Niagara-on-the-Lake is in the heart of Niagara’s wine country and is one of Ontario’s most picturesque villages. It’s an ideal home base for wine touring, whether you stay close by or venture further afield into the Niagara Benchlands and beyond. But what is there to do when you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake if you don’t like wine? Lots! You can enjoy a romantic getaway for two, a fun girls’ weekend, or a family outing, with zero wine involved.
Here are five things to do while you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, even you’re not really into wine.
Splurge on the best hotels, restaurants, and spas
Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to world-class accommodations—from five-star hotels to intimate bed and breakfasts—as well as upscale fine dining and beautiful top-tier spas. If you’re not spending time wine touring, you’ll have more time to slow down and enjoy these wonderful offerings. The longer you can spend enjoying them, the more they’re worth the investment.
Book a stay at the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. While you’re there, you can take in the in-house Noble Restaurant and Secret Garden Spa. The restaurant at Peller Estates is also highly regarded. If you want a simpler meal, check out the pub at the Olde Angel Inn. People come from far and wide for their classic shepherd’s pie!
Visit Fort George National Historic Site
Fort George National Historic Site is on the outskirts of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a fun place to visit, especially for kids and families. You’ll learn about the important role the Niagara River played in the War of 1812 while touring the barracks, officers’ quarters and kitchen, and more. Costumed interpreters bring the fort to life through musket firings and marching band demonstrations.
Some fun facts about Fort George National Historic Site: the site is at the fort’s original location, but the structures are replicas. The fort was completed by the British in 1802, captured and destroyed by the Americans in 1813, then retaken by the British later that same year. From that point, it fell into ruin and was abandoned. The current site was rebuilt in the 1930s according to the original plans and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Another fun fact: the powder magazine is the site’s only remaining original structure.
Fort George National Historic Site participates in Parks Canada’s Xplorers program. Kids can complete a series of activities and receive a collectible souvenir to take home. This makes a visit to the fort fun for the whole family! The site is open on weekends from April to mid-May, daily from mid-May to Labour Day, and Wednesday through Sunday in September and October.
Bonus tip: if you’re driving to Fort George while you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, carry on a little further and take a spin down the scenic Niagara River Parkway. Sir Winston Churchill once called this route that traces the Niagara River the “prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.” We’d certainly rank it high on our list. When you head southbound from Fort George, you can follow the Parkway all the way to Niagara Falls and beyond!
Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake for some shopping on Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic old town is lined with so many interesting shops that you can spend hours browsing through them. Grab some hilarious shirts and legen-dairy ice cream—see what we did there?—at the Niagara outpost of PEI’s COWS Creamery. Stock up on your favourite items from the U.K. at the Scottish Loft. Pick up some essential oils and toiletries at NEOB Lavender. Surround yourself with the delights of the holiday season all year round at Just Christmas. Stop in at Greaves Jams and Marmalades to be amazed at just how many things you can spread on toast. And this is just a start—there’s so much more to explore!
Take in some live theatre at the Shaw Festival
With 10 or more annual productions across three theatres running nearly year-round, the Shaw Festival is a Niagara-on-the-Lake icon. It was established in 1962 as a festival dedicated to the works of Irish playwright Bernard Shaw. Today, the Shaw Festival features a wide variety of contemporary works.
The three theatres include the Festival Theatre, the Royal George Theatre, and the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre. All three are easily accessible on foot from anywhere in the village. The company’s holiday productions are magical, especially once there’s a dusting of snow and Niagara-on-the-Lake is lit up for the festive season!
Ride in a Hansom cab while you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake
You may think you’re hearing the term “handsome cab” if you’re hearing it mentioned in conversation. But this special experience in Niagara-on-the-Lake is called a Hansom cab, which is the name for a type of horse-drawn carriage. There are few things more romantic than snuggling up under a blanket with your special someone while enjoying an open-air tour through Niagara-on-the-Lake. Tours by Sentineal Carriages leave from the Prince of Wales Hotel and can be reserved online when booked for 30 minutes or longer.