Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of the most well-preserved 19th century cities in North America. Visitors delight in meandering through the maze of Georgian and neoclassical homes and stores along the town’s main street. The development craze of the early 20th century largely bypassed this shipbuilding and port town when it was busy constructing the Welland canal.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is situated where Lake Ontario and Niagara River converge. It was settled in the late 18th century by British Loyalists who named it Newark. When Upper Canada was formed in 1792, Niagara-on-the-Lake became its first capital. During the 1812 War, it was completely sacked by the Americans. The town was quickly rebuilt and nothing has really changed since then. The pleasant tree-shaded streets and charming clapboard brick houses make it a great stopping point in trips to Niagara Falls.
Queen Street is the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake where everything takes place. It stretches 20 meters (60 feet) wide and is lined with old buildings occupied by restaurants, tea shops, bakeries, and quaint stores that sell various goods such as jam, crafts, and confectionary. One of the oldest stores is the Niagara Apothecary Shop, which opened in 1866. It still uses original old jars, walnut counters, and splendidly labeled drawers. The place is now a museum and no longer sells the medications it once sold. If you’re looking for remedies such as “Pink Pills for Pale People” or “Dragon’s Blood”, you’re out of luck.
Fort George Historic Park
Fort George Historic Park sits on River Road south along the Niagara Parkway. The Fort was built between 1797-99 and was used in the War of 1812 by the British. It had to be rebuilt in 1815 after being destroyed by the Americans two years earlier. In the 1930s, it was restored after being abandoned for decades. You can visit the fort today and get a glimpse of the officers’ quarters, the powder magazine, forge, and barracks. It is open everyday from May to October. Guided tours are only available by appointment during the winters. If you have a serious interest in Niagara’s history, you can visit the Niagara Historical Museum. Located at Davy on 43 Castlereagh Street, it is the oldest historical museum in Canada.
There are a number of wineries located near Niagara-on-the-Lake. Many of them offer wine tasting tours. The Hillebrand Estates Winery in particular is a popular one that looks a lot like the French countryside.
The annual Shaw Festival is one of the main draws of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is held from May to October with performances shown everyday. Theatergoers from around the country come to watch top-name actors and actresses perform plays by famous playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. The town’s main theatre is the Festival Theatre, an attractive modern glass structure with a nice interior. There is also a theatre at Wellington Street and another one at Queen’s Parade.
In the summer, Niagara-on-the-Lake can get booked up pretty quickly. The town isn’t that big and there are only so many number of hotel rooms. It is a good idea to book in advance if you plan to visit during the town’s peak season.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.
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