From my first weekend in Niagara on the Lake, I totally fell in love with the quaint, colonial town. While many people may confuse it with its more touristy neighbor Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, Canada couldn’t be more different. This small town is at the heart of Canada’s wine industry, with a unique terrain that allows it to produce a large variety of wines.
Not only is the wine really good, but there’s also an amazing selection of restaurants and farm-to-table cuisine to accompany it. It’s no surprise that NOTL has named Canada’s best food and wine destination in recent years.
With easy access from both Canada and the US, Niagara on the Lake is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Whether you’re looking for a girls’ weekend or couples trip (or even somewhere to visit with kids,) there’s something for everyone.
Keep reading for our tips on when to visit, where to stay, and what to do in Niagara on the Lake.
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Getting to NOTL, Ontario
We’re lucky enough to be able to drive to Niagara on the Lake from Pittsburgh. The drive is about 4 hours depending on traffic, which makes NOTL a perfect weekend trip from Pittsburgh. If you’re flying, luckily you have a few options. Niagara-on-the-Lake is within driving distance from both the Buffalo, New York and Toronto airports. The drive to NOTL is approximately 40 miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport and 80 miles from the Toronto Pierson International Airport.
Keep in mind that Niagara on the Lake is in Canada, right over the border. So you will need a passport or passport card to get there if you’re traveling from the United States.
When to Visit Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
Niagara on the Lake is locatedTo date, I’ve been to the region in December, February and May. While the snow-covered town is charming in February for Valentine’s Day, my favorite time to visit by far has been May. The flowers are in bloom and it’s generally warm enough to spend time outdoors and properly enjoy the gorgeous vineyards in NOTL. My Mom and I went for Mother’s Day weekend trip a few years back, and it was seriously the best way to experience the area.
Planning to visit Niagara on the Lake during the winter months? Just be aware that the region can experience heavy lake effect snows. Make sure you check the weather forecast first to make sure you’re prepared!
Niagara on the Lake’s Signature Events
NOTL offers a few amazing signature food and wine pairing events throughout the year. My husband and I went to the Days of Wine and Chocolate in February one year. I also went with my mom to the Sip and Sizzle Niagara on the Lake, NOTL’s place during May. These signature events at the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake are one of my favorite things about the area. For a reasonably priced ticket, you can sample food and wine at over 20+ wineries around the area. Each event takes place during a specific month, and the food and wine pairings are available at participating wineries throughout the month.
I’d recommend purchasing tickets in advance if you chose to attend, keeping in mind that one ticket can be used for each event’s duration. (This is great for those of you who are close enough to go more than once during the month!) For more information on purchasing tickets for one of Niagara’s wine tasting events, see here.
Where to Stay in Niagara on the Lake
One of the best places to stay in Niagara on the Lake is the Post House Inn. This adorable, boutique style Niagara on the Lake bed and breakfast is perfectly situated in the middle of town. The building dates back to 1835 and it’s maintained a lot of the decor and charm to go with that. I stayed there with my Mom for our mother-daughter trip on Mother’s Day weekend.
The 2-bedroom Postmaster Suite couldn’t have been more perfect for us. The Post House Inn also offers modern amenities including a swimming pool for the summer months. The breakfast offered was amazing, and the Inn also offers snacks throughout the day.
Note: The Post House Inn caters toward adults, and therefore children under 12 are not permitted to stay there. Save this one for a girls’ weekend in Niagara on the Lake or couples getaway!
To book the Post House Inn Niagara on the Lake B&B, head here.
Looking for a Family Friendly Hotel?
The Hilton Garden Inn Niagara-on-the-Lake is another for a weekend in Niagara on the Lake, whether you’re visiting with kids or not. We stayed loved the indoor pool and close proximity to the Niagara outlets.
While it’s not right in town, it’s easy to get to and is right off the highway. This makes it a great hotel option for accessing Toronto and/or Niagara Falls. (Ideal if you want to do some sightseeing in the surrounding area while visiting Niagara on the Lake.) Plus you can’t beat the nightly rates at the Hilton Garden Inn in NOTL.
For additional Niagara on the Lake bed & breakfast or hotel options, you can search here.
The Best Wineries in Niagara on the Lake
With over 25 wineries and a variety of grapes, you could spend a whole week exploring the NOTL wineries alone. During my first visit, I couldn’t believe the diversity of the wines available and how full bodied and flavorful they were. I honestly had no idea that wine in Ontario, Canada could be that good!
One of my favorite things about Niagara on the Lake is the diversity of the wineries. Each has it’s own unique appearance, approach to wine making and back story. Below are a handful of some of the best wineries to visit in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. Our personal list of top wineries is in Niagara on the Lake is based on a combination of the vineyards, the overall experience, and of course, the wine.
Personally, I find it very hard to pick the best winery in Niagara on the Lake since they’re all so different. You really can’t go wrong with any of them, though. Each winery in NOTL offers an experience just as special as the wine.
Our Favorite Wineries
- Chateau des Charmes: Just as classy as the name sounds, this winery is at the start of Niagara-on-the-Lake and is a great way to begin your wine tour. Try the rosé if you’re there in the warmer months!
- Konzelmann Estate Winery: This is a beautiful lakefront estate with German influence and is known for it’s fruity Merlot.
- Jackson-Triggs Estate Winery Known for the Pinot Noir and a selection of other wines made in one of the most advanced, state of the art winemaking facilities.
- Inniskillin: One of the oldest wineries in NOTL that’s known for its ice wine.
- Keller Estate: This winery has a beautiful setting with great outdoor seating and crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc.
- Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery: This organic winery is set on a beautiful farm with a great Cab Franc. It also boasts one of the best winery restaurants in Niagara on the Lake, along with a shop as well.
- Reif Estate Winery: Reif is one of the founding wineries in NOTL with a deep history in wine making out of Germany. They make a variety of wines, from full bodied reds to ice wine.
- Southbrook Organic Vineyards: One of the most unique, organic Niagara on the Lake vineyards, along with a LEED® Gold-certified building to accompany it. We enjoyed both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay here.
- Stratus Vineyards: The modern, cube-like building alone sets it apart. Stratus is known for its assemblage wines (i.e. blends. It’s also one of the only vineyards in the world that doesn’t use a pump to transport its wines.
- Strewn Winery: Strewn is known for its flagship red blend wine and cabernet sauvignon. Strewn Winery also offers on-side cooking classes and is home to OLiV Restaurant.
- Two Sisters Vineyard: Another beautiful estate with a great story behind it, named for the two sisters who founded it. There’s an expansive boutique and onsite restaurant to pair with the great wine.
There are also a few new wineries that have opened in Niagara-on-the-Lake since our last trip. The Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery is one that is high on our list for the next trip!
The Best Way to Tour the Wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake
To date, we’ve done self-guided tours of the wineries at Niagara-on-the-Lake. While we enjoy going at our own pace, keep in mind that the wineries are fairly spread out. So someone will need to drive unless you ride bikes. (We did this one year for Mother’s Day in NOTL and it was so fun!)
I highly recommend printing out a map and planning your route in advance. This NOTL wineries map has been super helpful during each of our trips to this Ontario wine region. If you want a guided tour, GetYourGuide offers Niagara on the Lake wine tours with great reviews.
To book a Niagara on the Lake wine tour, head here.
Planning to bring wine home with you after a winery tour? We love these packing bags for wine bottles.
Additional Niagara on the Lake Things to Do
If you’re visiting Niagara on the Lake with kids or (gasp!) need a break from drinking wine, you’re in luck! There are so many other great things to do in this picturesque town. We’ve included a few ideas for things to do in Niagara on the Lake below. With Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Toronto all being closed to NOTL as well, you can easily combine the locations for a week-long vacation.
- Rent a bike to explore NOTL. Zoom Leisure, is a great place for Niagara on the Lake bike rentals. They offer half and full day rentals as well as Niagara on the Lake bike tours. The bikes even include a handle bar bag, which is the perfect size for a wine bottle or two!
- Golf at one of several courses available. The Niagara on the Lake Golf Club is a public course right in town. It has beautiful views of the water, and it’s also the oldest golf course in North America!)
- Shop at one of the many local shops near Niagara on the Lake Main Street or the Niagara on the Lake Outlets.
- Experience the beauty of nature on the Niagara River Recreation Trail.
- Browse one of several art galleries.
- Tour Fort George and learn about it’s significance during the War of 1812.
- Visit the nearby Niagara Falls, which is a short 15-20 minute drive from NOTL. I haven’t experienced the zipline over Niagara Falls yet, but it’s high on my list!
- Swap the wine for beer and tour a Niagara on the Lake brewery to experience Niagara’s growing craft beer scene.
Go here to check out more things to do near Niagara on the Lake.
The Best Niagara on the Lake Restaurants
Having done some of Niagara’s food and wine pairing events, we’ve had a chance to sample a lot of great food at many wineries. In addition to the wineries, NOTL offers many great farm-to-table restaurants with innovative cuisines. You could very well spend a weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the food alone! Below a few of our favorite restaurant recommendations in NOTL.
- Lunch on the farm at Ravine Winery’s beautiful covered patio (and be sure to get the charcuterie board pictured above!)
- Dinner at Treadwell for an innovative farm-to-table meal in a cozy setting, accompanied by local wines.
- Dinner and/or drinks at the Old Winery Restaurant for Tuscany inspired food and live music.
- Tapas at OLiV Restaurant, located at Strewn Winery.
- Niagara on the Lake Golf Course Restaurant for breakfast or a casual meal with amazing views.
If Niagara-on-the-Lake wasn’t previously on your radar as a great wine-taring destination, it definitely should be! Whether you’re looking for a fun new girls weekend idea, a relaxing couple’s trip or a picturesque town to enjoy with the whole family, Niagara on the Lake is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
Looking for more ideas on couples trips or girls’ weekend getaways? Check out our page on kid free trips.
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