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Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada: The prettiest one?
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Niagara-on-the-Lake is located in Southern Ontario where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in the Niagara Region of the southern part of the Province of Ontario. It is located across the Niagara River from Youngstown, New York State, USA. The town is ranked as the prettiest town in North America. I am not sure who ranked it, but the rankers won’t be far away from the mark.
The original site was a Neutral Nation village known as Onghiara. In 1781 the British government established Butlersburg, which later became known as West Niagara. Many of the first white inhabitants were loyal to Britain, and had fled during and immediately after the American Revolution.
In 1792 the village was incorporated as the Town of Newark and was named the capital of the Province of Upper Canada. The town lost that distinction to York (now Toronto) in 1797, as Newark's proximity to the United States presented a danger. The town was renamed Niagara in 1798. During the War of 1812, American forces invaded Canada, and captured (and later destroyed) the town before they withdrew following their abandonment of captured Fort George. The British rebuilt the town, however, and today it has retained much of its historical charm. The present name was adopted around 1880 as a Postal Address to distinguish the town from Niagara Falls.
We left Toronto at about 3PM to visit NOTL (town’s popular abbreviation). The town is about 120 kms from Toronto and can be easily negotiated in 90 minutes. We took a wee bit longer as we had scheduled a visit to Caroline Cellars Winery located at Virgil only a quick drive away from NOTL.
The surrounding region enjoys a comparatively mild climate thanks to the adjoining lakes, and excellent soil for fruit production, for which it has become one of Canada's centres. In particular, NOTL has grown into a major viticultural region. Visitors flock to dozens of nearby wineries, including those making the world's largest volumes of ice wine.
We were shown around the winery by Jaclyn Newfeld a second generation family member looking after the business. After learning the finer nuances of wine making and tasting a few varieties (I am not a connoisseur of wine, but that ice wine was really great for my palate – sweet as sweet could be, I am told it goes very well with fruit desserts and strong cheese) we left for NOTL.
Conscious of the environment, commercial buses are not allowed in town. You need to park the bus a few kms. away in the lots provided. The town’s green bus shuttles passengers from the parking lot to town and back. It’s a free service, the last one departing at 6PM. You would need to walk thereafter. Cars are allowed in the town though.
We reached town at about 4:45 PM. That gave me only a little over an hour to smell the soil. That’s OK for a casual visitor. Serious ones on vacation can easily spend days. With an eye on the watch, I decided to walk only the main street.
The town is home to the Shaw Festival, a series of theatrical productions featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries, or plays about his era (1856–1950), running from April to November. The festival operates three theatres in the centre of town: the Festival, Royal George, and Court House theatres, and features one of a repertory acting company, scenic staff, and collection of resident and guest directors considered some of the best in the English-speaking world.
The town is also known for its gardens, art galleries, antique shops, and golf courses. There are many hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and spas in the area.
The town accentuates its British heritage, and features the only Lord Mayor in Canada. Prior to 1970, the town was simply the Town of Niagara, and the title was Mayor. In 1970, the Town of Niagara, and the Township of Niagara were merged to create the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The title of "Lord Mayor" was to be given to all Mayors from that time forward.
I think it’s a ritual for visitors to NOTL to enjoy ice-creams. There are many vendors on the main street. Being in Canada I asked for my scoop to be made of walnut and maple. One other ritual would be taking a ride in horse-drawn buggies, which of course I couldn’t for want of time.
At 6PM sharp we were brought back to the parking lot. That evening our dinner was planned on the 26th floor of The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls. Arguably, that would be the best view in town, can’t say that for the food though.
Tomorrow we would cross the border and continue our journey in the US.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Image Gallery Photo viewer
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