Summer is coming and you’re gonna wanna be ready for it! If you’re anything like me then you’ve already started day dreaming about all of the warm weather possibilities that are right around the corner. You absolutely have to set aside a long weekend to […]
Tag: weekend getaway from buffalo
Toronto’s favorite Christmas Market will be opening this weekend in the Distillery Historic District! Rediscover the magic of the holidays at this European-style seasonal outdoor market. Set in the cobble-stone lined streets of the Distillery District, this festival brings together unique and local craft vendors, […]
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of those charming towns to visit again and again. There’s so much to see and do and there’s always some place new to explore! It’s starting to become a tradition to spend a weekend in February here with our friends, Carl and Jess. Last year’s trip was such a hit that we couldn’t wait to get back. Jeff and I loved it so much that we even snuck in a quick little overnight trip before Christmas! You can read about it here! Now we’re officially Niagara-on-the-Lake weekend getaway veterans. We’ll show you all of our favorite spots to keep everyone in the group happy, even the guys! Come explore Niagara-on-the-Lake with us!
We tried to cater to the boys on day one. The key is to get their bellies full and pump them full of booze and they’ll do whatever you want! Kidding!! Well….kind of! Jeff and Carl are country boys at heart so what better place to start than at Caroline Cellars. You can’t get more down home and country than this! The winery was established in 2000, but owners Rick and Frieda have been farming the land since 1978. The winery gets it’s name from the family’s matriarch, Rick’s late mother Caroline, and also their biggest supporter over the years.
You can feel that sense of family as soon as you walk in the door. Caroline Cellars is family owned and operated and you can already tell they’ll be around for generations to come. All of their wines are made on site from the grapes produced by their 26 acre farm. Their wines are available exclusively at the winery meaning Caroline Cellars is the only place you can get your hands on this stuff. Hungry? Don’t miss out on their full service Farmhouse Cafe! Locally sourced, most of their menu is homemade in house. We didn’t get the pleasure of eating here, but I was drooling over the Buffalo Chicken Poutine up on the Specials board! We did take home a bottle of their 2014 Sweet Riesling as well as The Farmer’s Blueberry Wine.
Next we headed to Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery, just 5 minutes away. Gretzky Estates really knows how to keep everyone happy! They are a MUST stop when in Niagara-on-the-Lake! The complex is absolutely massive. Head to the right and you’ll be greeted by this stunning sitting room and magnificent fireplace. Continue past to the wine tasting area which overlooks the ice rink in the winter and doubles as a water feature in the summer. We sampled a few glasses before heading over to the other side for a whiskey tasting.
Absolutely, positivity, 100 percent do NOT skip the whiskey tasting!! Our guys loved it! I have to admit this was one of my favorite parts too. A tasting consists of 3 of the 4 whiskeys available for purchase at Gretzky Estates. The fourth glass is water. They present their tastings in a science experiment format. Its recommended that you taste the whiskey once, add a couple drops of water to it (with the pipette provided), and then taste the sample again. So much fun!! Know any whiskey loving mad scientists???
My favorites were the Ice Cask which gets its sweetness from soaking in ice wine barrels (right up my alley!) and of course the Canadian Cream, a mouth watering Irish Cream liquor. If you love Irish cream liquors, or in this case, Canadian Cream, you’ve gotta try our Irish Cream Fudge recipe, inspired by this drink! My hubby loved the Red Cask, a super smooth and satisfying whiskey. We settled on the Red Cask and the Canadian Cream to bring back across the border.
Silversmith Brewing Co. was next on our list, just two minutes down the road from Gretzky Estates. This place was a favorite with the guys as you can tell from Carl’s look of contentment above.
Silversmith finds it’s home in an old 1890s church and is just bursting at the seams with charm and character! It’s definitely one of the most unique places in Niagara-on-the-Lake (or anywhere for that matter) to grab a round of pints with your friends. You can’t help but marvel at the exposed beams, brick walls, handmade barn wood bar, and stained glass windows. And the beer is pretty spectacular as well! Thank goodness for co-founder and visionary Chris Pontsioen, who decided to plop down a brewery smack dab in the middle of wine country!!
Be sure to order some food from the kitchen! Chef Charlie Clowes and 40 Under Forty winner, set up shop as Mason Made Well inside the beer hall. With an eclectic menu, worldly flavors, and locally sourced ingredients, you’re sure to find something for everyone! We split a Steak Sandwich which consisted of medium rare steak on a warmed baguette, with gorgonzola cream, arugula and caramelized onion jam. YUM!!!!
We got some shareables as well. The Goat Cheese and Ricotta Dip with fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes was a crowd favorite! Even the ones that weren’t crazy about goat cheese loved it. And the Lemon & Herb and Jerk Spice Wings were a hit as well.
What comes after beer??? MORE BEER!!!…..OBVIOUSLY!!! After Silversmith we headed 3 minutes down the road to the big red barn. Oast House Brewers prove that you can never have enough beer! Oast House’s menu combines a couple of standard brews, a few farmhouse ales, as well as semi-rotational selections, and limited edition series. Basically you could go here a whole bunch of times and never sample the same beer twice! Or you can stick with the classics. Whatever floats your boat!
The concept at Oast is to build your own flight and pick as many samples as you’d like! It’s like DIY but for beer flights. Love it!!! I’m dying to try some of their Rural Route series, a curation of locally grown fruit flavored beers. The Strawberry Rhubarb Ale and Eisbock with Ice Wine Grapes are calling my name.
I think it’s safe to say that these guys were pretty happy with our day!
After Oast House it was time to check into our hotel, Queens Landing. Queens Landing is a Georgian inspired manor and one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s premier waterfront hotels. Part of the Vintage Hotels group, Queens Landing offers luxurious accomadtions, coupled with the finest amenities. If you’ve ever slept at a Vintage Hotel you’ll know the beds are the absolute best!! Our room was gorgeous. It overlooked the water and had a beautiful view of sailboats in the harbor.
We booked our stay with Travelzoo.com and got an amazing deal! I highly recommend scoping them out for great deals to get the most bang for your buck. Our package was $145 and included an overnight stay, 2 drinks in the Bacchus Lounge, and a $40 gift voucher to use at their onsite Tiara restaurant. Our drink coupons were quickly put to good use. Jess went with a martini outfitted in a smoked paprika rimmed glass, and I opted to go a gin cocktail which was obviously named for me, The Queen!
We spent our dinner vouchers on some pre dinner appetizers. The Charcuterie Board was top notch and paired well with a little Seared Foie Gras. We ate dinner in town at the Olde Angel Inn. After dinner it was off to the Irish Harp for a round of drinks and some live music. Check out some of our favorites from those two places here! The best part of Queens Landing is it’s fabulous location. It’s within walking distance to all of Niagara-on-the-Lakes main attractions. And it’s actually even shorter than you think if you cut through the park!
The following morning we took full advantage of the wonderful pool, whirlpool, and sauna before checking out. It was a beautiful day out so we headed to the waterfront to snap a few gorgeous pictures. That’s Old Fort Niagara in the background across the lake.
Breakfast was just around the corner, offsite at the Little Red Rooster Restaurant. And it was delish! It’s too bad they’re closing in a month. A fancy upscale Chinese restaurant will soon take it’s place. My eggs were cooked perfect, and came with bacon, fried potatoes, and thick sliced Texas toast. SO good!!
Jess ordered the Cinnamon Raisin French Toast and it looked and smelled amazing as well! If you’re looking for a comparable place, I hear Butler’s Bar and Grill is a favorite among the locals and it’s just right across the street.
After breakfast it was off to the award wining PondView Winery. If you like Ice Wine then you’re really in for a treat! This is the only place in Niagara-on-the-Lake where you can taste ice wine from a chocolate shooter. The shooters are made especially for PondView and are also available for purchase! How sweet is that?!? Our host Jenna showed us the ropes (she was SO much fun BTW!!). The trick is to take a few sips but leave a little bit at the bottom. Then swallow the rest with a big bite of chocolate shot glass. Absolutely heavenly!! The combination in unbelievable! I’m normally a sweet wine kind of gal, but I really enjoyed their Cabernet Franc Rose which is more on the dry side, and even ended up taking a bottle home with me.
How do you top chocolate ice wine shooters? With ice wine slushies of course! The Ice House serves up two flavors of slushies, Vidal and Cabernet Franc. I suggest sampling both before ordering a full glass. The Vidal was my favorite hands down, but I’m a white wine type of gal. The inside of this winery is quaint and cozy. I love the hand crafted wine barrel bar and matching tables. And don’t miss the Polar Bear out front. He makes for such a great photo op!
Our next stop led us to The Hare Wine Co., a fairly new up and coming winery in the Niagara region. The hare, fittingly a symbol of fertility and good fortune, also doubles as the owner’s namesake. John Hare welcomed us in and graciously introduced himself. You can tell how much pride and passion has gone into this project. The building itself pays homage to the region’s past, incorporating 100 year old bricks into its exterior as well as reclaimed barn wood flooring and shelving found throughout the estate. Hare Wine Co. is all about community. Don’t miss out on their slew of upcoming events, from Paint by the Glass to their Etsy Spring Market. The wines were outstanding as well. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with any of their dessert wines. Jess nabbed a bottle of their Jack Rabbit White for the road.Our final stop brought us to Southbrook Vineyards, an organic winery! Look for the big blue wall! Southbrook is a ground breaking vineyard in the Niagara region. In 2008, they became the first wine estate in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certifications for their vineyard and winery. The process is quite interesting and our host was extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions we threw at him. We couldn’t resist a bottle of their 2016 Connect White as well as a bottle of the Anniversary which had quite a unique flavor. Plus it organic so it’s good for you right?!? If you’re an ice wine lover you MUST try their Canadian Framboise. It basically tastes like strawberry jelly. You’re welcome!
Another successful trip in the books! Can’t wait to come back next year! Have you ever been to Niagara-on-the-Lake? Do you have any recommendations? Check out more of our Niagara-on-the-lake fun here and here!
We’d love to hear from you! Leave us your comments and love down below!
For Christmas this year, my super thoughtful in-laws gifted us a two night stay at Gateway Lodge in Cook Forest, PA. This past weekend the hubby and I decided to cash in on the offer for some much needed R&R splashed with a little bit […]
If you’re planning a visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, you really won’t find any finer accommodations than the Prince of Wales Hotel. They truly pamper their guests to ensure that you have a romantic and luxurious stay. The hotel is absolutely stunning both inside and out, from the luxury […]
We spent last weekend across the border, exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake before all of the Christmas madness set in. Niagara-on-the-Lake is situated in Ontario, Canada right where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, and directly across the river from Youngstown, NY. This historic town is home to 88 different wineries, along with several breweries, countless restaurants, and lots of shopping. It’s about an hour drive from our home in Buffalo and makes for a perfect romantic getaway or overnight trip. The quaint town is a popular tourist destination in the summertime, so we usually opt to visit in the winter months, when it feels as though we’ve got the whole town to ourselves. And the lodging prices are by far, much, much more reasonable.
We started off in the early afternoon by grabbing lunch at The Garrison House. Sister restaurant to Chef David Watt’s Zest, the Garrison House is casual and inviting, a great place to grab a beer at the bar or have a nice casual meal by the fire. Reservations are not required.
This gastropub is the perfect place to grab a little bite to eat before tackling all of those wineries. They focus on good food and quality spirits and it really shows in their menu. I couldn’t resist ordering the Prime Rib sandwich which was one of the daily specials and came with fresh cut fries. It was absolutely out of this world. My hubby ordered the Garrison Burger, which was also exceptional, and we swapped out halves, so we could each try a little of both! Good call!! I highly recommend!
Afterwards be sure to stop in next door at Refuge Antiques & Giftery. The store owner, Liz, hand picks and carefully curates every item in the store and her attention to detail does not go unnoticed. The store is beautifully decorated and has a wide array of unique and eclectic gifts and home decor. It’s a must stop for a one of a kind shopping experience!
The next stop on our list was Wayne Gretzky Estates, just a short 7 minute drive down the road. Even if you’re not a hockey fan, I know, sacrilege to say in Canada, this place is truly impressive. The 23,000 sq ft facility is the first of it’s kind in the region, boasting a winery AND distillery onsite. Oh and did I mention they have their own ice rink?!? Ice skating is available in the winter, and in the summer the space doubles as a beautiful water feature, alongside their outdoor whiskey bar. If the whiskey’s not enough to keep you warm, no worries, they also have outdoor heaters pumping full force to keep you toasty.
But wait….there’s more!! Stop inside for a wine or whiskey tour, take their Cocktails 101 bartending class, or learn some wine and food pairing tips while you’re there. My hubby and I split a tasting and left with a bottle of their 2015 Riesling in hand, along with a 3 pack of Ice Wine Truffles and a 3 pack of Whiskey Truffles from the gift shops. OMG!! YUM!! We’re headed back here in February and I am beyond excited to sample from the distillery on our next trip. Like really really excited!!!
Konzelmann Estate Winery was next, and I’m not going to lie, the 8 year old little girl inside of me wanted to visit this place because it kinda looks like a castle. Konzelmann is just a 7 minute drive from Gretzky Estates, yet almost has an off the beaten path type of feel to it. Opened in Canada in 1984, they’ve actually been established in Germany since 1894.
With history comes experience obviously, because as far as wine tasting goes, this place was probably my favorite! We did two tastings here, tried 6 wines in total, and concluded that their 2016 Peach wine is the obvious winner! We also left with a bottle of their 2015 Riesling. But what stood out the most to me, was their extremely reasonable pricing. They offer $5 off a bottle with each tasting purchased, meaning we left with 2 bottles of wine for under $20….Canadian! Next time I’ve gotta try their Junk Food Pairing, where they pair holiday junk food along with their wines for a small fee. This place is located right on the water too, and I bet it’s even more fabulous in the summertime!
Our next stop was Pillitteri Estates Winery, just 6 minutes away, back on the main drag. Pillitteri is a family owned and operated winery, with three generations involved in the wine making process. Their dual showcases boast just a few of their many prestigious awards (they’ve won 700+ internationally and domestically for both their table and ice wines). In fact, they are the world’s largest estate producer of Icewine! And guess what….they really do live up to all that hype!! I’m a sucker for ice wine…and ice wine truffles apparently, because I could not leave here without a bottle of their 2013 Vintage Reserve or a 5 pack of truffles. Both are must buys!!!
Two minutes down the road, you’ll find Niagara Oast House Brewers. You can’t miss the big red barn! Oast house is Niagara’s premium craft brewery with a focus on Farmhouse-style brews. The barn was originally raised in the late 1800s, and now boasts the Beer Shed (a beer tasting room), the Hayloft (a super cool event space), the Kitchen, which serves up Tide & Vine Oyster Co. oysters along with other small plates to snack on, and the coolest looking outdoor patio! Remind me to swing by this summer!! This place gives off such a chill vibe. It’s everything you want a brewery to be. They even have a sweet ping pong table tucked away in the back room. Game. On.
Here you can basically build your own beer flight and pick as many samples as you’d like. We tried the Biere de Noel, the Pumpkin & Squash Spiced Ale, and the Olde Tyme Gingerbread Porter. This place is a must do for any craft beer enthusiast, or anyone who needs a pit stop from all the wine! It was a nice change of pace and our last stop before checking into our hotel.
We checked into our room at the Prince of Wales Hotel, a member of the Vintage Hotels group. The room was fit for a Queen, decked out in all of it’s Victorian elegance, yet equipped with fully modern features. The gas fireplace was the perfect place to warm up after a cold winter’s day spent gallivanting around town. The Prince of Wales is located in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake and is arguably the best located hotel in town, just steps from the most popular restaurants, bars, and shopping. We booked with an amazing deal through Travelzoo.com. For just $159 (plus taxes) we were able to stay in these stunning accommodations and received complimentary breakfast, as well as complimentary tastings to two of the local wineries. Last year we purchased a similar deal for their sister hotel, Pillar & Post, and will also be returning in February to their third location at Queens Landing. You really can’t beat the price! I’ll let you know which is my favorite!
After we settled in, we headed to The Irish Harp Pub for a round of pre dinner drinks and an appetizer. The Irish Harp is literally steps away from the Prince of Wales and just a blocks worth of walking. Owner Trevor Smyth has taken attention to detail to the next level, and in 2005 he meticulously restored the building, having it’s whole contents shipped straight from Ireland. The quintessential Irish pub, The Irish Harp serves up great food, cold drinks, and live bands on the weekends, establishing itself as a Niagara-on-the-Lake landmark destination.
Sit at the bar, or grab a table by the fireplace, just grab a seat! This place fills up fast on the weekends. Don’t miss the pull apart garlic loaf in all of it’s cheesy glory!!!
From there, we headed just around the block to the Olde Angel Inn. The Angel Inn boasts a pub, a large English style restaurant, as well as 5 guest rooms. The Olde Angel Inn was established in 1789 and rebuilt in 1815, after being badly burned during the War of 1812-1814. It’s said to be haunted, of course, the ghost remains harmless as long as the British flag flies over the inn. The food is hearty and the portions are HUGE! Just take a look at this roast beef sandwich, piled high with tender, juicy beef. And I’m not saying the ghost was there, but I did take a video of my water glass sliding across the table all by itself….sooooo……there’s that.
The holiday cocktail, a mix of spiced rum and eggnog, topped with whipped cream, cinnamon and nutmeg, was EVERYTHING and just what I needed before braving the cold walk back to our hotel. Lucky for me it was a short one!
Of course I couldn’t walk through Churchill Lounge (located at the Prince of Wales) without having one more drink. I am so in love with the woodwork in this bar. We warmed ourselves by the fireplace, and listened to the piano player sing few Christmas songs while sipping on sangria and martinis to end the night. I can’t think of a better way to unwind before Christmas, can you?
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