The mere mention of Niagara conjures images of its eponymous waterfalls. Wine likely comes to mind soon after, given the region is the birthplace of the modern Ontario wine industry.
Both a visit to Niagara Falls and a drive along the wine route are musts, but there’s more than tourist attractions and tasting rooms to this region, which includes 12 municipalities boasting bucolic scenes and energetic cities. Playing tourist in Niagara also doesn’t lose any appeal come winter—the stark beauty of ruler-straight rows of grapevines under a snowy sky, or boulders draped in layers of ice at the base of the American Falls, are something to behold.
Morning Start the day over croissants and conversation at one of the B&Bs on Niagara Falls’ River Road, a stretch of the scenic Niagara Parkway. Then slip on some winter boots for a stroll along the parkway toward the thundering American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The winter scenery is spectacular as mist from the falls coats everything in thick frost. Later, hop on the WEGO bus system and head to the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, where the warm, humid air, lush foliage and exotic insects provide a tropical respite.
Afternoon Take the WEGO to Table Rock Centre, where you can explore the shops then lunch at Elements on the Falls restaurant, which overlooks the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. Afterward, get a bird’s-eye view of the churning Niagara River on a helicopter tour with Niagara Helicopters.
Evening Enjoy dinner at AG Inspired Cuisine, where executive chef Cory Linkson makes regional and seasonal the focus of his culinary creations.
Morning Check out the peninsula’s lesser-known southern tier, starting with a visit to the village of Ridgeway, 30 minutes south of Niagara Falls. Browse the independent boutiques along Ridge Road North, then stop in at the very cool Brimstone Brewing Co. located in the basement of a former church.
Afternoon Next, head 20 minutes west to Port Colborne at the Lake Erie terminus of the Welland Canal. Walk along the canal on historic West Street, where you’ll see tugboats moored along the lock. Lunch on Lake Erie fish at the casual Walter’s and Neptune’s Restaurant, then check out the neighbouring shops.
Evening For dinner, reserve a booth at the popular The Smokin’ Buddha restaurant in Port Colborne’s former train station. The globally inspired menu features many highlights, but try the pad Thai for a salty, sour-and-spicy kick. After your meal, check into the elegant Talwood Manor B&B for a restful night.
Morning Head north to Jordan to connect with the Niagara Wine Route. Check in at the lovely Inn on the Twenty, named for the nearby Twenty Mile Creek, then visit the on-site spa for a massage. When you’re all loosened up, set out with Niagara’s Designated Drivers on a custom tour of wineries in the Twenty Valley area.
Afternoon Start with a three-course lunch with wine pairings and a view of Lake Ontario at Vineland Estates Winery, one of the original winery restaurants in the region. Then close your eyes and point to a map of the wine route to choose the next stop on the tour—Featherstone, Malivoire and The Good Earth are some standouts.
Evening Delight in one more wine country meal at Beamsville’s new Redstone Winery. The pet project of Niagara winemaker Moray Tawse, this winery is named for the colour of soil in its vineyard and loved locally for its conviviality. Linger over dessert before calling it a night.