With only 24 hours in a location, making the most of such limited time is priority number one. During a recent visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake we did exactly that. NOTL sits at the mouth of the Niagara River on the south shore of Lake Ontario. Just a 20-minute drive along the scenic Niagara Parkway takes you from the hustle and bustle of Niagara Falls to the quaint and leisurely pace of Niagara-on-the-Lake. A quintessential vineyard town, NOTL delivers beauty, tranquility, and, surprisingly, a vast selection of fun activities for singles, couples, and families alike. Whether you want to wine and dine, celebrate the arts, or tackle the outdoors, NOTL has something for everyone. With only 24 hours we set out to experience the best of NOTL.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is perfect for cycling. After such a great experience biking around Bruges last summer, we wanted to keep the tradition alive. I reserved bikes in advance from Zoom Leisure, with magical plans of riding through the vineyards of NOTL in perfect, sunny weather. But, as you all know, magical plans don’t always work out and the weather was quite ugly when we arrived. So, we opted to drive around instead. However, renting bikes for a self-guided or guided tour of the area should definitely be on your to-do list.
Wineries abound in NOTL. We drove to several just to take a look around the vineyards and various estates. Admittedly, I’m no wine connoisseur. Luckily, there are enough wineries in NOTL to suit any taste. For me, that means sweet/dessert wines. Having tried Canadian Icewine once before during a trip to Portland, I already knew what I was looking for and went straight for The Ice House Winery for an icewine tasting.
Icewine is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. The bartender at Ice House explained their team picks the frozen grapes during the coldest part of the year, sometimes all night, to capture one super concentrated drop of the sweetest juice possible from each grape. This explains why icewine is so sweet, typically more expensive, and sold in smaller bottles. Fun fact, did you know there is a difference between icewine and ice wine (or, ice-wine, with the words separated or hyphenated)? As mentioned, icewine is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. Ice wine, on the other hand, is made from grapes that have been picked and then put in a freezer. If you want the real deal, go for the icewine.
A tasting at Ice House includes various combinations of four different icewines, two icewine slushies, and an icewine cocktail. Wait, did I say icewine slushies?? Um, yes!! Visiting Ice House with the kids? They have something for them too! Mine enjoyed a couple of nonalcoholic slushies and some tasty chocolate.
The following day included artsy downtown exploring, theatre, and afternoon tea. NOTL’s downtown Heritage District is the loveliest area to browse around and do some shopping, with an eclectic mix of bakeries, hat shops, antique stores, and even an old apothecary shop. After walking around long enough to work up an appetite, we headed to the Prince of Wales Hotel for afternoon tea. This was, by far, at the top of my must-do list for Niagara-on-the-Lake.
There’s really nothing better following an excellent afternoon tea than top-notch theater. Luckily, we visited NOTL during the Shaw Festival, Canada’s most iconic theater festival. Inspired by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival has been going strong since 1962 and draws more than 250,000 visitors each year. In search of an entertaining show for both adults and kids, we settled on Me and My Girl, a musical comedy set in 1930’s London. I readily admit that I tend to use London as the gold standard when it comes to theater. It’s hard to find shows that match the caliber of those you typically see in London. However, Me and My Girl was absolutely mind blowing. Everything was mesmerizing, from the acting, to costuming, set design, orchestra…just, everything! By the end of the show the whole audience was doing The Lambeth Walk!
Click here for a behind-the-scenes video of Me and My Girl.
There you have it! With just 24 hours in Niagara-on-the-Lake we managed to fit in vineyard tours and tastings, downtown shopping, afternoon tea, and some of the best theater I’ve seen in quite some time. While we weren’t able to do everything I would have liked to do given more time, I definitely think we managed to find the best of the best that NOTL has to offer. What would be on YOUR Niagara-on-the-Lake bucket list?