Road Trip! Destination: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival is the town's near-trademark event, but even in the winter months, the town is worth a visit.
The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is open practically all year-around. The area's wineries are a constant attraction. The Shaw Festival, which stages plays from April to late October, even has a winter offering in the form of a film festival.
And don't forget, Niagara Falls — a different treat in the winter — is only about 13 miles away.
Besides, the town never loses its Victorian charm and has great places to stay and dine.
A trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, is an easy 41⁄2-hour drive, which makes it perfect for a weekend away.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
A Krackling good time
Winery tours are a popular event in the grape-happy area around Niagara-on-the-Lake, but Pillitteri Estates gives it a holiday touch with its Christmas Krackle program.
Every day of the month through Dec. 24, visitors can have an ice wine and sparkling wine cocktail and then be treated to a “Christmas treat,” says Jeff Letvenuk, marketing manager at the winery.
The crunchy piece of candy is close to a brittle with caramel and chocolate. The treat is simply for stopping in, he says, and does not require taking the tour.
“Of course, we always urge people to take the tour,” he says.
The winery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and tours are at noon, 2 and 3 p.m. Tours are free, except for a $2 sample fee for one ice wine.
A hot time in the old town
Canada and the United States do not have the contested relationship of other nations. But during the War of 1812, between the U.S. and England, many battles were fought in the Niagara peninsula, causing great bitterness on both sides.
U.S. troops occupied the town for seven months in 1813 and burned the town in December of that year as they retreated before a British force.
From 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10, the history-minded will have a burning-of-the-town commemoration ceremony with a torch-lit procession. It will be followed by readings and cider at St. Mark's Anglican Church. Built in 1792, it is the oldest continuous-use church of that denomination in Ontario.
This event is a quieter follow-up to the Niagara on Fire event in the town square Dec. 7.
Details: 905-468-1950 or www.niagaraonthelake.com
Lights, camera, action
The live theater of the Shaw Festival is finished for the year, but the event's biggest venue still is busy.
The Festival Theater is the site for the Shaw Festival Film Series, which is made up of weekly feature films and documentaries through Feb. 15 with a special fundraiser on Feb. 22.
It began Nov. 30 and includes offerings such as Cate Blanchett's “Blue Jasmine” (Dec. 21) and Judy Dench's “Philomena” (Jan. 25).
Feature films are shown at 3 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 15 and documentaries are at 6 p.m. Fridays, Jan. 3 through Feb. 14. A screening of “A Royal Affair” will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 as a fundraiser.
Admission is $12 a film, but there are passes for the film series at $130, to the documentary series for $60, and any eight for $88.
Details: 905-469-2172 or www.shawfest.com/films
A delightful chill on wine
Ice wine, the dessert-oriented drink, is the distinctive type of wine from the Niagara peninsula, and the town will be turned into an Icewine Village on Jan. 18 and 19.
In addition, a Sparkle and Ice event will be Jan. 17 in the Grand Hall of the Courthouse, where chefs will offer ice wine-inspired tastings. At 10:30 p.m., guests will step outside for icewine served in a glass made of ice.
The next day, Queen Street is transformed into the Icewine Village as the 28 area wineries pour their finest.
The village comes alive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 18, and there will be an Icewine Cocktail Competition from 9 to 11 p.m. The village and its shops also will be in business from noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 19.
Events Jan. 18 and 19 are free, but the Sparkle and Ice event has a $95 ticket.
Details: 905-468-1950 or www.niagaraonthelake.com
Wine and a punchline
The celebration of ice wine continues Jan. 25 and 26 with “Shop, Sip, Sample, Savour” and the Icebreakers' Comedy Festival.
“Shop, Sip, Sample, Savour” will be held throughout the days in the village while the comedy festival will take over during evening hours.
From noon to 5 p.m., visitors will be able to sip wine and try culinary samples as they wander through shops, meeting merchants, cooks and winery representatives.
In the evening, comedians will perform in restaurants and clubs in a first-time Niagara event.
A $30 insider's pass entitles a visitor to an ice-wine glass, three wine samples and four culinary tastings.
Details: 905-468-1950 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Finding a place to stay
For a small community, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a large assortment of places to stay.
Besides chain hotels and motels, the town has distinctive sites such as the Shaw Club Hotel & Spa, with a New York City-like slickness. In the middle of town is the Prince of Wales with 19th-century charm, and holding down the eastern end of the peninsula is the large Queen's Landing with its plantation-like entrance.
The town also has a variety of bed-and-breakfasts and cottages.
A way to escape the cold
While activities and events in Niagara-on-the-Lake often are built around enjoying the briskness, a visit to a tropical climate can be a refreshing change.
The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory on Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls, about 20 minutes south of the town, provides a rainforest setting that is the home to 2,000 butterflies.
More than 45 species of butterflies can be seen from the 200 yards of paths that wind through the site. One of the most striking stops along the way is the Emergence Window, which overlooks butterflies as they come out the pupae for their first flight.
The conservatory is open every day but Christmas and for a maintenance period, Jan. 6 to 12 in 2014.
There is Blue Christmas display through Jan. 6 featuring Blue Morpho Butterflies and decor of that color. From Feb. 8 to May 12, a swamp-creature exhibit will be featured.
Admission is $13.50; $8.80 for ages 6 through 12; free for those younger.
Details: 905-356-8119 or www.niagaraparks.com/niagara-falls-attractions/butterfly-conservatory.html
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