Located on the west bank of the Niagara River, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the Niagara region has dozens of wineries worth visiting any time of year. But wrapped in a white winter blanket of cold vines with rows of rows, Southern Ontario’s lowland plains are enchanting. The majestic Niagara Falls looks stunning covered in icicles, and the exciting city of Toronto is less than two hours away.
1. Taste Iced Wine
For three weekends in January each year, the Niagara region of Ontario hosts Canada’s Coolest Wine Festival. Celebrating winter wonderland with music, ice sculptures and wine tastings is all about the harvest of Ontario Icewine. Made from grapes frozen on the vine, this concentrated ‘liquid gold’ drop is a sweet amber nectar and also quite potent.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is establishing its own Icewine Festival Village with open-air bars and there is a Niagara Icewine Gala. In the nearby village of Jordan, Twenty Valley Winter WineFest is a lively three-day outdoor event. There are fire pits to ward off the cold in freezing temperatures, but dress warm with comfortable shoes.
2. Enjoy Niagara on the Lake
Named Canada’s Most Beautiful Town for its interesting 19th-century buildings, Niagara-on-the-Lake is located at the confluence of the Niagara River with Lake Ontario. Filled with charming hostels and boutique hotels, including the Bijou Shaw Club Hotel, this heritage town was founded in 1792, when Fort George was founded by the British. The reconstruction of this military base is now a living museum, with the restored original gunpowder warehouse.
Niagara-on-the-Lake has a vibrant arts scene, and plays by George Bernard Shaw and other playwrights are staged at the Shaw Festival from April to November.
Don’t go home without buying a jar of jam from traditional corner shop Greaves. The local fertile, limestone-rich soil is suitable for vineyards as well as orchards, and Greaves began conservation in 1927 at their Queen Street heritage facility. Popular flavors today include Pure Crabapple Jelly and Cherry Fruit Spray.
3. Lunch at the winery
Surprisingly, the Niagara Wine Region is in the same latitude band as Provence in France and the Chianti Classico region in Italy. The proximity to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie creates a unique microclimate. VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wines crafted from grapes grown here 100 percent in Ontario include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Try some of the local varieties at Westcott Vineyards, located in a restored 200-year-old Mennonite barn in Jordan. The limestone fireplace is original and the tables are made of solid floorboards.
Trius Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake is very different, with its pink and gold nugget and sparkling cellar. Learn how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword in one swipe on this Instagram-able wine tour.
The family-run Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery has been farming St David’s for organic wines for five generations and the restaurant serves fresh vegetables from the large kitchen garden.
4. The Destruction Behind Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is just 30 minutes’ drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake, along the scenic Niagara Parkway that runs parallel to the Niagara River. When Sir Winston Churchill used the route in 1943, he is said to have declared it “the most beautiful Sunday afternoon stroll in the world”.
The Canadian side of Niagara Falls with the thundering Horseshoe Falls is definitely the best view of the extraordinary waterfall. Waterfalls are a natural source of negative ions believed to have positive physiological effects on mood and stress levels. To truly feel the power of the massive layers of water from the two open observation decks, take the elevator down 125 feet through the bedrock on the Journey Behind the Falls tour. The energy is used for hydropower and more is diverted during the night. Yes, while most people are asleep, Horseshoe Falls is half asleep.
5. Explore Toronto with a great guide
Bruce Bell is a very entertaining guide and actor/comedian as well as an informative historian who knows what he knows about Toronto. Bruce’s 90-minute tour of the Old Town takes place at the 200-year-old St Lawrence Market, where the Carousel Bakery Peameal Bacon Sandwich is an award-winning. This Toronto signature takeaway is a bread roll topped with unsmoked pork loin wrapped in cornmeal and often topped with mustard.
Beneath Toronto’s skyscrapers stand some historic red brick jewels. The green-towered Gooderham Building, also known as the Flatiron Building, was completed in 1892. The 1890s façade of the Merchants’ Bank building inside the Allen Lambert Galleria looks tiny inside the six-story atrium known as the “Merch.” the crystal cathedral of commerce”.
6. Find cool hangouts
Whiskey used to be made in Toronto’s Distillery District, but today the streets are filled with great restaurants, bars and art galleries. Take a walk along the harbor and then head to Chinatown and Kensington Market, with its amazing street art. This bohemian neighborhood has brightly painted Victorian homes that have now been converted into vintage boutiques and art spaces. Courage My Love is a retro store full of discounted pre-loved finds.
7. Dinner at 360 The Restaurant in CN Tower
The CN Tower in Downtown Toronto is 550 meters high. Built in 1976, ‘CN’ stands for Canadian National, the rail company that built it on reclaimed land on the shores of Lake Ontario. Thrill-seekers can try the EdgeWalk Experience and swing in a seat belt on an outside ledge. Sitting comfortably inside at 360 The Restaurant, you’ll get a bird’s eye view and much less wind! – View of the city as this revolving restaurant completes its full rotation every 72 minutes. It’s easy to pick the H shape of the gorgeous Fairmont Royal York Hotel, perfectly located just opposite Union Station. This Art Deco historic building was opened in 1929 and maintains its beautiful period style.
8. Visit the Fairmont Royal York Hotel
The recently magnificently renovated Fairmont Royal York Hotel has a wonderful old-timey feel of opulence. One of Canada’s major railway hotels, now overshadowed by modern tall towers, was once the tallest building in the Commonwealth of Nations. Royal guests include King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort.
The rooftop garden is home to 350,000 bees whose fresh honey is used to make Apiary Ale, and the Reign offers sweet treats in the hotel brasserie. Stop by the stylish lobby bar Clockwork for a Front Street Punch cocktail and feel like you’re in a 1930s movie.
9. Follow PATH underground
If the weather freezes your fingertips, downtown Toronto’s Downtown has a maze of underground passages filled with shops and food courts. This hidden hiking trail stretches for 17 miles, and even the locals get lost, so download a map. PATH connects entertainment venues such as Roy Thomson Hall, home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
10. Take the UP Express Train
The easiest way to get between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station in downtown Toronto is to take the UP Express Train. It is North America’s first private air-rail connection and takes only 25 minutes.