As a natural wonder of Canada, it’s a destination that pulls in 30 million visitors per year. THIRTY MILLION. Other than being overwhelmed by the intensity of the rushing water, make a day or a weekend trip to explore the area! Niagara Falls isn’t a place where you just go for a few hours and call it a day. There’s way more to explore! To kick off another busy year, Niagara Parks provided a tour to spread the word on their attractions and restaurants.
It was a beautiful Spring day when the Niagara Parks‘ shuttle picked us up for a Niagara Parks Culinary Tour. Our day started at noon from Hamilton, traveling eastbound towards Niagara. Two years ago, I attended the same event with Hamilton and Toronto influencers. This time the crew was a little different but the wonderful hosts were the same; Chelsey, Ryan, Chris, and the gracious staff at the Niagara Parks attractions and restaurants.
A quick background. Established in 1885 as an agency of the Government of Ontario, Niagara Parks has been a steward of the Niagara River corridor for over 100 years. It stretches 56km along the river from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie with natural attractions, local restaurants, championship golf courses, and heritage sites. The 5 restaurants we visited were: Legends on the Niagara, Queen Victoria Place, Whirlpool, Queenston Heights, and Elements on the Falls. These restaurants are all Feast ON certified. Meaning that they are recognized by the Culinary Tourism Alliance for sourcing 25-50% of the food and beverage products within Ontario. And everyone knows, by supporting locals, it builds a stronger community.
So, things to do. Lots of eating, discovering, adventuring, and relaxing.
9561 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls
Chef: Dan Willick | Manager: Elise Wawruszczak
The majestic Legends on the Niagara. This restaurant has a breathtaking view of the golf course, sitting beside historic grounds. It is adjacent to the site of the 1814 Battle of Chippawa, one of the defining battles of the War of 1812, ya know, just a little historic tid bit.
We sampled 2 sandwiches and a caprese salad. I really enjoyed the spy apple and Gunn’s Hill grilled brie with arugula, dried cranberries and maple-sriracha aioli. The nutty and fruity flavour from the brie, apples, and dried cranberries really worked well together. The heirloom tomatoes and basil brought a beautiful and fresh vibe to the dish. A wine pairing from the Wayne Gretzky Estate complimented each meal at each restaurant. Our first pairing was a Baco Noir from the Founders Series. As a total noob with wine, I really enjoyed the subtle flavour in this one, I was able to handle it!
A serene and relaxing place to spend alone or with the crew. I actually enjoyed exploring the space by myself. It’s almost like bird watching but a little more hectic with little delicate butterflies flying around.
Located adjacent to the Queen Victoria Place, the stage will feature a variety of Canadian acts showcasing sound, talent, style, and culture.
6345 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls
Chef: Sidney Krick | Manager: Sarah Morse
We made our way to the second destination, Queen Victoria Place with a crazy, sweet view of the Falls. What I love about this restaurant is their obnoxiously massive patio dining area to accommodate everyone coming to the Falls. It has heaters to keep those who are easily chilled (AKA me), toasty warm!
We destroyed a stuffed chicken supreme with Thornloe blue cheese, grilled bosc pears, and Vineland sundried cherries with a VQA Shiraz glaze. It sat with a celery root rosti and roasted Den Boer Farms root veggies fritter. Every component of the dish was nicely seasoned and cooked. Heather’s dish was licked clean by the time I sat down to start eating! It’s a known fact, foodies eat cold food but we still manage to squeeze in hot foods.
The best hill for a kid in Niagara Falls. As soon as they’re over all the picture-taking and Fall-gazing, bring them here. It’s an entire street filled with arcades, unhealthy food, rides, games, and shops. There’s even a giant ferris wheel.
CN Tower’s shorter cousin is equipped with a rotating restaurant as well. Great view in a romantic and intimate atmosphere.
4330 River Rd, Niagara Falls
Driving to the next restaurant, we passed by the main tourist areas: Fallsview, Clifton Hill along with the massive ferris wheel, Oaks Garden Theatre, and a ton more. We made a quick pit stop at Niagara Parks’ attraction, White Water Walk.
If you want to experience the furious rapids of the Niagara River without committing your life to one of the boat tours, take a speedy elevator 38 metres down to the river. They call it North America’s larges series of standing waves. The boardwalk is a nice and easy stroll along crazy waters having a tantrum. We visited when the trees were still bare but in the late Spring, Summer, and Fall, I’m positive the scene would be pretty majestic.
3351 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls
Chef: Tim Vandelaar | Manager: Lanie Newman
We hustled over to the Whirlpool restaurant for a tasty linguine with Chardonnay cream sauce, Brandt’s pancetta, edamame, Miller’s asiago, and crispy basil. We were seated in a country-style dining room with open windows looking out into the beautiful golf course. I loved everything about this dish and I’d definitely smash a whole plate to my face if I could.
Celebrating its 25th year, The Falls Firework Series will have 111 shows this summer. Running daily from June 18-September 3, you’ll be able to catch the show everyday at 10pm, so get out there and take-in the epic atmosphere!
14184 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Chef: Bill Greenan | Manager: Jackie Lynch
Next stop, the serene Queenston Heights Restaurant with another spectacular view of the river. A quaint stone building sitting among dazzling gardens, monuments, and trails. A small lil fact, it’s also the southern point of the Bruce Trail, Canada’s OG trail.
We sampled a slow roasted Ontario beef short rib with extra cheddar mash, asparagus spears, green peppercorn jus, and crispy shallots. My favourite pairing was during this meal because it was a Moscow Mule. Something easy to chug! If you’re looking for a cozy cottage with Dutch-vibes, Queenston Heights is where it’s at.
Namaste Niagara is coming back this summer. Breathe in the refreshing mist from behind the falls and enjoy a relaxing guided meditation class at the White Water Walk.
For the foodie, a series of pop-up dinners will be hosted at unique and historic locations along the Parkway.
14184 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Chef: Elbert Wiersema | Manager: Michael Wilson | Pastry Chefs: Dave Thai & Hening Sun
Lastly, we finished our tour at Elements on the Falls Restaurant. Obviously, this one has the best view if you want to be mesmirized by the rushing waters.
We enjoyed a light seafood meal with Manitoulin rainbow trout, Fugo Island cod fillet, Northern pickerel souffle, maple wood smoked scallop, and sea asparagus in a roasted fennel Riesling reduction. Then finished our day with a baked spy apple tart, Crimo Farms heartnut marzipan, and a sea buckthorn berry gelato with cranberry anglais sauce. It was a light meal to end the day and just enough to get me stuffed for a short nap back home.
I’m more of an active adventurer, so this suspended obstacle course is on my list to visit when I’m back in Niagara! Plus, you get a dope view of the river and the falls!
Ok, if you’re even more adventurous and possibly a thrill seeker, get on this. You’re basically ziplining towards the falls. Imagine all that fresh crisp air blasting all over your face and body.
So, from our last tour with Niagara Parks, we rode the Areo Car! Let me tell you about the fear in most of our crew. It was real. The car is ancient but extremely safe. And the view down below is spectacular! The best tid bit I remember from this experience was how they tested the maximum capacity for the car back in the day. Cows. They used cows!
Packages are being offered to visitors in the GTA traveling to Niagara Falls. These tickets will allow you to access the WEGO transportation system.
The complimentary culinary tour was provided by Niagara Parks, opinions expressed are my own.