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Wine, Art & Entertainment: Niagara Canada Claims the 8th

This post is brought to you by Niagara Canada and The Co.

If you’re playing one of those word association games and you hear the word “Niagara”, I’m going to guess that your response might be “Falls”.

Niagara Falls Canada on eatlivetravelwrite.comNiagara Falls. For someone who grew up on another continent, the Falls always sounded so exotic. I’d seen images in magazines and was enchanted by the thought of this magnificent natural wonder at a young age by films like “Niagara.”  It was on my “must visit” list a long time ago!

If you’ve visited Toronto for more than a few days, chances are your itinerary included a day trip to Niagara Falls. It’s on everyone’s “Must See” list yet many visitors don’t spend longer than a day, focusing their visit on the Falls themselves and (maybe not realizing that they are) barely scratching the surface of all there is to do, see, eat and drink in the region.

On my very first trip to Toronto in 2000, that was me!  I did the typical tourist thing, leaving the city early to head to Niagara Falls, arriving mid-morning, taking the classic boat ride (today called the Hornblower Niagara Cruises) and exploring “Behind the Falls.” They were everything I expected. Spectacular. Neil grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake so we swung by there for a pub lunch before heading home.  The perfect day trip.

These days, however, when we visit, we’re much more likely to focus on all that surrounds the Falls (though we do make sure to take out-of town visitors to see them!). Because there is so much more to Niagara Canada than just the Falls. A day trip just doesn’t do it justice so we try to spend at least one night and two full days to take advantage of everything the area has to offer.

As Niagara Canada prepares to stake their claim as the 8th Wonder of the World, it’s time for more people to stop thinking about this area as just a day trip destination and focus more on the wide variety of experiences the region offers. So that when people play that word association game, their response to “Niagara” might just be “Canada”.

There are a few reasons I think the region deserves more than a day trip, none more so than the fact that over the past couple of decades, Niagara Canada has really come into its own as a wine, food and arts destination – and it’s right here in Toronto’s back yard!  A really great way to sample all the region has to offer is to check out a wine festival.

out the window at Ravine on eatlivetravelwrite.comBeing along the scenic Niagara escarpment, Niagara Canada is home to some truly breathtaking views that make for the perfect backdrop for all of the fun celebrations and events that go on throughout the area’s many festivals. The Niagara Wine Festival, for example, is coming up in September 2016 and is the perfect excuse to take a visit! Coming from out of town? Don’t forget to take advantage of the “touring passes” that are available from most wineries year-round; which give you access to different wineries where you can sample the wine with a bite to eat.

Niagara Canada’s world-class wines

Niagara Canada is only about 90 minutes away from Toronto. It is a beautiful wine destination made up of multiple sub-regions: Twenty Valley and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Over the past 30 years, tourism in the region has changed significantly and, today, the wineries of Niagara are just as much a reason to visit the area as the Falls, and they definitely present some solid arguments for staying overnight.  With over 85 wineries, ranging from small family affairs to well-established larger enterprises, there’s so much to explore – year round!

Wine glasses at Southbrook winery on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Inniskillin winery on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Inniskillin

Niagara Peninsula’s wine region is a pretty drive down the Niagara Parkway from the Falls.  Here, the sub-region of Niagara-on-the-Lake has always been a major fruit-growing region. Wineries like Inniskillin (the granddaddy of them all, having brought Canada onto the world stage with their award-winning Icewine in 1986), Colaneri Estate Winery (in Niagara-on-the-Lake) who is focusing on amarone-style production, Two Sisters Vineyard (a newer addition, featuring the well-regarded Kitchen 76 restaurant), Southbrook Vineyards (Canada’s first biodynamic vineyard) and Stratus Vineyards which produces some of the most cellar-worthy wines of the area – to name but a few – are all “must visits” for wine lovers.

Stratus vines on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Two Sisters Vineyard patio on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Two Sisters Vineyard

Slightly up the escarpment you’ll find the sub-region of St. David’s Bench.  One of my favourite wineries has to be Ravine Vineyard. Not only do they produce some stunning wines, but the restaurant serves excellent food in a beautiful setting overlooking the escarpment.  Enjoy the food in the restaurant or buy some supplies from the on-site grocery for your own picnic on the grounds.  Close by, Coyote’s Run Estate Winery is a worthy detour for those who enjoy Pinot Noir.

Creekside Estate Winery at night on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Creekside Estate Winery

As the escarpment continues west, you’ll find Twenty Valley – an area that’s really started to explore the concept of terroir on a site-by-site basis. Among the standouts are Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery for Pinot Noir, Angels Gate Winery for Riesling and Thirty Bench Wine Makers for Bordeaux blends and age-worthy Riesling.  Award-winning Tawse Winery, Creekside Estate Winery, Fielding Estate Winery (who focus on grapes such as Riesling and Cabernet Franc which are ideally situated to the climate), Malivoire Wine (making a name for itself with ‘cool-climate varietals’) and  Rosewood Estates Winery which is also a Meadery where you can explore this ancient honey-based wine, should be on every wine-lover’s list for the region.

Wineries of Niagara on the Lake wine and herb weekendWith such a huge choice of wineries to visit you can easily spend several days exploring the area – in any season!

Niagara Falls from the Niagara Skywheel on eatlivetravelwrite.com Though many people might think the region is not as picturesque in the cooler weather, I actually find that visiting in the winter holds its own special charm.  Check out the Wine Country Ontario website for a complete listing of the wineries in Niagara and don’t forget to check the dates of the various festivals taking place.  The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake website includes suggested touring itineraries and details on member wineries, while the Twenty Valley Tourism Association website and Niagara Canada website both guide you through winery tour options in the Twenty Valley.

Art and entertainment and so much more!

If you’re an arts lover visiting Niagara Canada, you’ll find plenty to see and do as well.  Take the time to explore the works of the area’s artists and fine artisans (you’ll find privately owned galleries as well as public spaces celebrating local art).  Theatre more your thing?  Niagara Canada is home to the Shaw Festival Theatre where you can check out new takes on the works of George Bernard Shaw as well as plays from and about his era.  In St Catharines you’ll find the FirstOntario Performing Arts Center housing loads of offerings in the areas of dance and professional theatre.  If music, magic, comedy or fashion are more your style, Niagara Canada has you covered too with  year-round shows and festivals catering to all tastes.

So, next time you visit Niagara Canada, by all means, check out the Falls but plan your trip to also include an overnight stay, grab a map and plot a route through some of the world’s best wineries and incredible summer festivals that combine theatre, music, wine and food!

Check out Niagara Canada on social media!

Be sure to follow along with Niagara Canada’s claim on the title of 8th Wonder of the World by checking out #claimthe8th, visit www.visitniagaracanada.com or find Niagara Canada on social media with the hashtags: #Claimthe8th and #visitniagara.

Facebook: Visit Niagara
Twitter: @Visit_Niagara
Instagram: Visit_Niagara
YouTube: Visit Niagara Canada

This post was produced in partnership with The Tourism Partnership of Niagara but all opinions expressed are my own.

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25 Responses to Wine, Art & Entertainment: Niagara Canada Claims the 8th

  1. Karen July 20, 2016 at 12:06 #

    I’ve been to the falls so many times, but never for a wine tasting … I MUST get to this soon! Thanks!

  2. Bernice Hill July 20, 2016 at 12:12 #

    Great post Mardi. I attempted to organize a trip to Niagara for our 18th wedding anniversary but fell short of time. We won’t make it there for our 20th this year, but now I have some great information to maybe plan a more ‘spur of the moment’ trip to Niagara and Twenty Valley.
    Are there cycling wine tours?

  3. Heather B July 20, 2016 at 12:51 #

    If you are looking for a great place to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake Greaves Jam has a fabulous apartment above their store. We stayed there one January for the Ice Wine Festival & it overlooks the Main Street. It was a great way to attend the street fair – all within walking distance.

  4. Ayngelina Brogan July 20, 2016 at 17:35 #

    There is SO much to do in Niagara, even though I’ve been there a few times I haven’t done tons of these things! New items on my to-do list!

  5. Samantha | My Kitchen Love July 20, 2016 at 19:33 #

    I loved this post! I’ve never been to the Toronto Region (besides transfers at Pearson) and I’m keen to explore the Falls area. The wineries looked beautiful and all the places special enough to make a stop at.

  6. Mairead July 20, 2016 at 20:21 #

    Wine tours are the perfect way to explore Niagara! There’s so much to see and do!

  7. Laetitia Brock July 21, 2016 at 09:53 #

    OK, booking my trip now 😉

    • Mardi Michels July 21, 2016 at 10:00 #

      Well do make sure you are dropping by Toronto to see me too 🙂

  8. Cassie | Crumb Kitchen July 21, 2016 at 10:33 #

    This is a wonderful post, Mardi! I’ve always had a bit of a dislike to Niagara Falls because it’s so touristy, but it’s true that once you strip all that away, there’s some magical places and GREAT wine destinations in the area! Beautiful photos as well.

    • Mardi Michels July 21, 2016 at 12:58 #

      Thanks so much. I think anytime you move a little bit off the tourist trail you start to make some interesting discoveries! Niagara is such a wonderful region with so much to offer, it’s a shame that most people don’t see beyond the Falls…

  9. Mr. Neil July 23, 2016 at 12:49 #

    Nice wine mentions. 😉

    • Mardi Michels July 25, 2016 at 00:37 #

      Thanks to you I have learned a lot about wine/ wineries – especially in this region!

  10. Fiona Maclean August 14, 2016 at 11:18 #

    I know the wines on both side of the border are meant to be superb – and you get the bonus of seeing Niagara too!

    • Mardi Michels August 14, 2016 at 16:39 #

      I would say that the wines on the Canadian side are superior to those on the US (I might sound biased but we visited the US side last autumn and had some good wines but nothing like the selection you get in Canada, though there is a lot of interesting stuff going on there too).

  11. Cathy August 31, 2016 at 13:48 #

    I agree that the whole Niagara region is truly a lovely area! After a visit to the Falls itself and taking in the beautiful flower gardens near it, I would prefer to spend time in Niagara-on-the-Lake and surrounding region. I know the area is great for growing fruit, but I didn’t realize there were that many wineries!

    • Mardi Michels August 31, 2016 at 17:36 #

      SO MANY wineries! I think you need another visit there 😉

  12. Tiffany August 31, 2016 at 15:24 #

    So clearly I don’t need any convincing that Niagara needs to claim the 8th. But if anyone’s on the fence, this post should seal the deal for them. Seriously, this region is still an under-rated gem and needs to be on everyone’s to-do list. As someone who lives here, I can tell you none of it — none of it — ever gets old. Sounds like a wonder to me.

    • Mardi Michels August 31, 2016 at 17:35 #

      Coming from a Niagara native this is huge praise 🙂 I agree with it all!

  13. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land August 31, 2016 at 17:46 #

    I feel so un-Canadian, having never visited Niagara Falls! I had no idea it was a wine country region, either! That photo of the Falls you took – it’s so darkly beautiful, like something out of Lord of The Rings 🙂

    • Mardi Michels August 31, 2016 at 17:52 #

      Right? I love the Falls in the winter as well (less people, for one!). You definitely need a visit out to wine country!!

  14. Marie August 31, 2016 at 19:57 #

    I love the Niagara region and I totally agree with you: it’s not just about the falls! I spent a few days in the wine region a few years ago and it was so worth it. I’ve always promised myself I would go back and your post is a great reminder of that! I wasn’t aware Niagara was claiming the 8th, but I agree it’s well deserved! Fingers crossed they’ll get it. (Also: what Lyndsay said about your winter picture of the falls, majestic!)

    • Mardi Michels August 31, 2016 at 20:13 #

      Thank you so much. And YOU need to come back for another visit – and I can come and meet you there 😉

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