6 Amazing Places To Visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
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The Niagara Region has a lot to offer visitors, from the world-class wineries to beautiful hiking trails to the local cuisine. And let’s not forget about the reason many people head to this part of Ontario: Niagara Falls. While Niagara Falls is absolutely incredible to witness in person, and there are a lot of things to do for tourists in the area as well, Niagara-on-the-Lake offers the perfect serene alternative and is only a short drive away along the Niagara River. The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is bursting with artisan shops, unique dining experiences, and historic attractions, but there is a lot more to see and do than explore old town Niagara.
Niagara-on-the-Lake, often referred to in short form as NOTL, served as the first capital of Upper Canada and was the site of many battles fought in the War of 1812 that helped to shape Canada as we know it today. You’ll notice a lot of colonial-style buildings when you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, and there are more than enough wineries to stop at as well along the way as well. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a great destination at any point of the year, but it’s breathtaking in the summer months. Here are my top picks for the best places to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
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Places To Visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake
The most popular thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake is to visit the famous old town. The Heritage District is popular with tourists for the beautiful vintage shop facades, world-class dining experiences, and the Shaw Festival Theatre. If you’re planning on doing some Niagara-on-the-Lake sightseeing then this is the perfect place to start. In the summer months the streets get very busy around 10am, so if you want to get photos with hardly anyone in them you need to get there just after sunrise to have Queen Street to yourself. This quaint Canadian town with its heritage buildings is a world away from the hectic nature of Niagara Falls, and visiting it is a fantastic experience for everyone.
Mary Nissen Estates
The Niagara region is known globally for its wineries, so no Niagara-on-the-Lake itinerary is complete without visiting at least one, even if you aren’t the biggest fan of wine. One of the best places to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake, especially if you prefer to support smaller businesses, is Mary Nissen Estates. This was actually our first stop on our drive into Niagara-on-the-Lake, and it was a great introduction to the area! They focus on small-lot, handcrafted wines, meaning they produce wines that you won’t find in places like the LCBO.
Mary Nissen Estates has a history dating back to 1953, and is where Canada’s first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were planted in 1978. They’re known for their red wine, but they often come up with unique blends that work exceptionally well. What I loved about Mary Nissen Estates was the variety of wines that you could choose to sample during their tasting session. If you’ve never tried ice wine before, this is the perfect spot to do it. It’s certainly one of the top wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit, especially if you like less touristy places.
Along the route from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake is where you’ll find the famous Floral Clock. The clock is made up of thousands of different flowers and plants, and is changed twice a year, making it a very popular place to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake year round. What’s unique about the Floral Clock is that it chimes every 15 minutes and is kept working by Ontario Hydro. It’s a must-see in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is close to a number of historical attractions too, so it’s easily added to any itinerary.
Living Water Wayside Chapel
One of the more unique places to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the Living Water Wayside Chapel. It’s the smallest church in Canada and was built to serve tourists in the Niagara area who may want to stop and say a prayer after being on the road for a while. It’s now a popular tourist spot, and is located next to the Walker’s Country Market which is also worth visiting.
Queen's Royal Park
A great free thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake is to take a relaxing stroll through Queens Royal Park and sit along the waterfront. The gazebo is the highlight of the park, and you can get some incredible views over the water to Fort Niagara in the US. The park isn’t too far from Queen Street in the old town, so if you don’t want to move your car from its coveted parking spot, I would recommend taking a leisurely walk through the residential streets while admiring the colonial-style houses on your way to the park.
Shiny Apple Cider
There are a lot of things to do around Niagara-on-the-Lake, but for a truly unique experience you need to head to Shiny Apple Cider. As the name suggests, they produce tasty ciders, but they’re also known for their selection of VQA wines that are perfect for hosting friends or for enjoying yourself. Their ciders are made using 100% Ontario grown apples sourced from family farms, and they use a unique blend of 7 varieties of apples to create the taste. With a bright and vibrant outdoor patio, it’s definitely a great choice to visit during the summer.
Shiny Apple Cider offers a number of tasting experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. We tried their Tasting in the Vines experience which was incredible. We sat in the middle of the vineyard on a beautifully decorated picnic table and were served a mixture of 4 wines and ciders, paired with a snack board. A member of the team provided us with more insight into each sample and answered any questions we had. It’s quite a romantic thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake as well, and is rather unique so definitely get this added to your itinerary.
Where To Stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake
One thing to note about Niagara-on-the-Lake is that there is no shortage of historic inns to stay at. However, for a quiet retreat that’s both close to many of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s main attractions and within a short drive of Niagara Falls itself, South Landing Inn can’t be beat. This historic inn is located in the town of Queenston, at the edge of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and was built in the early 1800s. South Landing Inn is a beautiful choice of accommodation in Niagara-on-the-Lake that has been kept as traditional and unspoiled as possible, with antique furnishings, yet still gives off a rather modern appearance in its interior.
The inn boasts only 6 rooms, each uniquely furnished with antiques and Persian carpets, and guests are free to roam around the patios, balconies, hotel lounge, and pantry where you can make yourself a complimentary drink and help yourself to some snacks. I would definitely recommend taking full advantage of the lounge area if you have some free time because it’s a work of art. A continental breakfast is included with your booking, which offers a delicious selection of locally sourced and homemade items which differ from day to day. We had beet waffles which were really tasty!
We stayed in room 3, which was the King Room with a full bathroom and river view. The balcony outside of our room was shared with other guests but we always had it to ourselves. The room is decorated with Canadiana furniture and there are historical prints on the wall which are interesting to look more closely at. We couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable bed, and the room and bathroom were spotless. You can see why the South Landing Inn is a popular oasis for tourists - it’s unlike any other inn in the Niagara region.
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There are so many unique places to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake that this list could go on for a while. We spent 3 full days in the area which really wasn’t enough time to explore everywhere, but we managed to fit quite a lot into our schedule. Whether you’re a wine lover, a history enthusiast, or simply enjoy shopping and good food, there really is something for everyone in Niagara-on-the-Lake, despite it being the quiet neighbour of Niagara Falls. Make sure you add it to your Ontario road trip itinerary!
Have you been to Niagara-on-the-Lake before? I would love to hear any recommendations you have about other unique places to visit or activities to do, even in the wintertime. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow my travels on Instagram.