April 23, 2023
Oh, Canada! For this year’s spring break we traveled north, making stops in Niagara Falls for views and wineries, and Toronto. We had three reasons for this: 1) Georgia and I had never been to Canada and wanted to go, 2) we wanted a reason to be all up to date with our passports, and 3) we didn’t get a proper winter in Virginia, so we though we might see a little snow (we didn’t!). It was a great choice and wonderful trip overall. In this post I’m sharing what we did and some tips about our first stop in Niagara, which included one night and a day, before Toronto.
The first thing those in the know about Niagara Falls will tell you is to stay on the Canadian side. I quickly adjusted our reservation and booked a room at Marriott’s Niagara on the Falls, which is the closest hotel to the falls. It also has decent dining with a Milestones restaurant, so after a long day of driving having something in the building that we wouldn’t have to think about was ideal. I booked a city view room, which was rather affordable for being so close to the falls, in my opinion. But the best part was that, as Marriott Bonvoy Platinum members, we were upgraded to a two room family suite overlooking the falls! It was such a pleasant surprise. The beds were so comfortable, the view was spectacular (especially for the evening light show) and it was just a fabulous way to start our vacation.
TIP: If you’re looking to get Canadian cash (and some loonies and toonies!) take your US money to a casino (we used the Fallsview Casino) and they will do a straight exchange without any fees. They’ll also exchange money back into US denominations if needed.
I won’t lie, it was pretty cold up there (though no snow). April is really just the cusp of tourist season in Niagara, and if it’s too cold some attractions aren’t even open; May is really when things open up. That said, we did spot some brave souls on a Maid of the Mist ride. The Table Rock Center and overlook wasn’t crowded at all, so we were able to get up close photos, though the pics really highlighted the cold mist. After about five minutes Georgia had seen enough!
Another thing we kept hearing about the area was how Niagara on the Lake is chock-full of wineries. A big feature of these Canadian wineries is icewine, which essentially is where grapes are left to freeze on the vine, causing the sugars in the grapes to become concentrated and more pronounced after crushing and pressing. Gregg and I had never had icewine but were curious to see what the hype was about. We also aren’t big sweet wine fans, but appreciate outstanding wine, so Niagara was the place to try it. With so many options to choose from and no idea where to begin, I landed on a post from Hand Luggage Only offering 9 Gorgeous Vineyards To Visit For Ice Wine In Canada (thank you!).
Our first stop was Inniskillin, about a 20 minute drive from the hotel. The tasting room wasn’t too crowded and there was even another group with a couple of kiddos. We were welcomed and enjoyed casual conversation with the tasting room manager, who kindly offered crayons and pictures for Georgia to color. Inniskillin is known for their Rieslings, so I had a tasting to try the Riesling Icewine as well as their Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir. Each were both distinct and delightful. The icewine was really a concentrated, full body, sweet wine, displaying pronounced flavors of apricot, orange marmalade, honey. It had plenty of acidity to balance the sweetness, and long, pleasant finish.
Inniskillin was such a delight and I would 100% go back – it was my favorite wine experience in Canada! We took a few bottles back to the U.S., so will take a mental trip back in time, and share some notes on those in the future.
Next up was Konzelmann Estate Winery just down the road. Konzelmann has two interesting distinctions as it: 1) is the only lakefront winery in the area, and 2) started in Germany and they really bring that influence to their varietals. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, and since rain moved in and we couldn’t walk around the vineyards, so instead we explored the tower and cupola.
Once seated we shared a tasting that included Konzelmann’s Cuvee Method Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir. Each varietal was super interesting and complex, particularly the Gewurztraminer, which has a pronounced gingery note.
Eager to make our way on to Toronto, we made a super quick stop at the Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery, really just to view the facilities. Then, two more stops before we hopped back on the highway. First, we picked up some donuts at our first Tim Hortons, which is like a Canadian Dunkin’ Donuts, I suppose. We took our treat to our final stop: Lakeside Park right on Lake Ontario. This was our chance to get up close to the great lake, and for Gregg to take in the Neil Peart Pavillion. Peart, drummer of Rush, is honored at this spot, as it provided the influence for the band’s song of the same name.
Though it was a trek to get there, Niagara was an awesome experience, and driving allowed us the freedom to see some of the other little spots and landscape along the way to Toronto!