This Labor Day weekend my husband, and I along with two of my best friends headed out to Niagara On The Lake.  We love it there, and I just wanted to share with all of you why I think it is a great place to escape to for a quick weekend trip!  I went on the air on Monday NewsRadio KDKA 1020am to chat about it with Robert Mangino. I will be posting the broadcast on here soon!

1.  Distance-  On short holidays such as labor day, it pays to plan a trip that is close to town. In my opinion, you sometimes get the most out of your weekend, not by flying, but driving.  Niagara-On-The-Lake is only 4 hours (3 1/2 without stopping, and driving at an accelerated rate 🙂 Grab your passport (yes, you will need it), and head on out.  It is the perfect distance for a long weekend getaway.  Pack some light snacks, an audiobook, or a great new album and take that road trip together.  Some of my favorite trips were my husband and I, chilling in the car listening to some books on tape, and just catching up on our plans.  It allows you to reconnect with your friends and loved ones, rather than stand in line and take off your shoes for the TSA agent.  On this road trip we listened to  Bossypants by Tiny Fey, on audiobook.  It was the perfect length and humor for the ride up and back!

2. Charm-  The town is way too cute for it’s own good.   I have never seen the assortment of flowers anywhere else in the world that they have there lining their streets, they put in so much attention to detail. I had to visit the garden center to figure out what kind of tulips they were growing. I loved them so much!  Take a walk around to the houses, and you will see that the architecture is different for each house, and they pay special attention to the quality of materials they use.  For example, I have never seen so many cool artistic iron fences anywhere else.  Plus, everyone is so nice, and it has such a rich history.  An added bonus is the european feel I get when I am there. There is a blend of all different people from all over the world.  It makes me feel like I have gone further than just the 4 hours.  Accommodations mean that I love staying in a bed and breakfast, all of the houses have their own unique names.  They have stayed away from mainstream places to sleep in order to keep the authenticity of the neighborhood.  You can bike or walk from anywhere near town, and with the lake being in the background, it makes for the perfect setting.

To check out availability for Bed and Breakfasts in the area I use — , and also VBRO if I come with a large group and rent the whole house!


3. Wine- I was going to list this as my number one reason, but didn’t want you to think less of me. HAH. I love great wine, and Ontario is the upcoming place to get some fantastic tastings.  Canada has a lot of restrictions for their wineries.  Unlike California wines who can use different additives to maintain the same consistent tastes, Canadian laws make it stricken forbidden for their wineries to do so.  What you are left with is just what you taste in a bottle, no additives, which is a definite bonus.  I will say, not all of their wines I am a fan of, you have to pick, and choose which is to your specific taste. For example, Ice wine is not my thing, sorry.  I do have some suggestions of my favorite wineries in the area, which I will be posting in my next Top Five, that I love to purchase there so keep checking back!  In the meantime, if you plan a trip here, check out some tours, or rent a bicycle and take your own tour though the different areas, tasting along the way.  It makes for the perfect day. For a list of the wineries in the area.
Some of my favorites from the trip are Vineland Estates, Kew, and Trius.
Vineland Estates and Winery is located near Beamsville, about a 20 minute drive from Niagara on the lake. I cannot recommend it enough.  We ended our night here with a 5 course tasting menu and wine pairing, I also suggest doing this.  The wineries close at 6 in the Bench area, so make your reservations around 6:45-7pm.  We arrived and were treated like kings, the service was spot on, and I was in heaven.  The food was amazing, and the wines they paired with it went perfectly in balance with everything served.  The chef did a wonderful job, and I can’t wait to return.  Here is a sample of what a course looked like.  AMAZING.  Check out their website here for more information about everything they offer.
Kew is a new winery located in Beamsville as well.  Family owned and operated, I would visit here just to check out their house.  It also pays that their wines are delightful as well.  Great Pinots.
4. Food scene-  Downtown Niagara On The Lake has some great places to dine.  Whether you like something simple, or more complex, they will fit the bill.  The cuisine has really started to take form in the past few years. With wineries acting as restaurants as well, it is really neat to be able to have food pairings with them.  They usually have someone on staff that will combine the flavors just right, so you get the ultimate culinary experience.  Downtown, I love to do a walking/eating/drinking stroll along the main street, stopping at places to grab an appetizer, and taste everything they have to offer!  If you want to switch it up, head up to Beamsville and take a stop in Jordon on the way there, there is a great place called Zooma Zooma to grab a bite along the way, then head up to Vineland to eat dinner.  Here is the list of all the restaurants
5. Festivals, Theater, and something for everyone-  Whether you are hitting up the annual Winter Festival of Lights, New Vintage Festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, Niagara International Chamber Music Festival, Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, Peach Festival, or The Shaw Festival (Theater devoted to the works of George Bernard Shaw), among many others, the town always keeps you on your toes with something to do.  If you enjoy outdoor activities you can walk, bike, hike, or take to the lake for many activities.  The Butterfly Conservatory will engage everyone from the youngest to the oldest in your party.  Niagara Falls is only a 30 minute drive from town, and makes for the perfect day trip while you are there.  I myself do not like staying in Niagara Falls (a lot of crazy going on), but taking the day trip is worth it.
Something new that caught my eye is this scavenger hunt booklet , which acts as a personal tour guide/walking tour about the history of the town.  It got good reviews, I myself haven’t used it yet.

They also have walking ghost tours for those who want a bit of the macabre added into their history.  Tours runs nightly at 8 or 8:30 depending on the month.  Tickets are $13 for adults.  $5 for kids.

For Events and Festivals in town-

If you want to go wine tasting in style there are many companies to choose from.  This weekend we used NCT Elite Cars.  Our driver Jim was fantastic and went above and beyond to meet our needs.  He even bought us wine glasses to enjoy our champagne along the way.


6. YOUR CASH GOES FARTHER!  I know I said only five reasons, but I had to add this quick one in.  The U.S dollar is still stronger!  I believe right now you receive .09 cents more spending our currency there.  With the Euro being so expensive, it is really nice to be able to save a little bit of cash.  People may not think it makes a big difference, but when you stay in a hotel, or rent a house, or buy that case of wine you are eyeing up, it can save you a couple hundred bucks!  YAY.  Also if yoare coming from Pittsburgh it saves you a ton in tolls, you take 79 most of the way there, and that is free of charge, my friends!

and now a bit of history…

“Niagara-on-the-Lake, often called the loveliest town in Ontario, has a long and distinguished history. Site of the old Neutral Indian village of Onghiara, it was settled at the close of the American Revolution by Loyalists coming to Upper Canada, many of whom had been members of the much feared Butler’s Rangers based during the American Revolution at Fort Niagara, then under British control.

In 1781 the British Government purchased land from the Mississaugas; a strip of land 6 miles wide along the western bank of the Niagara River for “300 suits of clothing”. By 1782, 16 families had become established and had cleared 236 acres. In 1791 part of the military reserve at the mouth of the river was chosen as the future townsite. In 1792, Newark – as it was named by Governor Simcoe, became the first capital of the newly-created colony of Upper Canada, and the legislature met here for five sessions, until Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe moved the capital to York. By 1796, 70 new homes were built, and the town continued to prosper as the economic, administrative and judicial centre for the Niagara Peninsula. The physical appearance of the town, with the exception of the powder magazine at Fort George was virtually erased by the burning of the town by the Americans during the war of 1812.
TODAY, over two hundred years after its founding, Niagara-on-the-Lake hums with a different kind of traffic. Its many attractions include historic sites – Fort George and the Historical Society Museum, the Shaw Festival with its three theatres, the marina, our heritage business district for shopping, golf courses, parks and beautiful farmland, agricultural markets and our world famous Niagara wineries. Come to the many special events held throughout the year! Take a carriage ride through the Old Town, or a jet boat up the Niagara River. A short drive along the scenic Niagara Parkway leads to Queenston Heights and Niagara Falls. Check out the Butterfly Conservatory at the Niagara Parks Commission site. Our town attracts thousands of visitors who stroll the old streets, enjoy the comforts of fine hotels or our charming bed and breakfast homes, dine in our many varied restaurants, and, if even for a little while, journey back in time to a more leisurely time – the age of Niagara-on-the-Lake!”   –
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  • September 2, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve been wanting to go for years and haven’t made it up yet. This just sells it even more.

    • September 2, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      You would love it there. Seriously, the wine is fantastic.


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