Best Things To Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake's Old Town
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The region of Niagara has a lot to offer visitors, but it’s the old town in Niagara-on-the-Lake that’s one of my favourite places to go at any time of the year. It’s located at the point where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario and its historic buildings make you feel like you’re taking a walk back in time. The countless boutique shops, locally run restaurants, and the various historic sites all play a part in welcoming millions of tourists every year. There’s no shortage of things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, so be prepared to spend at least half a day exploring Queen Street and the streets branching off of it.
The old town is one of the most historically significant places in Canada, as it played a large role in the development of Upper Canada and went through a period of rebuilding after being almost completely destroyed in the War of 1812. What you’ll see today is a beautiful collection of colonial-style buildings that have been transformed into some of the most popular shops, cafes, and restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It may only be a small town, but there’s a reason so many people choose to visit. Here are my top picks for the best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town.
Visiting the Niagara Apothecary is a very unique experience in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town. It first opened its doors in the 1860s and operated for over 100 years. Today the historic apothecary has been restored to its former glory and is used as a museum where you can learn more about how pharmacists used to practise their profession. Entry to the Niagara Apothecary is free, so it’s a great attraction in Niagara to visit if you’re on a budget.
Memorial Clock Tower
One of the most iconic spots in the old town is the Memorial Clock Tower. It’s positioned in the centre of Queen Street and was built to commemorate the town’s fallen soldiers in World War I. Niagara-on-the-Lake claims to be the only town in Canada that has a war memorial in the middle of its main street, and getting a photo here can be tricky in the middle of the day, so I would recommend heading there early before the crowds start to arrive.
If you’re visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, then chances are you’re going to be taking a walk down Queen Street. The main street of the old town is always busy, with its unique shops, quaint cafes, and world-class restaurants attracting visitors from all over the region, and beyond. There are all sorts of shops here, so it’s the perfect place to treat yourself or buy presents at Christmas. It’s a must-see in Niagara-on-the-Lake and you won’t be left feeling disappointed after your visit.
Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar
The Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar is one of the most popular eateries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a European-themed cafe that’s decorated with stunning flower arrangements on its exterior in the summertime, making it very popular for photographers. We didn’t eat here this time around, but it’s certainly worth admiring, if only from the outside.
Nolaa's on the Lake
For some of the best sandwiches and treats in town, you have to check out Nolaa’s. It’s located just off of Queen Street, near the Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar, and offers a fantastic selection of homemade food that’s been locally sourced. What’s great about Nolaa’s is that it’s also a vegan, gluten-free, and keto eatery so it’s the perfect option for anyone who has specific dietary requirements. I tried their Nolaa Balt which was delicious, and their freshly blended smoothies are a must-try too, especially on a warm day. In the summer months you have the option of sitting outside under red umbrellas so you can do some people watching while you eat. Nolaa’s is one of the best places for lunch in Niagara-on-the-Lake so you won’t want to miss out.
Prince of Wales Hotel
The most popular and well-known hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the Prince of Wales Hotel. It’s located at the beginning of the rows of shops on Queen street, and is a favourite spot with tourists for afternoon tea. If you happen to be staying here, expect the royal treatment and to be transported back to the Victorian era.
Royal George Theatre
Apart from the shopping, wineries, and restaurants, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a popular destination for theatregoers. The Royal George is an iconic building on Queen Street that was built in 1915. It seats just over 300 people and was originally built to entertain troops garrisoned in Niagara-on-the-Lake during World War I. It was later used as a movie theatre before being operated by the Shaw Festival Theatre.
The Olde Angel Inn
Did you know Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to Canada’s oldest operating inn? The Olde Angel Inn was established in 1789 and was rebuilt following the destruction of the War of 1812. The pub boasts hearty English-style food and the rooms are relatively modern yet quaint at the same time, making sure not to take away from the historic nature of the building. Visiting the Olde Angel Inn is a unique thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, if only to snap a quick photo.
If this is your first time visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town then you can’t walk by COWS without grabbing an ice cream for yourself. COWS Ice Cream is based in Prince Edward Island and was started in 1983, but they still use the same old-fashioned ingredients in their products. It’s become a mandatory stop for many tourists who come to Niagara-on-the-Lake, so expect large queues - but the wait is worth it.
A 5 minute drive from Queen Street will bring you to Lailey Winery. It was founded in 1970 and is home to some of the oldest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the region. They make small batch artisan premium wines that are VQA certified, including 4 ice wines that are very flavourful. This is a great winery near Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town to visit if you want to support local businesses, and they offer a very reasonably priced wine tasting experience too. In the summer months visitors can enjoy sitting outside with a nice glass of wine after a tiring day.
There's no best time to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, as there’s a lot going on year-round. The summer months make it more enjoyable to walk around and there are more outdoor activities happening, but winter is equally as popular with people visiting for the holidays or doing some Christmas shopping. The best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town are a unique blend of historic sites, quaint shops, and tasty eateries that are sure to please any type of traveller.
Have you been to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town before? Let me know what your favourite part was in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram as well for more travel photos and tips!