Niagara FallsWeekend GetawaysCity

Beyond the Falls: The Unexpected Side to Niagara Falls

By , June 22nd, 2018

Remember the first time you saw Niagara Falls; the beauty and the majesty of it all? Well, it’s still there and every year millions of tourists still visit. There’s so much to see, and so many things to do – things you may have missed on earlier visits. It’s not just about the Falls anymore, and it’s not just a tourist attraction – it’s a great place for a girlfriend’s getaway or a bit of alone time with that special someone.

Although there are many hotel options for your stay in Niagara Falls, there are two that stand out from the sea of chain motels.

 

Unexpected Niagara Falls Hotels

Sheraton on the Falls

Sheraton on the Falls is the perfect choice for those who love entertainment, dining, and amenities all under the same roof. As a part of the Falls Hotel Group, guests can take advantage of discounts at the other restaurants and attractions in the same complex attached to the Sheraton.

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Left photo by author

My stay in the ‘Falls View room’ on the seventeen floor provided a breathtaking view of the Falls in all its glory. From the sliding glass door on my Juliette balcony, I could see the US side, the American Falls and a stellar view of the Canadian Falls in the distance. The room has all the creature comforts, a very comfortable king-sized bed and a sitting area with a sofa, loveseat and electric fireplace plus television. The bathroom includes a Jacuzzi tub (of which I partook, naturally) and a separate shower stall.

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Adjoining the hotel is Hershey’s Chocolate World. Don’t leave without grabbing one (or a dozen) of their delicious chocolate-covered strawberries, which would pair quite nicely with a champagne toast in your room.

 

Sterling Inn and Spa

For travellers looking for a quieter and more intimate stay, the Sterling Inn and Spa is the ideal choice. It makes a great backdrop to a girlfriend’s weekend or couples retreat. With a spa on the premises and rooms with luxurious beds and Jacuzzis, you may never want to leave.

In a past life, the building that houses the Sterling Inn and Spa was the Borden Creamery. The Merani Hotel Group worked tirelessly to preserve the original architecture and history and it isn’t more evident than the giant milk bottle that sits above the main entrance.

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Left photo by author

The history carries through to the guest rooms as well. The unique and spacious rooms at the Inn are clean, classy and contemporary and filled with amenities like fireplaces, wet bars, and jacuzzis. The luxurious king size beds and spacious showers will make you never want to leave your room.

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A lovely continental breakfast is delivered to your room at your selected time. So no need to get dressed, just relax in your bathrobe while you enjoy the delicious meal.

For a bite to eat, try the AG restaurant located in the lower level of the Inn, a true farm-to-table experience brought to you by Executive Chef Cory Linkson.

More hotels and stays like this in the Niagara Region?

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Unexpected Things to Do in Niagara Falls

Whether you are a history buff, art lover or adventurer, Niagara Falls has something for everyone.

History and Culture

If you want to learn more about the centuries-old history of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Falls Museum is a must-visit. Situated partially in a historic building, the museum features beautiful exhibits retelling the history of the Falls, the surrounding areas and the War of 1812. In the basement, an additional 20,000 artifacts are stored in a climate-controlled room. Once or twice a year you can take a private tour of these treasures. Be sure to inquire at the museum for when and if there are any upcoming dates.

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Left photo by Emily Cooper, right photo by author

On your drive into Niagara Falls, you should make a stop at the St. Catherine’s Museum. Situated on the Welland Canal, this museum gives insight on the area and its past. The museum recaps the Underground Railroad, famous resident Harriet Tubman, and the rich legacy of Niagara’s African-Canadians. The Fallen Workers of Welland Canal memorial has been erected to honour Irish workers who lost their lives building this link between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

The museum recaps how the canal connected the Great Lakes and ultimately led to growth and prosperity in the region.

 

Shaw Theatre lovers will enjoy the Shaw Festival backstage tour. It’s amazing to see how much work goes on behind the scenes of this award-winning festival. Since 1962, theatre lovers, a quarter of a million to be exact, have flocked to the area to view world-class performances. Each Shaw Festival stage hosts more than one show a day, so the intricacies in putting together a festival of this magnitude are mind-blowing, especially when done by a five-person crew. The backstage tour explores the costume workshop, dressing rooms, rehearsal halls, and trap room.

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Left photo by Emily Cooper, right two photos by author

A visit to Studio Vine Glass has partners Claire Anderson and Steven (Woody) Woodruff showing exactly what goes into making one of their magnificent glass pieces. The glass blowing furnace runs 24/7 ensuring that the couple can work in tandem with the other artists. Opened in June 2017, the studio hosts an impressive selection of wine glassware as well as old-fashioned Whisky glasses. Their glassware is available for purchase in the gift shops at a number of wineries in the region. In their studio, beautiful tableware and décor pieces are on display which encompasses their artistic expressions – Woody describes these as jewellery for the home.

Another place to visit is Angelo Rossi’s studio in the Skylon Tower. Angelo is one of the most talented Murano glass blowers in Canada. Born in Venice to a family of glass blowers, Rossi is a colourful character. He is always warmly welcoming visitors with stories from his childhood in Venice and experiences working in his father’s glass factory in his twenties.

[caption id="attachment_54939" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Things to Do Niagara Falls Angelo Rossi murano glass Photo by author[/caption]

His intricate installations are sought out by celebrities who flock to him for custom pieces for their homes. He also specializes in funerary glass, where ashes of a loved one are fused in a glass sculpture for all eternity. Rossi also teaches his craft to the next generation of glassblowers in the United States and Canada in one of his many classes.

 

Adventure

For those seeking adventure, Niagara Falls has plenty. For the best views, hop on the Skywheel on Clifton Hill and get a bird’s eye view of the Falls and landscape from the top (if the weather is clear that day).

eSkoot Niagara is a great way to see the area. Scooter around Niagara on these environmentally-friendly bikes and explore this diverse landscape. Founded in 2011 by Jennifer Elliott and her partner Colin Telfer, eSkoot Niagara has become a popular activity for girlfriends’ getaways. Grab one of these green scooters and explore the area or do winery tours, maps of possible routes are provided or inquire about booking a private tour.

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Left photo courtesy of Destination Ontario, right photo by author

For those craving something more physical, try your hand at the WildPlay Niagara Falls Adventure Course. There you can zipline and try your luck on one of their ropes courses. The higher levels are definitely not for the faint of heart.

 

Unexpected Niagara Falls Restaurants and Bars

For dining, there are so many different places to choose from in Niagara Falls. One of the best views while dining is at the Skylon Tower. The menu features a wide array of items from beef (steak, prime rib) to chicken, pasta, and seafood. Dinner reservations are highly recommended. The tower dining room rotates 360 degrees; while a complete revolution takes about 45 minutes. While it is not the absolute best meal in the area, the view from here is hard to beat.

 

[caption id="attachment_54966" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Restaurants Niagara Falls Skylon Tower Restaurant revolving Photo by author[/caption]

 

Craft Beer in Niagara Falls

The craft beer scene in Niagara is booming. There are a few different places to choose from where you can sample local brews while devouring great food on the up-and-coming beer trail. On the trail, you will find lagers, ales, English bitters, stouts, special seasonal brews, and fruit-infused drafts that are one of a kind.

One of these breweries, with a front-row seat to the Falls, is the Niagara Falls Brewing Company. You can enjoy some amazing craft beers (Niagara Premium Beer, Amber Eh, Honeymoon Peach, Beerdevil IPA), brewed on the premises, and great eats from charcuteries, cheese boards to sandwiches while taking in the amazing views from the rooftop deck. Located on Clifton Hill, the city’s entertainment street, a compact three-level space with big beer offerings and full bar service greets guests.

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Photos by author

Another must-stop for the beer lover is the Oast House Brewers. Located in a renovated red barn visible from the highway. It has an event space on top and two levels of stunning patio overlooking the vineyards. In the evenings, you’ll also find live music on tap.

Chef John Vetere creates an excellent menu with Asian and southern influences. BBQ is a staple on the menu with dishes like briskets, Montreal smoked collards, baked beans, and Nashville inspired Sichuan Hot Chicken (with green onions, sesame seeds, pickled radish and shallots, black vinegar and miso aioli).

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Photos by author

Oast House Brewers partner with local farmers to supply the brewery with the hops they need for their award-winning beer. They pay homage to the area’s rich agricultural history by offering their Farmhouse Ale Collection year round. To enjoy a taste of these beers at home, pick some up at the local LCBO.

 

Unexpected Niagara Wine-ing and Dining

If wine is more your taste, head to Peller Estates Winery and Restaurant. The picturesque property and romantic setting would make the perfect date night for you and your special someone.

At the winery, you can enjoy a tour, wine tasting and a five-star dining experience by Executive Chef Jason Parsons. The menu changes daily as it’s seasonally driven with ingredients carefully curated from local suppliers by the Chef. The dining room boasts sweeping views of the vineyards and it’s easy to spend hours here enjoying the five-course blind tasting menu with wine pairings (with an extra surcharge).

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Photos by author

On a recent visit, the meal began with an amuse-bouche of smoked icewine chicken liver parfait served with the award-winning Peller Signature Ice Cuvee Rose. This was followed by poached Ontario shrimp paired with Signature Riesling Icewine 2016. The main dish was a choice of three entrees – fire-roasted Stonecroft pork, duck breast and Chef Parson’s signature lobster linguini.  Dinner is finished with dessert matched with one of their excellent ice wines.

If there is one meal in Niagara you should splurge on, this is the one.

 

Feature photo courtesy of Destination Ontario.

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