Here’s the thing about Niagara Falls: It’s far more mysterious and exquisite than you’d ever think. With tours behind the crashing water and butterfly gardens just a few steps from the park, you quickly realize that there’s a world of mysteries just beyond the bend. This is Southern Ontario, after all—a region that is quickly on the rise as a must-see destination. Toss your waterfall poncho in the backseat and come see what the area has to offer a curious traveler. In no particular order, here are the top 10 towns to visit outside of Niagara Falls!
80 km from Niagara Falls
Lattes pour into quaint white mugs, families cycle down tree-lined avenues, and architecture that seems to blend rustic charm with chic industry dot the landscape. We’re talking about Hamilton, Ontario—a rock star destination that many travellers are starting to notice. This is the kind of place where you can order a farm-to table meal at a window seat, and enjoy a picturesque city bustling in front of you. Need some recommendations? Start with brunch at Aberdeen Tavern, where you can sink into the dark leather benches and clink mimosas in fine glass. Or grab lunch at Earth to Table: Bread Bar, which features seasonal ingredients for their pizzas and sandwiches. Get your Instagram ready: They put out a pretty dish. And when your belly is full, make some time to explore Dundurn Castle or stroll the monthly James Street North ArtCrawl. Plus, you might also want to pop into Collective Arts Brewing, a craft brewer that blends together tasty suds with original artwork from fans. In fact, most of the bottles are adorned with art created by locals. Scan the labels to see multimedia videos, hear original music, and read artist bios. Cheers to Hamilton! When you’re here, you’re home.
115 km from Niagara Falls
Mississauga might be one of the biggest cities in the country, but it still has a scrappy attitude in serving the best meals and attractions in the business, period. When you’re ready to explore it for yourself, head to Kariya Park, a Japanese garden that celebrates Mississauga’s sister city, Kariya, Japan. After that, make your way to the Village of Streetsville, a charming part of town with plenty of boutiques that feature both new and lost treasures. And when your exploring feet are ready to relax and your tummy ready to eat, plop down in Aielli Ristorante or grab some grub at a food truck in Celebration Square. Bonus: Mississauga is hosting the 2016 Ontario Summer Games this summer. Grab a seat and watch the competition unfold!
“Whether you are visiting us during the Ontario Summer Games, spending time here while on business, planning a romantic getaway or a fun day for the family, Mississauga has something for everyone. On behalf of my colleagues on Council and the citizens of Mississauga, I hope you enjoy your stay.” – Mayor Bonnie Crombie
130 km from Niagara Falls
What do a gryphon, European architecture, and craft beer have in common? It’s all in Guelph! Named as one of the most livable cities in Canada, Guelph captures a playful attitude while playing home to 120,000 residents. When you day trip here, make the University of Guelph the first stop, as it’s home to an epic gryphon statue (also the school’s mascot), which represents the whimsical and unexpected. From there, take a minute to absorb the European-inspired feel of Old Quebec Street Mall and look for gifts at Aberfoyle Antique Market. After all that exploring, we know some suds are just what the doctor ordered. Head to Wellington Brewery, the oldest independently owned microbrewery. Trust us, they know how to make the good stuff.
180 km from Niagara Falls
Don’t worry, a trip to Stratford is more like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” than “Titus Andronicus.” Luscious gardens, charming downtown restaurants, and one of the highest regarded festivals in Southern Ontario make Stratford a must-see stop. Each year, the Stratford Festival brings thousands of theatre lovers to the Avon and other venues around town for top-notch theatre. Catch performances like “Macbeth,” “As You Like It,” as well “Chorus Line,” and other popular plays. if you want a little more of that timeless atmosphere when the curtain closes, walk through the Shakespearean Gardens, which feature over 50 types of flowers, plants, and herbs that were regularly mentioned in the Bard’s plays. Want a book to read while you relax amongst the greenery? Pop into the Wee Book and Photo Shop, which is home to unique tomes and portraits. To be or not to be? Nope, you’ve got to be in Stratford.
“The Stratford Festival is a Canadian Iconic theatre attracting visitors from around the world. As Canada’s premier Arts Town, the Stratford experience goes beyond the Festival. In Stratford life is art – from food to music – to visual and performing arts.” – Kristin Sainsbury, Executive Director, Stratford Tourism Alliance
35 km from Niagara Falls
We like big ships and we cannot lie. And if you want to see some incredible vessels, you have to visit Port Colborne. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, this seaside town has a ton of great views, plus one of the biggest events in the region: Canal Days. Known for live music, crafts, and—unlike most parades anywhere else in the country—a boat parade. While you’re in town, find your way to Lock 8 Gateway Park to view the ships pass in the water, lay out on Nickel Beach and feel the sun on your skin, or get to know the region at the Historical and Marine Museum. Just make sure to leave some of your afternoon for a round of golf at Port Colborne Country Club and Whisky Run Golf Club. It’s nothing but birdies and eagles when you’re on holiday!
200 km from Niagara Falls
In most cities, carving trees is a crime; in London, the tree carvers are mini celebrities. Throughout “Forest City”, artists have carved tree trunks in beautiful, fanciful, and inspired patterns, as pops of creativity beam out from the wood. In fact, you can even take a tree trunk tour to see them all. Speaking of wood, tobogganing has a long history in these parts, as it was once the toboggan mecca of the region. Today, you can still enjoy a good slide down the hillside. If you want something else that goes down nice and smooth, don’t miss Toboggan Brewing, with homegrown beers and local eats. Just try not to combine sleds and drinks, eh?
“Summer in London is known for a number of world class festivals that attract people from all over the world such as TD Sunfest and the region such as Home County Music & Art Festival. London also has a number of large music festivals such as the Trackside Music Festival and the Rock the Park Music Festival. In addition to this we have a large number of outdoor recreational and family attractions and a very vibrant culinary scene.” – Chris Campbell, Director of Culture & Entertainment Tourism
90 km from Niagara Falls
You can worry about traffic and chores some other time: When you’re in Oakville, it’s all about the good life. As the sun sets over the harbor of Oakville, with the boats bobbing on the waves and the old-fashioned street lights beginning to glow bright, you feel transported back to a time when things were simpler. Good food, pretty sights, and some of the friendliest people around—this is what Oakville is made of. Make a stop at the Oakville Lighthouse for idyllic vacation pictures, before teeing up at the famous Glen Abbey Golf Club. After your swings, you might even want to pop into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum and imagine your name next to the greats. And when you need to relax after your day, Oakville has plenty of patio restaurants, like 7 Enoteca, Colossus, and Corks Restaurant, where you can eat award-winning food in the open breeze.
165 km from Niagara Falls
It’s OK, embrace that inner theatre snob! Orangeville puts on so many great shows at Theatre Orangeville, that you might just see a game-changer during your trip. From comedies to dramas, there’s a brave new world happening on stage, and you can be front row to see it. If you want to see something else in this red brick-lined town, just keep those peepers open for the Art Walk of Tree Sculptures. There are nearly five dozen tree sculptures around the city, in the shapes of bears, townspeople, and everything in between. Who knows? You might just feel inspired to dabble in your own works of art when you get home.
250 km from Niagara Falls
There are some nicknames you try to shed as you get older, but when you’re called one of “Canada’s prettiest towns,” you know you’re only getting better with age. Such is the case with Goderich. Overlooking Lake Huron, Goderich is known for its sunsets, recreation options, and picturesque boardwalks. Take it all in when you splash in the shores of Rotary Cove Beach, take new profile pics in front of the Goderich Lighthouse, or stroll along Menesetung Bridge. As far as nicknames go, we couldn’t agree more.
40 km from Niagara Falls
OK, we’re saying it. Life is better with wine! And it just so happens that Southern Ontario is the playground of delicious vino. Lincoln, which comprises communities like Beamville and Jordan to make the Twenty Valley, is home to award-winning wineries. We’re talking Thirty Bench, Hidden Bench, Angels Gate Winery, and Fielding Estate Winery to name a few. Raise a glass to good times in Lincoln!
“Lincoln is here and ready to welcome visitors to its many wineries, orchards and attractions annually. Some 50+ of the Niagara Regions 70 wineries are located right here in Lincoln! Lincoln has it all: lush greenery, room to grow, and immediate market access.” – Michael Kirkopoulos, Chief Administrative Officer, Town of Lincoln
Get to know more of Southern Ontario after visiting Nigara Falls. From wineries to boat parades, it’s all waiting for you around the bend!