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City guide to Niagara – waterfalls, wineries and world-class theatre

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Visitors flock to Niagara for the falls, but soon discover a wide spectrum of interesting things to do. Spend the morning cycling, the afternoon exploring historic homes, and the evening gambling or people-watching at the casino. Niagara Falls is the undisputed family favorite, with a bevy of kid-pleasing attractions, while the stately historic homes of Niagara-on-the-Lake offer more laid-back sightseeing. From thunderous falls to award-winning wineries, Niagara’s variety of attractions makes for one-of-a-kind visits.

Frank Bella

My Destination local expert on

Niagara (Ontario)

Natural sights and beautiful streets

 

Your momentous first sighting of Niagara Falls may take many forms, whether aboard the Maid of the Mist, from your table atop Skylon Tower, or on a heart-pumping Journey Behind the Falls tour. The area’s natural majesty isn’t limited to its waterfalls, as evident at the 40-acre Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens or along any of the 200 multi-use nature trails. The Niagara Escarpment, a designated UNESCO Biosphere, boasts ample opportunity for hiking, cross-country skiing or kayaking through nature.

 

Arts and culture

 

Niagara may have a small-town feel, but the region is also home to some cultural powerhouses of innovation. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival draws throngs of serious theatre-lovers from April through October. The Niagara Symphony Orchestra in St. Catharine’s has been a centrepiece of local cultural life since 1948. Up-and-coming artists of all stripes showcase their work at Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre. In Niagara Falls, the Queen Street Arts and Culture District is lined with independent galleries and intimate performance spaces.

 

Winery touring

 

Within biking distance of town, you can find numerous wineries offering celebrated VQA Ontario wines, including Peller Estate and Reif Estate Winery. To satisfy the onslaught of curious oenophiles, most Niagara wineries feature daily vineyard tours and tastings. Many arrange overnight stays in boutique accommodations, romantic picnic packages, and multi-course dinners with home-grown wine pairings. Touring companies can arrange for travel from one winery to the next by limousine or even by bicycle.

 

Local history

 

For history buffs, Niagara-on-the-Lake earns its title “loveliest town in Canada” on historical merit, alone. The Fort George National Historic Site is a must-see for the military historian, and the Niagara Historical Society Museum offers a more intimate view of daily life in historical NOTL. At historic McFarland House, you can take tea amid the well-preserved decor and learn snippets from tour guides in period dress. Historic walking tours, such as those given by the Niagara Historical Society, point out Niagara’s local landmarks, and a few even focus on the area’s ghost lore.

 

Family fun

 

Niagara isn’t just a honeymooner’s town. Families find something for everyone. The Clifton Hill district specializes in all things jaw-dropping, from the massive Niagara SkyWheel to Ripley’s Museum. Marineland is equal parts aquarium and amusement park, with dolphin shows and the record-breaking SkyScreamer ride. If the falls leave you wanting to splash around, Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark or Fallsview Indoor Waterpark feature slides, pools and kiddie play areas. For unforgettable thrills, take in the local sights by helicopter or hot air balloon. When you’re ready to slow the pace, head to the Butterfly Conservatory, where nature proves just as dazzling as the Clifton Hill midway.