I am strolling along the main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake drinking in the beauty and charm that earned it the title of Canada’s Prettiest Town, and then it hit me. The Niagara-on-the-Lake I have loved and adored for so many years is even prettier.
It was 1996 when Niagara-on-the-Lake was honoured with the title by a nationwide beautification program. I’ve visited many times and there is no question the title is well earned. The town has quaint streets, beautifully decorated storefronts and charming horse and carriages. Perhaps my visit this time was special because it’s edging closer to the Christmas season, but the town seems to have gone from gorgeous to fairy tale spectacular. I am mesmerized by its charm.
If you haven’t experienced Niagara-on-the-Lake at Christmas, you’re missing out on one of the great local getaways our area has to offer. The festive decorations and events take the already magical charm the town is known for and push it up a notch or two. “It truly is a magical place in the winter,” says Janice Thomson, executive director of Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce. “I think it’s the season when people see hospitality at its best because it’s a bit slower so there are more opportunities to meet the owners.”
In mid-November, the Christmas spirit comes alive with twinkle lights and store windows decorated with the old-fashioned charm of the season. Even the horse and carriages get draped in lights and garlands. No visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake at Christmas would be complete without stopping by the Just Christmas store. It’s a popular spot any time of the year but come November and December the store is packed. “The weekends leading up to Christmas we are extremely busy,” says sales associate, Alyssa Rothwell. “We get hundreds of people. We have so many ornaments – I’d say at least a thousand different types – as well as novelty lights, nutcrackers, light up canvases and decorative pieces.” Customers particularly like their personalized hand-painted Christmas balls. The last few years Santa has come to the store on weekends to mingle with customers.
If you think Niagara-on-the-Lake is just about shopping, think again. The December 5th Candlelight Stroll is hugely popular, as is the Rotary Club house tour on December 5th and 6th which features six historic homes, each decorated by a professional designer. The prize-winning Santa Claus parade comes to town on December 13th starting at 11am, plus there are the winery tours, which continue year-round. Niagara’s “Winter in Wine Country” is a selection of great events which take place from November to February. “Taste the Season” takes place each weekend in November and you can enjoy unique pairings of premium VQA wines with delectable seasonal foods.
Although The Shaw Festival closes for the winter, they still have their Film Series, shown in the Festival Theatre in conjunction with the Toronto International Film Festival. Award-winning films are shown on Saturdays at 3pm, with Docs shown on Fridays.
But really, is everything in this town pretty? Yes, as it turns out. The Shaw Club Hotel and Spa was just awarded the lofty title of best loo in Canada in the Cintas Canada’s Best Restroom Contest. The washroom was chosen for its stalls that feature large glass doors which fog up for privacy when the door is locked. As the Cintas website states, “It delivers five-star style with every flush.”
LOCAL LINKS –
Shaw Festival:Film Series
Niagara-On-The-Lake Rotary Holiday House Tour
Wineries of Niagara-On-The-Lake
By Denise Davy