Little-Known Gems in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Two elderly male cyclists in summer

While many are familiar with Old Town, the truth is that many little-known gems in Niagara-on-the-Lake are found in four other communities that make up Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Sure, the charm of Old Town is a crowd-pleaser with its lifestyle and numerous shops, art galleries, historical sites, live stage productions and restaurants. What’s not to love?

However, it’s only a small piece of what makes up a larger area bordered by Welland Canal to the west, Lake Ontario to the north, the Niagara River to the east and the Niagara Escarpment to the south — an area called Niagara-on-the-Lake. Within these borders, you will find the four communities of Queenston, St. David’s, Virgil and Glendale. And each one is home to many little-known gems.

Brock Monument at Queenston Heights

Queenston Gems
From Old Town, follow the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara River for about 10 kilometres to reach Queenston village. Nestled under the watchful gaze of the 56-metre-high Brock Monument erected at Queenston Heights on the Niagara Escarpment, it is the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail as well as the starting point for the Laura Secord Trail. Feeling energetic? Climb 235 steps to the top of the Brock Monument for a spectacular view of the Niagara Frontier.

The compact, riverside community of Queenston is home to the RiverBrink Art Museum, a unique collection of more than 1,400 artifacts and artworks by international artists. It’s also where you find the Laura Secord Homestead and the Mackenzie Printery, which houses the oldest printing press in Canada and one of seven wooden presses remaining in the world!

Whirlpool Jet Boat

Thrill-seekers want to check out the Whirlpool Jet Boat tours that operate out of Queenston from May through October. Wet or dry, it’s your choice. Either way, be ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

Avid golfers tee up year-round (weather permitting) at one of two 9-hole par 35 courses featured at the Queenston St. David’s Golf Course tucked under the Niagara Escarpment.

St. David’s Gems
Situated at the base of the Niagara Escarpment, the township of St. David’s offers sweeping views of the Niagara Valley and Lake Ontario as well as culinary adventures to excite your taste buds.

Glass of Sparkling Wine

Wine lovers, rejoice! St. David’s is a great place to tour a few local wineries, starting with Ravine Vineyard Estate. This fifth-generation family farm is home to organic vineyards and an award-winning restaurant. A little further down the road, Château des Charmes features more than 40 vintages and winery tours in English and French. Also in St. David’s Bench, you will find the Colaneri Estate Winer, where you can order and enjoy pizza with your wine. More tasting experiences await you nearby at the Queenston Mile Vineyard.

Perhaps someone in your group prefers a cold brew to a glass of wine. Enjoy the best of both worlds with a hearty meal at The Grist, open Wednesday through Sunday. Once a packing shed, this valuable piece of St. David’s history was rehabilitated and transformed into a brewery and relaxed eatery.

Chocolate from CFX Niagara

Any chocolate lovers in the house? Make your way to the chocolate factory. Using artisanal chocolate panning and molding techniques, CFX Niagara provides an incredible assortment of products to delight even the most discriminating palate. They offer free daily tours and there’s a large retail store filled with tempting treats to take home.

Glendale Gems
This bedroom community of Niagara-on-the-Lake isn’t as sleepy as you might think. It’s the hub of culinary learning and experimentation.

As a gateway to the Niagara wine region, the Wine Visitor + Education Centre features informative displays, tours and an information centre to assist you in your exploration of Niagara’s wine country.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, students at the Niagara College School of Culinary Arts and School of Wine, Beer and Spirits put into practice all they’ve learned at the NC Culinary Arts Café located on campus. You’re welcome to tour the Niagara College Teaching Winery, Brewery, Distillery and Cidery as well where you can sample their award-winning products through a variety of customized experiences.

Shoots at Outlet Collection at Niagara

In need of some retail therapy? Across the road, the Outlet Collection at Niagara combines 100+ brand-name fashion and lifestyle retailers — all at outlet prices you cannot resist.

All this tasting, dining and touring can wear a body out. Look no further than the serene world at The Spa located across from the Outlets at the White Oaks Resort & Spa where you’ll also find dining options at LIV Restaurant and Play Bar + Grill as well as an amazing fitness centre and racquet courts at The Club.

Virgil Gems
Locals may think of Virgil as the business centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake, but there is more to this community than meets the eye.

Situated in the heart of Virgil, Antiques on Creek is made up of a consortium of dealers, where you can explore vast displays of local and international treasures. There’s no end to the one-of-a-kind finds you’ll discover here.

Antiques on Creek

Just up the road are the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Centre and Centennial Sports Park where numerous public events are held. From picket ball events and the annual Virgil Stampede on Victoria Day Weekend to public skating and hockey and baseball tournaments, there’s something for everyone to enjoy year-round.

Feeling hungry? Brick & Barley is a family-owned bistro located right next door to the Arena. Nearby, the Silversmith Brewing Company is housed in an old church built in 1894. It’s a great place to enjoy an ice-cold beer or a glass of cider along with some pub favourites. For finer dining, look no further than the Twisted Vine across the street, where authentic Italian fare is on the menu.

Virgil is also where a number of winery, brewery, distillery and cider tour companies have set up shop. Ranging from cycling tours and e-bike rentals to chauffeur-driven van and private limousine tours, your options are seemingly endless. Some offer pick-up and drop-off service at your accommodation.

Of course, you can always visit a few wineries in Virgil on your own. Trius Winery and its sister-winery, Wayne Gretzky Estates next door, both feature wine-tasting and dining experiences. Up the road toward Old Town, Pillitteri Estates Winery serves up salads and wood-oven pizza to complement its wine selections at its outdoor BarrelHead venue during the warmer months.

Niagara Image Gallery

Art lovers flock to admire the art collection, which includes works by Trish Romance, Tanya Jean Peterson, Jordan Morrison and Alex Colville, at the Niagara Image Gallery. Another is the Ronald Boaks Fine Arts gallery located at 1823 Niagara Stone Road.

Be sure to drop into the Regal Florist and Garden Centre, a local favourite for garden furniture and decor, flowering plants and bouquets as well as giftware and ladies’ fashions and accessories. If need be, gentlemen can opt to hang out at the Penner Home Hardware Building Centre next door.

Accommodation Gems
With so much to discover and experience, you may want to spend a few days in Niagara-on-the-Lake to sample it all. Whether you want to be at the centre of the action or prefer a peaceful, restful stay in the countryside, STAY Niagara-on-the-Lake has you covered at prices you can afford. Check out their wide selection of bed and breakfasts, apartments, cottages and villas online.

If you are heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the upcoming Solar Eclipse on April 8, a number of wineries and touring companies have organized events, some of which are linked below. Please take time to read the safety guidelines posted here.

More Reasons to Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake Year-Round
To help you plan your next escape to Niagara-on-the-Lake, here are a few events slated for 2024:
April 2 to 28: Coming of Age exhibit at the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre
April 6: Shaw Festival 2024 Season begins
April 8: Solar Eclipse Events at Wayne Gretzky Estates, Niagara Cycling Tours, Queenston Mile Vineyard, Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, Konzelmann Estate Winery, Bella Terra Vineyards, Marynissen Estates
April 20: Pendant-Making Workshop at RiverBrink Art Museum
Until April 29: Strike a Pose: The Art of Self-Obsession at the NOTL Museum
April 29 – June 3: TD Niagara Jazz Fest Shows at The Hare Wine Co.
May 5: Mom Market Niagara at Jackson-Triggs Estate Winery
June 1: Earring Making Workshop at RiverBrink Art Museum
June 7: White Effect Dinner
June 15: Shaw Garden Tour
June 15: St. Andrew’s Strawberry Festival
June 16 – August 16: Music Niagara Festival 2024
June 21 to 29: TD Niagara Summer Jazz Festival
June 29, 30 & July 1: Artistry by the Lake
July 6: St. Mark’s Cherry Festival
July 14: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Jackson-Triggs Estate Winery
August 10: Peach Festival
August 11: Shades of Rose Dinner
August 18 to 25: 2024 World Rowing Championships in St. Catharines
October 4: Shaw Guild Autumn Soirée
October 5: Mom Market Niagara at Jacksonn-Triggs Estate Winery
October 5 & 6: NOTL Beer/Harvest Festival
December 6: Candlelight Stroll
December 6 & 7: Rotary Club House Tour
December 14: Christmas Parade

Helpful Tips
Lost & Found: Did you lose something while you were in Niagara-on-the-Lake? Contact the lost and found centre at the NOTL Chamber of Commerce located at 26 Queen Street in the lower level of the building. Or call 1-905-468-1950 or email tourism@niagaraonthelake.com for more information.

Drive Safely: As part of Niagara Region’s Vision Zero program, an automated speed enforcement camera was installed on Old Stone Road in Virgil near Crossroads Public School. Please pay attention to the speed limits posted throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake as more cameras are planned.

Metered Parking: General information on metered parking in Niagara-on-the-Lake is found here. Your STAY Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts feature complimentary on-site parking for guests and are happy to advise you on where to park for free in and around Old Town.

Accessible Parking: Several accessible parking spaces are located throughout the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, both on the street and in municipal parking lots. All vehicles parking in the accessible zone must display an original and current accessible permit. Any vehicle found parked in an accessible zone without the valid accessible permit will be ticketed $400. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has approved the use of accessible parking permits in the following areas only:

  • Designated accessible zones/spaces; and
  • At any meter free of charge, including municipal lots governed by pay-and-display parking meters. In these locations, a pay-and-display permit is not required if the vehicle is displaying a valid accessible permit.

Embrace Winter’s Gifts in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Collage of winter scenes

Winter in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a magical time of the year. The stillness and deep sense of wonder resonate with our very souls.

Nature hits the pause button and quietly seduces us to relax, restore and reflect. Contrary to popular belief, winter is never the time for setting goals. Not yet. Save that for spring, when you naturally have more energy.

Until then, it’s “dream time.” Much like the rest of nature, we pause and ponder what we achieved in 2023 and where we might be headed in 2024. It’s also time to let go what no longer serves us so we can move forward unburdened.

Research shows that our best ideas come to us when we’re dreaming, relaxed or at play. Winter is the ideal season for restoration, self-care and sharing the fruits of our fall labour with our loved ones. After all, February is Cupid’s favourite month.

And Niagara-on-the-Lake has everything you need to meet these wintertime goals.

Woman enjoying winter

Bundle Up and Get Outdoors
Niagara-on-the-Lake is riddled with walking paths. One takes you past wineries along the Niagara River to the charming village of Queenston and the forested Escarpment trails. Another follows the shores of Lake Ontario and offers a view of Toronto’s skyline on clear days. Other local favourites are the Heritage Trail and the walkways that meander through The Commons where you may sight a deer, fox or coyote foraging in the distance.

Skating is a popular winter activity in Niagara-on-the-Lake. An old-fashioned skating rink at the the Monet-inspired gardens across from the Pillar & Post Hotel invites you to lace up those skates and twirl your favourite partner. Enjoy a hot drink and a snack from the on-site Outpost, then cozy up at one of many warming stations located throughout the park.

A Wayne Gretzky fan? Check out the skating rink at the Great One’s winery in the town of Virgil, just five kilometres up the road from Old Town.

Treat Yourself to a Spa Day
What better way to let your thoughts drift off into dreamland than under the caressing hands of a professional therapist? The variety of treatments and services on the menu is endless.

Woman getting a facial

The Vintage Hotels feature two spas, each offering a very different ambience. The 100 Fountain Spa and the Secret Garden Spa have been in this people-pleasing business for decades and it shows. Their services and treatments have expanded to suit the times and your preferences.

In addition to traditional spa services, the one-of-a-kind hydrotherapy wellness circuit at Spa at Q on Queen Street includes the only snow room in Canada, hot and cold pools, sensory showers, a cedar sauna and a eucalyptus steam room.

Not to be outdone, the harmonious, peaceful mood at the OSpa at the Oban Inn complements its amazing soothing and personalized treatments.

Located across from the Outlet Collection at Niagara, the Spa at White Oaks promises to rejuvenate, revitalize and refresh you before you head out for some retail therapy.

Wine and Dine Your Sweetheart
If there is one thing Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for, it’s the wide selection of fine vintage and culinary experiences the area offers. Not only is this the birthplace of modern Canadian winemaking, but it also attracts some of the most innovative chefs in Canada, such as celebrity chefs, Jason Parsons at Peller Estates and Treadwell.

chef plating

Up for a culinary adventure? Introduce yourself to delectable creations prepared by Niagara’s aspiring chefs. The School of Culinary Arts at Niagara College operates the award-winning on-campus Benchmark restaurant, where lunch is served from Wednesday to Friday under the watchful guidance of culinary virtuoso, Chef Justin Downes, and Catering Manager, Victor Oliveira.

Hoping to impress someone special? Three of Niagara’s finest dining establishments — Zee’s, Niagara’s Finest Thai and Tiara — are offering prix-fixe menus this winter.

In keeping with the Valentine’s Day spirit, the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake are presenting the Chocolate & Cheese Passport Event every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in February. Here’s your chance to indulge in the perfect pairing of wine, chocolate and cheese at 20 wineries.

Lighthearted fun and a Gourmet S’mores Board await you at Konzelmann Estate Winery where you get to sit back and relax in a Muskoka chair and enjoy a seasonal wine flight in the warmth of their enclosed winter patio.

Snuggle Up and Get Warm
Regardless of what you decide to do while in Niagara-on-the-Lake, you want to be comfortable and feel welcomed and warm.

STAY Niagara-on-the-Lake features a list of short-term accommodation choices that range from self-catering apartments, cottages and villas to charming bed and breakfasts and country inns, where you gently awaken to mouthwatering aromas of freshly prepared breakfasts prepared by your on-site hosts.

A Word to the Wise
With the warmer season fast-approaching, you may want to book your preferred spot early as Niagara-on-the-Lake is especially popular during the high season (May through October). To help you plan your next escape to Niagara-on-the-Lake, here are a few tempting events slated for 2024:

February Weekends: The Chocolate & Cheese Passport Event
February 3: Black History in NOTL: Commemorating National Historic Significance
February 5: Celebrating Black History & Culture at The Harry Winery
February 9: Brock: The Man, the Myth, the Legend at Navy Hall
Until February 25: Inniskillin’s Illumination Nights
February 27: Reif Estate Icewine Dinner
Until February 29: SeaSky International Light Show at Reif Estate Winery
Until Mid-March: Skating at the Great One’s Backyard Rink and at The Gardens at the Pillar and Post
Until April 29: Strike a Pose: The Art of Self-Obsession at the NOTL Museum
June 7: White Effect Dinner
June 15: Shaw Garden Tour
June 15: St. Andrew’s Strawberry Festival
June 29, 30 & July 1: Artistry by the Lake
July 6: St. Mark’s Cherry Festival
August 10: Peach Festival
August 11: Shades of Rose Dinner
October 4: Shaw Autumn Soirée
October 5 & 6: NOTL Beer/Harvest Festival
December 6: Candlelight Stroll
December 14: Christmas Parade

Helpful Tips
Lost & Found: Did you lose something while you were in Niagara-on-the-Lake? Contact the lost and found centre at the NOTL Chamber of Commerce located at 26 Queen Street in the lower level of the building. Or call 1-905-468-1950 or email tourism@niagaraonthelake.com for more information.

Metered Parking: General information on metered parking in Niagara-on-the-Lake is found here. Your STAY Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts feature complimentary on-site parking for guests and are happy to advise you on where to park for free in and around Old Town.

Accessible Parking: Several accessible parking spaces are located throughout the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, both on the street and in municipal parking lots. All vehicles parking in the accessible zone must display an original and current accessible permit. Any vehicle found parked in an accessible zone without the valid accessible permit will be ticketed $400. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has approved the use of accessible parking permits in the following areas only:

  • Designated accessible zones/spaces; and
  • At any meter free of charge, including municipal lots governed by pay-and-display parking meters. In these locations, a pay-and-display permit is not required if the vehicle is displaying a valid accessible permit.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Activities: 20 Ideas for a Rainy Day

NOTL in May

Rain, rain, go away… Remember this children’s rhyme? On the brighter side, April showers do bring May flowers.

We plan for sunny-day activities, and then Mother Nature rains on our agenda, reminding us just who’s in charge here. Hakuna Matata! We’ve got you covered. From museums and retail therapy to live stage performances, there’s something for every taste, interest and budget. You won’t even notice it’s raining! And remember…

“If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters
– 204 if you’re in Japan.”

― Claire Cook, writer and motivational speaker

1

Take in a 2 p.m. or an 8 p.m. performance at one of the Shaw Festival theatres in town. (Mondays are dark.)

2

Book a one-hour backstage tour at the Festival Theatre to discover the secrets that bring each production to the stage. Cost: $10, $5 with ticket to a performance.

Outlet Collection at Niagara Stores

3

Shop til you drop at the Outlet Collection at Niagara where you’ll find more than 100 trendy boutiques. But first, head over to the Guest Services building to pick up your VIP Visitor Card, available to all out-of-town visitors, to access exclusive discounts and offers from on-site retailers. (You’ll need ID or a passport to prove you are from out of town.)

4

Hunt for treasures at some of the many antique shops in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake.

5

Visit the Butterfly Conservatory located next to the Botanical Gardens on the Niagara Parkway.

Orange butterfly

6

Check out local artists. Browse through Lakeside Pottery on Lakeshore Road, Queenston Pottery on York Road in St. David’s, or Bélisle Pottery on Four Mile Creek Road where you can also take a class.

7

Tour the historical Laura Secord Homestead in Queenston.

8

Check out the Riverbrink Art Museum in Queenston.

9

Visit the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in Queenston.

10

Step into an educational experience at the Niagara Parks Power Station to discover the incredible history and heritage of this 115-year-old engineering marvel.

11

Work out in the fully-equipped gym at our Community Center located on Anderson’s Lane. A day pass costs $5.50.

12

Stones Massage

Book a spa treatment or massage at one of many venues in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake.

13

Purchase a day pass at the Pillar and Post for $75 per person. Your day pass includes access to their indoor pool, indoor sauna, a locker in the upstairs change room with robe, as well as the Hot Spring if space is available upon arrival.

14

Spend time at the charming Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum on Castlereagh in Old Town.

15

Book a chauffeur-driven winery tour with one of many wine tour companies in the area that include Grape Escape, Crush Wine Tours, Niagara Grape & Wine Tours, Niagara Wine Tours International, Niagara Getaways Wine Tours and more.

Two Women on Wine Tour

16

Learn all about wine production at one or more of the informative seminars and tours offered by some of the wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area.

17

Watch ships “climb the mountain” at the Welland Canal Center Lock 3 Museum.

18

Visit Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls, the largest free-flying indoor aviary in the world.

19

Take in a Music Niagara performance at various indoor venues during the months of July and August.

20

Whirlpool Jet Boat

Go ahead! Embrace the weather and head off on a Whirlpool Jet Boat adventure anyway. After all, you’ll be getting wet, rain or shine!

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake: Activate Your Passion

March 20 heralded in the Spring Equinox and the Aries Season while a New Moon on March 21 added a punch to underscore the importance of this annual celestial event. Think of this lunar lift as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for your freshest, most out-of-the-box ideas. This cosmic invitation is summoning your inner warrior to recommit to living life by your own design!

As it turns out, passion is an essential element to living a fulfilled life. So, you might say, this celestial combo is asking you to tune in to your passion meter for excitement and let the hot blood pump through your veins as you spring into action.

Some of our best insights and ideas come to us when we’re active and enjoying something we love — cycling, hiking, golfing, birdwatching, dining, spa treatments, live stage performances, music, museums and historical re-enactments, gardens… Our minds are relaxed and our intuition — our personal GPS — works best when the mind is engrossed in the present moment. Like they say, time flies when you’re having a good time.

And what better place to enjoy good times and indulge your passion(s) than in Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Spring Into Action
Vineyards, fruits orchards and fields of vegetation surround Niagara-on-the-Lake, making it a culinary haven for chefs, foodies and wine-lovers alike. Dining venues throughout the area range from affordable pub fare to five-star gourmet experiences. Why not make a day of it with friends? Chauffeured guided tour companies offer an excellent way to experience three or more wineries, and some tour options even include lunch or supper at a local dining establishment.

Partying with friends

Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake is a safe, very walkable community, perfect for daytime and evening strolls along residential streets and nature trails that meander through provincial parks and along the Niagara River where there is year-round birdwatching at its best. Most bed and breakfasts and short-term rental properties are within easy walking distance of restaurants, theatres, shops and wine- or beer-tasting venues. So, why not park the car and forget about it?

Flat terrain and quiet country roads in the area are ideal for cycling and e-bikes — a great way to combine fresh-air exercise with touring some of our award-winning wineries on your own. Be sure to check out the 2020 Chardonnay at Two Sisters Vineyards, winner of a Gold Medal at the 2023 Chardonnay-du-Monde competition held in Burgundy, France. Bring your own bike or rent one at one of the local businesses, such as Zoom Leisure, Grape Escape, Vino Velo and eBike Rental Niagara, to name just a few. Many also offer guided cycling wine tours.

Take in a round of golf and some of the area’s most scenic views at the oldest surviving golf course in North America. Its lakefront restaurant patio and indoor lounge are popular watering holes for a light post-game bite, a brew and some friendly banter.

Perhaps self-care is one of your passions. Niagara-on-the-Lake features a selection of world-renowned spas, each of which offers a menu of treatments that are sure to leave your body singing with relief and gratitude.

Passionate about live theatre and musical performances? Niagara-on-the-Lake also hosts world-class performances at the ever-popular Shaw Festival, which, in 2023, is presenting 14 plays, and several concerts and events at the Festival Royal George and Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatres as well as the new Spiegeltent outdoor venue.

Choose Your Private Retreat
After a full day of activities and sightseeing, a well-deserved night’s rest is in order. STAY Niagara-on-the Lake offers a long list of accommodation options where you can relax and reminisce over that fine bottle of Niagara wine you picked up earlier.

For couples, a bed and breakfast is the perfect choice. Today, most B&Bs feature secluded guest quarters with private ensuite washrooms for complete privacy, as well as indoor and outdoor nooks where you can mingle with your hosts or other guests — or not. Nightly rates include breakfast, on-site parking and internet access. For parties of three or more, self-catering apartments, villas or cottages may be a more reasonable alternative.

Go ahead and check us out. Make a few calls and ask questions. We want you to make the choice that’s best for you and your needs.

Plan Ahead
Here is a taste of things to come this spring and summer to rev up those passion meters and get your creative juices flowing:

April 1 – Fort George opens Saturdays and Sundays, and daily May 20
April 29 – Queens of the Vineyard at Caroline Cellars
May Weekends – Sip & Sizzle at various Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries
May 6 – TD Niagara Jazz Festival Spring 2023 Fundraising Event at The Hare Wine Co.
June 9 – White Effect Dinner at Peller Estates Winery
June 24 – Shaw Guild Garden Tour
July 1-3 – Artistry by the Lake
July 8 – Cherry Festival
August 12 – Peach Festival
August 12 – Sip, Savour & Stroll
August 13 – Shades of Summer Dinner