St. Catharines is the largest city in Ontario’s Niagara region and is known as the “Garden City” for its many gardens, trails and parks. In fact, it has about four square kilometers of green space.
Unfortunately, St. Catharines is often overlooked by tourists passing by on their way to Niagara Falls. This is great news for those who choose to visit this beautiful city as it means better value for them.
From boating to shopping, St. Catharines has a lot to see and do. There are also galleries, museums, theatres and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. These are the 15 best things to do in St. Catharines:
1. Smell the roses
Montebello Park is the largest and most famous park in St. Catharines; designed by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted. The park has the largest collection of roses in the city.
There are more than 1,300 rose bushes of 25 different varieties in the park. This is a great place to stop and smell the roses.
Dating back to 1887, the park is now designated as a Historic Site. In addition to the roses, it has a pavilion and a shell, both built in 1888.
2. Hang out at the port
The Port Dalhousie community is an attractive area known for its beautiful waterfront. Stroll through the port and smell the fresh air.
Port Dalhousie is located along the shores of Lake Ontario and is home to the most popular St. Catharines Beach. The beach is located in the historic Lakeside Park, which also features an antique carousel.
The port itself is rich in history as it is the main terminus of the Welland Canal. This can be seen through the historic lighthouse located at the end of the pier.
3. Watch the regatta
The Royal Canadian Henley Regatta is a world-class rowing event held every August. The Regatta takes place in Port Dalhousie, where it has been held since 1903.
The regatta is named after England’s Royal Henry Regatta and starts the same distance. It was shortened to 200 meters in 1964.
The Royal Canadian Henley Race attracts more than 3,000 rowers from around the world. In 1999, the course was upgraded to accommodate the World Rowing Championships.
4. Go for a walk
St. Catharines has over 90 kilometers of accessible trails perfect for walking, biking and jogging. If you’re visiting in winter, cross-country skiing is possible here.
Of all the trails, the Bruce Trail is the oldest and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also the longest walking trail in the country at 12 kilometers, winding through the city.
Ontario’s famous Waterfront Walk also runs through the city along Lake Ontario. Another great trail is the 1.5km Terry Fox Fitness Trail.
5. Sip wine
St. Catharines has many world-class vineyards, perfect for wine lovers. Take a wine tasting tour and send an afternoon of wine sipping.
The region is famous for its white and ice wines, which are the highlights of the wine tasting tour. Red wines are also available, although the region is not as famous for red wines.
Wine tasting tours often include succulent treats and end with lunch or dinner. They also include transfers to and from the hotel.
6. Explore the park
Hike, mountain bike or horseback through Short Mountain Provincial Park. The 660-hectare park is located in the southwest corner of the city.
Explore the park and see some wildlife such as white-tailed deer, lawn voles and coyotes. Short Hills Provincial Park is also home to some rare plants, including sweet chestnut, papaya and tulip trees.
There are six different trails in the park as well as several waterfalls. Explore the park and be blown away by its natural beauty.
7. Visit the waterfall
Falls lovers should not miss the opportunity to visit DeCew Falls. The falls are actually two waterfalls; Upper DeCew Falls and Lower DeCew Falls.
Upper DeCew Falls is a large waterfall 22 meters high and about 6 meters wide. Lower DeCew Falls is a serene 7.5-meter waterfall.
The larger waterfall can be seen from Morning Star Mill. Smaller lower waterfalls are located at the bottom of the canyon and can be reached by hiking.
8. Learn about the city’s history
The St. Catharines Museum is small but focused on local history. The museum is located at Lock 3 on the Welland Canal and includes an elevated platform.
Visit the museum to learn about the city’s history through artifacts, including artifacts from the military, shipping, and industrial industries. Also on display are household items.
Climb to the top of the observation deck and watch boats along the canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Afterwards, wander around the museum’s gift shop.
9. See the best hockey players in the province
Not in person, but at the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum. Hockey is one of Canada’s national sports that dates back hundreds of years.
Stroll through the Ontario Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum to learn about the game’s impact on Ontario culture and history. The province has been the most active province in the country.
The museum is located next to the St. Catherine’s Museum, so you can easily see them all at once. There is a children’s play area and a walking trail outside.
10. Go to the theatre
The FirstOntario Center for the Performing Arts is the largest and most popular theater in the city. The 8,800 sqm cultural complex is located in the heart of St. Catharines.
The Arts Center is the primary venue for student performances at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Arts and Performing Arts. It also hosts many other shows.
The center features four venues; a 775-seat concert hall, a 300-seat concert hall, a 210-seat theatre venue and a 187-seat cinema.
11. Watch the animals
Along the shores of Lake Ontario is Happy Rolf Animal Farm, a great place to see animals. Sit on a bench by the pond or stroll around the farm and admire the animals in their natural surroundings.
The 1.06 hectare farm is home to numerous birds, plants and other animals. Animals can be viewed from designated viewing areas.
Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm also features a large playground, picnic area and nature trails. There are also restrooms and parking.
12. Go underground
See Metro Station. The Underground Railroad and Niagara’s Freedom Trail helped black slaves flee the United States to seek freedom in Canada.
St. Catharines is the terminus of this underground network, which can be visited today. The National Historic Site marks a very important part of history and shows how Harriet Tubman helped so many people out of slavery.
Another important part of this history is the English Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1855 for new citizens.
13. Back in Time
Wander the picturesque Yates Street Heritage District. The history of the area dates back to the late 1800s, when the land was originally owned by William Hamilton Merritt.
The Yates Street Heritage District is located along Twelve Mile Creek. In the early years this was the mill district, and later the mill owners built their houses here.
The area is protected and has beautiful tree-lined streets. The factory no longer exists, but the house still exists.
14. Shop at the local market
The Market Square Farmers Market is an important part of the city and its history. It is centrally located next to the historic courthouse.
Browse the market for local goods such as preservatives, homemade jams, spices and baked goods. There are also locally grown produce, meat and dairy products.
The market square also hosts special events such as butter-making classes, arts and crafts, and local food tastings. There is also live music every Saturday from June to October.
15. Have fun at the festival
St. Catharines is no stranger to annual festivals and events. In fact, some are worth a visit.
The Folk Art Festival is one of the most popular and has been held for over 35 years. Art lovers must visit the Peace Art Festival.
The two-day SCENE festival drew more than 3,000 people, mostly alternative bands. Wine connoisseurs will have fun at the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival held across the region.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in St. Catharines, Canada
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