There is a hidden jewel of a town in Ontario that everyone must travel to, but be warned, it is an experience like no other. It is the celebrated Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) town that is so delightful and stunning, that it is comparable to stepping back in time into the 1998 Hollywood fantasy comedy-drama film named, ‘Pleasantville’. The movie story centers on two characters who wind up trapped in a 1950s TV show, set in a small quaint town, where residents are seemingly perfect. The town is idyllic. The weather always seems to be faultless. And the streets are clean, flowers are fully bloomed, and life is picture-perfect. The Niagara-on-the-Lake village offers the exact same magnetism and exudes the values and romance of days gone by. You will love it.
While Niagara-on-the-Lake is world renowned for its live stage plays anchored by the hilarious writings and genius wit of Noble Prize-winning playwright George Bernard Shaw, the famed Shaw Festival offers far more variety today to entertain the theatre-going public, including drama, farce, and suspense. So, visiting NOTL demands a visit to the theatre. Some of the plays that I have seen there have been spectacularly staged and powerfully delivered. And going to an afternoon matinee in casual attire is perfectly acceptable. So, it works well for the campers not keen to be overly dressed while on vacation.
As the region evolved, a new industry sprung up to tease the RV campers from the comfort of their campsites to venture out and discover the area. The Niagara wine industry has matured to be a potential contender as a world class source for the nectar of the gods.
The Niagara icewines have already succeeded in carving out a global niche market that is second to none. They should be tried and enjoyed. Wine tastings and tours might be a summer pastime, but when it comes to icewines, think fall. So, NOTL can be an ideal fall destination too, right into Thanksgiving or late October. According to Wine Country Ontario, the province’s selection of icewines offers some of the best in the world. You will not be disappointed.
If you are looking for something fun to do, then guided wine tours are a delightful diversion. A bus is safely driven from winery to winery typically visiting four locations during the excursion to sample the local indulgences. It is a fantastic way to spend a day – rain or shine. These guided tours are both pleasurable and informative as the experts share with you their elite knowledge of the wine growing trade. They tell tall tales of the small local growers and captivating stories of the advanced industrial complexes that have commercialized the local wine industry during the past century.
Some of the tours visit just three locations and then end with a decadent dinner of ‘paired’ food choices artfully combined with local wines designed to accentuate the subtle flavours and delicate spices to tease your taste buds to life. A growing number of the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake offer their own restaurants. As well, you will also discover wine country-influenced dining options everywhere in town, ranging from casual bistros to elegant dining rooms. Somehow, food and wine just go together so well, that they spark the imagination to think of far off exotic lands. But, you can have it all, right here, close to home, simply by adventuring with your motorhome, travel trailer, or fifth wheel.
A taxi to / from the campsite to the bus gathering point makes for a safe and pleasant day. For larger groups travelling together, the bus can be arranged to pick you up and drop you off at the campgrounds. It is not likely that you will over indulge in your wine tasting, but I promote zero tolerance for drinking and driving to make your holidaying safe and enjoyable. A designated driver is always a smart option too.
Whenever we go to NOTL, we bring our bicycles. There is no better way to explore the vineyards, gardens, take a wine tour, fruit farms, visit craft breweries and the friendly towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls than on a leisurely outing along the region’s scenic cycling trails.
The Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail runs from NOTL to Niagara Falls. It is 23.5 kilometres each way and takes about one hour and 45 minutes to ride end to end. It is our personal favourite path to pedal away the day. The Trail parallels the Niagara River, so there are many peaceful spots to rest and capture spontaneous and unbelievable photos of your vividly stunning bicycling adventure with the churning river, whirlpool, or the Falls in the background.
Niagara is becoming known for cycling almost as much as for wine. An incredible selection of bicycle routes and trails make this a popular destination for cyclists. Whether joining a tour or striking out on your own, there are short or multi-day trips to suit all levels. Meander between wineries through farmland, travel along rivers and lakes, or take advantage of acres devoted to mountain biking featuring the Escarpment. Local bicycle rentals are readily offered for those who want to try it but do not own bicycles.
Attracting thousands of cyclists from early spring into late fall, the entire region is a popular place to cycle. Cycling is also the perfect way to get between all the attractions and is certainly an attraction itself. In addition to many kilometres of off-road paved trails, there is significant on-road infrastructure. signed bike routes, maps, and smart phone apps, all to help ensure that cyclists keep enjoying all Niagara has to offer.
Just like in the film, slowly, Pleasantville begins changing from black and white to colour, including flowers and the faces of people who have experienced bursts of emotion and personal transformation. Niagara-on-the-Lake will change you in the same way too. It is Canada’s Pleasantville. The richness of the region and the vibrant village are an amazing travel destination and one that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list. Having been there perhaps 30 times already, I am keen to return. In fact, I dream of a retirement life in this village and to use it as our future base to voyage in our motorhome to discover the other secret gems of Canadian life.
About the Author:
Michael J Martin is a communication technology consultant, licenced pilot, sailor, and passionate amateur photographer. He lives in Toronto with his wife Candy and their dogs. They own a 36’ Holiday Rambler diesel pusher coach and the entire family loves time together in the motorhome.