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Exploring Niagara this winter

Niagara Falls Winter Getaway

Exploring Niagara this winter

Niagara Falls in summer is classic, as is Ontario's wine country in the fall crush time. But what about winter? It's romantic, sleepy, and magical, really -- a delightful time to sightsee and tour through the rolling NiagaraExternal Link Title countryside with its brick villages and Victorians, farms, lakes, and rivers all blanketed in snow. Here are the very best things to do, see, eat, drink, and experience during the quiet season.

Taste Icewine at harvest time

Touring in the fertile Niagara wine region, home to 140 wineries, is a must. In winter, it's extra special. That's because this is the time when vintners harvest their award-winning Icewine while the temperamental grapes are still frozen on the vine. Canada, and specifically Niagara, is a world leader in Icewine with 60 specialists. The Niagara Icewine FestivalExternal Link Title, with tons of events and parties outdoors, takes place in three weekends in January. Do your own driving trip using the Wine Route Planner or take a guided tasting tourExternal Link Title. Sip, swirl,External Link Title and tourExternal Link Title at Icewine pioneer InniskillinExternal Link Title. Or spend the day at Peller EstatesExternal Link Title, a large chateau-like property with an elegant restaurant overlooking the vineyard and the popular 10Below Icewine LoungeExternal Link Title, a bar made of ice and kept frigid to simulate the Icewine harvest -- don't worry, Peller supplies parkas.

Step behind the frozen falls

Take an elevator 150 feet down and walk through a tunnel on the Journey Behind the FallsExternal Link Title for a look at the 13-story-high fabled cascade from a different perspective -- and to hear the thundering roar. Or take a look at the 40-foot-tall ice bridgeExternal Link Title that forms at the base of Niagara Falls from December to February each year. A natural phenomenon, it resembles a bunch of giant marshmallows covering the Niagara River that can be up to 100-feet thick. Enjoy the snow-covered falls illuminated by two million lights in vibrant colors during the holiday Winter Festival of LightsExternal Link Title or join the happy crowds for the free outdoor New Year's Eve concertExternal Link Title and fireworks.

Stroll Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is quaint and charming. But when it's dusted in white, the 19th century villageExternal Link Title is down right idyllic. Bundle up and stroll the tree-lined avenues past the stately 1700s-era buildings, shop in town, people-watch in a cafe, try a guided walking tour, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Linger over afternoon tea in the drawing room at the lavish Prince of Wales HotelExternal Link Title or sample the labels at 35 wineries nearby. Stay at a cozy B&BExternal Link Title or Victorian inn and dine out. There are lots of sophisticated offerings, including trendy, sustainably focused BackhouseExternal Link Title, field-to-table TreadwellExternal Link Title, Old-World-style manor house Charles HotelExternal Link Title, and seasonal, locavore-minded Ravine Vineyard RestaurantExternal Link Title, set in a renovated old farmhouse.

Flightsee over wineries and falls

See Niagara Falls' grandeur from the air, and learn about the history of the falls and area, on a Niagara HelicoptersExternal Link Title Classic TourExternal Link Title. This adventure is 12 minutes of hovering and zipping above the cascades and frozen Niagara River, plus glittering views of Toronto and Lake Erie. You can choose a falls-plus-wineries tourExternal Link Title,External Link Title taking in 70 of the area's vineyards, or book a custom charterExternal Link Title of your own design. Not one for helicopters? You can also catch spectacular views of the falls from the 775-foot-high, indoor-outdoor Skylon TowerExternal Link Title overlooking the American and Horseshoe Falls.

Relax and rejuvenate off the beaten path

The Twenty ValleyExternal Link Title is still a largely undiscovered, scenic hilly area along the Lake Ontario shoreline of family farms, 48 wineries, and small towns filled with heritage brick buildings and artisan studios. Plan a wine-plus-R&R getaway to the Spa on the TwentyExternal Link Title in charming Jordan VillageExternal Link Title. Stay next door at the innExternal Link Title, an antiques-filled, 100-year-old Colonial, known for its healthy and delicious seasonal cuisine. Also in town is Cave Springs CellarsExternal Link Title, a full-service spa specializing in vinotherapy. The village also puts on a three-day Winter WineFestExternal Link Title in early January with celebrity chefs, outdoor Icewine tastings, parties by the fire pit, and long table vintner dinners.

Urban plus outdoors in St-Catharines

Between the Twenty Valley and Niagara-on-the-Lake is St-CatharinesExternal Link Title on Lake Ontario, the region's biggest city surrounded by an outdoor playground of parks and trails. Snowshoe The Bruce TrailExternal Link Title, passing by the Welland Canal LocksExternal Link Title, where ships pass through til the end of December. Walk around the city's historic downtown, browsing shops for antiques, records, and jewelry, warming up at a coffee house, then settling into a pub or restaurantExternal Link Title for the evening. Learn about the historic Underground Railway -- an 1820s clandestine network of safe houses and secret routes that brought hundreds of black Americans escaping slavery to Canada -- at the 1855 Salem ChapelExternal Link Title, a National Historic Site. If you're ready for more tasting, many consider 13External Link TitlethExternal Link Title Street WineryExternal Link Title one of the very best in Niagara, especially for its gamay and sparkling wines.


On the U.S.-Canada border between New York and Ontario, and just a short drive from urban Toronto, the Niagara region has lots to discover in winter --

though you can always return for more in the other seasons.

Find more travel tips and info at the Niagara website.