Ontario issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect 12:01 a.m. Thursday, January 14; people should only leave home for groceries, medical appointments, exercise or essential work.
In the era of socially-distanced activities, we’re fortunate in the Niagara Region to have so many fun things to do outdoors to keep us busy this winter season, like sledding, hiking, skating and more!
If you’re looking for things to do this winter in the Niagara Region, this list has you covered from Grimsby, Beamsville, St Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and beyond!
The Niagara Region is one of those awesome places to visit in Ontario in the winter, because there are so many outdoor activities to do, and luckily for us locals, we don’t have very far to go!
Time to strap on those winter boots, bundle up, embrace Canada and brave the outdoor elements.
Covid has sucked the fun out of a lot of stuff for us this winter. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t get outside and enjoy what the Niagara Region has to offer! There are plenty of safe activities to do – it’ll just require a little layering! 😉
This isn’t an exclusive list of everything there is to do in Niagara, but this is focused on what there is to do outdoors this season (2020/2021).
I look forward to adding to this list (I’ve already updated this a few times!) as I discover more fun things to do around me this winter. Being at home has allowed me to really explore what’s around me, including lots of hidden gems, and take up some new hobbies like hiking and skating!
This post contains affiliate links and I may earn compensation when you click on the links at absolutely no extra cost to you!
A Note on Safety
I personally do not recommend travelling outside of your local area this winter to help minimize the spread of Covid. The only way to get through this is together!
The thought of hiking in the cold weather doesn’t appeal to a whole lot of people. I wasn’t sold on it either until our first snowfall, and it turned the landscape into a magical winter wonderland.
Fortunately in Niagara, we are blessed with an abundant amount of hiking trails to take during the winter. Plenty of them are safe to do so (even when the snow is covering the ground), so all you really need to do is bundle up, get some sturdy footwear, and go explore!
My recommendations? I fell in love with my winter hiking boots from Mountain Warehouse. I have complete confidence that they will keep me upright. I also bought a winter jacket that is rated to -50 degrees. I can’t recommend these two products enough and I tell everyone about them. I told my husband that the boots especially were one of my best purchases of the year!
The best part is – there’s almost always an epic sale at Mountain Warehouse!
One thing I’m glad I did this year was get out on the trails. It gave me a heads up as to which ones would be safe during the winter under a foot of snow!
When I say safe, I mean ones that don’t have large crevices or gaps like many sections of the Bruce Trail, where you can misstep and slip in between rocks if they’re snow covered. I also mean ones that aren’t close to the edge or ones with a lot of tricky elevation changes!
Safe winter hiking trails in the Niagara Region
- Beamer Memorial Conservation Area, Grimsby (free)
- Kinsmen Park, Beamsville (free)
- Ball’s Falls, Lincoln ($8 per person admission)
- Rockway Falls, St Catharines (free)
- Short Hills Provincial Park, St Catharines (Black Walnut and Swayze Falls loop) (free)
- Woodend Conservation Area, Niagara-on-the-Lake (free)
- Shagbark Nature Trail, Fort Erie (free)
- Heartland Forest, Niagara Falls (free)
Canada is known for its wine and icewine, and what better way to experience winter in Niagara than to sip local icewine!
Keep an eye out for the Icewine Trail Touring Pass in January (fingers crossed! I will update here when details become available.). You’ll be able to purchase a pass and book your Icewine experience at some of the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries!
What is Icewine?
In a sense, it’s like drinking liquid gold. It’s a dessert wine made from grapes that were frozen while still on the vine, where they dry into raisins.
The naturally occurring sugars in grapes, so once they’re pressed, it’s like a super-concentrated version of grape juice. It’s labour intensive, which is why ice wine is typically more expensive and sold in smaller bottles.
- Rockway Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine
- Alvento Winery Riesling Icewine
- Inniskillin Vidal Icewine
Many Niagara wineries are offering curbside pickup and reduced shipping rates.
Where to go Icewine and Wine Tasting Outdoors in Niagara
Currently not available due to the Ontario-wide lockdown.
If you’re looking to cozy up next to a firepit this winter and sip some award-winning wines, Konzelmann Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake is offering fireside flights!
For $30, you’ll get your own private firepit for 45 minutes, a flight of seasonal wine (including their Icewine!) paired with shortbread, and a blanket to take home. Available weekends from December – March.
Creekside Winery, Jordan Station
Lounge in your snow pants at Creekside Winery! Available daily from 11 – 4 pm. Wines by the glass and charcuterie boards offered at their outdoor seating patio. Buy a bottle of their Vidal Icewine to take home – you won’t regret it!
Peller Estates Winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake (Indoor)
Currently not operating until at least January 23rd due to the Ontario lockdown. Looking for a unique experience? Check out the Peller Estates Icewine Lounge as a part of their Greatest Winery Tour. Note that this is an indoor activity but I have confirmed with Peller that they book a maximum of 12 people or 6 households per time slot, whichever comes first. Masks are mandatory.
Reserve your spot by calling the Wine Country Concierge Team at 1-888-510-5537 or by live chat.
When Do You Drink Icewine?
It’s best served chilled after a meal – think of it as a dessert! I like mine with cheese or on its own. You can also pair it with chocolates or rich pâtés.
Fun fact about icewine: Harvest only happens once during the winter, once temperatures fall below –8ºC for 2-3 nights in a row. Grapes are hand-picked at night or in the early hours of the morning and pressed while they’re still frozen, in an unheated building. Anyone want that job? 😂
Skating at Wayne Gretzky Estates
Currently not operating due to the Ontario-wide lockdown until at least January 23rd, 2021. Visiting Wine Country doesn’t have to be during the warmer months! You can go skating at Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake at their very own skating rink!
How appropriate for this part owner and former NHL star to have an ice rink!
Admission is $20 which gets you one hour of skating and a reserved table for up to 4 guests from the same household. And just as a p.s. (and because I like to know these things), max capacity on the ice is 25 guests on their 5,000 square foot rink, and masks are required.
Guests are encouraged to bring their own skates, but you can also rent them for $10. I figured I’d be doing a lot more outdoor activities this winter and actually bought my own pair of skates from Canadian Tire and I love them. I did get mine on sale, but here’s a similar pair (and less money, too!)
The skating rink is available early December through to mid-March. Book here.
Outdoor Skating Rinks in Niagara
Fortunately for us, there are also plenty of free public outdoor skating areas in Niagara!
- Hilary Bald Park, Beamsville
- St. Patrick’s Park, St Catharines
- Woodlawn Bush, Welland
- Lions Outdoor Skating Rink, Niagara Falls
Looking for more outdoor skating rinks in Niagara? Check this out!
Note: At the time of this article being published, I am still in touch with our local townships to see which indoor skating rinks and community ice rinks are running this year (post-lockdown) – stay tuned!
Go Tobogganing and Sledding
Sledding was one of my favourite activities growing up. I have so many family memories that I will cherish. It’s a fun way to get some activity in (maybe even tire out the kids?) and create those family memories that will last a lifetime!
Where to Go Sledding in Niagara
Check out some awesome places to go tobogganing and sledding in Niagara (with directions!), with spots ranging from Grimsby to Niagara Falls and beyond.
P.s. Don’t have a sled? Grab yours here!
Drink Local Beer Outside at Bench Brewing Company
Currently not operating their Winter Market due to the Ontario-wide lockdown until at least January 23rd. Curbside pickup available!
From November – March, Bench Brewing Company is offering private fire pits outdoors in their Beer Garden! Sample local craft beer and tasty food in a cozy atmosphere. Rent your private bonfire area for $15 an hour and no reservations are needed (first come, first served!). Full table service and food is offered daily.
My favourites are Cherry Grove, Folklore on Cherries, and Apricot Wildwood.
There is even a yurt where you can purchase beer to enjoy at home!
Check out their Winter Market too, featuring a different local guest vendor each weekend!
Go Snowshoeing in a Vineyard
Currently not available due to the Ontario-wide lockdown.
It doesn’t get much more Canadian than this, eh? You can snowshoe through a Riesling vineyard at Thirty Bench Winemakers in Lincoln this winter, starting in January. You’ll be shown the best trekking methods while guiding you through wine samples amongst the snowy vines.
Your experience includes a guided trek, snowshoes, wine tastings (including a souvenir glass to take home), and a cup of soup to warm you up.
Cost: $50 per person ($40 for Wine Club members). Book online here.
See the Frozen Falls
Over the years (and during exceptionally cold months!), Niagara Falls has experienced some freezing.
While it’s nearly impossible for Niagara Falls to completely freeze over, you may be able to witness partially frozen falls during the winter months. The force of the water tumbling over the edge keeps the falls flowing, but during cold spells you may be able to see icicles and miniature glaciers form around the falls and they are spectacular.
Standing near the edge of the falls near the Table Rock Centre and listening to the roar and power of the water as the ice cracks doesn’t compare. It’s awe-inspiring to stand there listening to it.
Fun fact: I say nearly impossible because there has only been one recorded freezing of Niagara Falls, back in 1848, when an ice jam on the river produced the right conditions for a complete freezing.
See what else you can do in Niagara Falls for free!
Be sure to stop by Queenston Heights too, just 10 minutes from Niagara Falls, with plenty of things to see outdoors, and makes for a great winter day outside for sightseeing.
Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights
Operations suspended as of December 31st due to the lockdown.
This is something I love doing every year until Christmas. The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights runs from mid November through to January 10th this year, so if you’re looking for something to do one evening, I highly recommend going to Niagara Falls for a visit!
With over 3 million lights on display along the Niagara Parkway and the Dufferin Islands, there are endless photo opportunities and unique things to see, like giant moose, 3D Inukshuks, light tunnels, fairy houses and more!
The best part is, it’s free! If you go through the Dufferin Islands, there are attendants at the exit to collect donations if you wish (recommended: $5 per person), and well worth donating to, for all of the hard work that’s done to create this winter wonderland!
Tip: If you can manage it, go during the week. It will be significantly less busier than weekends and will allow you more flexibility to pull over for photos without worrying about who is behind you!
Sip Wine in a Heated Dome
Currently not available due to the lockdown.
Drinking wine in your own heated wine dome? Genius. These unique winter snow globes are the perfect touch to a Canadian winter.
Fielding Estates Winery in Beamsville offers the best way to taste wine this winter. With 12 igloos to book ahead and reserve for 1.5 hours for $20, you’re able to sit with up to four of your family members and drink wine by the glass, order a tasting flight, and snack on cheese and crackers.
Each dome is lit up and makes for a romantic evening under the snow and stars. Book online here.
Visit the Painted Ladies at Historic Grimsby Beach
What’s better than colourful cottages in a storybook setting? Visiting these gingerbread cottages in a storybook setting in a winter wonderland!
Like a true fairy tale, these charming Victorian-style cottages at Historic Grimsby Beach will leave you imagining yourself in a storybook. There are tons of little hidden gems tucked around the tiny neighbourhood, including a “Little Library” and ornate artwork dotted throughout the laneways.
Just a note to please be respectful of homeowners properties – and admire these beautiful “Painted Ladies of Grimsby” from a distance.
Ready to Head Outdoors?
We’re so lucky to have such a vast change of seasons and a multitude of outdoor things to do in the Niagara Region. Because of Covid, local travel is the way to go for the next little while, and fortunately we have lots of safe, socially-distanced activities! Whether you’re with your family or by yourself, there’s no shortage of ways to spend winter outside.
Looking for other things to do? What about visiting a sugar bush farm to buy some unique maple products?
I look forward to updating this post as I uncover more hidden gems in Niagara!