Travel Editorial

A World-Renowned Combination

Twenty minutes away from that great booming wonder-of-the-world, Niagara Falls, sits the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, population 15,000. A haven of food, wine, history and culture; the flower and tree-lined avenues have served as a getaway destination for regional visitors, in-the-know urbanites and culture-lovers for over a century. Resting quietly on the banks of Lake Ontario, this placid town does not betray its wealth of history and regal grandeur.

First settled by Europeans in the late eighteenth-century, the former capital of the Province of Upper Canada has been fought over, invaded, and burned to the ground at various points in its 200-year history. Thanks to a particular combination of astounding natural beauty and strategic positioning, it has driven armies to ruin and is inextricably linked to the history of North America.

Tracing its beginnings to the site of the First Nations village of Onghiara, Niagara-on-the-Lake was later incorporated as part of an established French portage route around Niagara Falls until the area was captured by the British in 1759. Twenty years later at the outbreak of the American Revolution, Niagara-on-the-Lake became a haven for the United Empire Loyalists – displaced American refugees who were loyal to King and country. Later known as “Butlersburg”, in honour of Colonel John Butler, the commander of Butler’s Rangers, it was later renamed West Niagara.

In 1812, war broke out and the American army invaded and occupied the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for seven months before British forces forced their retreat. Intending to use the town as a springboard to capturing the entire province, the Americans never made it far inland and were repeatedly repelled by British forces. Referred to as the “burning of Newark”, the Americans, as a final act of defiance, torched the town as they left in the winter of 1813, forcing residents out of their homes in the middle of a great winter blizzard. Determined to remain on the site of their beloved town, the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake rebuilt their home. From the ashes of the old buildings emerged stunning examples of Victorian, Regency and Edwardian architecture that remain proud reminders of the townspeople’s efforts.

Renamed “Newark” in 1792 by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, the town became the first capital of Upper Canada and one of the largest communities in the country that boasted a thriving ship building industry, and Canada’s first newspaper, agricultural society, public library and legislature. The town was officially renamed “Niagara” when the capital was moved to York in 1798. By 1970, with the amalgamation of the town Niagara and the Township of Niagara, the name “Niagara-on-the-Lake” was officially adopted by the town.

Niagara-on-the-Lake stands today, rooted firmly in an ancient history that extends back over a thousand years to its First Nations inhabitants, and where stately avenues and handsome Georgian homes remain as reminders of the historical richness that still resides at its foundation.

This year, Niagara-on-the-Lake continues to celebrate the bicentenary of the War of 1812 and commemorates the town’s pivotal role in the conflict. Still deeply affected by the legacy of this war, the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake will mark its 200-year anniversary through a range of activities from museum lectures, to re-enactments, and tours of historical sites.

Life in Niagara-on-the-Lake has been far more peaceful over the past century, yet the spark of great happenings and visionary personalities still presents itself in a dynamic and influential way. The arrival of the Shaw Festival in 1962 infused the town with a new, exuberant energy and marked the beginning in a new chapter of the town’s long history. The Shaw Festival filled the town with a new sense of purpose, as well as a cultural and economic vitality, which continues today.

Nestled in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake, The Shaw is one of North America’s finest cultural attractions. Its calendar brims with an eclectic array of quirky comedies, bold dramas and sweeping classics representing the best of theatre. For the past fifty seasons audiences have been captivated by provocative, challenging stories told with humanity and wit — and have returned to Niagara-on-the-Lake, year after year.

Beginning as an amateur eight-performance summer festival called “Salute to Shaw!”, this great cultural event was quickly embraced by the inhabitants of Niagara-on-the-Lake and remains close to the heart of this spirited town. In the five decades that have followed, this amateur “salute” has evolved into a seven-month, internationally renowned, professional theatre festival.

Today the Shaw Festival features plays, not only by the acclaimed playwright, reformer, and social critic George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), but also produces plays from and about his era, along with contemporary plays that share his provocative exploration of society and celebration of humanity.

The Shaw Festival’s 2014 season showcases a potent and diverse mix of plays from the past and present. The playbill proudly features 10 productions presented on the Festival’s four Niagara-on-the-Lake stages. It includes a celebrated contemporary musical, two productions by Bernard Shaw, a classic romantic play by Philip Barry, a Lunchtime of a rarely produced one-act gem by Tennessee Williams, a great play of the twentieth century by Sean O’Casey and masterpieces from contemporary playwrights Edward Bond and Katori Hall. Impressive too is the list of directors and actors whose work on stage brings these worlds to life.

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake warmly welcomes visitors from across North America and around the world to experience its bountiful orchards, award-winning wineries, fascinating historical sites, and its heart and soul – the Shaw Festival. The town, designated a National Historic Site of Canada, has stayed true to the splendor of its past and has evolved to become an international destination for luxury travel and weekend indulgence. Its historic centre is a provincial Heritage Conservation District. Awarded the distinction of first place in the “Top 10 Food and Wine Destinations in Canada” by Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice in 2011, this enchanting village offers a range of plush accommodations for overnight guests. Visitors can enjoy one of the town’s acclaimed bed-and-breakfasts, charming inns, or world-renowned luxury hotels. Decadent spas offer new-world luxury surrounded by old world charm.

For those seeking gastronomic gratification, this “culinary capital of Canada” offers an abundance of local produce, world-class wineries, renowned restaurants and food-centric events which includes a mid-week Supper Market in The Village, the weekend Farmers Market and a Food Truck Eats event at Peller Estates. Most of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries offer tours to the public, and some of which have special Niagara-on-the-Lake tour and theatre packages with The Shaw. Often regarded as Canada’s answer to Napa Valley, the region’s mild climate and nutrient-rich soils have made Niagara-on-the-Lake a Canadian centre for wine-making.

For more than a century, this small town has attracted guests from across North America to its seat upon the lake. Uncommonly beautiful, rich in history and perfectly cultured, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a haven for pleasure seekers, history buffs and hedonists that casts a powerful spell over visitors enticing them back time and time again.

The Shaw Festival Box Office Hours are…

Daily, 9am to 8pm

Daily, 10am to 6pm (to 8pm on Royal George performance nights)

Open one hour prior to performance

Visit the ‘Request Information‘ section of the website for your free Shaw Festival season handbook or contact the Box Office at:

Toll free: 1-800-511-SHAW (7429)
Local: 905-468-2172
Fax: 905-468-3804
To order tickets online, visit

Download The Shaw App

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce provides visitor information and accommodation services. Please call 905-468-1950 or write to the Chamber at Box 1043, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, Canada L0S 1J0, or visit their website at

Cross-border travelling by land or air, Canadian and U.S. citizens will need a passport to travel between countries. Proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, as well as photo ID is now required. Permanent residents of the U.S. should bring their Permanent Resident Card (i.e. green card). For more information, please visit or

Situated on the south shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake is easy to reach via highway from all of Ontario and the northeastern USA.

Latitude: 43’15.76″ north
Longitude: 79’04.07″ west

When travelling from Toronto: follow the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) toward Niagara. This highway travels through Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton and St. Catharines. Once across the Garden City Skyway at St. Catharines, take the Niagara-on-the-Lake exit (38B). Turn right at the stop sign at the end of the QEW off-ramp. From the traffic light at York Road, The Shaw is signposted – left onto York Road, then right onto Airport Road. At Highway 55, turn right and follow 55 (Niagara Stone Road) until it ends at the golf course. Turn right into downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Royal George Theatre and the Court House Theatre are located on Queen Street in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake; the Festival and Studio Theatres are two blocks farther down on Queen’s Parade.

From the USA: cross the Niagara River into Canada at Buffalo, at Niagara Falls, or at Lewiston NY. Take the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to Highway 55 or take the Niagara Parkway instead, if a more scenic route is preferred. The Niagara Parkway route takes a little longer, especially in the busy summer months, but it’s a beautiful drive — down the Niagara River gorge, past orchards and vineyards, right to the door of the Festival Theatre.

By Air: The nearest major airports are at Toronto, Ontario and Buffalo, New York. Airbus transportation is available from both cities. Niagara District Airport: 5000 ft. runways, fully lighted, with instrument approach. Transport Canada Flight Service Stations, customs, aircraft parking and maintenance. Contact details: call 905-684-7447, fax 905-684-2433,

By Water: A large and completely equipped marina is situated at the mouth of the Niagara River within walking distance from the centre of town. For information call 905-468-3966.

By Bus, Train or Taxi: Bus or train services run daily from Toronto to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. Call Greyhound Lines at 1-800-661-8747 ( Coach Canada at 1-800-461-7661 ( Via Rail runs daily with enhanced summer service: 1-888-842-7245 or Take the train – bring your bike

5-0 Transportation offers a shuttle service from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake, departing from the Niagara Falls Bus Terminal at 10:15am, 1:15pm and 4pm daily, and leaving from Fort George at 11am, 2:15pm and 5pm. $20 return for adults, seniors and students and $10 return for children under 12 and children under 6 are free. 1-800-667-0256 or

Average Daily Temperatures
Spring 66°F/19°C
Summer 77°F/25°C
Fall 54°F/12°C
Winter 34°F/1°C

Information for U.S./International Visitors:

Banks and Currency
All Canadian banks are open by 9:30 a.m. until at least 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. ATMs are available at all bank locations in town. All financial institutions are closed on the following holidays:

January 1
February 17
April 18
May 19
July 1
August 4
September 1
October 13
November 11
December 25
December 26

New Year’s Day
Family Day
Good Friday
Victoria Day
Canada Day
Civic Holiday
Labour Day
Canadian Thanksgiving
Remembrance Day
Christmas Day
Boxing Day

U.S. currency is accepted by all businesses at posted rates of exchange.