Niagara: From Wonders to Wineries
Believe it or not, Niagara is much more than just the falls.
In addition to its incomparable natural wonder, the Niagara region is home to modern cuisine and wineries; it’s home to world-class entertainment and casinos; and it’s home to outdoor and historical experiences.
Whether you’ve never visited Niagara or have seen the falls five times already, there’s always something new to explore. We’ve put together a quick guide to help inspire your next trip to the Niagara region.
While there is more to the region than the falls, a trip to Niagara still wouldn’t be complete without visiting them. And why wouldn’t you? The sound of the water as you approach it, the mist you feel on your face as you look up 165 feet at a true natural wonder, and the sheer power of the falls that you can feel to your bones… those things never really get old.
When it comes to experiencing Niagara Falls, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Taking a boat cruise for an up-close and soggy view is the most classic approach. Don your mist poncho, climb up to the observation deck of a Hornblower Catamaran, and tour the Great Gorge, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls, all from down below. Wait until night time, and watch the falls light up in color, on a special “Illumination Night Cruise.”
If you enjoyed the front of the falls, why not head behind them. On your Journey Behind the Falls, step into an elevator and descend 150 feet through bedrock to your destination below the rim of the gorge, right into the heart of Niagara Falls. A quick walk through a tunnel and you’ll be standing behind a wall of water free-falling more than 13 stories; it’s a view like no other.
After seeing it from the front and the back, what’s left? How about from above? You won’t find a more exciting way to experience Niagara Falls than from the cockpit of a helicopter. Embark on a Niagara Helicopter and fly as close as possible to the thundering water on your personal tour. You’ll want to bring your camera to this one.
If a great view of Niagara Falls is your ultimate goal, the remarkable Skylon Tower allows you to take in the scenery from 775 feet above the action. Indoor and outdoor observation spaces and two separate dining rooms all provide a fantastic look at the natural wonder and beyond, with views stretching for 80 miles.
Beyond the falls, the Niagara region is full of great reasons to get outdoors.
If you love to get out on the links, the area is home to Canada’s largest collection of golf courses. There are 48 courses to choose from, so you’re guaranteed to find one that you love. If you don’t know where to start, hop on the Niagara Golf Trail, a route bringing you to seven of the region’s top courses.
For a relaxing outdoor experience, head to the South Coast region of Niagara and tan the day away on one of the eight beautiful, sandy beaches of Lake Erie. Water lovers might also pay Port Colborne a visit. Named the World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town in 2013, it’s a great place to hook trout, salmon, walleye and perch, or just relax with a line in the water.
Want to get your heart rate up? Hundreds of miles of cycling trails can be found in Niagara, from winding roads to challenging hills and everything in between. Take an easy cycle along the Welland Canals Parkway Trail, skirt vineyards as you ride the Niagara River Recreation Trail, or take on sections of the lengthy Greater Niagara Circle Route — a popular destination for avid cyclists.
From biking we turn to hiking. The Niagara Escarpment — a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve — is a fan-favorite for hiking and nature walks. Head out on the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath, to immerse yourself in nature at your own pace.
While it isn’t necessarily a hike, the White Water Walk is an incredible way to experience one of the world’s wildest stretches of whitewater. Walk along a boardwalk and take in the incredible Whirlpool Rapids, where fast-moving water creates standing waves 10 to 15 feet high.
Wining and dining Niagara
Do you like to visit cellars, sample vintages and discover the perfect pairings? A wine-lover’s paradise, over 80 wineries call the Niagara region home. Of those, nearly 30 can be found in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area — named TripAdvisor’s #1 food and wine destination in Canada. The area is also home to the Icewine Festival, an annual two-week celebration of this quintessentially Canadian drink. Sample it, enjoy it alongside local cuisine, and find out how it’s made.
Speaking of local cuisine, Niagara is full of great eats sourced from local ingredients. Whether you’re walking the town in search of a quick bite, are celebrating at a fancy restaurant, or just want a bite with your wine, you won’t have trouble finding somewhere to fit your tastes.
As mentioned, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a reputation for fine cuisine, and 14 of the region’s restaurants have come together to form Signature Kitchens: “a culinary group celebrating the joys of local, artisanal and seasonal cuisine.” Drop by the Riverbed Inn for country cooking with views of local wineries, have your pick of steak and seafood at the Cannery Restaurant, or try out the menu at the Epicurean’s dinner bistro.
Want to eat after a day spent around the falls? For a meal with a view, grab a seat basically on top of Horseshoe Falls at Elements on The Falls. Directly across from the natural wonder, indulge your senses with a meal from renowned chef Massimo Capra at the Rainbow Room. Or head to Windows by Jamie Kennedy, where farm-to-table cuisine can be enjoyed with a 13th floor view of the falls.
Want fine dining at a great price? Head to Benchmark, where students of the Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute hone their trade. Or, cook your own fantastic meal at the Wine Country Cooking School
Finally, if you’re planning a picnic, head to one of the many farmers’ markets scattered throughout the region for the best in local produce, baking and ingredients.
Never a dull moment
Now that you’re well fed, what kind of entertainment are you in the mood for?
Passionate about performing arts? Head to the Shaw Festival, a production company that creates a steady stream of musicals, dramas and comedies you won’t want to miss. For an all-season mixture of theater, dance, music and comedy head to St. Catharines’ First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. Or for a bit of a lower key entertainment experience, take in a comedy show at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club or dinner theater at Oh Canada Eh?, a lighthearted musical focused on Canadian icons and stereotypes.
Like to learn? Move back in time at the Niagara Falls History Museum. Head to Fort George, the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army during the War of 1812. Watch soldiers in redcoats fire muskets, or fire one yourself. Or follow Niagara’s South Coast Arts & Culture Route and jump from gallery to studio to museum.
Enjoy a good card game? Niagara has two world-class casinos, one of which, the Niagara Fallsview Casino, is the largest in Canada, so you’ll always be able to find an open seat at the table. You can also head down to the Fort Erie Race Track and try your luck on the horses.
Found a few things you loved on this list? Start planning your Niagara trip on the Visit Niagara website.