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Weekend Wine Getaways

The best things to do and see on a weekend wine getaway in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara Vineyard

Niagara Vineyard

The most luxurious things to see and do in Niagara-on-the-Lake

By Martina Stritesky

Situated just 1 ½ hours from downtown Toronto, Niagara-on-the-Lake is often overlooked by tourists seeking out the famous Falls in the Niagara region. But thanks to its world-class wineries, picturesque lake views, acres of vineyards and orchards, and charming Old Town brimming with specialty shops—it’s quickly becoming one of the best wine destinations in the world.

Whether you’re looking for a high-class experience or a budget-friendly getaway, Niagara-on-the-Lake offers something for every thirsty traveller. Read on for the best HI’s and LO’s of the region.

The historic Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales Hotel

Stay

Founded in 1864, the Prince of Wales hotel—situated in the heart of downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake—is as glamorous today as it was back then (when the prince himself visited in 1901). A haven oozing of Victorian elegance and charm, you’ll be hard pressed not to feel pampered during your stay, where turndown service includes a single rose pressed against your pillow. Don’t miss out on a visit to the hotel’s Drawing Room—where you can indulge in the time honoured tradition of high tea. How posh. The exquisite décor sets the stage to make you feel as pretty as a princess while you sip luxe loose leaf teas from around the world and nibble on the best crème fraiche the region has to offer. Bet you’ll have trouble eating just one! Korey Rorison, a member of the exclusive Les Clefs d’Or association and part of the hotel’s concierge team will help ensure your stay is as luxurious and refined as the bygone era evokes. If you’re lucky, he might even show you the wine cellar where the hotel’s very best bottles (over 8,000!) are stored.

Prince of Wales, 6 Picton Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (905) 486-3246

Overlooking the Falls from the helicopter

See

Nothing spells out luxury travel more than soaring high above the clouds. At Niagara Helicopters Limited, you do just that—19,000 feet above the majestic falls. Now that’s what we call High Travel. Your tour includes awe-inspiring views over the Whirlpool Rapids, lush floral and the Canadian Horseshoe falls—where rainbows appear and disappear from all directions. So pretty! Prepared to accommodate just about every passenger, this high-quality tour company offers individual headsets with taped commentary in 12 languages. You might have to go up again and again to test each one out! Each helicopter costs approximately $2 million dollars—making this by far the most luxurious ride you’ll ever take.

Niagara Helicopters Limited, 3731 Victoria Ave, Niagara Falls, ON, (905) 357-5672

100-mile meal at Hillebrand

Eat

If first-class dining is high on your list during your stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake a visit to Hillebrand Winery Restaurant is a must-do. Executive chef Frank Dodd’s sensational seasonal cuisine is inspired by the local produce in the region, allowing for the freshest ingredients to be used. They even have a 100-mile tasting menu—which we love!—using produce found within a 100 miles of the wineries lush grounds. Now you can indulge and feel good about being green at the same time (no need to feel guilty about polishing off Dodd’s luxe blueberry tart!). Be prepared to settle in to stay for a bit, you’ll want to linger and enjoy every last bite of this 6-course tasting menu. The chef certainly knows his stuff—having worked at some of the world’s finest kitchens in Canada and England.

Hillebrand Winery, 1249 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (800) 582-8412

A personal tour and tasting with John Howard

Drink

When John Howard, former president and CEO of Vineland Estates Winery, started his own label as a retirement project he didn’t know how popular his wine would be. But, my my how word travels when something tastes (and looks) great. Wine lovers and critics alike have been singing his praises since he launched his premium Megalomaniac wine series last year. Each varietal has been given a cheeky name that matches the grape’s personality such as Big Mouth Merlot and Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rose (one for being big and full of flavour, the latter for not making the cut to be included in the traditional Pinot Noir blend). Having won Best of Show for label design at the prestigious 2007 San Francisco International Wine Competition, we’re sure the fashionably-conscious will love the sleek design. We sure did. But the best part about the wine is the man himself. Howard donates a percentage from each bottle to Kids Health Link. Better hurry up and buy your bottle quick. These high-end wines have been flying off shelves since the product launched. Visit Megalomaniac Wine to buy.

The fountain at Pillar and Post

Play

Indulge in a little first-class pampering while in Niagara-on-the-Lake. And what better way to toast the wine region itself than with a little wine therapy. At the Pillar and Posts 100 Fountain Spa, choose from one of three Vineotherapy treatments—scrub, wrap, or facial—made from local vineyard grapes. Deemed to have potent anti-oxidants, we’re not sure what’s better—its health benefits or how good it smells.

Pillar and Posts 100 Fountain Spa, 48 John Street W, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (905) 468-2123

The best budget-friendly things to do and see in Niagara-on-the-Lake

By Zdenka Turecek

Three Forty Gate Bed & Breakfast

Stay

There’s nothing like a bed & breakfast to make you feel at home away from home. Luckily, Niagara-on-the-Lake doesn’t fall short on bed & breakfasts that succeed in value, comfort, and down-home charm. With so many to choose from, we narrowed it down to just one—Three Forty Gate Bed & Breakfast. Situated on a quiet residential street just off the Old Town’s main street, this quintessential B&B is owned by the daughter and son-in-law to John of Megalomanic Wines. Three Forty Gate scored an A+ for its pristine rooms which feature en suite baths, pillow-top Queen beds with 300 thread count Egyptian cotton linens, as well as amenities like IPod docks, wireless Internet access, and ionic hair dryers (frizz-free hair on vacation—who would have thought?). During our stay, we enjoyed a delicious homemade breakfast of egg’s benedict, fresh local peaches and piping hot coffee in a dining room fit for a king, $175-$195.

Three Forty Gate Bed & Breakfast, 340 Gate Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (905) 468-9043

Bike riding by the lake

See

The best way to see Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beauty on a budget? Hop on a bicycle! Local bike rental company Zoom Leisure makes it easy to pick up and set off for the scenic trails surrounding the lake. The best-kept secret lies on a 45-mile stretch called the Niagara River Recreation Trail. Used as a walking, cycling and rollerblade path parallel to the Niagara River, we suggest hitting the trail with a delicious picnic in tow so you can rest en-route and enjoy a little luxury along the way. Pick up and delivery available.

Zoom Leisure, 2017 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (866) 811-6993

Pairings Specialty Food Market

Eat

Best known for its local wines, cheeses and farm-fresh produce, a trip to Niagara without a stop to one of its specialty food shops in town is culinary faux pas. And if you’re a lover of all things gourmet—but can’t afford a five-star meal, then head to Pairings—a specialty food market just off the main street. Specializing in local artisan cheeses, hand-crafted breads and delicious homemade sandwiches, there’s a delectable bite for every gourmand. Owners (and twin sisters) Jessica and Katy Bell are true cheese lovers ready to give you a 101 on which cheeses are best paired with local wines, so bring your own bottle and ask away!

Pairings Specialty Food Market, 106C Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (905) 468-6068

Hillebrand Winery

Tour

The Niagara wine region offers something for every wine connoisseur—beginner or advanced. But when it came down our favourite experience on a budget—the synonymous winner was the Art of the Red. This hands-on wine-crafting lesson at Hillebrand Winery has a sticker price of just $25. We began our interactive lesson by entering the world-class winemaking cellars of Hillebrand, where an expert led us through a mixology lesson. Grouped in teams of five, each table worked furiously to create their own custom blend of three varietels and after carefully blending, picking the perfect name, and labelling our bottles, the judges began a final taste test. The end result? We didn’t score first place, but we left with two handmade bottles of red and a first-rate wine-tasting and wine-making experience. Who knew that making wine could be just as fun as sipping it?

Hillebrand Winery, 1249 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, (800) 582-8412

Photography by Mirza Noormohamed