites include Just Christmas, which features over 5,000 different Christmas items, Greaves Jams, which stocks locally made jams and jellies, By the Lake, which has a nice selection of clothing and accessories, and Maple Leaf Fudge.
There are also a number of historic sites to explore in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Old Town area has actually been designated a National Historic District with most of the buildings dating back to just after the War of 1812, when the town was rebuilt after being burnt to the ground during the war. Other historic sites include Fort George, the Niagara Historical Society Museum, and the McFarland House, which portrays life in the region just prior to the War of 1812.
There are a number of events and festivals happening in Niagara-on-the-Lake throughout the year; you might want to plan you stay around one of them. The annual Peach Celebration was taking place during our most recent stay in August. Featured was live music in the street, as well as a number of peach goodies for sale, like peach cobbler and peach smoothies. The Niagara New Vintage Festival takes place in June, which celebrates the wineries located in the region. There are also a number of holiday related events taking place in early December.
For more information about Niagara-on-the-Lake
www.niagaraonthelake.com or call 905-468-1950.