Niagara on the Lake: a foodie's destination
Imagine spending 3 days being delighted by wine and champagne tasting while eating in farm to table restaurants. If you are a foodie, then this is the perfect destination for you. Inside the Canadian heartland of the Ontario province you will find a small Victorian town surrounded by miles and miles of vineyards. Only 2 hours away of the busy Toronto metropolis, and a 30 minute drive from the world-renown Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake offers a great foodie getaway. The wine region surrounds the Niagara peninsula and offers unusual warm temperatures allowing the vines to survive the harsh Canadian winters.
This is a 3-day itinerary of things to do an eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake. What a better way to spend Canadian Thanksgiving than to enjoy Ontario's best wines?
Things to do in Niagara on the Lake
This great foodie weekend getaway has pretty Victorian buildings and a main commercial street - Queen Street- with small shops offering local products like jams and gelati. There is even an apothecary which has recipes from the 19th century. The town borders a beautiful waterfront. Go to Queen's Royal Park to admire the lake and enjoy a little walk.
The town is also known for the Shaw Festival, it is the second largest repertory theater company in North America. It has everything from the classics to modern comedy.
Not very far away from downtown, you will find Fort George, a historic site where Upper Canada set a military post against the Americans in the 19th century. Did you know that in 2017 all historic sites and national parks were free because we are celebrating Canada 150th? Head to my other post for more info.
Wineries of NotL
The Niagara Peninsula has more than 40 wineries spread through the towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Beamsville. From mainstream estates to very small family own vineyards and organic farms so this gives you plenty options to choose from. All the tastings range from $8 to $12, some will do cheese pairing as well. The tour of the wineries can be done by bike or by car; if you want to do them solo. There are also tour companies that will drive you around. The downside of doing the wineries with a tour is that you cannot choose your stops, the good site is that you don't have to worry about driving a little tipsy.
Pro tip: If you are doing the tour by yourself, plan your visits in advance. If you have some wineries that you will like to visit check their location, they might be too far apart to do them in one day or in two different towns.
Psst: If you are two or more, it might be a good idea to split the tastings if you are planning to do several wineries, this way you can avoid over drinking ;)
Here are the ones that we liked the most and why (not in order of preference)
This award-winning winery is 100% organic and bio-dynamic. They have sheep and chickens to encourage biodiversity and to fertilize the vineyard. The bright & airy tasting room has a beautiful view of the vines and has several local products that will perfectly pair with your wine.
Another organic winery, this one is much smaller, and you can self-tour the property. This is one of the best white wines that we tasted during the weekend.
I know that the name and the label might turn you away, I know I was; I've seen the wine bottle at the store but I would not dare to buy it because of the branding. Their branding is taken to the next level inside the tasting room with the staff shirts, arrows pointing at you in the mirrors. However, we were happily surprised by the quality of the wine! The quality is a step-up compared the other wineries. We were lucky enough to have a take a tour through the property. They do offer several events through the year so be sure to check-out their website so you don't miss out.
This is the place to head to if you are a champagne lover! They have a sparkling experience tasting, sadly, we missed the tour hours for the full experience.
Don't let the little smell of yeast floating around in the tasting room turn you away. This tasting is a must-do. We loved their Gamay.
By far the most beautiful vineyard, perched on a hill, the tasting room gives you a beautiful view of the lush green wines. Enjoy your tasting sitting on the balcony while enjoying the view. Did you know that on a clear day you can see the skyline of Toronto on the other side of the lake? You need to try their sparkling rosé! These bubbles are definitely one of a kind.
This winery is almost made for Instagram with all their flashy colours and layout. They also have cider tasting. What could be better than having tastings of wine and cider while enjoying a lunch from the food truck?
Where to eat in NotL?
Brunch / Breakfast
Pro tip: have a filling breakfast before heading to your wine tours, it will help you not to get drunk!
Willow Cakes and Pastries has very yummy pastries, great for breakfast.
The restaurant Tiara of the Hotel Queen's Landing has a great brunch! I tried the eggs benedictine with snow crab, it was delicious! Enjoy the view of the marina while eating.
There are two great breweries in the region Oast & Silversmith. Besides having a wide variety of beer, they offer a good food menu. Trust me, changing the savour of your drink will help you appreciate wine better.
The Pie Plate is a great lunch stop, they serve thin crust pizza, tacos & pies, of course. They grow their own ingredients, which makes it even better!
You skipped lunch and fancy a filling snack? The Drawing Room of Prince of Wales hotel offers an afternoon tea in the very English tradition. I thought that it was a little pricey but I had never done an afternoon tea so I did it more for the experience.
Ravine Winery, it has been open for more than 150 years, as old as Canada! The tradition of making quality products has propagated through the wine, their farm and their cuisine. The restaurant has wooden pillars and roof, it will give a feeling that you are dining on a farm. The menu only serves ingredients from their garden. Their plates go with the seasons, so it changes regularly.
Noble Restaurant, splurge yourself in this fine-dining restaurant. We tried the Thanksgiving special menu and it was amazing. The portions are very big, so prepare your belly!
Where to stay in NotL?
The town, luckily, does not have huge hotel chains, which helps keep its Victorian charm. Most travelers stay in B&B, sometimes you have a feeling that each house is a B&B.
There is one hotel chain, the Vintage hotels, that owns around 6 hotels in the town and they are all beautiful. They are in historic buildings and have a very English colonial feel. We stayed in Prince of Wales which is in the heart of downtown, right by Queen street. The hotel is decorated with portraits of the English monarchy (some of them are quite creepy). The hotel has a saltwater pool which is great to relax after all that drinking! Since it is a chain of hotel, they are all interconnected so you can go from a restaurant in another hotel for example. We usually don't stay in hotels, however, we found a great package deal for the long weekend!
Getting to NotL?
You can get to Niagara on the lake by car, bus or train with Via Rail. However, if you don’t plan to do a guided tour of various wineries, I would suggest renting a car. This will give you great flexibility to do your trip as you wish.
The most difficult choice that you will have to make during your stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake will be trying to decide which bottles of wines you will bring home.
Did you know that Ontario has another wine region that is also close to Toronto? Click here for more info on Prince Edward County.
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