/ The Niagara Guide
Niagara — By Andy Hayes on July 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm
Filed under: outdoor recreation, top-feature

Peace & Tranquility in Niagara on the Lake

Recently my travels took me to Niagara on the Lake (map), a small town just north of Niagara Falls, on the shores of Lake Ontario (hence the name).  Everyone – and I mean everyone – who’s been to the falls has mentioned this wee town as a must-see, so I was quite excited as I rolled into town to see what all the fuss was about.

Fresh Air

The thing that I first remarked when getting settled into Niagara on the Lake was the air – it’s wonderfully refreshing. There’s actually a few experiences I recommend you do to make the most of the lakefront setting:

  • Take a walk to the park at the end of Main Street.  There you’ll find some picnic area and benches with an unspoilt view of Lake Ontario.  It’s wonderful.  (If that’s full, take the side street and head further down the lakefront for more tables).
  • Walk around Fort George.  It’s simple as far as forts go but wonderful just to walk around and imagine what life was one like here.
  • Niagara Parkway: you can rent bikes or just jog and head down Niagara Parkway, the road that heads into Niagara Falls.  There’s a walking/bike trail the entire route.
  • A horse-n-buggy ride.  As you can see above, Niagara on the Lake rolls out the red carpet when it comes to hospitality, so you can’t miss these find steeds in the main intersection.

Main Street

Main Street is where it’s all happening in Niagara.  In the space of a mile (or kilometer, depending on which side of the border you’re from), you’ll find:

  • Coffee and Tea shop
  • Pubs
  • Family-friendly dining
  • Hotels & B&Bs
  • Gift shops
  • Ice cream parlours
  • Grocery
  • City parks

It would be unfair to call out any favorites, given there’s a little bit of everything on main street.  So you need to just walk from one end to the other – which could take a whole afternoon, between food and drink stops and shopping sprees.  You could spend a weekend just exploring, which would fly by pretty quickly I am sure.

Theater

Without question, my favorite thing about my time in Niagara On the Lake was enjoying one of the theater productions put on by the Shaw Festival.  I live in Edinburgh, home to the world’s largest arts festival, so at times I do feel a bit cocooned into thinking there isn’t anything else that comes up to scratch.

Except the Shaw Festival.

I think where the Shaw really excels is their set production.  The plays are wonderful, and the actors even more so – and heck, there are amazing cakes and treats during show intermission – but for me it was the incredible set changes that really blew my mind.  It’s hard to make a set change from a Victorian livinroom to a hair salon scene look effortless, but these guys do it in style.  I’m not a theater expert, but I do feel the Shaw has some of the best design I have ever seen.

Shaw has a few theaters in town, but the box office is in the Shaw Theater at the end of Main Street – pop in anytime to see what’s playing and grab some tickets.

Stay

There’s really only once place to stay in Niagara on the Lake, in my view: Niagara’s Finest.  I was lucky enough to stay in the Charles Inn, one of the most comfortable and tranquil hotel stays ever.  Most rooms have a wonderful sitting veranda where you can relax and enjoy the fresh air, and the rooms come complete with period furnishings, but not over the top.  And their bathroom toiletries are wonderful.

I hate to sound gushing, but I am – really, the Charles Inn must be one of the greatest manor homes in Ontario and it’s a perfect complement to the Niagara on the Lake experience.  Niagara’s Finest owns a couple of properties in town, and I’m sure each is just as wonderful as the Charles Inn, so I highly suggest considering them should you want to plan a stay here.

Getting There

You simply must go to Niagara on the Lake via the Niagara Parkway from Niagara Falls, a windy route that takes you along the gorge that Niagara Falls itself made!  It is simply beautiful and once of the nicest drives in the area.

If you aren’t driving, you can get a taxi for about $30USD from the falls – book through your hotel to get a flat rate and door-to-door service.

Once you’re there, getting around is a breeze – everything is along main street, so just see where your feet take you!

Official Website: www.niagaraonthelake.com

Note: Portions of this trip were sponsored by Province of Ontario Tourism, but the opinions are solely of the author.

Photo Credits: KeithBurtis

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