I have now had the opportunity to visit Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side) in the heat of summer, the cold brittle winter, and the chilly fall. And I can say that all are great seasons to visit the Falls and see their enormous beauty in person. In the winter the American side of the Falls froze to create a stunning winter spectacle, and in the fall and summer the water is it’s ever usual powerful stream.
It’s also the perfect destination if you’re a wine lover (like myself), as Niagara-on-the-Lake is a short drive away. The area is famous for it’s sweet ice wines and is responsible for making a good chunk of ice wine sold across the world. This is because Canada is cold (who knew?) and the grapes need to be in a temperature of -10 or lower for 3 days consistently. This is easily done in Canada.
My latest visit was in the fall, for only two short days, but it was my best trip yet to Niagara Falls yet. Here’s an itinerary of what we got up to while visiting a city made famous for it’s natural wonder. It was obviously catered to my friend and I (both in our early twenties), but can easily be changed up for families, read later on some other activities to do!
Day One – Travel and the Falls
We caught a GO Train and bus from Toronto in the late morning and arrived by 2:30PM, quickly checked into our hotel and made our way down to the falls. As stunning as always, it was a perfect sunny day that was seasonably warm. After getting our typical tourist pictures we headed over to catch a ferry that would take us up close and personal with the falls. We walked aboard the Hornblower (Canadian side, named Maid of the Mist on the American side), which brought us as close as it could to both the American and Canadian falls.
They gave you a light poncho to help keep you dry but it really didn’t do much as you got engulfed by the mist. The weather was as perfect as it could be, rainbows appearing in time for all of our pictures. Tourists on the boat weren’t pushy, everyone was polite, and I considered it completely worth the $20. Skip the audio tour, you are on such a high just from seeing the falls so close that I doubt you’ll even pay much attention to what you are hearing.
Back on ground we made our way up the famous Street of Fun, Clifton Hill, that is packed with all the amusement you can imagine. Restaurants, haunted houses, wax museums, theatres, candy stores, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Guinness World Records, and more occupy the entire hill.
For dinner we made our way back down to the falls and waited for the lights to turn on once the sun had set. We sat on a heated patio overlooking the falls at Edgewaters restaurant. The food was particularly mediocre, but we had gone there for the view, not the food. The lights will start out white and eventually turn to colours. In the warmer months there is also a fireworks show over the falls, and you can go on the Hornblower ferry to watch them. What a treat that would be!
Day Two – Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine Tour
I was catching a cold so after a long sleep we got up for our wine tour with Grape & Wine tours that I booked in advance. These tours you can take directly from Toronto (you take the train in and back the same day) or they will pick you up at whatever hotel you’re staying at. For $100 we got to go to 4 wineries, tasting 3 to 4 wines at each and had lunch at one. Our driver was a wealth of knowledge, friendly, and loved his job, all to make a very pleasant experience (I’m sure my consistent buzz throughout the day also helped). Stop number one was Caroline’s Cellars Winery for lunch, and where we got to choose which 4 wines we wanted to try. I definitely recommend the Late Harvest Cranberry (it’s very sweet, almost like an ice wine, and pairs deliciously with dark chocolate).
Our three-course lunch was tasty and satisfying. Not too heavy that we couldn’t continue trying wines, but enough to leave our bellies full.
The second winery was Diamond Estates Winery, one of the largest wine making facilities in Ontario. Here we tried 4 wines, one white and one red, then one white ice wine and one red ice wine, while getting a tour of the facilities and learning more about the wine making process from start to finish.
Our third stop was at a very beautiful estate, the Konzelmann Estate winery. We sipped on a red, white, late harvest, and another ice wine. It was here that I picked up the perfect red wine for turkey dinner as Thanksgiving was that upcoming weekend. There was no talk about the winery itself, only drinking the tastings and shopping for what to buy.
The final stop of the tour was at Between the Lines Winery, a newer winery to the area run by two German brothers who are full of personality. One of the brother’s guided us through the tasting of 3 wines, giving lot’s of information not only about the wines, but the history of the winery, how wine is made, and even the type of cork or screw type lid that is used on bottles. And here is where I found a Riesling that wasn’t too sweet to pair with turkey dinner.
With our heads feeling light from the good amount of wine we drank we headed back to Niagara Falls for some comfort food (Italian) and called it an early night before our early bus the next morning.
Things to Do in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a bit like Las Vegas in the way that it’s built up as a city for tourists. It’s designed for everything to be convenient and fun. But sometimes this comes with a cost, as Niagara Falls can be a little pricey.
The Falls – The main attractions of the city! Take a walk along the street and take in the view.
Hornblower Ferry – The best way to see the Falls (in my opinion) and worth every penny! You get wet, but it’s an experience that made my latest trip to Niagara the best yet.
Journey Behind the Falls – Take a walk behind the Falls and feel their power close up.
Skylon Tower – For a view of the city, or for dinner overlooking the Falls.
Clifton Hill (Street of Fun) – Perfect for kids, with lot’s of activities that will keep them entertained for days. Good restaurants, haunted houses, bowling, mini putt, and a ferris wheel for a view of the Falls.
Casino – Niagara is equipped with two casinos to keep you busy.
Niagara-on-the-Lake – A short drive away, a wine lover’s paradise with wineries upon wineries that want you to visit for some tastings! Niagara-on-the-Lake is also a gorgeous little town with shopping, and some hotels to stay at, horse-drawn carriages, and more.
Tips for Niagara Falls
Tourist tax – Niagara Falls actually has a tourist tax that you don’t legally have to pay. Sometimes it can be a really difficult to get taken off (like contacting the head office of a hotel), but if you notice an extra tax being added on simply ask what it is and if it can be taken off.
Visit in summer, fall, or spring – It can be very pretty in the winter, but it limits some of the activities you can do and the winds that come off the water can be brutally cold.
Where to stay – All the hotels are within walking distance of the Falls and all of the fun. Do your research so you don’t overpay, and if you don’t like walking for 20 minutes to get to the falls then make sure you pick somewhere closer.
Perfect day trip – If you only have a day, it’s the perfect way to save on accommodation. You’ll have a full and busy day, but it’s the perfect day trip from Toronto or the surrounding areas.
Visit the Canadian side – It’s a better view of both the American and Canadian Falls from the Canadian side where you can get all the pictures your heart desires.
Save for a taxi – Both the bus and train station are not within walking distance to any of the attractions or hotels, but it’s a max $20 cab ride to the other side of town.
Hornblower Ferry – If you have any clothes that you don’t want getting wet then don’t wear them on this ferry. I also recommend not taking out your phone for too long if it’s not in a water proof phone case. Mine was, but even so much water got on my screen that the touch wasn’t working.