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Your guide to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Welcome to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Founded in 1792, Niagara-on-the-Lake is just 20 minutes from Niagara Falls, but the ambiance in this historic Ontario community feels very different from its neighbour. Yes, Niagara-on-the-Lake gets busy with visitors, particularly when the Shaw Festival, the theatre inspired by the works of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, is in full swing, but it’s never the heaving crowd magnet that the famous waterfalls often are.
While theatre is a main attraction, Niagara-on-the-Lake is also known for its wineries; be sure to sample Icewine, an Ontario specialty. Many wineries have excellent restaurants, too. Built above the Niagara River, Fort George was an important British stronghold during the War of 1812. Today, it’s a national historic site where you can learn about life in the early 19th century. The relatively flat Niagara region is a popular cycling destination, too, whether you’re biking the rural roads from winery to winery or along the Niagara River, where you can cycle to Niagara Falls and beyond on the 35-mile (56-kilometre) Niagara River Recreation Trail.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is busiest from April through October, when the Shaw Festival performs multiple plays on its three stages. Both summer and autumn, when the foliage begins to turn and the grape harvest is in full swing, are busy, so come midweek if you prefer less hustle and bustle, but note that the theatres are usually dark on Mondays. For a quiet getaway, visit during the snowy winter when the village is peaceful, and the Winter Festival of Lights illuminate Niagara Falls nightly.
Top things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Shaw Festival
This well-regarded theatre festival was launched in the 1960s to perform works by George Bernard Shaw. While the festival still includes Shaw in its repertory, the schedule is now more diverse, presenting a range of plays in three theatres from spring through fall. The festival also hosts lectures, readings, and other events, and you can go backstage on a tour of the main theatre.
There are more than 20 wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and another 40 winemakers in the Twenty Valley west of town. Some are small, family-run operations, while others are larger, more polished experiences. If you don’t have a designated driver, consider booking a tour with a local operator who can handle your transportation from tasting to tasting.
You can’t visit the Niagara region without coming to see the famous falls, whether you take a boat tour to the cascades’ base, zipline across Niagara Gorge, or simply stand on the sidewalk and feel the spray. If you’re interested in learning more about the region’s heritage, stop into the small but modern Niagara Falls History Museum. Hikers should head for the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, where you can trek down into the gorge.