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Trip Report Trip to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Canada

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I have many links in this trip report but Fodors isn't recognizing them unfortunately. If you go to my travel blog the links are all there.
http://marztravels.blogspot.com/2009/06/may-2009-niagara-falls-and-niagara-on.html

Our Trip to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Canada

brief trip description:
We drove up from Boston to Niagara Falls, Canada on Thursday, May 21, 2009, it took about 7 hours. Spent Thursday and Friday night in Niagara Falls and very leisurely we were able to do the main Falls activities. Saturday morning we headed over to Niagara on the Lake, Canada stopping at the Butterfly Conservatory first before proceeding to 10 out of the 21 wineries participating in wine and herb, the next 11 were visited on Sunday. We managed to see the wineries between the hours of 12 - 3 and we took our time tasting at each. Spent Sat and Sun night in Niagara on the Lake. Headed back to Boston on Monday May 25, 2009.

NIAGARA FALLS - Thursday May 21, 2009 and Friday May 22, 2009

Where we stayed:
Embassy Suites
the 2 night Package we went with included (some descriptive info from their website):
-Complimentary buffet breakfast with cooked-to-order omelet station
breakfast was good. the lines were long. omelets were fresh and the best choice, lots of additions to choose from. sausage was just OK, bacon was good, homefries nice and crispy. assortment of cereals, breakfast pastries, yogurts and some fruit.
-$40 discount at The Keg Steakhouse & Bar overlooking Niagara Falls
-Manager's Reception with 2 Complimentary Alcoholic Beverages and snack buffet
this was great. not a lot of drink choices, just basic. nice snack buffet with veggies, dip, chips, snack mix, pretzels, etc.
-Casino Falls & Attraction Shuttle passes for 2 for use throughout stay
the shuttle was OK. it went a really long backwards way to get places though. we went on it once to just go down the hill to the falls and it took 20 minutes, which can be walked in a quicker amount of time! it stopped at the base of the falls, the casinos, and a couple of other hotels.
-Junior Presidential 2 Room Suite - large 2-Room Suite with a spectacular view of both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls. 1 King bed and a large 2 person Whirlpool and Fireplace. The second room is a large living room with sofa bed and dining area.
the room was great. amazing view on the 30th floor. nice to sit in the chairs and look out on the falls. especially on the night of the fireworks. we had a great front row view of the show! bed was very comfortable. whirlpool tub was nice! the second room in the suite was really not used by us and was very separate from the rest of the room. really a waste and not needed but we weren't able to get a king bed with a view without choosing the suite. always very nice and clean, with a very comfortable bed. fridge and sink/mini bar area.
-the parking is the main gripe. when you pull up they offer you $20 or $30 valet service. the $20 one (which we went with) meant if you wanted your car between the hours of 7am - 1 pm you needed to take a shuttle bus to get it. we never took our car out of parking while we were there until we went to check out. they really should get your car for you when you check out. plus we thought it was $20 total, but it was $20 per night. such a rip off. there was cheaper parking within walking distance.
-the people at the front desk aren't the most helpful. I called and simply asked where the shuttle bus went, they told me the stops. then I asked how I could get to the American side of the falls and they replied take a cab!!! of course I didn't, I took out my map, took their shuttle bus to the closest stop to rainbow bridge and walked over. they didn't seem very willing to offer any advice other than what was convenient for them "take a cab".
-all in all the view alone made the price worth it, plus the breakfast, dinner credit, and manager's reception were nice touches. also the starbucks in the lobby!!

What we did:
Thursday May 23, 2009
we walked over the Rainbow Bridge (you need to pay 50 cents US or Canadian to go through the turnstiles to leave Canada, but not to come back) to the American Falls park area to find out the Cave of the Winds was already closed. Strolled around a bit on to Goat Island and the Falls lookout points and then headed back to Canada. Checked out the Clifton Hill area a little bit. It was a pretty long day of driving, so we weren't up for much!

Friday May 22, 2009
in order, all in one day:

Canadian Falls Activities
started with the Embassy Shuttle down to Table Rock Point
bought the Great Gorge adventure pass which included transportation on the PeopleMover and the 4 activities listed below plus $5 per person admission to the butterfly conservatory (for Saturday AM).

Journey Behind the Falls - this was pretty cool. walking through the tunnels and looking behind the cascade of water.

Niagara's Fury - we only did this because it was included in the pass, and we were there after journey! it was cute, geared more towards kids, reminded me of a disney world type of attraction

Maid of the Mist - amazing of course. wow you really do get close to the falls, and into the Mist. definitely a must do.

White Water Walk - this was nice. it was bit up from the rest of the attractions. basically a boardwalk along the class 6 rapids. nice calming place for a stroll! across was the Buddhist temple that I really wanted to check out but the people mover came and we were on a time frame!!

American Falls Activities
we walked over the Rainbow Bridge from Canada into the American Falls State Park. You need to pay 50 cents either Canadian or American to get through the turnstiles! Then right over to Goat Island. There is an area to look down and on to the American Falls. Then further down at Terrapin Point there is a good spot to see a close up view of the Canadian falls. Walked over from there to the end point and to the 3 sisters islands. Gorgeous state park! there is a trolley but really it is so walkable to stroll along and stop at all the different look out points.

On Goat Island is the main attraction:
Cave of the Winds - loved loved loved this. by far the best, most unique way to see the falls. it is a winding stairway down and up, and you end up at one point on what is called the hurricane deck. no kidding!! walking up the stairs approaching the American Falls pouring down on you, it is hard to climb the stairs or even breathe with the sheer force of water coming at you. it was amazing, exhilarating and terrifying!! it was awesome, this can not be missed and is the best way to really see (read: be in!) the falls. they give you cute little shoes to wear that you then can donate to charity which I thought was so awesome as well. we had some great ice cream right outside the exit. yummy!!!!

we we really lucky, we barely waited in line for any of the activities, no more than about 5 minutes. I think this was because it was still early in the season and it was a Friday.

fireworks at 10 pm - viewed from our room. amazing view. great fireworks show.

nighly illuminations - this was pretty cool. the American Falls are way better lighted then the Canadian Horseshoe Falls were though.

Where we ate:
Lunch Thursday May 21, 2009
-the flying saucer, 6768 Lundy's Lane
drive in, diner, burgers, fried food, lunch, affordable, reviews
we had some yummy bacon cheeseburgers with great crispy fries after our long drive. super cheap too, about $19 CAD

Dinner Friday May 22, 2009
-The Keg, 9th floor of the Embassy
The Keg was great. I had an applewood smoked bacon wrapped filet mignon with a blue cheese topping. the steak was cooked perfect but the blue cheese topping was too much, very stronge and piled on high. would have been nicer tasting if there was less. served with a great twice baked potato. my husband had a speical of steak with crab meat topping, which he loved. our waiter was very nice. even with the $40 credit we still spent $100 CAD including two glasses of wine. we made reservations but still had to wait in order to get a table near the window.

Dinner Saturday May 23, 2009
-sandstone grillhouse, 5467 Victoria Avenue
This place was great. just a short walk from near the bird aviary and rainbow bridge on the Canadian side. I had the linguine florentine. which had amazing portabella mushrooms, delicious artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, spinach, garlic and oil. my husband had their spinach gnocchi, which were huge and so light like little plump pillows. our waitress was not so great. pretty bad service. We decided right after ordering our entrees to order an appetizer but she was no where to be found, so we never got one. then she said she was bringing water when our meals were dropped off, it didn't come until 15 minutes later. But the meal definitely made up for it. And the other waitress near by seemed great to the tables near us.

helpful planning info:
really cute area map
Great map showing all falls view hotel locations in relation to the falls!
here it is in aerial view
Niagara USA side
Niagara Canada side
another website for Canada side
niagara restaurant guide

NIAGARA ON THE LAKE - Saturday May 23 and Sunday May 24, 2009

where we stayed:
Britaly B&B - review we posted on Trip Advisor - Stayed for 2 nights in the Canadiana Room. Lovely room, comfortable bed, bathroom right across the hall. Everything was very clean and beautifully decorated. Little fridge in the hall with water was great! As well as coffee out in the hall each morning, ready for when you woke up. The sitting room and gardens were lovely to spend time in. Breakfast was fabulous! Granola, muffins, fresh fruit and yogurt plus one morning an egg, spinach, mushroom, ricotta puff pastry and the other german apple pancakes. Graham & Aldo are absolutely wonderful hosts. So friendly and so easy to talk to and spend time with. Aldo was very helpful with restaurant recommendations, and the ones he suggested were perfect for us. Would love to visit again and stay at Britaly!!

where we ate:
Kurtz Orchards, 16006 niagara pkwy, NOTL - great food market, lots of gourmet jellies, jams, dips, spreads, cheeses, etc. Bought a great onion dip mix to take home. Tons of samples to try.

the merchant ale house, 98 st paul st, st catherines - we went here to try out some local beer. we had drunken monkey, old time hockey ale and blueberry ale. they were great! wish we could've brought some home but they only serve on premises and do not bottle. food looked good, too!

dinner Saturday May 23, 2009
Old Winery Restaurant, 2228 Niagara Stone Road
really cute place. nice red walls. great chairs. good service. bread with oil when seated. we had the Parmesan crusted calamari with roasted garlic dipping sauce - a little on the chewier side, but still really tasty. also the Jimi Hendrix Pizza - proscuitto, arugula, buffalo mozzerella, and white truffle oil - really really good!! loved that they played tapes of how to speak Italian lessons in the bathrooms! affordable prices. would definitely eat there again.

dinner Sunday May 24, 2009
Ginger, 390 Mary Street
attentive service. the water glasses were super tiny, but they were very good about continually keeping them filled. I was a little upset that a dish I saw on the menu that day online wasn't available, but they have since removed it from the menu. We started with the spring rolls which were very good. I had the Thai coconut curry chicken with rice and Chris had the Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp with veggies and rice. Both dishes were well made and tasted great. We are used to great Asian and Thai food and this held up to our expectations.

what we did:
Butterfly Conservatory - by far one of the most unique and amazing attractions. I've been to butterfly conservatories before in various places, one being the Bronx Zoo in NY. None compare to this. From the second you walk in your are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of butterflies! They are EVERYWHERE!!! You can really get up close and personal to them. One even landed on Chris' head for a while. It was amazing to see all the different kinds and how they moved around. They had a very interesting are set up with actual butterflies and cocoons undergoing various stages of metamorphosis. Fascinating!! I could have spent hours just sitting and watching! They were also many different species of plants/flowers growing. One hot pink plant called Chenille was so beautiful and like nothing I had ever seen before, it looked even more amazing with butterflies on it!

Lake Ontario waterfront - there are a few areas along Lake Ontario where you can stroll or sit. One being a park right down the street from the main area in NOTL. really gorgeous sight.

multiple trips up and down Queen Street, shops of note that we stopped at:
#5 apothecary - never got to go in, was closed!
#14 maple leaf fudge - tons of fudge!
#35 greaves jam - amazing amounts of different varieties, reasonable prices
#38 Kurtz Culinary Creations - amazing little shop, smaller version of the farm stand we also went to. they had some items that were prduced by other manufacturers/farms too though.
#66 niagara bakery - amazing smells!
#70 Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory - beautiful creations. we got the marshmallow sticks, stacks of marshmallow, covered in chocolate and toppings (we got m&m's). delicious!!
plus a couple of tea related shops that I can't recall the name/location of!
the only disappointing thing was that around 8pm everything was closed.

we took advantage of The Wine & Herb Festival
info - a weekend touring the 21 Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake where each will feature a different herb-themed food pairing matched to a premium VQA wine selected to highlight the flavour and aroma of the herb. Advance Ticket Price $30 CAN (until April 24), $35 as of April 25 (plus applicable taxes).

Day 1 - Saturday May 23,2009 - we went to 10 wineries

Day 2 - Sunday May 24, 2009 - we went to 11 wineries

in no particular order.....

hillebrand estates winery, 1249 niagara stone rd
featured herb - parsley, Phelan Spring Asparagus Veloute with Sour Cream Gribiche, with the Artist Series Limited Edition Gewürztraminer 2007.
review - very large facility, modern, friendly.

inniskillin, 1499 Line #3 at the Niagara Parkway
featured herb - Rosemary - mini cheddar and cornmeal muffin, with Cabernet Sauvignon butter with 2006 Winemaker’s Series, Klose Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
review - yummy muffins!

Lailey Vineyard, 15940 Niagara Parkway
featured herb - Fennel with 2008 Vidal
review - tasted and bought their 2006 zweigelt.

peller estates winery, 290 john st east
featured herb - Chervil and Black Pepper Ice Cream with Horseradish and Apricot Preserve, all served in tiny ice cream cones with the Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée
review - very interesting!! beautiful facility

Konzelmann Estate Winery, 1096 Lakeshore Road, RR#3
featured herb - mixed bean oregano salsa, infused with Sambal Oelek sauce with 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
review - probably our favorite place. loved the snack, paired nicely. loved the wine. one of the best we tasted/bought in NOTL. the people were very friendly. the wine pourer was so personable and energetic and great to chat with.

Joseph's Estate Winery, 1811 Niagara Stone Road (Hwy 55) R R #3
featured herb - Biscuits with French Sorrel, Carmelized Onions and 7 Year Old Cheddar Cheese with 2006 Chenin Blanc VQA
review - this place was great! the pairing was nice. the tasting bar was the most affordable around - 3 tastes for $1. we got their chancellor merlot.

stratus, 2059 niagara stone rd
featured herb - Bergamot Crème Brulée with 2007 Riesling Icewine
review - amazing creme brulee, nice pairing, modern elegant facility, they even had a spot reserved for hybrid fuel cars, my kind of place!!!

Maleta Estate Winery, 450 Queenston Road
featured herb - Olson artisanal baguette with Le Douanier cheese,
drizzled with warm savory-infused honey, paired with our 2007 VIEW Pinot Noir.
review - loved loved loved this tiny place. very attentive and informative staff. delicious pairing, one of the best. we also tasted and purchased their 2001 meritage.

Reif Estate Winery,15608 Niagara Parkway
featured herb - Sweet Pea Mint Soup with 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
review -mmm I really liked the soup!

Pillitteri Estates Winery,1696 Niagara Stone Road
featured herb - Cranberry Lavender Upside-Down Cake with 2007 Merlot Bianco
review - tasted a lovely 2004 cab franc ice wine, that we later bought at the duty free shop. very reasonable fees for samples.

Stonechurch Vineyards, 1242 Irvine Road, RR #5
featured herb - 'Thyme Rolls On' with 2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
review- our first stop! beautiful grounds.

Southbrook Vineyards, 581 Niagara Stone Road, RR4
featured herb - Arugula Pesto Pizza Goat Cheese, Baked Potato, Tomato on Vinifera & Whole Wheat Crust with 2008 Cabernet Rose
review - loved this place! organic, biodynamic, gorgeous modern, clean lines and elegant facility. pizza was amazing. we even went back at the end of the day to sit out on the patio, near the vines to have a pizza made! it was cabernet and sausage pizza, delicious paired with their cabrenet.

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, 2145 Regional Road 55, NOTL
featured herb - Basil & Asiago Biscotti with 2007 Proprietors' Grand Reserve White Meritage
review - beauiful tasting rooms

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery, 1425 Lakeshore Road, R. R. # 3
featured herb - Tarragon Walnut Biscotti with Bosc Pear Wine
review - adorable small winery. amazing fruit wines. almost every kind you can imagine. nice pairing.

strewn winery, 1339 lakeshore rd
featured herb - Sage - gnocchi with lemon zest and goat cheese, finished with sage butter with Strewn’s Semi-Dry Riesling
review - another gorgeous winery. it was nice the a chef from the cooking show was cooking the gnocchi to an audience. delicious gnocchi.

Château des Charmes,1025 York Road, NotL
featured herb -Artisan Lemon Basil and Chevre Cracker with Lemon Basil Aligoté Jelly with 2007 Aligoté, Estate Bottled
review-beautiful facility! great pairing. also sampled their 2006 pinot noir, very good.

Coyote's Run,485 Concession 5 Rd.
featured herb - artisanal cheese and chive tart with pears with 2008 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc
review - really interesting that they have their red paw and black paw wines. sampled their 2006 red paw cab fran, which was really nice. there weren't any blakc paw varieties yet for tasting. would have been nice to compare the two. the red and black referred to the soil, which they also had on display which was really cool.

Marynissen Estates Winery, 1208 Concession 1
featured herb - Hearty Fireside Beef Stew with a Syrah Reduction over Egg Noodles with 2007 VIEW Pinot Noir
review - also tasted their 2006 gamay noir, which was quite good. reasonable samples.

Cattail Creek Estate Winery, 1156 Concession 6
featured herb - Roasted Red Pepper and Cilantro Pesto topped with Shrimp and served on a Crostini with 2007 Off-Dry Riesling
review - least favorite. at the tasting bar, we ordered two samples. then the guy said "you have to try this" and without letting me answer poured a glass of their catastrophe ice wine. while it was tasty, I didn't want it. He then said OK that's $5 really it was only $4 total ($1 for each regular sample, $2 for the ice wine) but I was so pissed that he poured it without my asking or agreeing to it and then charged me for it, that we paid and walked out. none of the other 20 wineries we went to had the audacity to do something like that. If they offerred something to you to taste they didn't charge you. oh and they let you say yes before pouring it!!!

Niagara College Teaching Winery, 135 Taylor Road
featured herb - Thai Curry Shrimp with Aioli Dip with 2006 Rosé and Curry
review - amazing place. I talked with the girl for a while about the college and the programs it offered, so interesting. we had one of their dean's list cab franc ice wines (offerred for free) and it was by far the best ice wine we tasted the whole trip. it was $55 however so we didn't wind up purchasing it.

Palatine Hills Estate Winery, 911 Lakeshore Road
featured herb - Honey-Coriander Dressing Served over Cold Rice Noodle Salad with Dried Apricots with 2006 Gewürztraminer
review - delicious herb dish and pairing!!!

Helpful sites for planning:
NOTL website
NOTL B&B'S
list of restaurants
NOTL Wineries list
wines of ontario

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