If you ever find yourself travelling Southern Ontario, chances are you’re going to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls. Right next to the falls you’ll find a medium sized city called St. Catharines – consider stopping off, as it’s got more than a few interesting things to do. From a former resident, here are my suggestions of things to see in the garden city.
1. Watch the ships climb the mountain
The East side of the city is bordered by the Welland Canal. Rebuilt many times, this is the current waterway connecting the higher lake Erie to lake Ontario, letting large ships and small boats avoid going over Niagara Falls. Visit it to watch ships rise and sink through the locks, and the nearby St. Catharines museum to see the history behind it all.
2. Ride the Carousel in Port Dalhousie
Costing only a nickel, I recommend you go for a ride, or ten, on this carousel in the North of St. Catharines. Right on the waterfront, next to the beach, you can go for a ride, then lounge in the sand all day on the shores of lake Ontario. Don’t worry, the water’s not that cold. This area of St. Catharines is also a nice place to spend an afternoon – lots of restaurants, bars, and pretty houses to take photos of.
3. Visit DeCew Falls
While not the most famous waterfall in the Niagara region, it is my favourite. You’ll find it on the map as the Morningstar Mill. A quick drive (or long hike) will take you to the top of the falls. Continue along the beaten down trail for one of three ways to get to the bottom of the falls:
– The rope (for the adventurous)
– The tree roots (for the sane)
– The long way around (for those wanting to spend all day in those woods)
Whichever way you choose to get down, bring friends, and keep safe – it’s a pretty difficult hike. Once you’re at the bottom though, you’re treated to a stunning view of water rushing off a cliff into a pool at the bottom. Strap on your sandals (the rocks are sharp) and go for a swim, for the adventurous, try swimming under the waterfall into the carved out cave – it’s a rush.
4. Go for a Wine Tour
In case you didn’t know, you’re in Canada’s wine country. The drive into St. Catharines is surrounded by vineyards and wineries – many of them offering tours and tastings. Search around for the best deals, and experience life as a wine connoisseur for the afternoon.
5. Nightlife Downtown
Enjoy a craft beer as you sit in a local pub, spend the night dancing away at a longstanding night club, eat until your heart’s content at a late night drunk food place. While a small city, it certainly has some good entertainment at night. St. Paul’s street, and the adjoining side streets, will give you some fond memories. Bring some friends, some cash, and your best dancing shoes.
6. Visit Nearby Niagara Falls
You’ve got a world landmark 15 minutes away. Catch a bus, or bum a ride over to the nearby city of Niagara Falls. Play tourist on Clifton Hill, and hike down to the falls. No matter summer or winter, there’s always something going on. If you’re keen, you can even cross the bridge into the USA, or go as far as Buffalo for some wings – up to you.
Of course, the city has got plenty more to do than these 6 things – my best advise is to ask a few locals – they’ll tell you the best events, the best festivals, the best markets, and everything else under the sun for this week. Good luck!