Winter Festival of Lights: Watch fireworks over Niagara Falls. Check out this link to find out when the displays are happening.
Niagara Icewine Festival takes place over 3 weekends in January, with a combination of free and ticketed events at multiple locations throughout the region:
Days of Wine and Chocolate occurs every weekend in February at various wineries. With the purchase of a ticket, here is the enticing promise from the event organizers: “Explore the decadently sweet and savoury art of wine and chocolate pairing. Visit our wineries and taste over 20 VQA wines matched with chocolate-infused dishes – from classically sweet flavour combinations to unexpected surprises. A romantic celebration for two or a great reason for a girls’ getaway weekend!”
Fabulicious: a seasonal feast – 3-course specialty menu – that happens at various restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the end of February:
Looking for a getaway suitable for kids during March break? Your kids will find plenty do to in Niagara Falls on Clifton hill.
Niagara-on-the-Lake also offers a variety of family-friendly events that run throughout March Break.
Dig Our Roots is a weekend-long celebration of the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, complete with unique tours of many key locations, all centered around teaching you the rich history and ecosystem of NOTL. “Join us every April as our member wineries open their doors and offer unique and immersive experiences that showcase our wines, our winemakers and our terroir like never before.”
Niagara’s Spring Sparkles Festival is the “Festival of Fizz” with over 30 participating wineries and many unique dining experiences, included in a Discovery Pass:
Sip and Sizzle is one of the region’s most anticipated annual events. You can purchase tickets for weekend afternoons in May, spent enjoying a barbeque, paired with excellent local wines.
Check out the Annual Hydrangea Show in the Floral Showcase in Niagara to welcome the Spring.
Starting in May, check out the Ghost tours at Fort George.
Pride in the Park: Niagara has its own Pride week festival that takes place in the first week of June, with events in the park featuring live music, family activities, food and artisan vendors, and more.
Pop-up Patio at the Shaw Festival Theatre, Thursdays in July and August after matinee performances but open to all.
Pop-up Patio at the Shaw Festival Theatre, Thursdays in July and August after matinee performances but open to all.
Shaw Acting camp for kids from 11-14: “Make new friends and create a new play! Kids 11-14 will have a great time strengthening their acting skills to create their own original play.”
Interested in something spooky? Ghost tours at Fort George are still happening all the way until the end of the month, as well as Theatrical Cemetery Tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake: “This ghastly walking tour concentrates on the goblins and ghouls surrounding St. Andrew’s Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Museum historians and actors will tell and show you all about the “saints and sinners” whose otherworldly footsteps may now haunt the church grounds you’re visiting.
Niagara Grape and Wine Festival kicks off throughout September with a variety of indoor and outdoor events that celebrate local wines. With a Discovery Pass to visit many wineries, parades, and celebrations, prepare for “one of Canada’s all-time best wine festivals”
During the month of Halloween, what better time to check out a Ghost tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake?
Shaw Festival winter productions open and continue through December. Visit the Shaw Festival website to book.
Taste the Season is a celebration of local food harvests and wine pairings at a selection of wineries throughout NOTL.
Annual Christmas Flower show “featuring poinsettias, cyclamen, azaleas, Christmas cactus and paperwhite narcissus, and many other Christmas surprises”. Visit the Floral Showhouse throughout the year, too, to see floral displays that reflect the seasons.
Christmas on Ice, presented by Fallsview Casino.
When in doubt, enjoy downtown!
Niagara-on-the-Lake has a thriving calendar of events happening year-round. In truth, you’ll find plenty to do, regardless of when you come, but we decided to put together a calendar with hand-selected events we love. Notice that we didn’t specify the year? These events happen annually, so you can plan your vacation whenever you choose.
How interesting can an origin story for a little Air BnB really be? Isn’t it simply that two good friends wanted to open up a small hospitality business, and so they did? Well, guess again. This story is characterized by unexpected twists, side-plots, and a hefty dose of luck.
Let’s go back in time. Not too far – just back to 2015 when Angie and her husband, David, visited Niagara-on-the-Lake for a weekend at White Oaks Spa and Resort with their childhood friends, Tara and David. The four explored the city, visited many wineries, perused the Outlet mall, and had some much needed spa time at White Oaks. In brief, the four fell in love with the region.
A loose plan was set: they would try to purchase a winery together. At this point, you’re probably wondering how Fil fits in this story: she was back at home, offering enthusiastic support to Angie, even helping her research real estate listings for wineries.
Unfortunately, the winery dream had to be paused as there were more urgent projects. Angie and David desperately wanted to update their house, which was 15 years overdue. Not to worry – Tara and David went on with other plans, and the four scheduled another vacation for the following year.
Flash forward slightly, months later, when Angie had secured a contractor to make her house renovation plans come to life. Not one week after committing to the plans, Angie’s husband came to her with a listing for a perfect, new house. What were they going to do? They already paid the down payment on the renovation, but this other house was a life goal. Here, dear reader, is where we have no choice but to believe in luck. According to Angie, “I must have been brushed with a four-leaf-clover when I was born”….
The contractor scheduled to work on her renovation had just finished a project in Niagara-on-the-lake. He had built the Yellow Door Cottage. He offered to translate the renovation commitment into a down payment on the cottage, if Angie wished to own it.
Fil came with her when Angie went to see the cottage for the first time and said she’d like to co-own it with her. Fil had always loved Niagara-on-the-Lake, too, but back when there were talks of the winery, it didn’t line up with her vision. Fil’s dream has always been to run a Bed and Breakfast. Living far outside of NOTL, she knew it wouldn’t be logistically possible to run a fully operational B&B right away, so co-owning an AirBnb would be the next best thing. Plus, it would help the friends stay close after Angie moved to her new house (see About Us for more on this).
Angie was ecstatic. With her expertise in running corporate administration, and Fil’s expertise in hospitality, the two were wonderfully suited to complement each other. Furthermore, running this AirBnb would put everyone in a great position to work toward their respective long-term goals; when the timing is right, Angie and David will return to her plans to co-own a winery with Tara and David, and Fil will retire with her husband, Julien, to live in NOTL full-time and run a B&B.
It’s been four years since the opening of the Yellow Door Cottage. Since then, Fil and Angie have hosted ___ guests, orchestrated several iterations of redecorations, and driven back and forth on many, many, many occasions. Tara has also opened up her own AirBnb just around the corner from Yellow Door – check her out here [link embedded]. Most importantly, everyone is happy. If the cottage had emotions and the capacity to express them, I bet she would say she’s the happiest of all.
Shopping in person has been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic started - fortunately, window shopping is a perfectly safe social-distance activity! Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake has so much to look at - below we have a small (small) selection of some of our favourite window displays.
Note: We took these photos at 9pm, so the stores could glow from within.
A lot of things have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Niagara-on-the-Lake has imposed a pause on all AirBnb rentals for the sake of social distancing efforts. With Yellow Door Cottage unrented, my mom, Angie, and Fil were able to offer it to me and my partner, Tom, when we found ourselves in need of a place to safely self-isolate. Despite the challenges, I’m grateful that Tom and I were able to make this place our temporary home for two weeks.
Dear reader, it’s safe to say our self-isolation life at Yellow Door has been pretty sweet. Let me show you why…
A typical day in Marisa's life at Yellow Door Cottage
Wake up and do some yoga in the backyard with a view of lush green trees.
Enjoy coffee and breakfast – fresh local eggs and peaches from the Harvest Barn – while reading on the outdoor patio.
Work-from-home at the kitchen table, with windows wide open to see passersby stroll down the street to the sounds of chirping birds.
Go for a drive without a plan. Head up Niagara parkway with a nonstop view of Lake Ontario, set against trees. Hit no traffic for 30 beautiful minutes, past wineries, Queenston, the Brock Monument, and the bluffs, all the way to Niagara Falls. See a world wonder without even leaving your car.
Take a stroll down to the main strip for some window shopping. Then head down to the lake to catch the sunset.
I'm Angie's middle daughter, Marisa. For my 24th birthday, Fil and my mom gifted me an all-inclusive getaway at the Yellow Door Cottage. They pampered me with wine and local treats so that I could have a much-needed escape from the city. My partner and I chose May to book our stay - high season had just started, so we could enjoy the lively bustle of the streets.
We drove up Friday morning and left Sunday afternoon. We dedicated Friday as our "picnic/relaxation" day. First stop was to some of the local bakeries and butchers. Hendrick's Valu-Mart is right in town and is always reliably stocked with great local food. We walked down to the lake and set up on a picnic table that had both a view of the water and a gazebo below where a couple was getting married. Then, honestly, we just wandered for a while and enjoyed the sights of the picturesque town. Check out our blog post of window shopping to see what we saw.
On previous visits we tended to stay to the main strip for meals. You can find a lot of great restaurants and even luck out with a great view of the sunset over the lake while you eat (like at the Niagara Golf and Country Club). We wanted to try something different, so instead we ventured away from the lake and had an excellent meal at Backhouse Restaurant, a newer spot within walking distance of the cottage. We finished off our evening back at the cottage with a bottle of local wine that Fil and my mom had picked out for us (thank you!) and watched Netflix on their very, very comfortable couch.
Saturday morning, we woke up early and cooked a big breakfast - we needed it for the big day of biking we had planned. We mapped out a route and set on our way. Our plan was to bike all the way up Niagara Parkway, and stop at every winery we passed by. Then, we would stop at York Rd (in Queenston) and turn around to come down the concession roads to have a late lunch at our favourite winery, Caroline Cellars.
As I said, this was the "plan". In reality, we had to stop for lunch much sooner than expected. You see, there are a lot of wineries worth visiting, and each place tends to provide a generous pour in their tasting flights. Fortunately, the streets tend to be very quiet and cars rarely pass by on the country roads. We made it to Caroline Cellars safely and recuperated with one of their famous poutine specials. If memory serves, the special that day was Buffalo Chicken poutine and it was to die for.
We got back on our bikes after lunch, but vowed to hold off on doing any more tastings until we were back at the cottage. We were able to recover our plan and head back up Niagara parkway to visit more wineries. At some, we even got a tour of the estate - shoutout to Frog Pond farm with their organic wines and Reif Estates with their gorgeous terrace. Once our backpacks were full with our newly purchased bottles, we headed home.
For dinner we went to the Silversmith Brewery, which is a short drive away. We make a point to go there every time we're in NOTL because the restaurant is in a refurbished church. Their food is always excellent but their menu is never the same from one visit to the next.
After that, we drove back to the cottage to abandon the car and set out again, looking for some live music. About 10 minute's walk away, Oast House brewery was hosting an outdoor party. A bluegrass band played on a wooden stage while the brewery served southern-style barbeque. We ate so much, despite already feeling full to the brim. The beer didn't help, either, but when in Rome...
We kept our Sunday simple. Initially, we wanted to go to Niagara Falls, but we were too exhaused after a busy Saturday, so instead we hit the main strip again and did some shopping. I bought a huge selection of gourmet jams from Grieves and my partner stocked up on British candies. Right outside of town, on the way back to the city, we stopped in to the outlet mall and did some more shopping. Here's the strangest recommendation I have for you, dear reader: check out the Bass Pro Shops outlet. Although I'm a city-person through and through, I love checking it out. It's such a treat to see the spectacle of wilderness gear - if you've never been, it's probably hard to imagine why this is noteworthy, so you'll just have to see for yourself.
Snapshots from our weekend