When asked, where is the best family destination within a two-hour drive from Toronto, my answer is the Niagara Region.

There are so many pockets of beauty and entertainment in the Niagara region, including Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, Twenty Valley, and Niagara’s South Coast.

St. Catharines and Twenty Valley

As you enter the Niagara region, you’ll want to make a stop in Vineland in the town of Lincoln, and St. Catharines. As you travel through Twenty Valley, you’ll pass by century farmhouses, greenhouses, farms and fields. It’s such a lovely drive!

There are plenty of wineries along the rural roads in Twenty Valley, where you’ll find exceptional wines embodying the unique terroir of the Niagara Escarpment. Have lunch at the Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant, and shop for antiques at Vineland Antiques.

 

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St. Catharines has some trend-setting shops, and restaurants; and if you’re traveling solo or with your partner, pubs and bars too.  Jordan Village is a quaint historic village with lots to explore including one of a kind gift shops, a winery, restaurants, galleries, museums, and trails. Take a hike along the Niagara Escarpment on the Bruce Trail.  Balls Falls Conservation Area is a must-see; you’ll find a waterfall two-thirds the height of Niagara Falls!

 

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Niagara on the Lake

We visit Niagara-on-the-Lake at least once a year, so it has become an annual tradition for our family. The last time we visited, we stayed in the quaint town of Virgil just a few minutes away from the Old Town.

We pack a barbecue and lawn chairs, and enjoy a picnic by the Niagara River along the Wine Route (Niagara Parkway). The boys bring a soccer ball and kick it around before we have our picnic lunch. Bring your bicycles and ride along the paved Niagara River Recreation Trail which runs alongside the Niagara Parkway between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston and then continues on to Fort Erie.

 

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Then we’ll make our way to the downtown area, stopping by to see the boats and the Navy Hall. The original Navy Hall served as the home of Upper Canada’s Parliament from 1772-1796. We’ll also pass by the Fort George National Historic Site, the scene of several battles during the War of 1812.

We love walking into the shops along Queen Street; the well preserved heritage buildings, and flower displays are gorgeous. We’re always tempted to hop on a horse and carriage ride to tour the town.

 

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Our favourite stops are the Olde Angel Inn for some pub fare, and Gelato at Carlotta’s for the best Italian ice cream.

For those active families, the flat terrain of Niagara-on-the-Lake makes it ideal for leisurely bicycling. Local companies will rent you a bike for the day.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is also a beautiful spot for a romantic weekend; visit one of the many wineries in the region by bicycle! Then, take in a performance at the Shaw Festival, one of the top repertory companies in the world featuring plays by George Bernard Shaw, musicals, comedies and provocative dramas.

 

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Niagara’s South Coast

My first time visiting Niagara’s South Coast was a memorable one; it was back in high school. A few friends and I hopped into a beat-up “boat” and made our way to the lively community of Port Colborne in Niagara’s South Coast. We camped that memorable weekend! I’d like to go back with the kids to the sandy beaches of Lake Erie. Some of the best beaches include: Crystal Beach, Crescent Beach, Thunder Bay Beach, Waverly Beach, Nickel Beach, Centennial-Cedar Bay Beach, Long Beach and Pleasant Beach.

 

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Port Colborne was named the World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town in 2013, so it’s a great spot for catching perch, walleye, salmon and trout.

My son’s hockey team battled and won the International Silver Stick in Pelham last year. We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton St. Catharines Niagara Suites in St. Catharines, and enjoyed the opening ceremonies at the new Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, home of the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs.

 

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While you’re in this region, discover the thriving arts scene found along Niagara’s South Coast Arts & Culture Route, which covers artist studios, galleries, antiques shops, museums and cultural hot spots from Fort Erie to Wainfleet. Also stop and take a look at the Welland Canal to see ships passing through the lock.  Then, visit Port Dalhousie, where you can stroll Lakeside Park and the kids can enjoy a 5¢ ride on the historic Carousel. There are many boutiques, restaurants and bars to enjoy.

 

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Niagara Falls

Last but certainly not least, Niagara Falls is one site you must see in your lifetime. We’re truly spoiled to live so close to this natural wonder.

 

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The kids love walking in up and down Clifton Hill, playing in the arcades and going into the various fun attractions and museums. For more daring adventurers, see the falls from the Skylon Tower and the Niagara SkyWheel, or take a boat tour that gets you as close as possible to the breathtaking flow of water, power and mist that is the Niagara Falls.

 

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Kids will never want to leave the massive indoor water parks at Fallsview Indoor Waterpark. Get in touch with nature at the Bird Kingdom or the Butterfly Conservatory at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.

And then enjoy some fabulous designer deals at Canada’s largest open-air outlet shopping centre, The Outlet Collection.

For the active family, hike along Canada’s longest footpath, The Bruce Trail that begins in Queenston Heights and ends in Grimsby, at a little bridge crossing 40 Mile Creek.

 

Where is your favourite spot to visit in the Niagara region?

 

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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by The Tourism Partnership of Niagara. All opinions expressed are my own.