Ours to Discover

Ours to Discover: Niagara-on-the-Lake

A lakeside adventure. Niagara-on-the-Lake has plenty to over day trippers, no matter what their interests

By Liz Fleming Wheels.ca

Apr 22, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated 25 days ago

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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”

Whether you’re a cyclist, shopper, wine enthusiast or theatre lover, a day in Niagara-on-the-Lake is just what you need. This picturesque community, located where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, is full of amazing shops, restaurants and historic sites. It is also home to the world-renown Shaw Festival, which is now celebrating its 60th anniversary. Here are some ideas on how to spend a day exploring everything this town has to offer.

In the morning

Leave downtown Toronto heading west along the Queen Elizabeth Way. Allowing for a bit of traffic, you’ll be in Niagara-on-the-Lake in two hours. Take the exit at Glendale Avenue and follow the signs, which will take you to Niagara Stone Road and into the old town.

While there are several art galleries to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake, three must-sees are conveniently located on Queen Street. Wander through Upper Canada Native Art, which showcases the work of noted Indigenous artists such as Frank Polson, Manasie Akpaliapik, Cyril Henry and Rebecca Maracle. The focus of the gallery is on Inuit and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) art, and its selection of giftware by Canadian artisans is impressive.

The All In The Wild Gallery and the Edward Spera Gallery are a nature lover’s dream. The first features photographs by Jason Leo Bantle, whose mission is to increase appreciation, awareness, respect and enjoyment of nature and wildlife, while the later features paintings and prints featuring animals by Edward Spera. If he is there, be sure to ask Spera about his time in Africa while you marvel at the incredible detail in his paintings.

OUrs to Discover

After, continue along Queen Street before turning right at the town clock tower and following Queen’s Parade to Fort George National Historic Site. Peek inside to learn about the fortification’s significance during the War of 1812.

A trip to Niagara is all about goodies. Start at Greaves Jams & Marmalades for jars of heavenly concoctions, before heading to The Maple Syrup Store By White Meadows for its selections of maple-infused spreads, sauces and chocolates. If Fido’s feelings were hurt that you left him at home, pop into Puppy and Dog Fashion Ltd. for canine raingear to fit any pooch from chihuahuas to labradoodles.

Ours to Discover

If you love all things Santa Clause, check out the Just Christmas store, where they are still singing “Jingle Bells” in summer, before heading over to Budapest Bakeshop to discover chimney cakes, dough cooked on a conical spindle that comes out of the oven crispy and delicious. You can have one plain or covered in cinnamon and sugar, aged cheddar, pizza fixings or filled with anything from cream to sausage.

Around noon

There are plenty of lunch options in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Stop at Walker’s Country Market, a large fruit and vegetable stand and shop brimming with fresh goodies and home-baked treats. Pick up an assortment for a picnic lunch next to the Niagara River or shore of Lake Ontario.

Ours to Discover

For a sit-down lunch, visit Two Sisters Vineyards for fabulous thin-crust pizza, enjoy farm-to-table treats at the Winery Restaurant at Peller Estates, or grab at table at the Shaw Café & Wine Bar, located across the street from the Royal George Theatre. Don’t miss its charcuterie platter, featuring delicious prosciutto among other delights. If the sun is shining, ask for a patio table.

In the afternoon

Enjoy a matinee performance at the Shaw Festival. During April, the featured show is “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which is being staged at the Royal George Theatre. Depending on what day you visit, there are also post-play chats as part of the festival’s Continue the Conversation series, and activities and seminars held as part of its Beyond the Stage programming. Other plays being performed at Shaw this season include “Damn Yankees,” “Gaslight,” “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Too Good to Be True.” Visit the festival website for a full list, dates and times.

If you prefer an active afternoon, book a cycling tour ahead of time with Premium Electric Bike Rentals and The Grape Escape Wine Tours or with Zoom Leisure Bike Rental and Wine Tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Both offer rentals as well as guided excursions to area vineyards.

If you would rather sip more and pedal less, you can also book tours that ferry you between wineries in a van. Or designate a driver and create your own afternoon itinerary. There are several vineyards within a 15-minute drive of the old town, including Trius Winery, Peller Estates, Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate and Wayne Gretzky Estates.

Prefer ale? Two microbreweries, Niagara Oast House Brewers and Silversmith Brewing Company, offer tasting flights and are both located on Niagara Stone Road.

End you afternoon by feeling like a kid again at the Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe. Bursting with humbugs, gumballs, licorice and every other sugary confection you can imagine, this spot is also a treasure trove of classic toys you may have forgotten but really loved, like blow-up Bozo the Clown punching bags.

In the evening

Whether you’ve shopped, sipped, cycled or enjoyed a show, you’ll want to end your Niagara-on-the-Lake adventure on a culinary high note. The Epicurean has a wonderful menu and tables outside under the trees where the atmosphere is magical. Start with its feta bruschetta topped with Roma tomatoes, red onions and herbs before dinning on lamb chops served with a rosemary and red wine reduction.

For something more formal, the Prince of Wales is home to the Noble Restaurant, the Drawing Room and the Charcuterie and Panini Lounge. Alternatively, The Old Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar on Hwy. 55 – on your drive back to the Queen Elizabeth Way – is an excellent family-friendly choice known for its homemade Italian dishes, like its arancini with garlic aioli and tomato sauce.

COVID-19 need to know

Niagara-on-the-Lake is following Ontario’s provincial COVID-19 guidelines. Contact individual businesses ahead of your trip to find out how they’re currently operating.

For the drive

Learn more about area vineyards with the “Wine Stuff & Wine” podcast, which delves into viticulture in the community of Niagara-On-The-Lake. It is available from SoundCloud. For more information, follow @winestuffpodcast on Instagram.

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