Connecting Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Old Fort Erie in Fort Erie, the Niagara Parkway is unquestionably one of Canada’s most scenic drives. Along its 56 km or 35 miles, there are numerous natural and man-made attractions that invite the visitor to make a stop and take in the sights and the scenery. Construction of this historic road began in 1908 and was completed in 1931 when a continuous connection between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario was accomplished. Sir Winston Churchill once called the Niagara Parkway “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world”.
Starting in the south, Fort Erie is one of the fastest growing communities in Niagara; it is connected via the Peace Bridge to Buffalo, New York. It played an important role in Canada’s history during the War of 1812. Battle re-enactments draw thousands of visitors every year to Old Fort Erie and the Ridgeway Battlefield Site. Fort Erie was also an important stop on the Underground Railroad and became a place of refuge for many fugitive slaves during the mid 1800s.
Driving north you pass the Legends on the Niagara Golf and Restaurant which boasts 45 holes of golf and a 360 degree driving range. The attractive Clubhouse at Legends is open for lunch and dinner and also serves up a panoramic lakeside view of the Battlefield golf course. The nearby Chippewa Battlefield Park commemorates the 1814 Battle of Chippewa, the longest and bloodiest military operation of the War of 1812. The Rapidsview Welcome Centre marks a key pedestrian access point to Queen Victoria Park and also provides a free 1.5 km (1 mile) shuttle to the Falls. Next up are the Dufferin Islands, a 10 acre quiet and secluded park that features several islands that are connected by footpaths and small bridges. This is the location of the “Winter Festival of Lights” when animated lighting displays are placed around the perimeter of the islands.
The Floral Showhouse has been showcasing spectacular floral displays for 60 years and is surrounded by extensive rose gardens, ponds and a fragrance garden. Table Rock is located right next to the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and represents the centre point of the Niagara Parkway; it provides access to the Journey Behind the Falls, an attraction where you can go behind the Horseshoe Falls in a series of tunnels that open up to the cascade of water. This welcome centre is also home to several shops and the main transfer hub for the WEGO transportation system. The WEGO bus system connects accommodations and tourist attractions throughout the city of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Parks system and makes getting around in Niagara Falls very convenient. The Table Rock Centre is also the location of Elements on the Falls Restaurant which provides an outstanding up-close view over the Horseshoe Falls. Steps away, the Incline Railway provides easy access via a funicular between Table Rock and the Fallsview Tourist Area above.
Queen Victoria Place is located just upstream from the Horseshoe Falls and houses a gift shop, a Tim Hortons coffee shop, the Riverview Express Buffet and Edgewaters Restaurants which boasts a attractive outdoor terrace with magnficient views of both the American and the Horseshoe Falls. At the Grand View Marketplace a bit farther north, visitors can shop, eat, enjoy a fabulous view of the Falls and access the Hornblower Niagara Cruises.
At the foot of Clifton Hills, the historic Oakes Garden Theatre is a beautiful garden with two open stone pavilions that are connected by a curved pergola. Its rock gardens, lily ponds and formal gardens make it an oasis of tranquility in the midst of Niagara Falls’ entertaining frenzy.
In our next article we will explore the portion of the Niagara Parkway that stretches north from the Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario.