Niagara-on-the-Lake is very popular with tourists and for good reason. It’s very pretty, almost surreal really with its storybook looking main street and location beside Lake Ontario. 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. There’s much more than meets the eye – and as a former resident of the town, I can tell you that there are a lot of 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. Described are 15 things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake from my experience living and visiting here for over a decade.
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Cycle the Niagara Parkway
Rent a bike and head out from Niagara-on-the-Lake 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.
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 thisfour hour guided tour that also includes the Maid of the Mist would be perfect.
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.
Check out the Niagara-on-the-Lake 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.
Go to the Shaw Festival – a big reason for visiting Niagara-on the Lake
Take in a play at the Shaw Festival Theater. The season lasts until the end of October. 2023, marks the 61st season of the festival. This year there are 14 plays, Outdoors @The Shaw. Plays take you until December 23rd.
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.
Walk the Main Street – one of the popular things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Head for Niagara-on-the-Lake’s 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 owner of a flower store on Main Street, I looked forward to real conversations with visitors.
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.
Go to a cooking school
Interested in attending a winery cooking school? There’s a wine country cooking schoolat Strewn Winery, just minutes from Niagara-on-the-Lake, that 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 near Niagara-on-the-Lake
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 km of Niagara Falls, just before a section of Class 6 (huge, scary) water that is not navigable.
Enjoy some me time in Niagara-on-the-Lake
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 spa menus.
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 around Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Go golfing beside Lake Ontario
The place to go golfing is the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club with its 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 golf course, the oldest one on North America, 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 tourism association is a great resource.