48 Hours in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

There’s no other way to put it- Niagara-on-the-Lake was better than I ever imagined. Only a four and a half hour drive from my home in Pennsylvania, Niagara-on-the-Lake, (NOTL) is a charming, picturesque town that will make you think you’ve been dropped into a Hallmark Christmas movie no matter what time of year you visit. The laid-back vibe of the historic old town area is the perfect setting if you just need to get away from all of the madness that is life… or Niagara Falls.

NOTL is a stark contrast from it’s neighbor to the south that boasts wonders-of-the-world waterfalls and Vegas-style casinos all in one snapshot of each other. After seeing for myself how cute and charming NOTL was, I find myself even more baffled by the fact that people travel to Niagara Falls area solely to visit Niagara Falls. In one way I want to scream to the people of Niagara Falls that they’re a 30-minute drive from a perfect weekend getaway spot, but in another way I hope those same people stay in the falls area and enjoy their TGI Fridays and casinos so that NOTL continues to remain the way it is- free of commercialization, ( for the most part, at least.)

48 hours was the perfect time to spend in this area and I can’t wait to plan another long weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake again soon. Without ever having visited the lake town, I was surprised at how perfectly my weekend itinerary in wine country turned out. When I travel up to NOTL again, I will make sure to visit many of the same places I did on this first trip.


When looking for places to stay, I had originally booked a B&B that was a 15 minute drive outside of the Historic Old Town. Something told me that this wasn’t the way to do things, so I cancelled that reservation and instead found the Harrogate House. Located only a block from the main stretch of shops & cafes in NOTL, Harrogate House is a historic inn that, again, makes you think you’ve just checked into a Hallmark movie B&B.

The hosts of the Harrogate House made the guests feel like they were family visiting from out of town. Our room was spotless and had its own private hallway with a beautiful ensuite and exposed wood beams in the bedroom area.

The main area of the B&B had a small kitchen with fridge, coffee maker, and ice maker as well as a few tables for breakfast and a sitting area with music to add to the ambience. For warmer days there are also tables outside on the main patio where guests can have their breakfast.

The real star of the Harrogate House is the beautiful breakfast you receive each morning of your stay. Just a few of the options we had for breakfast included fresh baked baguettes, croissants, blueberry parfaits, fresh fruit and cheese, egg bites, fluffy pancakes with bacon, and a smoothie granola bowl. If you leave the house hungry in the morning, then that’s your fault because everything the hosts make for you is delicious and filling.


From the Harrogate House you are only a few steps from the main stretch of Historic Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The streets here are lined with boutiques, cafes, and unique store fronts that you normally wouldn’t see along a main stretch in other neighborhoods. NOTL is, quite literally, a post card perfect place that has preserved its charm with its architecture, unique offerings, and welcoming hospitality.

The Prince of Wales Hotel is the iconic wayfinding spot in this area of NOTL because of its expanse and easily identifiable exterior with the orange brick and cream colored accents. The floral arrangements that line the streets of town flow into the garden spaces of the Prince of Wales, themed to the season you are visiting in.

The rest of the town is just as charming and colorful as the Prince of Wales with unusual shaped buildings, eclectic goods, and storefront facades that you just know have to have a place in the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

My favorite places to go into were Beauchapeau Hat Shop, Reiner’s Originals, a leather ottoman shop that offers fun, animal shaped options, and Irish Design.

There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes, candy stores, ice cream shops, and upscale clothing stores that feature goods that are as unique to Niagara-on-the-Lake as NOTL is to Canada. You could spend a few hours walking around the many shops and store fronts in this historic part of NOTL without ever getting bored. There are also quite a few B&B’s in this area, meaning you can scope out a place to stay for your next visit.

A few blocks from the main stretch of NOTL you will find the lakeshore of Lake Ontario. From here there are a few trails that wind their way along the lakefront as well as many beautiful vantage points of Old Fort Niagara in New York state and Toronto, way off on the other side of the lake. Make sure to visit Queens Royal Park both during the day and at night to have two very different experiences. The Toronto cityscape is especially beautiful at night when the city lights are visible.

The Old Historic district of Niagara-on-the-Lake sort of reminds me of Reykjavik in Iceland, where the city of Reykjavik is the base camp for travelers; You stay overnight in Reykjavik and enjoy a coffee in the morning but then venture out to other sites during the day. Then in the evening you return to your base camp for a nice dinner and to stroll the streets at night. NOTL is very similar is this respect but offers an even more intimate setting than the small-city vibe of Reykjavik.


Just as charming as the rest of NOTL, The Irish Harp features the same architecture style as the rest of Historic Old Town but has a much more upbeat atmosphere than most places in the laid-back tourist spot. Reservations are highly recommended here, and for good reason- it’s a traditional Irish pub that features home-cooked comfort food and makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Dublin for the duration of your meal.

You’ll have plenty of options when it comes to both food and drinks here but both will either exceed your expectations or meet them, depending on how high you set your standards. The main bar and seating area can get a bit loud with how many tables are in the space, and especially on nights when there is a band, but that cacophony of conversation only adds to the pub experience.

Once we had checked in to our B&B, which just so happened to be located right across the street from The Irish Harp, we headed over to the already-packed pub.

I ordered the fish & chips, knowing I had to opt for a classic when dining here, and was not disappointed. Everything was hot and fresh and the fish was that perfect crispy yet flaky consistency that you hope for when ordering fish & chips. The other dish we ordered was the prime rib sandwich- a true comfort food meal that also came with the delicious and hot fries.

When in NOTL again, this will be the first restaurant I book for dinner. Everything from the seating to the service to the food & drinks was perfect and this place should not be skipped when visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake.


Recommended to us by our B&B host, The Olde Angel Inn appears to be a rather old and perhaps historic house-turned-bar and restaurant. When we arrived we were lucky enough to claim the last two barstools in the bar area and quickly made friends with the others around us.

This place seems like the bar out of the show “Cheers” where everyone knows everyone, even though we’re all from out of town. It’s a place where friends are made and conversation strikes up quickly. Overall, our time spent here was pretty predictable- drinks, appetizers, and good company- but it wasn’t until the next day while on the ghost tour that I realized just how memorable this night had become for me and why The Olde Angel Inn should be a place to visit while in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Captain Collin Swayze of the British Army is one of the many ghosts you’ll learn about on the ghost tour. His sprit haunts The Olde Angel Inn and is especially felt and noticed in the cellar area where he died… now where the guest restrooms are located. (Had someone told me of his haunting prior to me needing to use the restroom, I never would have gone down here.)

Long ghost story short, I had been waiting for a stall in the restroom to open up for a while. I checked the stalls again and saw that both were occupied so I continued to wait. After another minute, a woman came out of the one stall and proceeded to tell me that no one was in the other. Not believing her, I checked again in the other stall to see she was right, even though I had been sure that I saw movement and shadows in that stall.

It wasn’t until the next day during our ghost tour that the guide told us about this very same instance being reported by other guests that I felt the blood drain from my face… I had met the ghost of Captain Swayze and I decided then and there that I really had no interest in meeting him or his other ghostly friends again.


Prior to this trip I was completely clueless when it came to wine. I never understood how friends of mine could so confidently order wine during dinner and appreciate the spirit they were drinking. Finally, FINALLY, I understand why wine tasting is as popular as it is and how much work goes into to the wine-making process. This newfound appreciation of mine is all thanks to the Greatest Winery Tour we took at Peller Estates.

This tour takes you through the wine-making process with an expert guide and allows you to sample the different wines that come from the estate. As someone who could never quite stomach the taste of wine, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

The tour started in the main outdoor space of the winery and continued on into the grape vines where we sampled some of the goods for ourselves. The guide went over the length of the growing season and how ice wine is made before continuing on into the wine cellar where the barrels are kept for aging.

In the cellar we sampled a merlot while the guide told us about how the wooden barrels add to the overall flavor of the wine. After noting some of the flavors that the merlot would have, I found I appreciated the sample more than I ever would without the helpful direction of a wine expert.

The last stop on the tour, but certainly not the least, was the ice room off to the side of the cellar. Here we were able to sample the Niagara-on-the-Lake famous ice wine that is produced when grapes freeze and lose most of their liquid. The ice room, complete with an ice throne, ice bar, and additional ice seating, was the perfect way to end this tour: ice wine in one hand, mitten on the other. While you wouldn’t want to stay in this room for any significant duration of time, it’s a unique and unforgettable experience that makes Peller Estates stand out among the other wineries in NOTL.


While Niagara-on-the-Lake may be famous for their spirits found in a wine glass, they also have quite a few spirits of the other kind as well. I have to say, I never expected to encounter a ghost while in NOTL, but unexpected things happen everyday, and well… here we are. Believer or not, the Ghost Walks ghost tour is a must-do when visiting NOTL. Our guide, Stella Marie, was knowledgeable, animated, and an absolutely fantastic story teller.

Since you’ve already heard of my run in with the ghost of The Olde Angel Inn, I’ll mention a few of the other stops on the tour. The Prince of Wales Hotel should come as no surprise, as it sort of gives off that “haunted” look due to its architecture. The ghost of a woman is said to haunt rooms 207 & 307 of the hotel, so safe to say I won’t be staying in those rooms anytime soon.

Other stops included Old Fort Niagara, seen from the lakeshore of Queen’s Royal Park, Royal George Theater, and the old court house. At each stop Stella Marie would tell us the story of the ghost, theories on why the ghost continues to haunt the spot, and occurrences that have been reported by witnesses to the ghost. Whether you’re here to catch a sighting of a ghost or just hear some dark history of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the ghost tour is not to be missed!

Niagara-on-the-Lake isn’t your traditional Canadian getaway. If you’re looking for a laid-back weekend spot with great food, abundance of wine tastings, unique shopping experiences, and a whole lot of history, this is the place for you. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake and I hope that this hidden gem will remain somewhat hidden, but also be a place that east coast Americans consider when looking for a new adventure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s