Quaint Colonial Splendour
I realize that this page is supposed to be about St. Catharines, but I prefer to focus on a nearby location for which there is no separate VT page. I won’t pretend that I would have thought to come to Niagara on the Lake on my own. It’s not that the town is in some way unappealing, but it’s just not the sort of place that I would generally list as being a popular destination for someone who routinely rails against small towns. Of course, the fact that I went with family as part of a birthday celebration for my father helps to explain my trip much more, and possibly also why I had such a good time. In general, Niagara on the Lake is a town that lives off of two different sources of tourist revenue: one is the annual Shaw Festival, and the other is the town’s draw as a quaint, English-style tourist town with colonial architecture. It also doesn’t hurt that Niagara on the Lake is very close to Niagara Falls, which, on their own, draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
We got to Niagara on the Lake in time for lunch, which was a picnic (courtesy my mother) in the main park in the centre of the town. Thanks to its drive to maintain the feel of a quaint English town, Niagara on the Lake is filled with beautiful gardens and parks, many of which have well-manicured lawns and carefully maintained flower displays. The town offers more than a few spots to take plenty of pictures, and avid gardeners will be delighted by a simply stroll around town. Of course, one of the drawbacks of having so many tourists arrive in such a small locality is that it can get quite crowded on the sidewalks by early afternoon, so it’s a good idea to arrive early if you want some sort of tranquility while you are enjoying the sights.
The true reason we ended up in Niagara on the Lake was actually so that my sister could buy my father a hat for his birthday. Yes, bizarre, but that is one of the other highlights of the town. In keeping with the full spirit of its British mystique, Niagara on the Lake is filled with small anti-fashion boutiques that sell every type of sensible shoe, garment and accessory imaginable. There is also a token Irish shop, as well as the standard British shop, both of which sell goods from the home country (Ireland for the former, England, Scotland and Wales for the latter). There are several good ice cream shops (I can attest to their quality) as well as a Colonial tea room in the Prince of Wales Hotel, the up-market lodging that “dominates” the centre crossroads. In sum, Niagara on the Lake is a great outing for families, but you should probably just head straight for the Falls if you have a serious aversion to anything kitschy or quaint.