Experience the "Niagara-on-the-Lake Effect" with These 6 Delightful Attractions
Charming Countryside and Historic Streets
While Niagara Falls is an icon when it comes to Canadian tourist destinations, the neighboring town of Niagara-on-the-Lake should not be overlooked. Where Niagara Falls is bright lights and wild attractions, Niagara-on-the-Lake is peaceful scenery and enriching experiences.
Take a dreamy drive around the surrounding countryside, seeking out pastoral views of vineyards and farms before strolling down the storied streets of the downtown core, soaking up history with every step.
Although originally named Butlersburg, the town was renamed Newark and became the capital of the province of Upper Canada in 1791. This was only the beginning of the area’s rich history. It was the site of many important battles during the War of 1812 and acted as a refuge to slaves fleeing the United States via the Underground Railroad.
While this history is well-commemorated in present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake through historic sites and monuments, the overall vibe of the community hints of none of the bloodshed and destruction that took place here so many years ago. Today Niagara-on-the-Lake is a town best enjoyed on a breezy summer day, when you’re looking for more laid-back pursuits to enjoy.
The following things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake will ensure you keep your mind, taste-buds and legs engaged as you explore all this beautiful area has to offer.
Fort George National Historic Site
Overlooking the Niagara River, you couldn’t pick a lovelier spot to spend an afternoon than Fort George National Historic Site. But, unsurprisingly, the natural beauty of the area wasn’t why it was selected by the British Army in 1796 as the site of a military fort. The American Fort Niagara was located right across the river, making this an ideal spot for British soldiers to secure Upper Canada.
Completed in 1802, Fort George was put to use during the War of 1812, serving as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army. It was here that the famous Sir General Isaac Brock served until his death at the Battle of Queenston Heights.
During the Battle of Fort George in May 1813, American artillery bombardment destroyed nearly every building within the fort. The Americans then invaded the fort, forcing British soldiers to retreat to Burlington Heights. In December of the same year, the fort was retaken by the British after the Americans abandoned the British side of the river.
While the Americans and British both undertook reconstruction efforts during their tenure, the fort was restored to its pre-1812 appearance in 1930 and today continues to be maintained as it was during the early 19th century.
During your visit to Fort George you can tour buildings such as the blockhouses, officers’ quarters, artificer’s shop, guard house and powder magazine — the only building that survived the American bombardment during the Battle of Fort George, and what is the oldest military building in Ontario and oldest building in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
You’ll also be able to witness musket and artillery demonstrations that display the tactics of the British Army during the War of 1812, listen to music from the 18th and early 19th century performed by the 41st Regiment Fife and Drum Corps as they parade around the fort, and taste fresh baked goods made in the fort’s period kitchen.
- December 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019: Noon to 4 p.m., weekends only
- April 1, 2019 to April 30, 2019: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends only
- May 1, 2019 to October 31, 2019: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily
- November 1, 2019 to November 30, 2019: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends only
- Adults: $11.70 CAD
- Seniors: $10.05 CAD
- Youth (17 and under): free
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Laura Secord Homestead
You may be familiar with Laura Secord Chocolates, but do you know the story behind the company’s namesake? No, it doesn’t have anything to do with confections. In 1813, during the War of 1812, Americans had largely gained control of the region known as Queenston, now known as the Niagara Peninsula. It was here that Laura Secord and her husband, James, lived.
In June that year, some American officers visited the Secords’ home and requested dinner. Laura overheard the officers discussing the American troops’ plan to attack the British outpost at DeCew House. The Secords knew Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, who was in charge of the outpost, must be warned of the attack, else the American’s control over the Niagara Peninsula become further cemented.
James had been injured in an earlier battle and was unable to walk, so Laura departed at dawn the next day and spent 18 hours walking the 32 kilometers to DeCew House to deliver the message. As a result, Native and British troops (though the British arrived later to the battle) were able to intercept American forces and secure their surrender at the Battle of Beaver Dams.
You can visit the Laura Secord Homestead, restored to the way it was during her tenure there, and learn more about her life and role in the War of 1812. You’ll be able to interact with knowledgeable tour guides and see exactly where she started her perilous journey.
- May to October: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily
- Adults: $9.73 CAD
- Children (6 to 12 years): $6.42 CAD
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Niagara has become internationally known as a superb wine region. Niagara-on-the-Lake in particular is the place to visit if you want to enjoy some exquisite food and drink, as 25 wineries can be found in the beautiful countryside of this area.
There are many options available to you, depending on the amount of time you want to devote to exploring vineyards. You can easily create your own itinerary and visit a few wineries all in the same day. Or you can book a tour with a company that will shuttle you around to various wineries — sometimes you’ll even get around by bicycle! Tours may include anything from tastings to meals to tours of the grounds to overnight stays.
Here are some great options for wine tour companies:
When it comes to creating your own itinerary, here are some of the best wineries in the region: