There’s much more to this day-trip destination than the neon lights, kitschy main strip and jangling and clanging when the casino’s slot machines pay out.
Niagara has become one of Ontario’s culinary capitals, offering an abundance of locally sourced fare, unique dining experiences and some of its best wineries and breweries. Even during the off-season there’s a stacked schedule of events and pop-ups to enjoy – minus the summer’s sweltering heat and overcrowding.
Only an hour and a half from the city, it’s easy to make a visit to Niagara Falls into a day trip or a whole weekend getaway.
What to do
In spite of Canada’s fickle weather, outdoor enthusiasts can find ways to connect with nature at every turn. Start at the Butterfly Conservatory where you can (very gently) get hands-on with the 2,000 colourful insects that fly freely inside the tropical enclosure. Then unwind at the Floral Showhouse – a greenhouse full of lush plants and flowers.
It may be a bit pedestrian, but everyone should experience Journey Behind the Falls at least once. It’s a sight to see from wherever you’re standing, but when you’re right at the base of the falls watching the water come crashing down, the full magnitude is incredible.
Niagara is known for its icewine, but the region is overflowing with booze producers, from world-class wineries to craft breweries. Drop in at Tawse Winery to sample their wares – if you buy two bottles the tasting is free. They also make vodka, gin and vermouth.
Go for the Experience Tour at Two Sisters Vineyards, it includes six wine tastings, with one straight from the barrel, and a food pairing. Bench Brewing is the place to try farmhouse-style ales. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop in at Ravine Vineyard for fresh baked bread and hyper local fare from their kitchen garden.
What to eat and drink
Table Rock House Restaurant
For a taste of Niagara coupled with so-close-you-might-fall-in views of the falls, visit this Feast On certified restaurant. Start with Gunn’s Hill brie arancini and then a Canadian AAA steak. There’s also an Ontario wine pairing for every menu item.
Queenston Heights Restaurant
The brunch buffet at this country house is a Sunday-must. The unstuffy atmosphere, elegant dining room and windows overlooking the river make the perfect intro to Sunday. Don’t skip the $4 mimosas – they come in orange, mango and margarita for an extra kick.
Trius Winery and Restaurant
Tuck into a multi-course tasting menu of wine-country fare, complete with Trius Wine pairings, at this Niagara-on-the-Lake winery. Cozy up in the comfortable, modern dining room or soak up the sun on their sprawling, vine-side terrace.
Where to stay
What the Oakes Hotel lacks in features, it makes up for with its stunning in-room views of the falls.
If you’re visiting Niagara in cooler weather and looking to avoid the elements, the Hilton offers indoor access to Fallsview Casino and a shopping concourse, as well as several different eateries, including the rooftop Watermark restaurant.
For a romantic, relaxing stay, head away from the main strip to the Sterling Inn and Spa. Spacious rooms feature a jacuzzi for two and a fireplace to heat things up. With breakfast in bed included in your stay, you’ll never have to leave your room.