Niagara Falls is often the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to the Niagara region, and for good reason; this incredible wonder has captivated visitors from around the world for centuries. But the falls is just the beginning of what Niagara Parks has to offer. Spanning the entire length of the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie, Niagara Parks is like a 56km outdoor adventure museum. This expansive parkland is home to breathtaking natural experiences, botanical gardens, historical sites, a thriving culinary scene, wellness programmes and a vibrant music scene — all located just over an hour away from downtown Toronto.
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Niagara Parks might be known for its stunning landscapes, outdoor activities and (of course) the famous falls, but the region has plenty more to offer than backdrops for pretty pictures. Home to five Feast On certified restaurants, the local culinary scene in Niagara Parks is flourishing. Just over an hour from downtown Toronto, Niagara Parks is the perfect distance for a weekend getaway or summer daytrip to escape from the hustle and bustle, relax and enjoy the best of the region’s local food and culture.
After having undergone an extensive renovation, the new Table Rock House Restaurant opened at the beginning of May. Steps away from the Horseshoe Falls, the dining room features floor to ceiling windows for stunning panoramic views. Each night as the falls becomes illuminated with multicoloured lights, enjoy the ambience as you dine on delicious, locally sourced fare. Feast On certified, the menu at Table Rock House Restaurant is centred on locally sourced ingredients – right down to the bar programme which features a wide variety of Niagara wines and craft beer.
Located in the Table Rock Centre, the name Table Rock House Restaurant is a nod to the history of building. Named after a large, flat rock that jutted out over the falls, Table Rock Centre has roots dating all the way back to the 1800s. Now, an extensive redevelopment of the property is underway. Phase one saw the return of the historic Table Rock House Restaurant, while phases two and three will see even more improvements to the Table Rock Centre.
Enjoy the ambiance as you dine on delicious, locally sourced fare
In addition to Table Rock House Restaurant, Niagara Parks is home to four other Feast On certified restaurants, all recognized for sourcing Ontario-grown food and drinks. Dine at the 113-year-old Queen Victoria Place Restaurant or enjoy casual pub fare at Legends on the Niagara Restaurant, located next to the historic War of 1812 battlegrounds. Queenston Heights Restaurant pairs spectacular views of the winding Niagara River and local vineyards with an award-winning brunch. At Whirlpool Restaurant chow down on pub-style fare before tee off at Whirlpool Golf Course.
Niagara Parks’ culinary offerings don’t stop at their five restaurants – their Pop-up Dinner Series allows you to experience the flavours of the Niagara River Corridor at exclusive, one-of-a-kind dining events. Each dinner is hosted at a different location along the Niagara Parkway, in a unique and unexpected venue. The all-inclusive experience allows you to enjoy all of the delicious offerings available from a number of food and drink stations. Created by expert Niagara Parks chefs, the menus feature locally sourced ingredients and offer a wide variety of dishes, including both vegetarian and gluten-free options. Guest speakers, storytellers and live musical performances from local artists provide the entertainment while you dine, to create each memorable and magical evening.
Namaste all day
We all love a good yoga session, but doing a sun salutation in a studio that lacks any sunlight can get stuffy and (let’s face it) boring. The most invigorating yoga and wellness experiences involve getting outside and being energized by the nature around us.
Set amongst Niagara Parks’ breathtaking natural wonders, the Namaste Niagara programme is a health and wellness experience like no other. Feel the power and energy of water thundering over the Horseshoe Falls as you participate in an outdoor yoga session on the lower observation deck. Let the sounds of the rushing white water soothe you as you follow along with a guided meditation overlooking the Niagara River.
On the lower observation deck at the base of the 13-storey high waterfall, Namaste Niagara: Yoga at Journey Behind the Falls is an unforgettable experience. Led by professional yoga instructors on weekends throughout the summer, each 45-minute yoga session will leave you breathless and exhilarated. Every second, up to 2,800 cubic metres of water pours over the Horseshoe Falls, casting off a spray that mists over you while you perform each pose and stretch. Travelling at 65km per hour, the force of the water is palpable and invigorating.
Taking place on select Sundays throughout July and August, Namaste Niagara: Guided Meditation at White Water Walk is another wellness experience not to be missed. On the boardwalk at White Water Walk, beside the rushing waters of the Niagara River, allow yourself to enter a state of mindfulness through various meditation techniques and practices. Led by a meditation researcher and practitioner completing a PhD in psychology, neuroscience and behaviour, this guided workshop explores meditation and peaceful surrender. Feel the force of the flowing river and the energy of the nature surrounding you as you move towards a sense of inner calm and peace.
After nourishing your mind and soul with yoga or meditation, nourish your body with a locally sourced meal. Included in the cost of your yoga or meditation session, enjoy breakfast at one of Niagara Parks’ Feast On certified restaurants located along the Niagara Parkway. Dine in the airy space at Whirlpool Restaurant, with views of the Niagara Parkway and Whirlpool Golf Course; or get a taste of Queenston Heights Restaurant’s award-winning brunch.
Take the stage
While few things can live up to the wonder of the falls, Niagara Parks is home to plenty of other experiences that will move you. Their robust live music programme shines a spotlight on Canadian artists making authentic, original tunes. On Saturday evenings, stroll along the main street to take in epic views of the falls on one side, the sweet sounds of live music floating over from Queen Victoria Park on the other side and the orange glow of the sunset all around you.
Presented by Niagara Parks and supported by the Polaris Music Prize, the Niagara Stage Concert Series takes place every Saturday, including Canada Day, all summer long. Set outdoors on the Queen Victoria Place stage, you can listen to the musical performances as you walk by, stop and groove along to the music, or pull up a chair and stay a while. The concert series features a lineup of incredibly talented, up-and-coming artists who have all been awarded, recognized or listed by the prestigious Polaris Music Prize at some point during its 12-year history. Enjoy performances from a wide variety of artists with different styles and sounds, who run the gamut of musical genres.
On the go (train)
Just over an hour’s drive from the downtown core, Niagara Parks is the perfect destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the city this summer.
Even on transit, Niagara Parks is easily accessible for a weekend getaway or just a daytrip. The summer-long seasonal GO Train service will take you straight from downtown Toronto to Niagara Falls in just two hours. From June until September, a train departs from Union Station every Friday at 5:15 p.m. On Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays, train service leaving Union Station for Niagara Falls begins as early as 9:00 a.m with the last return train disembarking from Niagara at 11 p.m. Best of all, your round-trip ticket includes hop-on-hop-off WEGO bus service throughout the city of Niagara Falls, Niagara Parks and Niagara-on-the-Lake.