Home Canada Best Things to Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake – Weekend Itinerary 

Best Things to Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake – Weekend Itinerary 

by Valerie Vanr

The picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the most beautiful destinations in Ontario, is the perfect weekend getaway.

We’ve got the best Niagara-on-the-Lake experiences, as we’ve visited every summer for over 20 years.

Enjoy our Ultimate Guide to all of the best attractions, activities and tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

10 Best Things To Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake

In this comprehensive guide we’ve documented dozens of activities and places to see. Nevertheless, be sure to include these 10 must sees on your visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

  1. Stroll picturesque and historic Old Town.
  2. Do a wine tasting at one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Wineries.
  3. Enjoy live theatre at the Shaw Festival.
  4. Explore downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake’s unique Shopping and Eateries.
  5. Visit historic Fort George.
  6. Experience Afternoon Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel.
  7. Golf at Canada’s oldest Golf Course.
  8. Ride a Jet Boat down the Niagara River.
  9. Go biking in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  10. Climb Brock’s Monument at Queenston Heights Park.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Attractions Map

Niagara-on-the-Lake Old Town map with stars noting attractions
Click on the map for an interactive version.

The Ontario Town of “Niagara on the Lake” (often shortened to NOTL by locals) is roughly bound by Lake Ontario to the north, Niagara River to the east, Highways 405/QEW to the south and the Welland Canal to the west.  The town has four main villages.  Old Town, located where the Niagara River enters Lake Ontario, is the village most people call Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Queenston sits in NOTL’s southeast corner.  St. Davids is halfway along the southern border and Virgil is, more or less, in the middle of the town.

In this article we cover the major attractions in both Old Town and Queenston.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Weekend – The Perfect Itinerary

Niagara-on-the-Lake is an easy day trip from Toronto.  You could spend just one day. We recommend at least a weekend to enjoy everything this beautiful town has to offer.  Here is our recommended itinerary.

Wineries at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is the largest wine-producing area in the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario’s oldest wine appellation.  Niagara wines, and especially its ice wines, are world famous.  Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to many award-winning wineries and small craft wineries as well.

A wine tasting tour is a great way to spend a relaxing day.  With more than 30 wineries in the area, the hardest part is choosing which ones to visit.

The Hare Wine Company

Shaw Festival

The Shaw is one of North America’s finest cultural attractions.  The festival presents a number of productions annually from March to December with the bulk between May and October.  Check the Shaw Festival tickets webpage for the full schedule and ticket information.  The festival produces works by Shaw himself and by others about his era (1856 to 1950).  Unique, inspiring and thought-provoking theatre is always on the schedule.

Fountain with George Bernard Shaw statue outside Shaw Cafe Niagara-on-the-Lake
Find this statue of George Bernard Shaw, the playwright at the heart of the Shaw Festival, in front of the Shaw Café and Wine Bar.

HISTORY:  In 1962, four performances each of two plays were done at the Niagara District Court House Theatre to rave reviews.  This success led to the founding of the Shaw Festival Theatre Foundation the following year.  The Festival Theatre building opened in 1973 making large scale productions possible and luring acclaimed directors and world-renowned actors.  The downtown Royal George Theatre was added as another venue for Shaw performances in 1980.  Thirty years after opening the Festival Theatre, construction of the Donald and Elaine Triggs Production Centre began.  Opened in 2009, it houses three rehearsal halls, the largest of which also serves as the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, replacing the Court House as a performance venue.  Outdoor performances are also held on the lawn behind the Festival Theatre.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Old Town

The historic Old Town is located in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Enjoy a walk along flower-lined Queen Street, the centre of the business district, and do some shopping.  Heritage buildings house one-of-a-kind merchandise and lots of tasty treats in an area about three blocks long.  Benches are strategically placed for relaxing and people watching beside planters overflowing with flowers. 

Stunning boulevard flowerbeds Niagara-on-the-Lake Old Town hotel in background
Each year, the town’s gardeners cultivate hundreds of floral baskets and planters, making NOTL one of the prettiest towns to visit.

Afternoon Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel

Afternoon Tea (sometimes referred to as High Tea) is a tradition that became popular in Britain in the 1800s.  With dinner later in the evening, a light lunch was served to bridge the gap in time before dinner.

Book your reservation for seating in the Drawing Room of the Prince of Wales Hotel.  Sitting in this historic tea room makes this tradition even more special. 

With your tea, enjoy the pastries and fancy sandwiches.  The scones were our personal favourites.

Two-tiered cake plate teapot teacup and plate High Tea Prince of Wales Hotel
Enjoy traditional afternoon tea with teas, pastries, scones, and tiny sandwiches.
Andy enjoying afternoon tea in Prince of Wales Hotel
We enjoyed afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel.

HISTORY:  This stunning hotel at the corner of Queen and King Streets was built in 1864.  It was renamed the Prince of Wales Hotel after the Duke and Duchess of York visited in 1901.  The hotel has been renovated many times over the years.  Today it looks much like it did when it was first built, with its Victorian appearance preserved both outside and inside.  Stunning pieces of art hang throughout the hotel. 

Heritage District – Self-Guided Walking Tour

The streets of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Heritage District, a 6 block by 4 block area, retain the original grid layout of the late 1700s town.  The district has some of Canada’s best preserved buildings built between 1815 and 1859.  

This self-guided walk is about 2.1 kilometres and takes about 40 minutes to walk without any stops.  The tour begins and ends at the corner of Queen and King Streets.  Time your walk to arrive back at the Prince of Wales Hotel (on the south corner of the intersection) for your afternoon tea reservation. 

On the north corner of the intersection is a unique museum and national historic site.

Niagara Apothecary

A pharmacy operated from this location from 1869 to 1964.  The building has been restored to its 1860’s appearance.  Inside, see the rows and rows of ingredients and medicines used by pharmacists over a century ago.  Records suggest the building was built as early as the 1820’s and renovated in the 1860s for operation as an apothecary. At its 1964 closure, it was one of the longest, continuously-operating pharmacies in Canada.

One-storey building built in mid-19th century on Queen Street Niagara-on-the-Lake
An apothecary and later a pharmacy operated from this building from the 1860’s to 1964. Today its museum explains the process of creating medicines in the 19th century.
Interior of Niagara Apothecary building Niagara-on-the-Lake shows shelves which held medicines
The Niagara Apothecary Museum displays instruments and ingredients used to make 19th-century medicines.

Walk northwest on Queen Street, toward the Memorial Clock Tower, sitting in the centre of street.  The early-1920’s tower honours residents killed in World War I.  Its chimes are heard throughout Old Town.

On the left side of Queen Street, opposite the clock tower, is the old courthouse.

Niagara District Court House

This national historic site was completed in 1848.  It was designed as a multi-purpose public building and has performed according to this design ever since.  It first housed the district’s court services (courtroom, office and jail) and the town hall.  A public market was held behind the building. 

When the court services moved, the town hall remained and the public library was added.  Between 1962 and 2008, the courtroom was a Shaw Festival theatre.  The stunning three-storey, stone building now houses the local tourism office of the Chamber of Commerce and the Parks Canada office.

3-storey stone former Niagara District Court House cars horse-drawn carriage Niagara-on-the-Lake
The former Niagara District Court House was completed in 1848 and used as a court house until 1862.

The next corner is Regent Street.  One block southwest is a unique art installation at the corner of Regent and Johnson Streets.

Voices of Freedom Memorial

This installation is a permanent memorial honouring and celebrating people of African descent who contributed to the development of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Learn their stories of struggle and resilience and how they helped shape NOTL and Canada.

Human figures of metal surround metal monument in NOTL
Voices of Freedom Memorial Park officially opened in November 2018. It commemorates the town’s black history and introduces figures important to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Back on Queen Street beyond Regent, on the right-hand side, look for the beautiful theatre, a white building trimmed in red.

Royal George Theatre

This building has been a Shaw Festival venue since 1980.  It was first a vaudeville theatre, entertaining World War I soldiers stationed at Butler’s Barracks. Later in 1950’s, it was renovated for use as a movie theatre.

NOTL's Royal George Theatre red marquis window trim 2 story building Queen Street with flowers in front
There is a story that the Royal George Theatre, built in 1915, is haunted by a lady named Nancy Kerr who enjoys messing with Shaw Festival crew members.

The next street is Victoria Street.  Turn right and walk to Front Street.  Turn right and on the left is a lakeside park that stretches almost two blocks to King Street.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Gazebo (at Queen’s Royal Park)

The park has mature trees, a small beach, public restrooms and lots of picnic tables and park benches. 

The park’s pretty gazebo is one of the most popular sites in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  It is often used for formal wedding and engagement photos.

This gazebo was a film set used in Ontario-born David Cronenberg’s 1983 film The Dead Zone.  Built by the filmmaker, it was gifted to the town and has been a popular spot ever since.

Niagara-on-the-Lake's Gazebo in centre of park walking paths picnic grounds around
The pretty gazebo has been in Queen’s Royal Park since 1983. It is a popular place for wedding photos and marriage proposals. Andy’s brother-in-law proposed to his sister here.

Turn right on King Street.  Walk a block and turn left onto Byron Street.

On the right is Simcoe Park.  This large park has huge trees, public restrooms, lots of picnic tables and a swing set. It is a great place to take a break or enjoy a picnic.

St. Mark’s Anglican Church and its cemetery grounds are on the left.  The cemetery is the oldest still in use in Ontario with known burials in the late 18th century. 

St. Mark’s Anglican Church

The oldest church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Mark’s was built in 1805.  The church saw use as a hospital and storehouse by both sides in the War of 1812.  The Americans set fire to it along with the rest of the town during their retreat in 1813 leaving just its stone walls.  It was eventually refurbished and rededicated in 1828.  In the centre of the front of the church, the set of stained glass windows were installed in 1843 when the church was expanded.  They are the oldest stained glass windows west of Quebec.

Byron Street ends at Wellington Street.  Turn right and walk to Picton Street (which is the extension of Queen Street beyond King).

The graveyard of the Catholic Church is to the right.  As with St. Mark’s, this ground was used for burials before the church was built and is the final resting place of many people who helped build this successful small town.

St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church

In 1826, the area’s first permanent Catholic parish was established in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  They moved into their new frame church in 1835 and have used it since then.  The church was restored and enlarged in the 1960s.  This is the oldest, continuously-used, Catholic Church in Ontario.

Walk along Picton Street to King Street and the Prince of Wales Hotel, the end of this self-guided walking tour.

Three story Victoria red brick Prince of Wales Hotel at corner Queen & King Streets NOTL
The beautiful hotel was built in 1864 and named Prince of Wales Hotel in 1901. Treat yourself to afternoon tea in the Drawing Room or a luxurious overnight stay.

HISTORY:  Niagara-on-the-Lake was originally called Butlersberg and Newark.  A British supply depot, it quickly became a destination for Americans loyal to the British crown. By 1792, it was a major military and cultural centre and even the capital of Upper Canada for a few years. Its influential, wealthy citizens built large, grand homes, many of which were destroyed when the town was burned during the War of 1812.  Much of the town was rebuilt in its former classical British style after the war.  The town prospered over the next 30 years but by the 1850s the new Welland Canal had taken much of the lake traffic away from town and it slowly stagnated.  Beginning in the 1950s residents began restoring the town’s century-old structures, reviving buildings of all types: residential, commercial, ecclesiastical and institutional.

There is a lot more history to discover in NOTL, with several museums and historic sites to visit.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museums and Historic Sites

The current town of Niagara-on-the-Lake was the site of many historic events of the War of 1812.  There are eight National Historic Sites of military importance in the area.  Few places in Canada exist with so much history of early Canada within a few kilometres.

Visit a couple of these places to learn about the events of the War of 1812 and more history of the area.

Military fife drum marching band demonstrate Fort George Niagara-on-the-Lake
At Fort George National Historic Site learn how and why the fife and drum were used during battles.

Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake:


Fort George National Historic Site

Walk into Fort George and experience life at the fort over 200 years ago.  Learn about the fort’s role in providing troops to defeat the Americans at the Battle of Queenston Heights.

Path inside Fort George Niagara-on-the-Lake to blockhouses on left and other buildings in back
Many of the buildings at Fort George National Historic Site are open to see inside. There are musket demonstrations, fife and drum corps demonstrations and more. Set aside a few hours for a visit.

Live musket demonstrations explain how the soldiers loaded and fired their muskets during battle. A renowned fife and drum corps perform military music demonstrations explaining the importance of the music during battle.

Fort George is open year-round.  Explore on your own or join a guided tour offered during peak summer months. Tour eight buildings rebuilt to the time of the War of 1812 and one of the original stone powder magazines built in 1796.

Aerial view of Fort George Niagara-on-the-Lake (foreground), Niagara River and New York State (background)
From above, it is very obvious how close the American forces were to Fort George.

HISTORY:  Fort George, built at the entrance to the Niagara River, protected the supply route to the upper Great Lakes and the interior of the continent.  The Americans and Fort Niagara were only about a kilometre away, on the other side of the river.  This was British Army headquarters at the beginning of the War of 1812.

In May 1813, an American force seized Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort George driving the British Army out.  But in December 1813, after only seven months, the Americans abandoned Fort George setting fire to the fort (and the town) as they left.  Designated as a National Historic Site in 1921, the fort was rebuilt during the 1930’s.

Butler’s Barracks National Historic Site

A group of wooden buildings sit behind Fort George, at the edge of the area known as The Commons.  They were built in the 19th century after the War of 1812 to house and train military troops and used to train Canadian Forces until 1965.  While the buildings are seldom open to the public, the area around them is always open.  Take 20 or 30 minutes after a visit to Fort George and wander the area.

Military vehicle in front of gun shed and supplies building Butler's Barracks National Historic Site.
The long, one-storey structure is a gun shed. Military supplies including weapons and ammunition were stored within it. The Commissariat Storehouse is the tall building behind it, an example of an early 19th-century wooden warehouse.

Fort Mississauga National Historic Site

Walk the short, defined path from the corner of Front and Simcoe Streets through the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club’s course to the fort on Mississauga Point.  A plaque provides information about the lighthouse which first occupied the point, also a national historic site. The star-shaped walls of Fort Mississauga remain as well as the tower and two powder magazines within the earthworks.  The site is open year-round, but the tower is permanently closed to the public.

Path leading up to opening in earthworks of Fort Mississauga Niagara-on-the-Lake and tower within
Walk the path through the golf course into the Fort Mississauga National Historic Site. Take the boardwalk further to the Lake Ontario shore.

HISTORY:  The first lighthouse in Upper Canada was built on Mississauga Point in 1804.  Beginning in early 1814, the lighthouse was removed and Fort Mississauga, a star-shaped earthwork was created around a square, central tower. This fort replaced Fort George, destroyed by the retreating Americans in 1813.  With tensions between the British and Americans high, the new fort protected the British side of the Niagara River against Fort Niagara on the American side.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Discover the unique history of Niagara-on-the-Lake through the museum’s collection of over 20,000 artifacts.  The museum offers guided walking tours of the town. Check the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum website for museum hours and information about walking tours and exhibits.

Andy stands in front of the two buildings that make up the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum has been operating for over a century in the same location.

HISTORY:  The museum, operated by the Niagara Historical Society, opened in the local courthouse in 1896.  In 1907 the museum moved to Memorial Hall, at Castlereagh and Davy Streets, which was the first Ontario building designed specifically as a museum.  After WWII, the 1875 high school next door was added to the museum to house and display its continually growing collection.

Queenston Heights Park – National Historic Site

Enjoy the incredible view of the mouth of the Niagara Gorge and the Niagara River from Queenston Heights, the plateau on top of the Niagara Escarpment.  The plateau is at the edge of a 100-metre high cliff face, the result of the Niagara River cutting through the escarpment. 

Historic plaques and monuments at Queenston Heights explain the Battle of Queenston Heights, one of the War of 1812’s most pivotal battles.   The area is one of the best known War of 1812 battlefields.  Learn about the battle, the different groups of fighters among the British force and important Canadian heros in the War of 1812. 

Brock’s Monument

Start your tour of the heights at Brock’s Monument, built in 1856.  It is a memorial to Major General Brock who is buried beneath it.  Displays highlight Brock’s life.  Climb the 56-metre high tower (there are 235 stone steps).  Enjoy the panoramic views of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.

Aerial view of Brock's Monument at Queenston Heights with Niagara River background
The view from Brock’s Monument of the Niagara River is impressive. The top of the monument is about 156 metres above the river.

Landscape of Nations Monument

Nearby, the Landscape of Nations Monument, unveiled in 2016, commemorates the heroism of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) and other Indigenous nations. They fought beside British forces and Canadian militia against the Americans at the Battle of Queenston Heights and throughout the War of 1812.  Prominent statues of Chiefs Brant and Norton, Six Nations War Captains, stand as sentries. Follow the walkway through a symbolic long house, the typical dwelling of the Haudenosaunee people, to the Memory Circle.  Learn about the contributions of the various Nations and the 1815 ceremony of reconciliation between the Indigenous Nations who fought on opposing sides during the war.

Three short limestone slabs of eight radiate like a sunburst from the memory circle at the Landscape of Nations Queenston Heights
Part of the Landscape of Nations Monument commemorates the ceremony of peace and reconciliation held in 1815 between Nations who had fought on opposite sides during the War of 1812.

Queenston Park

Much of the actual battlefield is known as Queenston Park.  Today, with lots of trees and green space, this is a great location for picnics and outdoor fun.  There is a splash-pad, tennis courts, soccer pitches and public restrooms nearby.

HISTORY:  In the early 19th century, the portage route from Lake Ontario around Niagara Falls to Lake Erie was controlled from Queenston Heights.  This high ground was coveted during the War of 1812.  American soldiers quietly rowed across the Niagara River in the early morning of October 13, 1812 and captured the strategic heights from a surprised and outnumbered British force. 

Major General Sir Isaac Brock quickly led a small group from Fort George to retake the heights.  He was killed without recapturing the heights.  Later the same afternoon, a mixture of British regulars, local militia, the Coloured Corps (men of African descent from the Niagara area), Six Nations and Native Allies triumphed.

People in 19th century military uniforms gather at Queenston Heights Park to reenact the famous War of 1812 battle
Re-enactors gathered at Queenston Heights Park to celebrate one of the most important battles of the War of 1812.

Bruce Trail

The Bruce Trail, established in 1960, runs along the Niagara Escarpment between Queenston Heights and Tobermory on Georgian Bay.  A cairn marking the southern terminus is on the east side of the parking lot. The trail, rugged in places, is about 900 kilometres long. A Bruce Trail hike is a great way to see a bit of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Val Andy cairn noting Bruce Trail terminus Queenston Heights Park Niagara
This cairn at Queenston Heights marks the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail, the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada. The trail runs along the Niagara Escarpment for about 900 km.

Willowbank National Historic Site 

Make a quick stop at the beautiful Willowbank Estate and see the stunning, 3.5-storey mansion built in the early 19th century.  It is one of the few remaining examples of the huge temple-like homes built essentially in the wilderness, in 19th-century Upper Canada.  The estate is home to an innovative private college. Students are trained in heritage conservation and sustainability. In addition to serving as a venue for education and innovation, Willowbank often hosts events such as jazz festivals and weddings. 

Andy standing on curved staircase of 3-storey mansion Queenston NOTL
The beautiful mansion on the Willowbank National Historic Site was built in the mid-1830s.

Laura Secord Homestead

Enjoy a guided tour of the Laura Secord house, a simple, frame building, in the heart of Queenston where Laura Secord lived between 1803 and 1835.  Learn about her life and her epic walk during the War of 1812.

HISTORY:  In June 1813, after learning of an impending attach by the Americans, she walked thirty kilometres, behind enemy lines, to warn the British.  That brave walk helped the British win the Battle of Beaver Dams and made her a Canadian heroine.  

Val in front of the gate of the Laura Secord Homestead Queenston
While most Queenston residents had left the area after the Battle of Queenston Heights, the Secords remained on their homestead. Food in the American camps was not plentiful so many troops forced local residents to provide them meals. Laura Secord overheard plans for the Americans to attack a British camp nearby which set in motion her heroic walk.
Low fence surrounds granite monument with oval plaque with Laura Secord image etched Queenston Heights
This monument stands on Queenston Heights honouring Laura Secord’s heroic walk during the War of 1812.

Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum

This beautiful Georgian building was the home of William Lyon Mackenzie in 1823.  The museum displays 500 years of printing technology.  See a working linotype and other heritage presses including a rare wooden Louis Roy Press, the oldest printing press in Canada.

Printing press and wooden multi-tiered type case MacKenzie Printery Queenston
The MacKenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum has a number of working heritage printing presses.

HISTORY:  Mackenzie opened a printing office from his home in Queenston in 1823.  The Colonial Advocate newspaper began shortly after.  Upper Canada’s first independent newspaper, it allowed Mackenzie to express his opinions about political and social reform without censorship.  A year later he moved to Toronto to begin his political career.  His grandson, William Lyon Mackenzie King, is the longest serving Canadian Prime Minister.

McFarland House

Costumed guides conduct tours of the house, located on the Niagara Parkway between Old Town and Queenston.  The McFarland House Conservatory Tea Room has lovely lunch options as well as their famous Afternoon Tea.  The house is open daily between Victoria Day weekend and Labour Day.

Red brick two-storey peaked-roofed building McFarland House Niagara-on-the-Lake
McFarland House was built in 1800 and was used as a hospital by both British and Americans in the War of 1812.

HISTORY:  Built in 1800 by John McFarland, the house is one of the oldest buildings in the area.  It was used as a hospital by both British and Americans in the War of 1812.  McFarland was a prisoner during the war and returned to find his home in very poor repair. The family repaired it and the property remained in the family for a number of generations.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club

Play a round of golf on this full-length, 9-hole golf course on the shore of Lake Ontario at the north end of Simcoe Street, Old Town.

HISTORY:  Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club opened in 1875 hosting North America’s first international tournament. It is North America’s oldest golf course and the fairways remain in their original locations. Greens were moved when holes were lengthened and new bunkers added.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Clubhouse from Hole #1 tee box
The 9-hole Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club is North America’s oldest golf course. Tee off on Hole #1 right in front of the clubhouse.

The course surrounds Fort Mississauga National Historic Site.  The pathway along the south side of Hole #1 allows the public access to the fort. During World Wars I and II, the course was used as a shooting range and some of the current bunkers are remnants of trenches dug for troop training.

Biking in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is perfect for cyclists.  The area is quite flat (with the exception of climbing up the Niagara Escarpment to Queenston Heights).  The concession roads are paved and quiet. Many of the main roads have bike lanes.  One of the best places to bike is the paved recreation trail along the Niagara River between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie.

Niagara River Recreation Trail

The trail for cyclists, walkers and bladders was added beside the road known as the Niagara Parkway in 1986.  With a total length of 56 kilometres, it travels past historical sites, restaurants, and shops including beautiful Horseshoe Falls in the city of Niagara Falls.

Andy and Val cycling the Niagara River Recreation Trail
The paved path runs from Fort George to Fort Erie along the Niagara River. Lots of people enjoy cycling sections of the trail.

The thin green space, recreation trail and parkway along the Niagara River has been maintained by the Niagara Parks Commission since the road was constructed between 1908 and 1931.  This extensive system of green space, trail and parkway is Canada’s second oldest park.  Parking areas with picnic tables are located periodically along the parkway.  Enjoy a picnic and a beautiful view of the river.  

There are over 100 monuments and plaques to see along the Niagara Parkway and Niagara River Recreation Trail.

Living Water Wayside Chapel

This little chapel in Niagara-on-the-Lake is about 72 square feet and looks like a child’s playhouse.  Built in the 1960s, it was moved to its current location at Walker’s Food Market at Line 1 and Niagara Parkway in 2012.

Tiny one-room chapel Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Living Water Wayside Chapel has been outside Walker’s Food Market since 2012.

Floral Clock

While not technically in Niagara-on-the-Lake, this floral clock, located near Queenston Heights, has been a local landmark since 1950. The face of the clock is planted and maintained by Niagara Parks.  The designs are changed twice a year. It is one of the largest floral clocks in the world.  Ontario Power Generation maintains the clock mechanism.  The tower at the back of the clock houses the chime mechanism which plays the Westminster chimes every 15 minutes. If the door to the tower is open, take a look at the clockworks and photographs of many of the face designs created over the years.

Several people in front of Niagara Floral Clock face with cut-outs of human hands at the number positions.
The floral display on the face of the Niagara Floral Clock is changed twice a year. The clock face is 12 metres in diameter.

Where to Rent Bikes in Niagara-on-the-Lake

If you need to rent a bike to enjoy all of the sites along the Recreational Trail, these are 4 local operators who rent bicycles.

  • Zoom Leisure Bikes has two ways for you to get a bike.  For a half or full day rental, visit their storefront located at 431 Mississagua Street.  Alternatively, you can grab a bike from one of their many bike share locations in the area.
  • Vine Vela offer very reasonable daily rentals at their 5 Henegan Road location. They also conduct bike tours.
  • Grape Escape Wine Tours offer popular wine bike tours, but you can also just rent bikes and explore on your own.
  • eBike Niagara offers a less strenuous option with their electric pedal assist bikes.  Check out their store at 1582 Niagara Stone Rd in Virgil.
Lime green bikes Zoom Bikeshare stand Niagara-on-the-Lake
There are a number of stations in Zoom Leisure’s Bikes Niagara-on-the-Lake bikeshare network.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Tours

There are a number of tour operators in Niagara-on-the-Lake ready to help you explore the area. Here are our 3 favourite tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Jet Boat Tours

Take a thrilling ride on the whitewater rapids of the Niagara River with Whirlpool Jet Boats. Travel through Class 5 rapids on your way to the Niagara Whirlpool.

These jet boats are the only vessels that are licensed to operate in the Niagara River’s white water.  Covered and uncovered boats are available.  We decided to go roofless since getting wet is half the fun.

Yellow jet boat from Whirlpool Jet boats flies through the water of the Niagara River.
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours offer thrilling rides up the Niagara River.
Pink open-air jet boat fully loaded with passengers wearing orange life vests ready to ride Niagara River
The Jet Boat Tours of the Niagara River are very popular. Prepare for a fun, wet ride!

The jet boats depart from the Queenston docks.  Check the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours website for more details.

Ghost Tours of Niagara-on-the-Lake

We took the Ghost Tour of Fort George.  Fort George is regarded as one of the most haunted spots in Canada.  The fort’s history makes it ripe for attracting spirits and apparitions and just great stories.  This is a fun tour operated by The Friends of Fort George.

Black-caped guide with lantern on path by buildings on Fort George Ghost Tour
Take a different type of Fort George tour and learn about its numerous ghosts and spirits and weird happenings.

There is also a Ghost walk in Niagara-on-the-Lake which through several haunted, historical buildings, such as the Olde Angel Inn and the Royal George Theatre. 

Niagara-on-the-Lake Horse Carriage Rides

Sentineal Carriage Rides provide private guided tours by horse-drawn carriage through the Historic District of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Tours depart from the Prince of Wales Hotel.

Two tuxedoed-people ride a decorated open carriage pulled by one horse Niagara-on-the-Lake
Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Old Town.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Art Galleries

There are a number of unique art galleries in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Enjoy checking out these galleries.

Art GalleryKnown for
Niagara Pumphouse Arts CentreExhibitions and special events.
RiverBrink Art MuseumArt collector Samuel E. Weir’s collection along with many other works of Canadian art.
Edward Spera GalleryOriginal wildlife paintings by artist Edward Spera
King Street GalleryOriginal works by Canadian artists showcased in one of the oldest buildings in town
Ronald Boaks GalleryMany paintings, sculptures, painted vases for purchase
Outside Niagara-on-the-Lake art galleries top red brick RiverBrink Art Museum, left Niagara Pumphouse red brick century building, right Edward Spera Gallery storefront Old Town
These are just three of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s excellent galleries. Clockwise: RiverBrink Art Museum (Queenston), Edward Spera Gallery (Old Town), Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre (Old Town)

Niagara-on-the-Lake Shopping

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s shops and specialty stores offer visitors some unique shopping destinations.  These are a few of the noteworthy shops.

  • Just Christmas.  Canada’s oldest Christmas store opened on Queen Street in 1985.  Open year-round, there are thousands of different Christmas items from the traditional to the modern. It’s in the heritage building, known as the Sherlock Block, right next to the courthouse.
  • Maple Leaf Fudge.  This is always a MUST stop when we visit town.  Maple Leaf Fudge has been making fudge in many flavours on Queen Street since 1978. They still make it in the copper kettles and marble slabs where you can see it (and smell it) when you walk in the door. Their brittles are yummy too. Can’t decide on a flavour?  Buy them all and put them in the freezer at home.  Freezing keeps that homemade freshness for over a year.
  • COWS Niagara-On-The-Lake.  For a fantastic ice cream treat, head to the COWS ice cream parlour, just three doors down from the Christmas store. This Canadian company, based in PEI, has been making ice cream and creating unique “cow-themed” merchandise since 1983.
  • NEOB Lavender.  Their downtown shop sells an array of lavender products and essential oils.  You’ll soon be able to wander the beautiful lavender paths and flower gardens at their farm at 933 Niagara Stone Road.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Old Town shops top left Andy Maple Leaf Fudge storefront right Just Christmas' ornaments bottom left cow sculpture inside COWS
Among Old Town’s unique shops are Maple Leaf Fudge, Just Christmas and COWS (clockwise from top left).

Niagara-on-the-Lake Pubs and Breweries

For a pint and great casual food, check out theses popular pubs and breweries in NOTL.

Pub/BreweryKnown for
Olde Angel InnOntario’s oldest inn.  Enjoy live entertainment in this English-style pub.
The Irish Harp Pub   Great food, great beer and old-fashioned Irish “craic”
Silversmith Brewing CompanyEnjoy a pint in this former church
Niagara Oast House BrewersA lively outdoor patio in the summer
The Exchange BreweryTwo-floor brewery, serving quality craft beers
Butler’s Bar and GrillA go-to local spot for traditional pub fare

Find time to drop into the Olde Angel Inn.  Located right in the middle of town, the pub has got a great atmosphere with live music.

Established in 1789, this English-style pub is connected to Ontario’s oldest operating inn.  Legend has it that in 1813, a Canadian militia officer was killed by American soldiers as he went to meet his lover in the Inn. His ghost is thought to walk the halls at night, longing for his sweetheart. He is considered to be harmless as long as the British flag flies over the Inn.

Enjoy a pint in this lively pub.

Four Niagara-on-the-Lake pubs and breweries: 2-storey Irish Harp Pub, Andy front of Exchange Brewery, Andy looking at Angel Inn sign, Andy outside Niagara Oast House Brewers
Niagara-on-the-Lake has many excellent pubs and breweries. This is a small selection (clockwise from top left): Irish Harp Pub, Exchange Brewery, Olde Angel Inn, Niagara Oast House Brewers

Niagara-on-the-Lake Restaurants

For more formal dinner options, check out these popular fine dining restaurants.

RestaurantKnown for
Tiara Restaurant (at Queens Landing Hotel)Fine dining and award-winning wines
Treadwell CuisineFarm-to-table philosophy of seasonality and sustainability
The Old Winery RestaurantFresh Mediterranean Cuisine inspired by the Tuscan countryside
Cannery Restaurant (at Pillar and Post)Generous portions that allow local Niagara-on-the-Lake ingredients to shine
Zees GrillClassic nostalgic food updated with a whimsical twist

Outside of town, several of wineries offer fine dining, including Trius Winery and Peller Estates.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Accommodations

Looking for a hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake?  Check out these great options.

3-storey colonaded front of Queen's Landing Hotel Niagara-on-the-Lake
We enjoyed our stay at NOTL’s Queen’s Landing.
Book shelves line walls of NOTL's Queen's Landing Hotel Library
Enjoy some relaxing quiet time in the library at the Queen’s Landing.

What is the Best Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake?

On a weekend getaway from the big, noisy city, there’s nothing better giving yourself a relaxing ‘spa day’.  Several hotels in the area have excellent spa services.

Here are 5 of the most popular Spas in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

SpaKnown for
124 on Queen Hotel and Spa12,000-square-foot facility with traditional spa services, plus Canada’s first “snow room”!
100 Fountain Spa (at Pillar and Post)Hot tubs, pools and an extensive menu of spa services
Secret Garden Spa (at Prince of Wales)Full service with skilled specialists for all your spa treatments.
The Spa at White OaksBlissful treatments at this invigorating spa experience
Ospa (at Oban Inn)Soothing and personalized at this celebrated wellness retreat

Niagara-on-the-Lake Festivals

Niagara-on-the-Lake has lots of festivals that bring the crowds to town.  Here are some of the most popular festivals.

  • Niagara Icewine Festival (January)
    Dedicated to the sweet dessert wine made from grapes allowed to freeze on their vines, the region comes alive for this three week festival.
  • Spring Sparkles Festival (April)
    Celebrate the 100% Ontario VQA Sparkling wines produced in the region.
  • Niagara Home Grown Wine Festival (June)
    Experience viniculture in Niagara over a full week with special events at many of the area’s wineries.
  • Grape & Wine Fall Festival (September) 
    Celebrate harvest time at Canada’s largest wine festival across the entire Niagara region.
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake Peach Festival (August).
    Celebrate NOTL’s agricultural roots and its bounty for a weekend in mid-August. On festival weekend, wander downtown along Queen Street to enjoy fresh pies, preserves and all things peach!

Know Before You Go

How do I get to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Toronto?

Directions By car:  

Take the Gardiner Expressway West to the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW).  Continue west on the QEW/ON-403.  Keep left at the fork to continue on QEW, following signs for E Hamilton/Niagara/Ft Erie. Take Regional Rd 89/Glendale Avenue exit. You are now in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. To reach Old Town, drive north on Regional Rd 89 and turn right onto the ramp to Airport Rd/Regional Rd 90. The road ends at the Airport. Turn right onto Niagara Stone Rd/Regional Road 55 which takes you through Virgil to Old Town.

By public transit:

GO Transit offers daily train and bus service between Toronto and the Niagara Falls GO Station year round. 

Unfortunately, there is NOT a direct Go Train to Niagara-on-the-Lake or bus to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Niagara Parks’ hop-on hop-off WEGO bus services the GO station.  Take the bus from the station and explore the 56-kilometre long Niagara Parkway and all the Niagara attractions.  A Niagara-on-the-Lake shuttle carries passengers from the Butterfly Conservatory to Fort George in Old Town.

For more information on how to use transit in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake, check the Niagara Parks website or the GO Transit website.

What is the Best time of the year to Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake

The best time of year for visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake is in the summer, as this provides the widest range of activities.  Shops are open year-round as are many restaurants, wineries, breweries and accommodations.  National historic sites and museums adjust their hours in the off season, but often close completely.

What is there to do in Winter or at Christmas in Niagara-on-the-Lake?

There are a number of events and activities during the winter months in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Most of the businesses in Old Town are open, though weekday hours may be reduced.  Old Town’s downtown is dressed to the nines during the holiday season.  Enjoy the vibes of a Victoria Christmas.   

Early in the season enjoy the annual holiday Candlelight Stroll through the streets of Old Town.  Candles are sold in support of local charities.  The stroll begins at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Court House ( 26 Queen St). 

Two photos Niagara-on-the-Lake Candlelight walk through Old Town, Andy and Val and Christmas carol singers
In December visit Old Town and enjoy a candlelight walk through the streets.

The Shaw Festival has a Holiday Season program in November up to Christmas.  The theater season reopens in March.

Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries have lots of events during the Niagara Icewine Festival held the last 2 weeks of January.  The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake hold a Chocolate & Cheese touring pass program Fridays through Sundays in February.

Enjoy the skating rink at Wayne Gretzky Estates in Virgil.

Is there a Beach at Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Niagara-on-the-Lake is not known for its beaches and there are no life-guarded beaches in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  The few small beaches are strictly swim at your own risk.  

The shallow beach at Queen’s Royal Park is the best option for families with children.

Visit Niagara Falls

After your weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake, continue your vacation with a visit to Niagara Falls, just down the parkway.  In addition to the famous waterfall itself, there’s so much more to see and do.

Check out our article 2 Days in Niagara Falls to discover all of the best things to do in Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls Table Rock park people

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