There are many places my husband and I like to visit, but our all-time favourite is close to home. We book a visit in Niagara-on-the-Lake – Ontario’s Paradise – at least once a year and always on my birthday in August.
During the day, this picturesque town is bustling with shoppers who crowd the sidewalks, boutiques, and galleries. This is the home of artist Tricia Romance. It is always a joy to check out her lovely paintings that hang in her main art gallery there. Such lovely depictions of family life in simpler times and venues. There are other fine galleries of art to peruse there as well.
The town’s main street features a substantial boulevard for several blocks. This is the town’s centrepiece which is breathtaking with its colourful flowers and shrubs. The sight lifts one’s spirits immediately and the mixed scents are almost intoxicating. As you saunter along, you can hear the clicking of horses’ hooves as they pull their open carriages of tourists, honeymooners, and sometimes a wedding party. We often book an evening carriage ride and delight in touring this beautiful town in a conveyance from a bygone era.
At night, the downtown core is lit up with little white lights which adds an extra touch of romance to an evening stroll through this enchanted town – and former capital of Upper Canada. The Shaw Theatre, along with its satellite stage venues, provide afternoon and evening shows for your entertainment. Niagara-on-the-Lake has so much to do and enjoy! The locals are hospitable to a fault and make you feel like you’ve lived in this exquisite town all your life. Almost everything you need and want is within walking distance. The trails along the river beckon you to experience nature’s beauty along the water. The town has a lovely and restful park in the centre of town complete with picnic tables, a band shell, and a wading pool for the children.
Inviting cafés and restaurants are found throughout the town, and the food is superb. There’s a venue for everyone and a dish for every palate. Fine dining can be found at The Prince of Wales Hotel, Charles Inn, Oban Inn, Queen’s Landing, and Zees at the Shaw Hotel. One of our favourites is the 19th century dining experience at Charles Inn which overlooks a portion of the golf course. Most often we return to our hotel by carriage ride after our memorable meal there – often in time to witness the beautiful sunset.
There are many wonderful places to stay at Niagara-on-the-Lake, but our favourite is Harbour House. Situated just across the road from Queen’s Landing, Harbour House faces the river and overlooks the marina. Their window views are breathtaking and the rooms are spacious, beautiful, and comfortable. Each morning we arrive at the dining room early – eager to partake in the generous breakfast provided. Their service is impeccable from the Lobby staff to the kitchen servers and beyond to the shuttle drivers who happily drive you anywhere you need to go. Each afternoon from 4:00 to 5:30 stop by for wine, cheese, crackers, and good conversation with other guests! There’s always a gift when you first arrive in your room and it is kept in immaculate condition throughout your stay.
Most of our trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake include a jaunt across the border to do some sightseeing and shopping. When we go in August, it is an opportune time to buy the grandkids back to school outfits. Most years, our dear friends, Margie and Ron Zuccala join us on the day of my birthday to have lunch in one of the cafés. It is always lovely to try the cold soups and fruit dishes. And their peach martinis are to die for! One year, Ron and John posed as greeters as they took chairs near the door of the local Tabi store while Margie and I shopped for clothes. The shop manager wanted to hire them permanently!
The last treat we enjoy before leaving each year is a couple of hours in the Shaw Spa – right next to Zees and the Shaw Hotel. We luxuriate in fantastic pedicures and massages which leave us relaxed and energized.
As we arrive back home in Waterloo, our thoughts stray ahead to our next visit to our favourite romantic spot.