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Visiting a Niagara Winery
Visiting a Niagara Winery

BEST Things to Do in Niagara on the Lake

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Niagara on the Lake, is very popular with tourists and for good reason. It’s accessible – as it is 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 and location beside Lake Ontario.

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.

The Prince of Wales Hotel
The Prince of Wales Hotel on the main street in Niagara-on-the-Lake – Photo credit: canary_191 on Pixabay

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Things to do in Niagara on the Lake – 15 ideas from when I lived in the town

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

Visit 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.

Read: 30 Incredible Things to Do in Niagara Falls

Beautiful Niagara Falls
Beautiful Niagara Falls – Photo credit: stanbalik from Pixabay
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

Enjoy 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 100 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 20 wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area alone so biking and visiting wineries can easily consume a few days of your 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.

You might enjoy a half day winery tour with tastings and an optional lunch.

The Niagara Peninsula is dotted with vineyards
The area is dotted with vineyards

Go to the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake

Take in a play at the Shaw Festival Theater. The season lasts until the end of October. While the 2020 season was cancelled they are hoping to offer A Christmas Carol during the holiday season.

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 km 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.

The Niagara on the Lake main street - Photo credit: A Yee on Flickr Creative Commons
The Niagara on the Lake main street – Photo credit: A Yee on Flickr Creative Commons

Admire the historic homes in Niagara on the Lake

Wander the quiet side streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake and admire all the beautifully restored houses. There are walking tours you can sign up for to get the history of these homes – many of which are reportedly haunted.

Walk the back streets admiring many a beautifully restored house
Walk the back streets 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 fix with a 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. The walls on either side of you at this point reach 200 feet high. Trips get within 1.6 kilometres of Niagara Falls, just before a section of Class 6 (huge, scary) water that is not navigable.

Niagara River jet boat - Photo credit: William Klos on Flickr
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. Check out 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

The is in Niagara on the Lake with a beautiful location adjacent to Lake Ontario. It’s ranks #9 as the Top 9 hole courses in the world outside of the United States. The course is actually located on the grounds that were involved in the war of 1812.

Dine well in Niagara on the Lake!

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. 

Where to stay in Niagara on the Lake

Niagara on the Lake offers a real mix of high-end hotels like Queen’s Landing, the Pillar and Post Inn & Spa and the Prince of Wales Hotel as well as many bed and breakfasts. But even those go for a premium in high season. Book well in advance as this cute town is a very popular destination.

The Schoolmaster’s House Bed & Breakfast is a great choice. The Finlay House Bed and Breakfast reportedly offers an exceptional experience.

More reading on Ontario travels

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BEST Things to Do in Niagara on the Lake



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