And we’re back. Back to the buzz that September brings. Hopefully you got away over the Summer to relax, recharge and ready your intellect for it all. What’s that? Your traveling free spirit is not quite ready to get back to the grind? We get it. Luckily there are worthy options – ranging from local getaways to extended road trips to soothing sun-soaked breaks – which we’ll present over the next few weeks. To kick things off, let’s go local. This is the perfect time to visit the Niagara region with its award-winning wineries, top class theatre, and farms where you can pick your own apples and pears. Hands up for some freshly made apple cider!
If you can’t see yourself driving home post afternoon of tasting wines, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a few cozy boutique hotels to check into. The Shaw Club is slick and super stylish (read: king size feather top bed, 300 count Egyptian cotton linens).
Word is the stunning Oban Inn is the place to stay if you want to spa.
Just off the highway, between St Catherine’s and Niagara-on-the-Lake, sits White Oaks Resort & Spa. This is for the activity-oriented who will want to take advantage of a full-service gym and squash courts with close proximity to the Royal Niagara Golf Club.
The Shaw Festival is a powerhouse of Canadian theatre and has been a major destination for drama kings and their queens for decades. Whether you catch Ragtime, His Girl Friday or any one of the superlative stage performances, you won’t be disappointed. The Globe & Mail and National Post have weighed in with glowing reviews – the former calling Misalliance “a ‘superabundance’ of comic talent.” Go!
Side note: When the venerable company needed to redesign their creative identity as part of a 50th anniversary, YP Emily Cooper was the award-winning artist who was tapped by the Shaw Festival to craft the images.
Go picking: As we often forget, while we’re cottaging and traveling through the summer, farmers are busy in the fields, planting, growing and harvesting the food we eat. Farmers Feed Cities, an agriculture awareness organization, gave me a renewed appreciation for the work that they do. Many farms offer us city folk the chance to get our hands dirty while picking our own fruits and veggies – a great way to get in touch with our (local) roots! In season now are squash, apples, artichokes, sweet corn and brussels sprouts. Hmmm, Autumn.
If picking your own isn’t your bag, there’s always roadside stops like Quiet Acres or Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, where you’ll find over 30 vendors offering everything from organic fruit and vegetables to cold-pressed soaps, artisanal bread and wine jellies.
Where To Pick-Your-Own / Niagara region:
Cherry Avenue Farms – the site is updated regularly with the fruit/produce available for picking and includes complete picking schedule.
Address: 4303 Cherry Avenue, Lincoln, ON
Howell Family Pumpkin Farm – no better way to get in the Halloween spirit!
Address: 2878, Holland Rd., Fonthill, ON
Jacobs Fruit Farm – a 26-acre family farm where offering pick your own apples.
Address: 103 Overholt Road, Ridgeville, ON
By day, a lunch at either Ravine or Southbrook will satisfy the desire for delicious food in a serene setting. The latter are also the makers of Bioflavia™ (you might have seen this on Dragons’ Den) and they make an interesting pizza crust out of the stuff at their on-site bistro. On September 28th, Southbrook’s winemakers and proprietors, Bill and Marilyn Redelmeier, are guiding visitors through the harvest process and sharing their unique biodynamic approach to 2012’s vintage.
BEER & WINE, FEELIN’ FINE:
Niagara’s Best Brewery & Pub is located on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls. Pop into the 9,000 square foot lodge that overlooks the brewery and indulge in craft beers and comfort food.
On the subject of ‘craft’, if you sipped all the usual suspects and want boutique wines, there are a few essential stops:
Five Rows Craft Winery, open weekends from 11am to 5pm until December and by appointment on weekdays.
Hidden Bench, an artisanal winery dedicated to producing ultra premium wines solely from vineyards situated within the Beamsville Bench.
13th Street Winery, sip on signature sparkling wine while enjoying the contemporary art on display inside their farmhouse. Cheeses and charcuterie are on offer Wednesday to Saturday.
BEST TIME TO GO:
A variety of crops such as okra, grapes, nectarines and peaches are available now. The Quiet Acres web site is helpful as it lists each crop, the first pick, and availability duration.
I’m sure I’m not the only fan of outdoor dining (hang on to Summer much?) so it’s worth noting that most wineries pull their tables and chairs inside after Thanksgiving.
The Shaw Festival runs until the end of October.
BOOK GIVEAWAY The Ontario Table by local food ambassador Lynn Ogryzlo up for grabs! More than a cookbook, it is an agricultural journey designed to introduce you to the people, food and culture of Ontario. Enter to win by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Simply put ‘I LOVE NIAGARA’ in the subject line. Contest closes September 21st at 5PM.