Coming to Niagara? Here’s an Introduction to Canadian Culture

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image001Canada is the second largest country in the world by land mass, but it’s estimated that as many as 75 percent of the nation’s 35 million residents live within 100 miles of the border it shares with the United States. A former colony of both the French and the British, Canadian culture involves plenty of carryover from those two nations as well as the indigenous people groups and immigrants who have called Canada home over the years.

The result is a highly nuanced and friendly culture that’s so polite, we’d likely never tell you if we spied you committing some egregious cultural faux pas. Whether you’re a first-timer planning a trip to Niagara, or you’ve been here dozens of times before, here are some of the truths about Canadian culture you may or may not know.

Common Etiquette

Canadian etiquette is similar to many other western and developed countries, but it gets expressed in ways that are uniquely Canadian. When you’re visiting Niagara, if you happen to make the acquaintance of a Canadian — and you probably will as Canadians really are amazingly friendly — keep in mind the following:

  • Greetings and introductions should include handshakes with strong grips and good eye contact.
  • Take your shoes off and leave them at the entrance whenever you enter someone’s house.
  • Use titles or last names when addressing someone, as first names are generally reserved for close friends and family.
  • If invited to a dinner party, bring flowers, high-quality wine, chocolates, or all three as a gift.
  • Give people plenty of physical space in conversation.

Progressive Ideals

image003Because of the wide variety of people who visit Canada and call it home, Canadians tend to be a pretty progressive and welcoming bunch. Universal health care, a commitment to sustainable agriculture, legal same-sex marriage, the abolition of capital punishment, religious freedom — these realities and others like them show Canadians’ commitment to progressive ideals.

Polite Behaviour

When you visit Niagara, especially if you come from a major city in the United States, you’ll notice there is less honking and aggressive driving on the roadways. Canadians are also quick to take responsibility, apologizing for slightly brushing anyone on a sidewalk or in a grocery. Harsh words are so rarely exchanged between people in public that some Canadians would say it never happens.

Hockey

Hockey is the one religion in Canada that you can always talk about in any kind of company. If you’re unfamiliar with the sport before you come for a visit, just talk with a local long enough, and we’ll fill you in on everything from the local high school team’s record to NHL trades and rule changes. Almost everyone has a favorite team and almost every Canadian can ice skate well, too — a reality that’s evidenced by Edmonton’s plan to build an ice skating “highway” for people to use when commuting to work.

While Canadian culture is often subtle enough to go unnoticed, keep these guidelines and touchstones in mind while you’re in Niagara, and you’ll fit in as one of the locals.

Enjoy Traditional Afternoon Tea in Niagara at These 2 Tea Rooms

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image001The tradition of afternoon tea can be placed solely upon the British, which is why its popularity still holds sway in places like Canada, the United States, India, and even Burma. Its history harkens back to the early 19th century when the Duchess of Bedford needed something to tide her over during the late afternoon.

The advent of electric lighting had recently transformed such mainstays as eating so that the second of the two meals people used to eat during the day had been moved — for the aristocracy at least — until after dark so as to make use of the technologically advanced lighting. As that long expanse of time between the first meal and the second proved too much for the Duchess, she requested tea and a snack, and the tradition of afternoon tea was born.

The Niagara region is home to many high-quality and varied afternoon tea experiences, and if you’ve never taken time out with a friend or family member to enjoy tea, it’s a simultaneously relaxing and invigorating experience. Just as your energy is beginning to languish after a nearly full day sightseeing, you sit down to a light and delicious snack accompanied by a refreshing beverage that often contains caffeine. As you rest, eat, and drink, your blood sugar is restored. Your rushing about is paused. You are given a chance to reconnect with a loved one or traveling companion and yourself. Afternoon tea is truly a fabulous mini meal, and if you’re planning a Niagara Falls vacation, you should reserve some space in your itinerary for these two excellent tea rooms.

The Drawing Room

image003Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, The Drawing Room boasts one of the most regal and traditional forms of afternoon tea available. A space of undeniable Victorian finery and charm, the tea room is laid out with meticulously set tables covered in cloth that feature fresh rose bouquets and Minton China. An excellent selection of tea is offered, and the accompanying food and condiments are superb. Warm scones, lovely finger sandwiches, Devonshire cream, and pastries are all served on shining silver stands as attentive wait staff meets your every need. You can add to the more traditional tea offerings by choosing different menu items including Canadian cheeses and wine as well.

The Savoy Room

For another high-end tea experience, choose this St. Catharines tea room. The elegant Victorian setting features fine bone China, a wide variety of quality teas, linen tablecloths, and sweet and savory snacks. The Savoy Room offers a variety of tea types and times, including:

  • Elevenses. Taken mid-morning, this tea break is served with a simple snack.
  • Afternoon Tea. The most common type of British tea time, The Savoy Room offers three distinct styles: Cream Tea, Light Tea, and Full Tea
  • Royal Tea. Afternoon tea served with either champagne or sherry.
  • High Tea. Also called “Meat Tea,” this tea is actually a robust meal that includes meats, cheeses, meat pies, desserts, bread, and teas. It is generally taken in the early evening.

Come to Niagara, and eat and drink like the British by enjoying tea at The Drawing Room, The Savoy Room, or both.

The Great Niagara Falls Ribfest of 2015

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image001For the 11th year running, the Niagara Falls Rotary Club is sponsoring and putting on the Niagara Falls Ribfest, a celebration of barbecue, smoked meats, and ribs that’s heralded as “Ontario’s Number One Ribfest.” Traditionally held over Father’s Day weekend, this year’s Ribfest is taking place one weekend earlier on June 12 through 14.

If you’re trying to decide when the best time to head to Niagara Falls is, the second weekend in June would be hard to beat. Here’s a look at what Ribfest has to offer from its lineup of musical entertainment to its ribs.

Entertainment

Live entertainment is offered all weekend long, starting at 4:00 p.m. and lasting until 11:00 p.m. on Friday; from noon until 11:00 p.m. on Saturday; and from noon until 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. The acts are quite varied and include local and regional acts. Some of this year’s highlights include:

  • Vinyl Flux. The winners of the 2013 Best Band award at the Niagara Music Awards play at 9:00 p.m. on Friday.
  • Crowns Down. This high school-aged band plays at noon on Saturday.
  • Mudmen. These Celtic rockers play the last show of the festival at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

There will also be a Kids’ Midway with plenty of fun for little ones, 50/50 drawings held every day, a car raffle, and Wi-Fi.

Vendors

Of course, no festival is complete without a bevy of vendors hawking their wares, and thankfully, Ribfest is no exception. Buy jewelry, body candy, African crafts, artwork, and even Jacuzzis. Visit booths promoting the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara, Believe Me Marketing, Costco, SCRC’s Ride for Sick Kids, and much more. Take your children to the Home Depot craft spot on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or just delight in watching little ones get their hands dirty. Get your face painted. Get tattooed, and of course, eat some ribs.

image003The Food

Known as the Ribbers, there are six different barbecue rib vendors slated to feed the masses at this year’s Ribfest, and all of them are vying for customers and awards. Each year, the best ribs and the best sauce are decided upon by a panel of judges, with second and third places being awarded as well. There’s also a People’s Choice award given out. This year’s Ribbers include:

  • Billy Bones
  • Silver Bullet
  • Bone Daddy
  • Crabby BBQ
  • Horn Dawgs
  • Texas Rangers BBQ

In addition to all the good ribs you can get stuck in your teeth, there are also vendors selling baked potatoes, ice cream, mini donuts, lemonade, elephant ears, deep-fried candy bars, kettle corn, and bloomin’ onions.

The Ribfest is an incredibly popular event for locals, as it’s a major fundraiser for the Rotary Club. Over the years, they’ve donated to Rotary House, GNGH Foundation, Pathstone Mental Health, Boys and Girls Club of Niagara, Literacy Niagara, the School Breakfast Program, and Habitat for Humanity, just to name a handful. So, if you’re looking for a unique Niagara experience that will also contribute mightily to the good of the region, spend some time and dollars at the Niagara Falls Ribfest.

Start Learning to Pair Wine and Food With Reif Estate Winery

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image001Almost any trip to the Niagara region includes much more than just marveling at massive waterfalls, which is as it should be: In addition to its stunning and eponymous cataracts, Niagara is home to world-class entertainment, history, culture, and wine. Especially for the true and budding oenophile, the Niagara Peninsula’s wines are a major draw.

Some of the finest in all of Canada, Niagara wine attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to our wineries every year for the unforgettable experience of touring our vineyards first-hand, meeting winemakers, and enjoying vintages and varietals that can’t be found anywhere else. In addition, many of our wineries offer events and learning opportunities to assist wine-lovers on their quest for further knowledge and appreciation. One such offering takes place the first Saturday in June, when Reif Estate Winery gives a class in pairing wine with food.

Pairing food and wine is as much science as it is art, and for newcomers to the effort, it can feel overwhelming. How do you bring out the raisin and coffee notes in an older cabernet sauvignon? What can you eat with an unoakaed chardonnay that will coax out the wine’s more subtle notes for a fuller experience? What wine should you serve with a particularly stinky blue cheese? What wine is best alongside pot roast?

For the food and wine lover, these questions are of extreme importance, and it’s only with guidance and experience that the answers can be discovered. For the uninitiated in the process, the class at Reif Estate Winery is a great way to start putting together the world’s oldest dining pair: food and wine.

Part of their Start Living the Reifstyle series, the class is held on June 6th at 2 p.m. in the Reif Estate Winery Sensory Garden and Winemaker’s Loft. Reif’s Wine Sensory Garden is the only one of its kind in the vineyard- and winery-heavy Niagara-on-the-Lake, and it exists as a tool to enable guests to consider image003the many colors, flavors, and aromas that are often used to characterize the wines made in the area.

For example, the riesling and sauvignon blanc section of the garden boasts delicate flowers and includes aromas of coriander, mint, honeysuckle, grapefruit, and more. The icewine and chardonnay section is located in the yellow quadrant of the garden, and there you will smell peach, sage, pineapple, and vanilla to name a few. Likewise, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are represented in the red section with oregano, mint, and chocolate plantings. In every way, the Wine Sensory Garden is an invitation to experience wine anew by increasing your understand and engaging even more of your senses.

In addition to your time in the Wine Sensory Garden, the class will also include a tasting of four estate-bottled wines that have been paired with four local, herb-inspired samples. As you taste each pairing, the principles of matching food to wine and vice versa will be discussed. The cost is $30 a person, and it’s the kind of experience that can only be had in Niagara’s wine country.

Where to Eat Poutine in Niagara Falls

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image001Poutine is a Canadian food that is so well-loved and ubiquitous, it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t readily available and eaten by all. French fries covered in fresh cheese curds and gravy, poutine isn’t for the overly health-conscious, but as far as Canadian comfort foods go, it’s hard to top.

According to legend, the first batch of poutine was ordered from and served by a small restaurant in Quebec back in the late 1950s when a trucker ordered the menu’s French fries and cheese curd in a bag with a side of gravy. Today, the dish is a favorite among Canadians and anyone else lucky enough to try it. If you’re planning a visit to Niagara Falls, and you’d like to experience poutine, here are a handful of restaurants that do it right.

Syndicate

Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery serves up gourmet fare that makes use of local farms’ produce, meats, and cheeses as much as possible. While poutine is usually considered pub food or fast food, Syndicate flips the script with duck poutine and manages not to alter the gooey goodness of the dish one bit. Available on their bar menu, fresh-cut fries are smothered in house gravy and fresh cheese curds before being topped with duck confit.

Smoke’s Poutinerie

Smoke’s Poutinerie is on a mission to bring the wonderful world of poutine to everyone. With scores of locations in almost every Canadian province and Berkeley, California, Smoke’s is slowly putting restaurants dedicated to poutine everywhere. With over 30 different kinds of poutine to choose from, and countless options to invent your own, the poutine you’ll get from their Niagara Falls location probably won’t be anything like what you’re used to. Here are just a few of the options:

  • Chicken fajita poutine
  • Philly cheesesteak poutine
  • Perogy poutine
  • Pulled pork poutine
  • And many more!

Flying Saucer Restaurant

image003If you ever wanted to eat poutine inside a restaurant shaped like a flying saucer, now is your chance. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night, Flying Saucer Restaurant is a favorite with locals and visitors of all ages. Order their poutine for a slightly different take on the classic — instead of fresh cheese curds, they use fresh, shredded mozzarella.

Taps

Taps on Queen is known first and foremost as a brewery and brewpub that serves up some of the area’s finest craft beer. From bright, satisfying ales to hoppy IPAs, they have a rotating selection of brews that are definitely worth trying. While it could probably go without saying, one of the best accompaniments to excellent beer is excellent poutine, and Taps has six kinds to choose from, including:

  • Classic poutine
  • Chicken club poutine
  • Vegetable curry poutine

Michelle’s Fries

Michelle’s Fries started out as a food truck, and because they specialize in fries, you can bet their poutine is exceptional. Winner of the “Best Fries” award in Niagara Falls for multiple years, they make a good thing even better. From classic poutine to poutine with hamburger and onions, every variety they serve is delicious.

So, bring your fry-loving appetite to Niagara Falls, and indulge in a Canadian classic at one of these five restaurants.

The Best Places in Niagara Falls to Get a Pint

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image001Beer doesn’t hold quite the hallowed place that wine does in the hearts of the people of Niagara, but it’s certainly climbing the ranks on lists about why people love visiting the area. From light crisp ales to sweet and earthy stouts, a handful of breweries have popped up in the region in recent years, and the beers they brew are starting to garner some much-deserved attention.

Whether you’re a beer lover on a perpetual tour of the earth’s finest brews or you’re just a guy who likes to drink good beer when you’re away from home, here are some of the best places to grab a pint of beer the next time you visit Niagara Falls.

Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery

Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery blends the best of the farm with excellent food and beverages — just one of the many time-honored traditions visitors to the Niagara Peninsula have enjoyed for decades.

Fresh, local, gourmet food is served with elegant simplicity, and it’s accompanied by excellent beer made on-site. Order the Niagara’s Best Brown Ale, the Taps Rye Knot, or the Niagara’s Best Blonde Premium Ale, and pair any one of them with the duck poutine or a local, dry aged steak.

Syndicate boasts three locations: Niagara Falls, St. Catherines, and Grimsby, but the Niagara Falls location is where the beer is made if you want to take a gander at their operation.

Taps Brewhouse and Grille

Now in its 11th year, Taps Brewing Company — who also makes the beer served and enjoyed in Syndicate — features and perfects small batch craft beer using only the most basic of beer ingredients: pure filtered water, malted barley, yeast, and select hops.

As with almost every libation in Niagara, the beer is made alongside an excellent restaurant whose award-winning chef’s menu includes better-than-basic pub fare. They boast six different types of poutine, including vegetable curry and Philly steak, and a handful of hamburgers worth writing home about.

The beer taps change regularly, but if you’re able, knock back the Taps Charleston Lager and the Taps Red Cream Ale. Besides being a great pub with good food and beer, they also have live music and other entertainment throughout the week.

Niagara Brewing Company

image003Opening up in May 2015, Niagara Brewing Company is the area’s newest beer maker. Firmly planted in the tradition of Canada’s burgeoning craft brew scene, Niagara Brewing Company promises to make and serve one-of-a-kind beers using the best in locally sourced ingredients.

At the helm of this new enterprise is Gord Slater, a brewery and brewpub developer whose roots in the business go down and back 30 years. With more than 60 breweries and pubs under his belt and plenty of awards for the beers he’s made, it’s likely his newest endeavor also pass muster. The Niagara Brewing Company is located in the center of the Falls View Resort.

Whether you love beer as a companion to food or you love it in its own right, accompanied by good friends or a ball game, the beer in Niagara’s breweries continue to get better and more local with each passing year.

The Ride of Silence

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image001May is National Bike Month, which means it’s the perfect time of year for anyone with a childlike hankering to get on a bike again to do so. In Niagara, with winter’s thaw well underway, it’s also the time of year when cyclists from all over the world start descending on the region to enjoy the picturesque scenery, the vast, open roads, and the increasingly charming weather.

If you’re someone who enjoys cycling, you should definitely bring your bicycle along with you the next time you stay in Niagara. Especially if you’re here over the 20th of May, consider joining with other cyclists in the area to ride in and mark the Niagara Falls’ ninth annual Ride of Silence.

The Ride

Every May 20th at 7 p.m., bicyclists in communities around the world join together to take part in a silent bicycle ride to honor those cyclists who have been severely injured or killed while riding on public roads.

A slow-paced event that welcomes anyone of any ability who would like to ride, the Ride of Silence seeks to not only honor the dead and injured, but to also raise awareness of cyclists and safety, as well as the necessity of sharing the road with one another.

Many motorists are unaware that bicyclists have as much a legal right to the road as other vehicles do, or motorists are unaware of bicyclists traveling along their roadways — in both instances, tragic and avoidable accidents can and do occur.

The History

image003The first Ride of Silence happened in 2003, when Chris Phelan organized a ride to commemorate the passing of Larry Schwartz, a nationally known endurance cyclist, who was hit and killed by a school bus mirror. Organized in less than two weeks following Schwatrz’s untimely death, the first ride took place in Dallas and saw more than 1,000 participants, most of who heard about the ride by word of mouth.

Originally intended as a one-time event, each year now finds hundreds of rides happening on May 20th, from Canada and the United States to Cyprus, Israel, and the Philippines. Here’s how the Ride of Silence works: A free ride without sponsors, fundraising efforts, and registration fees, the only stipulations are that those involved ride no faster than 12 miles per hour, that all participants wear a helmet, that everyone follow the rules of the road, and that silence be maintained for the duration of the ride.

The Niagara Falls Ride of Silence

On Wednesday, May 20th, 2015, Niagara Falls’ concerned residents, cyclists, and any visitors who’d like to mark the event with them will meet at the MacBain Community Centre parking lot, which is located on Montrose Road. The ride will leave at 7 p.m., and will travel down the road in silence, procession-style. The entire ride will cover roughly 6 miles, and everyone is welcome. Riders must wear helmets and follow the rules of the road.

Regardless of what brings you to the Niagara Falls region, if you’re a cyclist, events like the Ride of Silence are working to keep you and others like you alive. Building a bridge toward better safety on both sides of the equation — motorists and cyclists alike — the Ride of Silence honors the dead so that the living can enjoy the road from bikes and vehicles in greater, shared safety.

What You’ll Find at the St. Catharines Farmers Market

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image001There are a number of great farmers markets in the Niagara region, and they all showcase the wealth and variety of fruits, berries, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and more that the area’s farmers produce.

The St. Catharines Farmers Market, located at the corner of James Street and King Street in the center of the town next to the Courthouse and City Hall, has been in operation since the early 1860s, and it has been an important part of the town’s social and economic life that entire time.

For residents and visitors to Niagara who want to get the freshest, local food and wares from area farmers and artisans, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays should include a visit to the St. Catharines Farmers Market. Here is a look at just some of what you can find at the market.

  • Fruit and Vegetables. From asparagus and eggplant to apricots and apples, Niagara is a fertile place. Here are a few of the farms you can find at the St. Catharines Farmers Market and a smattering of what they grow and sell:
    o Bartel Farms. A seasonal participant only, Bartel Farms specializes in organic produce, raspberries, and cut flowers.
    o Chez Nous Farms. A certified organic farm, Chez Nous grows everything from potatoes
    and kale to heirloom tomatoes. You can find them at the market all year long.
    o Porpiglia Farms. You’ll want to try their apples during the late summer and fall.
    o Bry-Anne Farms. A conventional farm that specializes in letting consumers pick their own fruit, this seasonal farm brings everything from pumpkins to strawberries to the market.
  • Baked Goods. Whether you need a loaf of bread, a dozen sweet rolls, croissants, cakes, or beaver tails, the St. Catharines Farmers Market boasts a wide selection from many of the area’s best bakeries. Bakeries that are usually in attendance all year long include:
    o de la terre bakery. This Vineland, Ontario bakery specializes in organic artisan bread and pastries.
    o Sweet Potato Johnny. If you’re looking for a baked good made out of sweet potatoes, they have it.
    o Vanessa’s Cupcakes and Confections. Makers of sweet treats, who spend the bulk of their image003efforts on cupcakes, Vanessa’s is at the market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
  • Meat and Cheese. From plucked, whole chickens to fresh-cured bacon and just-layed eggs, you can get locally raised meat from places like Bessy’s Poultry and Kasha’s Sow Farm at the market. There are also plenty of imported meats and cheeses available from places like Maria’s Deli.
  • International Cuisine. From Perogies to Middle Eastern food, there are a handful of vendors offering international prepared food for sale. Saturdays are the best days to catch this market fare.
  • VQA Wine Sales. It wouldn’t be a market in Niagara if there wasn’t high-quality, local wine for sale. There are about a dozen wineries on a weekly rotation at the market. Some of what you’ll see includes:
    o Cave Spring Cellars.
    o Creekside Estate Winery.
    o Chateau des Charmes Winery.
    o Pillitteri Estates Winery
    o Megalomaniac
    o And more!

Regardless of what brings you to the Niagara region, be sure to spend some time — preferably on a Saturday — perusing the many offerings at the St Catharines Farmers Market. Not only will it give you a hearty sampling of the fecundity of the region, but you’ll get plenty of chances to taste Niagara’s bounty as well.

Travel Exercise Tips for the Tourist in Niagara Falls

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image001Staying active while on vacation is a goal most people have and few people meet. Between jam-packed itineraries and how amazing it feels to sleep in, finding time to hit the gym or the streets to work up a sweat can seem like more trouble than it’s worth. However, research has shown time and time again that regular, daily exercise keeps us healthy in the long-term and in the short-term, which means that even while we’re far from home enjoying a much-deserved break from our regular routine, exercise should still play a role in our vacation plans. If you’re planning on coming to the Niagara region for a vacation, here are some exercise tips well-suited to a holiday in Niagara.

Pick a Hotel With a Gym

One of the easiest ways to make sure you get some exercise while you’re on vacation in Niagara Falls is to plan your stay at a Niagara hotel that has an exercise and fitness room. Whether you prefer weightlifting or cardio workouts, a good hotel fitness room will be able to accommodate you. When you make having access to a hotel gym a priority, you more easily set the stage for making sure your vacation includes some sweating, hard work, and an elevated pulse.

Schedule It

The Niagara region is rich in sights and events, which means: If you’re serious about exercising when you come for a vacation, you’re going to have to schedule it in your itinerary each and every day. Whether you pencil it in before you grab breakfast at one of Niagara’s great bakeries with your family, or you reserve an hour right before dinner at one of the area’s finest restaurants, treat exercise the way you would treat the start time of a vineyard tour, and you’ll have no trouble fitting in exercise amidst all the sights and sounds of Niagara.

Choose to Walk

Walking is one of the best exercises you can get, and there are plenty of ways to build a good, solid walk into a day’s outings around Niagara Falls. For instance, if you stay at the Falls Avenue Resort, you’ll be between a 20-minute and 30-minute walk from the Maid of the Mist. Or, drive to the Botanical Gardens, and walk to the Floral Clock, which is just 2.2 kilometers away. However you do it, build an itinerary that includes travel by foot, and you’ll save on gas and get exercise that won’t tire you out too much, preventing you from enjoying yourself.

Take a Hike

image003There is a lot of good hiking in the Niagara Falls region, especially in the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. Whether you’re an avid outdoors person or someone who only ventures onto a trail when dragged, consider getting the exercise you need during a mid-morning or afternoon hike on the Niagara Glen’s many trails. Not only will you get your heart rate up, but you’ll also be enveloped in the lush flora of the Niagara region. The trails at the Glen have many unique point of interest, too, so your mind and senses will be as engaged as your legs and lungs.

Visiting Niagara Falls doesn’t have to keep you from maintaining your fitness regimen. From walking to your destinations to booking a hotel with a gym, follow these tips, and you’ll easily stay in shape in Niagara.

What to Pack When Visiting Niagara in the Spring

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image001Niagara Falls, like most vacation destinations, will probably require you to pack clothing that’s a bit different from the items you normally wear when you’re at work or play, and for the tourist visiting the Niagara area during the spring months, this is especially true.

While the winter snow and ice are certainly in retreat, the warmth of summer can’t yet be relied upon, which means packing will need to accommodate a range of options that include warm, cold, muddy, wet, and windy. If you’re looking to book a stay in Niagara during the spring and early summer, here are some items you’ll need to bring along.

1. A Quality Coat

During the month of March, the temperature sits around the mid-30s, and while April and May routinely bring sunshiny days in the 60s, the temperature — especially at night — can still dip into the 40s or even lower. Even if your weather app suggests your springtime vacation will be balmy, bring along a coat that will keep you warm should you need to walk back to your hotel after a late dinner in temperatures that are downright cold.

2. Snow Boots

It isn’t unusual for a snowfall to hit the Niagara region as late as mid-April, and while these storms rarely result in massive accumulations, if the forecast for your time in Niagara does call for snow, you may want to pack your snow boots. Especially if your itinerary includes any hiking, bird watching, or other outdoor activity, a pair of waterproof boots with stable and solid traction that can handle uncertain footing may turn out to be a godsend.

3. Galoshes

image003In the spirit of keeping your feet dry, spring in Niagara, like spring in most places, often includes rain showers that are more easily endured with a good pair of galoshes. From running out from your hotel room to quickly pick up a bagel for breakfast to standing on the deck of the Maid of the Mist, rain boots or shoes will come in handy from March through May.

4. An Umbrella

Nothing ruins an outing like being caught in a rainstorm or snowstorm, and even if you do pack galoshes, you’ll want to make sure you have a small umbrella that’s easy and convenient to carry with you wherever you go to keep your clothes and head dry.

5. Layers

Because spring temperatures in Niagara can be so inconsistent, pack and wear clothing that’s easy to layer so that when you’re chilly, you won’t lose valuable body heat to shivering, and when the day gets warmer than you’d anticipated — or you step into an unusually warm museum, restaurant, or winery’s tasting room — you can swiftly remove a layer or two to remain comfortable. Long sleeve shirts made from thin, moisture-wicking fabrics are great for layering, and while it might not be necessary to employ them, be sure to pack a couple pairs of lightweight thermal tights to wear under jeans or slacks for any especially cold days that might crop up.

Spring weather’s volatility and unpredictability can make traveling and staying comfortable a bit of a gamble if you don’t prepare ahead of time. Keep an eye on the weather, and pack the items listed here for a springtime trip to the Niagara region that will keep you warm, dry, and happy.