Insider’s Guide: Niagara Falls and surrounding towns

Niagara Falls locals share their insider tips on the Falls and the surrounding towns.

Insider’s Guide: Niagara Falls and surrounding towns

A visit to Niagara Falls is a must when you’re in Ontario. It’s one of the world’s wonders for a reason. Your jaw will drop from the simply stunning views and the sheer power of the falls. Leon recently visited the region and was hosted by Anastasia Belashov, who, as the travel trade manager (Asia-Pacific) for Niagara Falls Tourism, possibly knows more about this amazing area than anyone. Leon was also shown around Niagara wine country by Korey Rorison, who is the Business Development Manager of the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival. We asked them to share their insider tips on Niagara Falls and the surrounding towns.

•••

What to see 
AB: Of course, the actual falls. Niagara Falls is the first thing to see. I’ve been living in the City of Niagara Falls for 15 years. As a part of my job, I am at the falls at least twice just about every week, but it never gets boring. The view of tons of water going over the falls is magical.

Go beyond the falls and visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, City of St Catharines, Jordan, Beamsville – wineries, breweries, distilleries, local restaurants, farmer markets, hiking trails, cycling roads, golf courses and more. The Niagara region has everything for everyone.

KR: Explore Niagara Wine Country – it is beautiful all year round and there are so many hidden gems that you will find along the way!

niagara falls wine trail 

What to avoid 
AB: Weekends, especially long weekends both for Canada and the US, can be crazy busy in Niagara Falls. Plan your trip for a weekday when there are fewer people.

KR: If you are self-driving it’s best to avoid the QEW highway during the late afternoon heading into Niagara. It can turn into a parking lot quickly. Instead take one of the exits south and follow the Wine Route (Highway 8). This winds through Niagara Wine Country and takes you almost entirely to Niagara Falls.

Best time to visit
AB: May to the end of October is our prime season, which is also busy. I love autumn – October, November – when the colour of the leaves starts changing and the falls are framed by autumn foliage – red, yellow; it’s a whole different picture. Very beautiful.

Then winter comes. The Winter Festival of Lights is on from mid-November until the end of January –  a magical time to visit Niagara Falls and enjoy illumination, fireworks over the falls, frozen mist, blue sky and white sparkly snow.

illuminated falls

January is also a fun time, especially the Icewine Festival when you can enjoy visiting different wineries, tasting different icewines paired with appetizers prepared by our local chefs. Indeed, the best of Niagara’s wine and food.

KR: Being in Canada’s fruit-belt there is never a bad time to visit. Niagara is always a bounty of beauty and fun. I personally like spring and fall the best (it’s also less crowded) and you can check out two great wine festivals – The Home Grown Wine Festival in early June, and the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival in late September.

Best coffee
AB: there are a couple of great independently owned coffee shops in Niagara Falls. My faves are Queen Been Café on Queen Street and Williams Fresh Café.

KR: Bean & Barrel Coffee Roasters.

Best breakfast
AB: Old Stone Inn Boutique Hotel serves amazing breakfasts. If you are looking for a breakfast with the view, Hilton Fallsview, Sheraton on the Falls, Crown Plaza, Kegs, Marriott on the Falls, Marriott Fallsview, all other properties with the Fallsview restaurants serve great breakfast with the falls as your backdrop. There are plenty of places where locals would go as well, such as Williams Fresh Café.

KR: The Bleu Turtle

breakfast at the olde stone inn

Best cocktail/bar/pub 
AB: Old Stone Inn has a unique bar, 1904. Another great place, which is both popular with tourists and locals, is Doc Magilligan’s Restaurant and Irish pub. And Taps on Queen is perfect for a casual dinner/beer kind of evening.

Right in the middle of Fallsview area/Clifton Hill is Niagara Brewing Company, which does good comfort food and nice beer.

If you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, local microbreweries are great for a snack and a glass of fresh beer. Try Oast Brewery, Silverstone, Exchange Brewery and more. While in Niagara-on-the-Lake, check out The Olde Angel Inn. (It’s haunted!)

KR: Best pub – The Olde Angel Inn (Niagara-on-the-Lake). Best cocktails – Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery (Beamsville).

food at the olde stone inn

Best restaurant/eatery/local food
AB: It’s really hard to choose. In addition to North American/Canadian/local cuisine, Niagara has a great selection of ethnic restaurants – Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese – you name it we have it! Depends on your mood and preferences, you can dine in a different atmosphere every day.

Restaurants at the local wineries are another great way to enjoy your meal, paired with Niagara’s best wines.

KR: Pearl Morissette Winery

Best local view
AB: Table Rock is the closest you can get to the falls, and it’s free!

view from table rock

For tourists, Niagara Helicopters – a must do experience, Skylon Tower, Niagara SkyWheel, Hornblower Niagara Cruise (you will get wet!), Journey Behind the Falls, Zipline to the Falls are highly recommended.

KR: From the Wine Lodge at Fielding Estate Winery (Beamsville)

view from fielding winery

One fun thing you can do for free
AB: Go to Maple Leaf Place and have ‘as much as you can’ free tastings of Ontario maple syrup, maple syrup taffies, freshly made fudge with local flavours. Of course, coming to the falls and looking at the falls is free too and it’s amazing.

KR: Check out the Montebello Park Experience in St Catharines during the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival – free admission and has over 50 hours of live music over the course of two weekends in September (mid-late).

Something only a local knows about 
AB: the best place to get local fruit, veggies and products is at the Niagara Falls Farmers Market, which is open year round on Saturdays.

Although in season there are plenty of fruit and veggie stands along Niagara Parkway, including Walker’s Country Market in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

KR: The Screaming Tunnel – Google it if you like ghost stories.

Why do you love this town?
AB: Niagara Falls is a small city, just over 85,000 people actually live here. Every year we host about 14 million people who visit us from all around the world. At the same time, Niagara Falls still has this feeling of a small city where people know each other, care about each other, are friendly and helpful. We love our city and are proud to showcase it to visitors. Tourists are very welcome, and everybody is always willing to help, provide directions, etc.

KR: Born and raised a Niagara boy. What’s not to love about being surrounded by vineyards, restaurants, and year-round beauty?  We have true Canadian hospitality here and we will go above and beyond for all of our world-wide visitors. Plus we are the home to Canada’s largest wine festival, and of course Icewine! This is the place people dream about sneaking away to.

Have you been to Niagara Falls? Did you explore the towns beyond the falls?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Nanna75
    7th Dec 2019
    8:03am
    I visited the Falls back in 1986. You could almost touch the water going over the Fall, it was so clear, and the size, almost a metre high. Back then from memory the only buildings were a tourist and ice cream cum cafe. Looks like it has had a lot of development since then. A wonderful experience.
    MICK
    7th Dec 2019
    9:40am
    You forgot to mention that the Falls are viewable from both the American and the Canadian sides connected by a really cool bridge. Its also an interesting experience going through border control but pretty quick and basic.
    What the article does not say is that the Falls from the American side are nice but its the Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side which provide the real spectacular show. When we went we stayed on the American side and realised very quickly that we'd gotten it wrong.
    If you go in winter or should season expect some of the businesses to be shut as they only open for summer.

    Niagara Falls is certainly worth a visit. One of our favourites.
    Keithb
    7th Dec 2019
    6:36pm
    Visited Niagara on the Lake when we were there. Very pleasant spot, old houses, trees, a Bernard Shaw festival on and we saw a skunk crossing the main street. Niagara a bit trashy in contrast. Sheraton an unbeatable place to stay in a Falls view room.
    notelle
    12th Jan 2020
    4:03pm
    I visited the falls a few years ago from the American side and apart from a trip on the Maid of the Mist did not get a chance to explore any further as I was restricted by being on a bus tour. All I can say is that seeing those Falls was AWESOME and I thoroughly recommend them to everyone. It's an experience I will never ever forget.


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