Niagara-on-the-Lake, located on Lake Ontario near the US border is very popular with tourists and for good reason. It’s accessible – being only 90 minutes by car from Toronto or 45 minutes from Buffalo if the border isn’t backed up. And it’s very pretty – almost surreal really with its storybook looking main street.

But there’s much more than meets the eye – and as a former resident of the town, I feel qualified to opine on all the great things to do in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake. Visit in spring, summer and fall when Niagara-on-the-Lake looks its best though I have to say Niagara Falls is rather magnificent when its covered in ice.

Here’s my list of 15 things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake – and nearby.

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Cycle along the Niagara Parkway

Rent a bike and head out for some easy cycling along the Niagara Parkway. If you’re feeling very ambitious cycle to Niagara Falls and even on to Fort Erie or head the other way and pick up the Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario.

Peaceful cycling along the shores of Lake Ontario is another option from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Peaceful cycling along the shores of Lake Ontario is another option from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Visit Niagara Falls

While you can do it on your own there are a few fabulous tours I’s suggest. If you’re in Toronto and don’t want to rent a car sign up for a day trip that includes Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. If you want to get close to the power of Niagara Falls take a scenic ride on the Maid of the Mist tour. It’s always a favourite. If you’re on the New York State side of Niagara Falls then this four hour guided tour that also includes the Maid of the Mist would be perfect.

"Niagara Falls - the American side"

Niagara Falls – the American side

People getting ready to do one of the Maid of the Mist tours of Niagara Falls

People getting ready to do one of the Maid of the Mist tours of Niagara Falls

Have a picnic

Pack a picnic (you can pick up fixings on the town’s main street or at Kurtz Orchards or Walkers Farm Market, located along the Niagara Parkway) and find yourself a picnic table along the Niagara River. Enjoy the views over to the United States.

Picking up fruit and vegetables from local growers

Picking up fruit and vegetables from a local food stand – also perfect for picnic supplies

Check out the wineries

There are fifty plus wineries stretching from Grimsby to Niagara-on-the-Lake covering the whole gamut from small, very personalized operations to those whose lifeblood are the tour buses. There are 18 wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area alone so biking and visiting wineries can easily consume a few days’ time.

If you are a serious oenophile then you might want to visit as many as you can and make it the real focus of your trip. Others might be happy just to tour a few of them, enjoy a meal and time a visit to coincide with music in the vineyard. Don’t miss the local specialty – ice wine, made from pressing frozen grapes.

The Niagara Peninsula is dotted with vineyards

The Niagara Peninsula is dotted with vineyards

Go to the Shaw Festival

Take in a play at the Shaw Festival Theater. The season lasts until the end of October. The shows change every season and for 2019 will include Brigadoon, The Glass Menagerie, The Ladykillers, The Horse and his Boy and favourite Cyrano de Bergerac.

Walk around Fort George

Visit Fort George National Historic Site. During the War of 1812 it served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army. There are special events at the Fort throughout the summer including musket and military music demonstrations.

Visit the historic village of Queenston

Head to nearby Queenston along the Niagara Parkway and take a guided tour of the Laura Secord Homestead. Laura Secord is famous for having had the courage and fortitude to walk 32 kilometres to warn the British of a surprise American attack during the war of 1812.

Include a trip to the museums

Check out the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in the restored home of publisher William Lyon Mackenzie. It features exhibits representing 500 years of printing technology.

Walk the Main Street of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Head for the main street and join the throngs of tourists who head from store to store with mostly a glazed look in their eye. Try not to be like that. Engage the owners – as a previous store owner I looked forward to real conversations with visitors.

"Niagara-on-the-Lake main street"

Niagara-on-the-Lake main street – Photo credit: melissa_rae_dale on Flickr

Admire the historic homes

Wander the quiet side streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake and admire all the beautifully restored houses.

Walk the back streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake admiring many a beautifully restored house

Walk the back streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake admiring many a beautifully restored house

Go to a cooking school

Interested in attending a winery cooking school? Strewn Winery, just minutes from town, offers a large selection of courses including culinary weekends from January until the end of November.

Get your adrenaline going with a Niagara River jet boat tour

If you like the thrill of big water and fast boats then a ride on the Niagara River Jet Boat might be the perfect outing for you. Boats with 1500 horsepower engines take you for a 45-60 minute ride, depending on where you boarded, up the Niagara River to the gorge where the walls on either side of you reach 200 feet high. The trips go to about 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) short of Niagara Falls, just before a section of Class 6 (huge, scary) water that is not navigable.

"Niagara River jet boat"

Niagara River jet boat – Photo credit: William Klos on Flickr

Enjoy some me time

Visit one of the spas at any of the signature Niagara-on-the-Lake hotels – like the Oban Inn, The Pillar and Post or the Queen’s Landing.

How about apple picking in the fall?

Go apple picking in the fall – a fun family activity. You’ll see plenty of U-Pick signs along the side roads.

Go golfing beside Lake Ontario

And there’s always golf at the local 9 hole course with scenic views over Lake Ontario.

Dine well

Excellent local dining is available at many of the wineries and all the major hotels; as well there are some good restaurants along the main street.

If you need more information on Niagara-on-the-Lake, the local Chamber of Commerce is a great resource. As well, I have a free downloadable biking guide of the area with everything you need to know to book your own trip.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.
15 things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada. Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Robin Slater says:

    Thanks for a lovely stroll back into the past! I used to live on Line 2 and then on the Niagara Parkway.

    Your last name (McAdam) rings a bell .. seriously.

    • Ii had a flower shop on the main street for awhile – Leigh’s Green Scene. Actually got married in NOTL and before I lived there visited my mother regularly who ran a gallery on main street for about a decade.

      I wonder where we crossed paths – I found NOTL to be a very social, welcoming place.

  • Boomergirl says:

    Fun post. We’ve rented bikes from Pillar & Post in the past and cycled the Niagara Trail along Niagara Parkway. You are right. PERFECT for a picnic.

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