15 Best Things to Do in Niagara on the Lake by A Local

One of the prettiest towns in Canada, Niagara-on-the-Lake may be best known for its wine, but it’s also home to a whole lot more. Planning a visit? Here are the best things to do in Niagara on the Lake Ontario.

It has a little something for everyone – a picturesque downtown, thriving arts & culture, beautiful parks and interesting museums, and a long Canadian history. That’s right, although this beautiful village has a serious focus on quality food and drink, its old-world charm is what draws me here each and every time.

I’ve been coming to Niagara on the Lake for decades. Living in southern Ontario, only an hour away, this is one of my favourite day trips. Not to mention my parents live here, so I’m always adding a stop here and the village of Jordan to my visit. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Niagara on the Lake, I’d love to share some of my favourites with you.

Now, let’s explore this very charming town, and make it your next Ontario getaway! 

Is Niagara on the Lake Worth Visiting?

two storefronts with red brick and tulip in niagara on the lake things to do

Absolutely! Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of the most charming and picturesque towns in Ontario that is well worth a visit. So much so, that Forbes named it as the Top 5 Weekend Getaway Towns in Ontario in 2023!

With its rich Canadian history and cute, historic downtown what’s there not to love about Niagara on the Lake?

With so many things to do Niagara on the Lake is a town you can revisit many times over. There are always wineries to visit, restaurants to enjoy, a new play to see and let’s not forget the great downtown shopping. Whether it’s a day trip or a getaway weekend, visiting Ontario’s most popular wine country is second to none!

About Niagara-on-the-Lake

When a town is steeped in Canadian history as much as Niagara-on-the-Lake is, it comes as no surprise to find some significant sites here you can visit. Here are some fun facts about this pretty town. Did you know Niagara-on-the-Lake was

  • the first capital province of Upper Canada, which is now Ontario
  • called Newark from 1792 to 1797 
  • the site of some major battles with the Americans during the War of 1812
tower with white courthouse building on the the things to do in niagara on the lake

As well, Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the oldest Catholic church and the second-oldest Anglican church in Ontario, and the oldest surviving golf course in North America, Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club. History buffs, you’ll love it here!

Best Things to Do Niagara on the Lake

Be prepared to fall under its spell. The spell of the Victoria-era 19th-century charm that is. Downtown Niagara on the Lake looks like a movie set – it’s that darn cute. Horse-drawn carriage rides, gardens galore, elegant architecture and all with the backdrop of Lake Ontario. It doesn’t get any better than this.

street with trees and shops as things to do in niagara on the lake

Before you hit up some of those delicious wineries and restaurants, be sure to check off your list of some of these things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake other than wineries.  

1. Stroll the Niagara on the Lake Downtown

Quaint shops, boutiques, and galleries line both sides of the main street or Queen Street. Whether you are a shopper or a window shopper there is bound to be something that catches your eye. This is one of the best Niagara on the Lake things to do!

red brick store front places to visit in niagara on the lake

Long-time shops like Just Christmas, for all things Christmas all-year-round, or Irish Design featuring gorgeous imported knits from Ireland. Love sweets, then you’ll want to pop into the very cute Olde Tyme Candy Shop.  And, Brims & Things and BeauChapeau, are two boutique shops selling nothing but hats. My favourite of them all is Serendipity – The Little French Shoppe for all things France. 

2. Wander the Pretty Streets

Wander some of the prettiest streets in Niagara-on-the-Lake and admire the beautiful heritage homes and gardens. Talk about curb appeal, these homeowners take immense pride in their homes.  

pink house with iron gate things to do in niagara on the lake ontario

The prettiest streets to wander are Front Street, Prideaux Street, and Ricardo Street with the intersecting streets of Gate Street, Victoria Street, and King Street.

3. Learn at a Historic Site

Not surprisingly, one of the most popular things to do at Niagara on the Lake is to learn about the local history. The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum was created in 1896 as a way to preserve the town’s rich history and heritage by showcasing a collection of artifacts in the local courthouse. In 1907, they expanded to open Memorial Hall, Ontario’s first purpose-built Museum.

Visiting the museum today links 3 independent buildings together – the High School Building (1875), Memorial Hall (1907), and the Link Building (1971) – located at 43 Castlereagh Street, Niagara on the Lake Tourism

McFarlane House – the former private residence of John McFarlane was used as a military hospital during the War of 1812 by both the Americans and the British. A popular thing to do at one of the oldest homesteads in Niagara-on-the-Lake is to enjoy a picnic on the grounds or high tea. Plan your tour and visit at 15927 Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail, NOTL

red house with white picketed fence in niagara-on-the-lake ontario

Niagara Apothecary – opened its doors in 1869 in this exact building. This Ontario Heritage Foundation is a must-see attraction because of its restored original features and artifacts. Visit the original location at 5 Queen Street, NOTL

white building with red door in niagara on the lake ontario

Fort George National Historic Site – overlooking the Niagara River, Fort George was built between 1796 and 1802, to protect Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Step back in time and learn about this significant time in Canadian history by visiting this Historical Site at 51 Queen’s Parade, NOTL 

Laura Secord Homestead – visit the home of this heroine who walked 32 km to warn the British of a surprise attack by American soldiers during the War of 1812. This historic landmark lies in Queenston, a village just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

house with white picketed fence things to do in niagara-on-the-lake

4. Watch Live Theatre

Wondering what to see Niagara on the Lake – a live play of course! The Shaw Festival Theatre, named after Bernard Shaw, delivers 13 live productions each year in 3 theatres drawing an audience of more than 250,000. The theatres are smaller and more intimate, with not a bad seat in the house. 

white building with 3 pink doors what to do in niagara on the lake

This top thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake is really a must. The Shaw Festival celebrated its 60th season in 2022 of creating world-class productions. If love the live theatre productions in Stratford, you’re going to be equally pleased with the shows here.

5. Snap a Photo, or Two

Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of the most photogenic small towns in Ontario and is an Instagrammer’s dream. So it won’t be hard to find some cute spots perfect for that photo op! Here are my picks of the top 5 Instagram-worthy spots.

  1. The Memorial Clock Tower – the only town in Canada to have a war memorial in the centre of the town’s main street serves also as this town’s beacon
  2. Old Courthouse – the grand classic architecture of this 1850s building makes for the perfect backdrop
  3. The Gazebo at Queen’s Royal Park – offers the best Lake Ontario views 
  4. The Shaw Café – besides being one of the best places to dine, you can’t help but notice the beautiful flowers in front of it
  5. Prince of Wales Hotel – the Victoria-era hotel with its pretty details and elegant architecture
hotel with flowers as fun things to do in niagara on the lake
Prince of Wales Hotel

6. Admire Some Art

For those who appreciate those one-of-a-kind art pieces – whether it be paintings or pottery be sure to check out these art shops. Small towns that have a great artist community like this one remind me of Elora where there are lots of small studios like what you’ll find here.

borden batten house with gardens as things to do in niagara on the lake
Lakeside Pottery
  • Lakeside Pottery  – visit the studio and gift shop of this husband and wife team in a lovely countryside garden setting
  • Gate Street Studio – is a gorgeous mix of abstract and mixed media and canvas by artist Sandra Iafrate, to schedule, visit contact the studio directly 
  • Niagara Image Gallery (formerly the Romance Collection Gallery by Trisha Romance) – primarily is an art gallery featuring 3 artists’ work 

7. Go Treasure Hunting in NOTL

One of the unique things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake is go treasure hunting. For those who enjoy the hunt for those great vintage treasures here are two great spots offering a wide variety of antiques

antiques in a barn as things to do niagara-on-the-lake
  • Lakeshore Antiques & Treasures – as Niagara’s largest antique market it offers 16 dealers in one location at 855 Lakeshore Road, NOTL 
  • Antiques on Creek – multi-dealer boutique antique shop located at 1579 Four Mile Creek Road, NOTL 

8. Visit a Farm

What to do Niagara on the Lake, well seeing you’re in the Niagara Fruit Belt, producing 90% of Ontario’s fruit, you can’t not stop at a roadside fruit market. Better yet, why not go fruit picking? One of the best locations to pick your own fruit is at Parkway Orchards or Walker’s Country Market.

peaches on fruit stand in notl

If you’re a fan of lavender, then stopping at Neob Niagara is a must. Walk through the rows of lavender during June to July’s blooming season. Note there is a fee of $10. Or visit the on-site lavender shop, open all year long, selling its English lavender products. 

Another unique thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake is to visit Grimo Nut Nursery – a grower of 15 kinds of nuts. Find your favourites here – walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pecans, figs, and more. Self-guided tours at 979 Lakeshore Rd, NOTL

Seasonal Fruit Calendar
June to JulyJuly to SeptemberAugust to SeptemberMonth of AugustSeptember to October
Cherry season
Lavender
Peach seasonNectarine seasonPlum seasonApple season

9. Discover a Hidden Gems Niagara on the Lake

The best hidden gem in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the gardens of Pillar and the Post Inn & Spa. You don’t have to be a guest of this 19th-century vintage hotel to experience these beautiful gardens. Directly across the street from the hotel are the Monet-inspired gardens found in Giverny, France. A La Roserie, a pink and red rose garden, Le Pont de Monet, a green footbridge, and Le Petit Pavilion, with a waterfall.

pond with row boat and gardens niagara on the lake canada

Designed for weddings, this photo op is perfect for a quiet stroll. Note, hours are 10 am to 7 pm and may be closed for private functions like weddings. 

Another hidden gem in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the smallest chapel in the world – the Living Water Wayside Chapel. This cute chapel, built in 1964 by the Niagara Falls Christian Reformed Church, is now just a fun spot for a photo op! And, it sits on the grounds of Walker’s Country Market, so you can stop and enjoy both. This is one of the unique Niagara on the Lake attractions that most don’t even know about.

tiny white chapel at niagara by the lake attractions

10. Stroll some Spectacular Parks

sunrise with lake and gazebo as things to see in niagara on the lake

Stroll through the nearby parks of Simcoe and Queen’s Royal Park. The highlight of Queens Royal Park is the views of Lake Ontario from the gazebo. Catch a sunrise, and admire the view as Niagara by the lake is such a pretty site! You will also be able to see Old Fort Niagara. 

canopy of trees with a walkway in niagara on the lake ontario
Niagara Regional Park

A short drive away, but equally spectacular is the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. Of all the Niagara-on-the-Lake things to do, this is one of my favourites – no matter the season. Take a leisurely stroll through the enchanting Park, and catch the seasonal plants and flowers on display. However, spring is especially pretty with its burst of pink blooms and is considered one of the best locations for cherry blossoms.

11. Attend a Festival in Niagara on the Lake

bakery with red brink and tulips as things to see niagara on the lake ontario

Why not plan a weekend around festivals and events in Niagara on the Lake? As far as Niagara on the Lake activities go, these fun festivals will keep you coming back year after year.

  • Niagara Icewine Festival – all month long in January, Niagara-on-the-Lake offers Icewine-themed experiences. It’s a great time to visit the area without the crowds and the top thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake in the winter. Not to mention sampling Canada’s greatest invention – ice wine!  
  • Days of Wine, Chocolate and Cheese – really is there anything better than that combination? Select wineries host this festival in March
  • Artistry by the Lake – takes place over the Canada Day long weekend featuring artists and artisans showcasing their work in the Queen’s Royal Park.  
  • Shades of Summer Dinner – celebrates the peach harvest in early August. This exclusive food and drink festival is a popular event and requires pre-ordering your tickets. 
  • Taste the Season – over the 4 weekends in November – wineries celebrate the season’s bounty and host holiday-inspired food and wine experiences. 

12. Visit Wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Ok, now for the real reason why most people go to Niagara-on-the-Lake…the wine and wineries! It is one of the Niagara-on-the-Lake things to do, right after strolling downtown. Whether you decide to join a wine tasting tour or go it your own, here are my picks of the top 5 most popular wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake

chateau style winery with bikes niagara on the lake things to do
Konzelmann Estate Winery
  1. Trius Winery – picturesque views, instagrammable spots for photo op, scrumptious restaurant – what more could you want, oh right delicious wines too! Try the sparkling wines – they are my favourite | 1249 Niagara Stone Road, NOTL
  2. Two Sisters Vineyard – the ideal country setting and Italian-inspired dining transport you to somewhere in Tuscany. You can’t go wrong with any of their crisp whites to full-bodied reds | 240 John Street East, NOTL
  3. Konzelmann Estate Winery – is known for its experiences – wine tours, events, and even a luxury dome by the lake. They’re also known for their peach wine, give it a try! | 1096 Lakeshore Road, NOTL
  4. Stratus Vineyards – this chic modern winery looks so good and has embraced a new way of winemaking. You can’t go wrong with any of the reds at Stratus | 2059 Niagara Stone Road, NOTL 
  5. Peller Estates Winery – the stately winery has all the French chateau feels. What I love the most about this winery is the Winery Restaurant with chef Jason Parsons, oh and the views too! | 290 John St E, NOTL

13. Visit Breweries in Niagara-on-the-Lake

If you’re not a fan of wine or simply want to mix up your tasting experiences, then you’ll want to add these to your day. Here are the top cider, brewers, or spirits you’ll want to visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

glass winery with bottles as things to do in  niagara on the lake
Ironwood Cider House
  1. Ironwood Cider House – Sunnybrook Farms offers the best of both – a winery and cider and both offerings are delicious along with their tapas menu | 1425 Lakeshore Road, NOTL
  2. Oast House Brewers – visit the laid-back craft brewery that looks and feels like a friend’s backyard  | 2017 Niagara Stone Road
  3. The Exchange Brewery – has the best selection of local craft brews and is a fun hangout spot. If going, try and request the rooftop deck for the best downtown NOTL experience | 7 Queen Street, NOTL
  4. Spirit in Niagara – local seasonal fruit-infused cocktails- yes, please!  | 458 Lakeshore Road, NOTL
  5. Wayne Gretzky Estates – the legendary Canadian hockey player owns the only winery plus distillery in NOTL. This popular, lively spot to visit is perfect for fun patio vibes and come winter and wondering what to do at Niagara on the Lake – bring your skates for their cool outdoor rink | 1219 Niagara Stone 

14. Dine at Some of the Best Restaurants in NOTL

Niagara-on-the-Lake is just as much about the food as it is about the wine. It can’t all be wine tasting and no food when you go to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here are the best Niagara-on-the-Lake restaurants. 

plate of food - mushrooms, lentils, asparagus things to do at niagara on the lake
Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
  1. The best café and bakery in NOTL is The Pie Plate – if you don’t get there earlier enough most loaves of bread and pastries will be sold out for the day. Another must-try is Willow Cakes and Pastries – although they specialize in cakes, their quiche and pastries are a favourite of mine. 
  2. If you’re in the mood for pizza – check out Bistro Six-One for their thin-crust wood oven pizzas or maybe sushi – go to Masaki Sushi or the best farm-to-table restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake is Treadwell
  3. Wanting a traditional high tea experience – the Prince of Wales Drawing Room is the loveliest or dine at HOB NOB Restaurant in Niagara’s Finest Hotel for the most romantic restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake 
  4. Craving ice cream on that hot summer’s day – go to the popular Cows or my personal favourite Il Gelato di Carlotta 
  5. Some of the top wineries offer the best dining experiences, so much so, that it’s hard to just pick one. The Winery at Peller, Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters, Trius Winery Restaurant, and the Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

15. Stay in Niagara’s Finest Hotels

wagon white manor house in best hotels in niagara on the lake ontario

You can’t go wrong with Niagara’s Finest Hotels. In fact, once you’ve stayed once, you keep returning. Why? For their unbelievably high level of customer service and comfy stay. They are the complete package – three boutique hotels, four restaurants and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

  • Harbour House – a pet-friendly hotel with views of Lake Ontario
  • Shaw Club – a contemporary hotel with its downtown location near the shops and the Shaw Festival Theatre
  • Charles Hotel – a quaint, historic hotel with pretty gardens

You can read all about my weekend away with Niagara’s Finest Hotels.

FAQ About Visiti Niagara-on-the-Lake

Where is Niagara on the Lake?

Niagara on the Lake is in the heart of Ontario’s wine country and is 125 km from Toronto, 25 km from Niagara Falls and 55 km from Buffalo US.

When is the best time of year to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake?

The best time of year to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake is May to October due to the nicer weather, blooming gardens, and availability of museums and theatre productions.

How do I spend a day in Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Spend your day in Niagara-on-the-Lake by strolling downtown, popping into shops, visiting a winery or two and taking in a play at Shaw Festival.

What is special about Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Niagara-on-the-Lake is special because it’s Ontario’s largest producer of wine, is home to world-class theatre known as the Shaw Festival, and boasts many buildings post-War of 1812.

As a Holidaymaker

Whether you are heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the day or a weekend, there is plenty to do. This pretty town in Canada is the kind of destination that you can visit over and over again and still not feel like you’ve seen it all.

The very charming Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario offers a little something for everyone. What are some of your favourite things to do from these best things to do in Niagara on the Lake list? 

If you enjoy day-tripping as much as I do, you’re going to want to visit my Canada home page where there are endless day trips to Ontario small towns like this one.