We’ve all been there. Scrolling through Instagram at your 9-5 on a Monday wondering how the hell Katie from high school had the time and money to travel to Japan.
Everyone should snag the opportunity to travel to a far-off destination at least once in their life if they can swing it, but in our opinion, a new place is a new place whether it’s an hour drive or an 18-hour flight. Next time you’re in the mood for a quick trip, instead of beelining it to Toronto take a second to realize there are some other hidden gems that are not only closer but just as enjoyable. On a good traffic day, Niagara-on-the-Lake is just an hour away and full of wineries, shops, and restaurants!
Here’s our go-to itinerary for a NOTL visit:
Check into Old Ivy Walk
28 Prideaux St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
Right around the corner from the main strip is the Old Ivy Walk, a B & B with European flare and a lot of character. The large, historic white house has a modern feel with vintage and antique design elements that the owner gathered through his time living in Europe. We made our way up the stairs and to the right to our room titled the ‘General Prideaux’ room. Inside we found a fireplace, vintage chairs with fun pillows and a giant tub in addition to normal amenities like a flat screen TV, a large comfy bed, and a refrigerator for snacks.
The morning after your stay, the owner serves a delicious meal in The Breakfast Room located just near the main entrance. With soft classical music playing quietly in the background, the owner whips up a special breakfast of freshly baked, flaky croissants, hot coffee, eggs with bacon and pineapple, and more using only the freshest, local ingredients from neighboring farms. We sipped coffee with the other people staying at the B & B and chatted about travels and what we had planned while in the area. Some of the guests even came all the way from Ireland!
Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake
Shopping on Queen Street and the surrounding side streets
The hotel is walking distance from a line of boutique, fun shops on Queen Street and the surrounding area. There are bakeries, candy stores, clothing stores, home decor shops, and even a store dedicated to Christmas stuff year round creatively called ‘Just Christmas’. You can pick up some ice wine jelly to pair with soft cheeses or specialty peanut butters from Kurtz Culinary Creations, try on some crazy hats from Beau Chapeau Hat Shop, thumb through the selection at the Old Niagara Bookshop, or get some new decorations from Cecile’s Home and Gift. After beer and wine tasting, don’t forget to pick up treats for later like a wedge of brie from Cheese Secrets, wine gums from the Scottish Store or the Olde Tyme Candy Store, or cookies from Niagara Home Bakery!
Casual lunch at Nina Gelateria & Pastry Shop
37 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
This small pastry shop was booming with people waiting to grab a dessert or crepe to go! They feature sweet and savory items inspired by popular European treats. I highly recommend their savory crepes like the Italiano with super salty prosciutto, spinach, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, a pinch of pepper, and tangy parmesan-reggiano. Don’t forget a tiny, bite-sized, tart like the raspberry white chocolate on the way out!
Tour & Tasting at Oast House
2017 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake
Oast House seriously looked like those places that are so overly adorable on Pinterest that you think they can’t possibly exist. Between the bright red barn, the stage for live music on the back of a pickup truck, and the BBQ hut in the back with a dinner bell, I can barely take how Instagramable this place is. Oast creates their signature farmhouse ales in-house enforcing traditional methods like using yeast from the grounds, well water, and hops grown on sight. They have seasonal favorites like the Bière de Noël around Christmas time or the Strawberry Rhubarb Ale they can’t keep on the shelf in the summer. Their famous Barn Raiser Country Ale and fizzy beers were bomb! The Watermelon Gose had a heavy melon flavor with a slight saltiness and a sour finish, the Biere De Garde had notes of caramel, charred sugar light the crème brûlée shell, and cherries, and the Saison has flavors of spicy black pepper and banana.
Dinner at The Oban Inn
160 Front St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
We finished the day with dinner at the historic Oban Inn, which earned a four-diamond rating from AAA. Overlooking Lake Ontario and the beautiful flower-filled gardens, the Inn has been creating a dining experience for guests since 1824 using scratch made pastas, fresh ingredients from the region, and local wines carefully selected by their sommelier. The beef tenderloin was juicy and tender, with a drizzle of demi-glaze and served with flavorful dauphinoise potato and asparagus. The seafood fettuccini with a base of homemade spinach pasta was topped with fresh vegetables like diced onion, spinach, and plump cherry tomato, onion and served with plenty of scallops and shrimp in a garlic white wine sauce sprinkled with parmesan. Save room for dessert! They make a lavender honey cheesecake with whipped sour cream, lemon cardamom crème brûlée with fresh berries, and seasonal pies with fresh produce like the Niagara peach pie I tasted that was unbelievable! The waiters were friendly and incredibly attentive, making you feel special from the moment you walk in.
After enjoying breakfast at the inn, you can hit the shops again or see the waterfront which is just down the street and to the left! After strolling around the park, waterfront, or shops throughout the late morning, head to the local pizzeria for lunch.
Lunch at Pieza Pizzeria
188 Victoria St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
The Neapolitan pizzeria imports items from Napoli, and I’m not just talking about ingredients. They cook their pizzas in a custom-made, giant wood-burning oven that gets up to 750 degrees, cooking your pizzas in a matter of minutes! It was hard to select just one, but I finally decided on the ‘That’ Z Amore’ made with a generous amount of fresh mozzarella, artichokes, olives, mushrooms, and salty soppressata with coarse pepper. The pizza base was super thin, while the crust was doughy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Absolutely delicious! If the food isn’t enough to entice you, the quirky atmosphere and friendly owners from Italy will make you feel like you’re inside the local neighborhood pizzeria abroad.
Wine Tasting at Stratus Winery
2059 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
Finish your trip with a wine tasting at the chic and elegant Stratus Winery that’s ahead of the game from architecture to how their wine is made. The winery doesn’t even use pumps in the process, letting the wine drift naturally into the barrels simply by gravity. The winery was constructed using recycled materials and designing the building to reduce heat from light reflecting into the building on the wine. We sat down to taste 5 of their popular wines including two reds, two white, and an ice wine.
The 2016 Stratus Icewine Red had the condensed grape, deep flavors of raisins, but is much more mild than some of the overly sugary ice wines elsewhere in the region. Their signature 2014 Stratus Red has the aroma of berry and tobacco with a slight hint of chocolate. The 2015 Stratus Decant Cabernet Franc has received the Good Design Award from the The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and has notes of spices, herbs, and cedar. The 2015 Stratus Chardonnay has a blended scent of melons, pears, and apples and was fermented using natural yeast. The 2014 Stratus White displays flavors of tropical stone fruit and honey. The friendly wine experts will answer your questions about wine, while explaining the importance food has on the flavor of the wine.
They even explained a way to test this theory to the extreme. Next time you’re having a bottle of wine with friends, bring out some sweet apple slices and lemon wedges. If the wine is acidic, lick the lemon before taking a sip of the wine and it will dilute the acidity. On the other hand, if you take a bite of the sweet apple before sipping the wine, there will be a horrible, overwhelmingly bitter and acidic flavor pulled from the wine. I definitely learned a lot and they created a wonderful tasting experience!
A very special thank you to Visit Niagara, the Old Ivy Walk, the Oast House, the Oban Inn, Pieza Pizzeria, and Stratus Winery for welcoming me! I enjoyed every moment of my trip to Niagara on the Lake because of the wonderful experience you all created! As always, all photos and opinions are my own.