Off the Beaten Path: Best Small Wineries to Visit in Niagara

You probably know all the big names of Niagara wine country like Peller, Inniskillen and Jackson-Triggs and while these institutions always serve up a nice drop, there’s so many lesser known wineries to explore in Niagara region. Each year we see new entries to the Niagara wine scene looking to stake their claim in Ontario’s best microclimate. So why not take a weekend to venture off the beaten path and visit some of these great small wineries… your next favorite bottle may be waiting just around the corner!

7. Pondview Estates

Located in the Four Mile Creek appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pondview Estates is a small family-owned winery backed by 3 generations of winemaking experience. The Puglisi family’s Sicilian roots set this vineyard apart and you’ll find little details such as local cheeses and antipasto on offer at the tasting bar, all making for a unique wine experience. Since opening in 2010, Pondview has been producing wines that consistently win awards both at home and abroad, including their 2010 Vidal Icewine which took home the prize of Best Dessert Wine of the Year at the 2012 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards.

 Pondview 1

Official Website: Pondview Estates

6.    13th Street Winery

If you venture off the QEW highway at Seventh St between Jordan and St. Catharines and make a right at 4th Ave, you’ll come across 13th Street Winery…seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Though not as small as some of the others on this list, its well worth a visit to this vineyard which also offers an on-site bakery, greenhouse and unique art gallery featuring exhibitions by Canadian artists. Specialists in Gamay and traditional method sparkling wines, they have produced a new line of wines called ‘Detour’ available in both red and white, the name reflects the wineries strategy to venture off the beaten path and try something different. Upon opening the doors of their new retail facility in 2009 13th Street had a vision to stimulate all the senses, not just taste and with all this vineyard has to offer it seems they’ve done this with great success.

 13th Street

Official Website: 13th Street Winery

5.    Small Talk Vineyards

 

Newly rebranded Small Talk Vineyards sits on a relatively small piece of land on a quiet country road in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Formerly Stonechurch Vineyards, the Hunse family has been farming this property for almost 60 years. While the location of this winery may be quiet, the new line of dinner-centric wines are anything but. With names like RSVP, Faux Pas and Burning Ambition these wines are a celebration of everything fun and bringing a bottle to your next dinner party will surely spark some lively conversation.

dinner party

Official Website: Small Talk Vineyards

4.    Di Profio Wines

Among the newest and smallest wineries in this region, it’s worth stopping in Jordan ON to check out Di Profio Wines. Three generations of family winemaking have brought them from the vineyards of Italy to the Niagara Peninsula where Fred Di Profio resides as current winemaker. On site you’ll find the tasting bar and wine shop called ‘The Zinc’ as well as a charming 3 room bed and breakfast adjacent the vineyard. The future is looking bright for this little boutique as they’ve been selling out of cases each year despite increased production, so don’t miss your chance to get your hands on a bottle by visiting them soon.

 Di Profio

Official Website: Di Profio Wines

3.    Rennie Estate

With one of the oldest vineyard sites of the area, Rennie Estate is a family owned producer of small batch artisanal wines. They consider themselves specialists in Super Niagara Bordeaux blends which use old world techniques resulting in wines with unique richness and complexity. If you’re looking for something a little lighter though, Rennie Estate can accommodate with their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties which use fruit sourced exclusively from their own land. With a whole list of awards behind them, make a note of stopping in at this Beamsville gem on your next trip through Ontario wine country.

 Rennie Estate

Official Website: Rennie Estate

2.    Frogpond Farm

Travelling down the Niagara Parkway you’ll pass many of the big name wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake but hop one concession west and you’ll discover Frogpond Farm, Ontario’s first certified organic vineyard. Respect for the land and harmony in nature are key principals here as this vineyard is dedicated to growing healthier, stronger vines without the use of any herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or chemical fertilizers. With plenty of offerings in both red and white wines, check out Frogpond Farm soon and taste the difference organic makes.

 Frogpond

Official Website: Frogpond Farm

1.    Back 10 Cellars

Situated on a small 10 acre plot of land between Vineland and Beamsville lies Back 10 Cellars, the passion project of Andrew and Christina Brooks. This boutique vineyard produces small batch wines from the low-yielding vines creating exceptional products like their multi award-winning ‘The Big Reach Riesling’. The family lives, works and plays here and they happily invite you into their space to enjoy the wonderful wines that are the result of a 10 year journey to realize their dreams.

 back 10 cellars

Official Website: Back 10 Cellars

10 Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss in Niagara Region

Be it spring, summer, autumn or winter there’s always something going on in the busy Region of Niagara, and with so many festivals ranging from food to arts to music how do you decide what you should see and do? We’re helping you prioritize your leisure time with this list of 10 festivals you don’t want to miss.

10. Folk Arts Festival

This colorful festival runs in late May and is Canada’s oldest continually running heritage festival. You can expect to enjoy a wide variety of music, food, dance and arts celebrating cultures from around the world. Other festival events include the Ambassadors’ Ball -a gala night of dinner and dancing, A citizenship ceremony, and Folk Art in the Park -a weekend of fun festivities in Montebello Park downtown St. Catharines.

folk fest

9. Peach Festival

The Peach Festival is a 2 day event in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake celebrating our favorite fuzzy fruit. Taking place during harvest season in early August, you can be sure to find all the peach products you can eat including jams, pies, crepes, punch and sundaes. There’s children’s face painting and entertainment along with a night market on the Saturday featuring local merchants and products.

peaches

8. Niagara Icewine Festival

This celebration of all things Icewine takes place in Niagara-on-the Lake each January with events running the whole month long. Highlights include the Sparkle and Ice Dinner featuring an Icewine inspired menu and the Icewine Village, where historic Queen Street is transformed into a magical winter wonderland featuring wineries serving up Canada’s favorite sweet golden goodness.

ice wine

7. Winter Festival of Lights

For years Ontario Power Generation’s Winter Festival of Light’s has been celebrating the magic of the holiday season in a very bright way. Events start in November and run until January 31st and feature illuminated displays that turn Niagara Parks into a winter wonderland. Check out the over 3 million twinkling lights stretching the 5km route and make a stop in at the outdoor skating rink right next to the famous falls.

winter lights

6. Rotary Ribfest

Each year in June the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls presents the Rotary Ribfest BBQ. This weekend festival features award winning Ribbers who travel from all over North America to bring you the best BBQ possible. It’s fun for the whole family with live entertainment, market vendors and a children’s midway. Best of all, the money raised from this event goes back into the community through Rotary’s donations to local programs and services.

ribfest

5. IlluminAqua

Fire. Music. Water. No other festival combines these elements for such a unique sensory experience. The summer concert series features memorable performances by Canadian artists on a floating stage in the calm waters of the Welland Canal. Purchase a season pass to the entire line-up of shows for the ultimate music experience or buy individual show tickets and prepare for an amazing night on the water.

fire and water

4. Niagara Wine Festival

Entering its 63rd year, this is one of the oldest wine festivals in the region. The Niagara Wine Festival takes place in September and includes participation from over 40 local wineries both big and small. Sample wines and enjoy live entertainment during the festival in Montebello Park, downtown St. Catharines.

wine festival

3. Scene Music Festival

Music fans rejoice! This weekend festival takes place at the end of June in downtown St. Catharines and features hundreds of amazing artists at multiple stages and venues all within walking distance of each other. Montebello Park is the central festival venue and it’s where you can find admissions, vendors, merchandise and the main stage. This event has come a long way from its small beginnings and has now become one of the area’s biggest music festivals of the summer.

scene concert

2. Shaw Festival

Since its beginnings in 1962 the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake has continued to delight theatre goers for over 40 years. The season officially kicks off in May and runs all summer long with 10-12 plays produced each season. Performances are held in 4 beautiful theatres throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake with the biggest, the Festival Theatre capable of seating up to 869 people. This festival aims to provoke thought and stir the soul by celebrating the works and spirit of the late playwright Bernard Shaw.

 

royal george theatre

1. Niagara Food Festival

If you love fresh food, live entertainment and big name celebrity chefs than this is the festival for you! One of the biggest food festivals around, this event in early September draws crowds from far and wide to historic downtown Welland. Sample delicious food from local restaurants and producers, watch celebrity chefs whip up culinary delights on the mobile theatre stage and relax with a glass of wine while listening to awesome musical performances.

chef cooking

Top 5 Heart Racing Activities in Niagara Falls

With so many fun parks, splash pads and cartoon characters, most people tend to think of Niagara Falls as a strictly family-oriented vacation spot. We believe however that the falls really does have something for everyone…including those looking for a thrill. So hold onto your hats because in this article you’ll find the run-down of the best activities for those looking for action and adventure in Niagara.

5. Fly over the Falls

Anyone can stand at the edge and check out the falls from the typical angle, but how about taking things arial with a birds eye view of the falls? Niagara Helicopters offers flights over the falls every 15 minutes in their 6-seat helicopters starting from the Whirlpool area of the Niagara River and passing over both the American and Canadian Falls. National Helicopters also offers tours over the falls and specializes in more personal comprehensive packages.Either choice will give you the perfect way to combine adventure and spectacular views.

 Niagara Falls

4. Indoor Skydiving -Niagara Freefall

Are you looking for the thrilling sensation of skydiving but aren’t quite ready to jump out of a plane? Look no further, because at Niagara Freefall they’re offering the skydiving experience in a safe and controlled indoor environment. After a 25 minute training and safety orientation, you’ll be ready to fly in a wind tunnel at speeds of up to 120mph. Unlike the real thing, this experience is open and safe for all ages.

 indoor skydive

3. Skydiving -Skydive Burnaby

Approximately a 40 minute drive from Niagara Falls is one of Southern Ontario’s premier skydiving companies. Skydive Burnaby is the closest company to the world famous falls and specializes in first time jumpers with their Tandem Skydiving experience. Don’t worry if you’re an experienced skydiver already because Skydive Burnaby offers an Advanced Freefall Progression program as well as Group Formation events for those looking to take skydiving to the next level!

 skydiving

2. Flyboarding -Flyboard Niagara

Fly like a bird and swim like a dolphin all at once as you soar up to 40 feet in the air while strapped onto a Flyboard using water propulsion technology. Similar to wakeboarding or surfing this watersport apparatus takes a little practice to get the hang of, but Flyboard Niagara is confidant that after 5 minutes of basic training you’ll be able to operate the board and ‘fly’ up and down the Welland River.

flyboarding

1. Jet Boat Tour -Whirlpool Jet Boat

One of the most popular extreme activities in Niagara, Whirlpool Jet Boat has been offering wild rides since 1992. Jump aboard the open air Wet Jet and get ready to feel the force as you experience the power of the high speed Jet Boats as they twist and turn through the turbulent whirlpools of the Niagara River. Remember to bring a change of clothes for this activity because you will get wet! Not looking to get soaked? Whirlpool Jet Boat also offers tours in their Jet Dome boats which have covered cabins with glass ceiling so you don’t miss any of the action.

 Whirlpool Jet boat

7 Budget Friendly Activities to do in Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the top tourist destinations in Ontario so it makes sense that it’s home to countless tourist attractions, but beware…everything has a price tag attached. For a typical family of 4 this could mean spending a lot just to see and do a few things. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the case because there are tons of inexpensive and even free activities to do around the falls…you just have to know where to look!

7. Botanical Gardens Walk

Located just a 10 minute drive north of the falls, the Botanical Gardens offers the perfect place to enjoy a serene walk through beautiful garden settings. Experience a wide variety of plant life including perennials, an arboretum and even a world class rose garden. The Garden’s footpath also takes you past the Butterfly Conservatory but take note that there’s an admission fee if you want to go in. Admission to the Botanical Gardens is free and parking is only $5.

garden

6. Picnic in the Park

One of the best ways to enjoy time outdoors in Niagara is to have a picnic, and packing your own food means saving money by avoiding the pricey restaurants in and around the falls. At Queen Victoria Park you can lay out your checkered blanket while taking in great views of the falls. Bring a frisbee or football along and make the most of your time in the park. Since Queen Victoria Park is an outdoor public space, there’s no admission so go ahead and take advantage of the fresh local produce and artisan foods of the region and pack yourself a picnic today.

picnic in the park

5. Heritage Tour

Niagara is an area rich in history and was home to many battles during the war of 1812. You can learn more about this without breaking the bank on expensive costumed tours re-enactments by taking a self guided heritage tour. The best place to start is at the Niagara Falls History Museum, where admission is only $5 for adults or $15 for a family of up to 5 people. The museum features 3 galleries with changing exhibitions and is also located near one of the most significant battle sites of the War of 1812. From the Museum you can pick up a walking tour map and take a self guided walk of Lundy’s Lane Battlefield.

old fort erie

4. Bike Tour

Another great option for experiencing the beauty of Niagara while saving money is to go on a bike ride. This is essentially a free activity if you bring your own bike and if not you can rent one for as little as $20 for a half day. The Greater Niagara Circle Route is about 140km long but is made up of smaller trails such as the Waterfront Trail, Trans Canada Trail and Fort Erie Friendship Trail. Most of the trails are paved and maps are available online, at area bike rental shops, and there’s also a mobile app available for iPhone.

 biking wine country

3. Hike the Bruce Trail

Strap on those hiking boots and hit the trails of Niagara. Niagara Falls is the start (or the end depending on how you look at it) of the famous Bruce Trail which runs along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Falls to Tobermory ON. On the Niagara portion of the trail you can start from Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls and travel as far as you like on over 130 km of trails included in the Niagara Section. There are even some side trails worth exploring on their own including the General Brock Side Trail which is 12.3 km long and runs from Queenston Heights Park to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Just make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks for your trek!

bruce trail

2. Niagara Falls Farmers Market

Niagara is the epicenter of good food and wine in Ontario and home to many great farms and artisan food producers. Find them all in one spot at the Niagara Falls Farmers Market open Saturday’s 6:00am-12:00pm, year round. Of course there’s no admission to visit the market so your only cost will be whatever  tasty treats you purchase to bring home.

farmers market

1. Ginseng Farm Tour

Did you know that Southern Ontario is the largest producer of Native Ginseng in Canada? The industry actually began in Ontario and Great Mountain Ginseng Co is the first Chinese company to grow commercial Ginseng in the Niagara area. At Great Mountain Farm they offer free tours where you’ll learn first hand how native Ontario Ginseng is grown as well as it’s history and health benefits, and you might even get to try some samples.

 ginseng

10 Must-See Landmarks in the US

Just because you have a large family or find yourself on a budget, doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and pout. The good news is that there are numerous cultural, historic, kitschy, and fun landmarks right here in this beautiful country of ours.

So what are you waiting for? Hop in the car, tune up the music, and take a route to a few of these ten must-see US landmarks…

1. Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.

Standing proud between the U.S. Capitol and the White House, the Washington Monument soars 555-feet up, into the great blue yonder. Constructed completely of white marble, striking blue gneiss, and granite, you’ll want to snap some photos of it in the distance from the outlook at the National Mall. But the adventure doesn’t stop there. You can actually take the family to the top if they’re willing to brave the often long lines (from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily) and white-knuckle it to the top on the swift elevator that whisks you to the observation level for a spectacular vista of our nation’s capital.

washington-monument

2. Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Stretching from Colorado all the way to Wyoming, the Rocky Mountains will leave you awe-struck—both because of their panoramic beauty and due to the sheer multitude of outdoor adventures they offer. From snowboarding to skiing and from hiking to off road cycling, the whole family will love it!

rocky mountains

3. Statue of Liberty, New York, New York

The Statue of Liberty bids welcome with her flaming torch from Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Big and small kids alike will be impressed by the lady’s size and magnificence. She was actually a gift of bestowed by France in 1886, and you can easily check her out, in all of her glory, via a harbor boat cruises, which takes you around Liberty Island or via a sail and tour of Liberty Island, in which you can climb to the top of her crown and check out the stunning vistas of New York City.

Statue of Liberty

4. Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota

The presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, were sculpted out of Harney Peak granite by artist Gutzon Borglum, who captured the first 150 years of American history in the likenesses of US presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Today, you can get a good look at the project that took 14 years to accomplish via an informative 30-minute guided tour about America’s history along the Presidential Trail.

Mount Rushmore

5. Yellowstone Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is home to Old Faithful (one of the world’s most unique geysers), as well as a plethora of wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, wolves, and bison. Stretching over Wyoming and inching into Montana and Idaho, the hiking, birding, and photography opportunities are endless in America’s very first national park.

yellowstone park

6. Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is proof of Nature’s amazing power and beauty.  One can’t help but be amazed by the immensity of the steep-sided canyon, which stretches 277 miles (446 km) long, 18 miles wide, and dives over a mile into the vast open space carved out by the Colorado River. The surrounding Grand Canyon National Park preserves the local land and wildlife in the area, making an ideal hiking opportunity around one of the worlds “Seven Natural Wonders”!

grand canyon

7. Hoover Dam, Nevada-Arizona

Constructed from 1931 and 1936 to slow and store water from the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam lies on the Nevada-Arizona border. The sweeping 726.4-foot concrete dam wall attracts history buffs, engineers, and architectural enthusiasts for guided tours of the dam and adjoining power plant.

Hoover dam
Jeffrey J Coleman / Shutterstock.com

8. Niagara Falls, New York

A popular wedding destination (if drive-thru is your thing); the city of Niagara Falls, New York is home to another natural wonder of the world—the famed and romantic Niagara Falls. You can check out the falls for photo opps or even take a boat tour. But don’t ignore the other city attractions such as casinos, museums, hotels, and restaurants.

Niagara Falls, New York

9. The Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

Built in 1962 for Seattle World’s Fair, the futuristic Space Needle stands 605-feet high and is a lasting symbol of the city itself, and the potential of the modern world. You can purchase a ticket to ride the elevator to the 520-foot-high observation deck for a panoramic view of the city below or dinner at the swanky SkyCity revolving restaurant.

The Space Needle, Seattle

10. Empire State Building, New York, New York

Apart from the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building is one of the Big Apple’s most iconic structures. Built in 1930 to 1,453-feet, 8 9/16-inch heights, the Empire State Building hosts two observatories on the 86th floor (at 1,050-feet) and 102nd (at 1,250-feet) floors. You can visit year round, daily, from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Empire State Building