Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) is one of my favourite weekend getaways from Toronto. It’s under a two hour drive, and filled with so many things to do (not to mention several famous ice wine vineyards) that don’t break the bank, or involve to much pre-planning.
This time of year especially, I’m always looking for things that can get me out of my house, and out of hibernation mode. It’s been non-stop extreme cold warnings and snowy messes in Toronto. All I really want to do is sit in and binge-watch Netflix in my pjs, BUT sometimes all you need to feel motivated again is a quick weekend getaway somewhere that helps you enjoy what winter has to offer.
NOTL is often known as a summer destination. It’s filled with dozens of wineries to explore, and rows and rows of vines everywhere you turn. I love any wine destination, so you can see why it’s easy to love NOTL. However, I never thought to visit in the winter until recently, and now it may become my new fav winter destination.
The Niagara Icewine Festival
Each winter NOTL hosts the Icewine Festival where select ice wine vineyards participate in the multi-weekend event with special food and drink offerings. The Icewine Festival is what brought me to NOTL this past weekend, and it was so much fun to galivant around the wineries in the winter wonderland.
For only $45 you can buy a discovery pass for the festival each winter, and that includes eight food and wine pairings at your choice of over 40 wineries. Alternatively you can pay individually ($10 a sample) at each winery participating.
I would highly recommend the festival if you end up in the area during January when it happens. However, let’s talk a bit about a weekend getaway to NOTL and what else you can do in the winter time in the region.
Where to stay
There are a ton of places to stay in NOTL varying in different price points and options. On my recent weekend we opted for the Holiday Inn Express on York Road because it was conveniently located, and also, I never have the opportunity to stay in a nice hotel, so it can really up your weekend getaway and allow for a bit of pampering.
The hotel offers all the amenities you’ll need to have a comfortable stay such as:
- An included hot breakfast each morning (try their fun pancake machine or warm cinnamon buns)
- A heated saltwater indoor pool
- A 24-hour gym
- Free WiFi
- Black-out shades (seriously, I could’ve slept all day with these things)
… and the list goes on. Rooms start at $104 a night and you can book one here.
There are so many things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake, whether visiting in the summer or winter. First things first, you NEED to go and explore the local wineries and ice wine vineyards. You could spend days trying to get to them all, but it’s almost impossible. Some of my favourite in the area are:
- Small Talk Winery (Also a cidery!)
- Inniskillin (They are the OG makers of icewine!)
- Jackson Triggs
- Gretzky’s (In the winter they have a rink outside. Bring your own skates!)
- Peller Estates (They even have an ice bar!)
- Konzelmann (Try their famous peach wine!)
For a full list of wineries in NOTL, click here.
Other winter activities
Other than drinking wine, there is a ton of other things you can do in NOTL…
Hit up the outlet mall that falls conveniently across the road from the Holiday Inn Express, Outlet Collection, to score some great deals from some of your favourite brands.
Take the short drive over to Niagara Falls to check out the falls. If you’re lucky, they’ll be frozen over in the winter and you’ll be able to see them in a very unique wintery way.
Visit downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s super cute, filled with locally owned shops, set inside historical buildings.
Eat your way through the wineries. Lots of the wineries actually have restaurants as well. One that you can find close to Holiday Inn Express is Ravine which has a fantastic menu paired with their locally made wines.
Visit Fort George Historic Site which was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812. Bring your snowshoes, build a snowman, or enjoy the outdoors in the historical site.
There is so much that Niagara-on-the-Lake has to offer, and it’s not just a summer destination, the area is filled with events like the Icewine festival and more during the winter months too. Plus, you can beat the summer crowds of tourists and bachelorette parties, and enjoy your wine in peace.
What are your favourite things to do in the region? Share them in the comments!
Other Ontario content to read:
- How to Spend a Weekend in Collingwood
- An Ottawa Brewery Tour
- Where to Eat in Windsor, ON
- A Winter Getaway in Haliburton
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Disclaimer: My stay at the Holiday Inn Express was provided to me free of charge by IHG (International Hotel Group) to write a review on my experience, however I only write about things that I enjoyed and would recommend to others. All opinions in this piece are my own and 110% honest.