Ten Summer Weekends

Weekends in the summer have a specialness that’s all their own.

I think that feeling of specialness has its roots in childhood. Summer seemed so extra magical back then. To my eight year old self, summer meant a time of pure freedom, sunshine, having adventures and discovering new things. It was also a time to just hang out at the pool, day dream and watch the clouds float by. While I did all of this, I would eat buckets of Lola Icebergs until my tongue turned technicolour. For those of you who don’t know what a Lola Iceberg is, it was a giant triangle-iceberg-popsicle-thingy. They were the height of gourmet summer food for us kids of the ’70’s.

Man, I’m showing my age.

But just thinking about all these things makes me remember how awesome summer really was when I was a kid.

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Of course, summer is still awesome to me – even though I don’t have two months of freedom, and I can’t get Lola Icebergs any more. But I can still get a glimpse of that childhood free spirit when I kick back, relax and have fun on a beautiful summer weekend.

With that, I give you a list of ten ideas for some great summer weekends in Niagara.

One small nitpicky thing before we get started. Some of these weekends are technically still in “Spring”  – but in my mind, as soon as I start to crave rosé, it’s summer. Since I cracked open my first bottle of rosé last night (a beauty from Back 10 Cellars, if you’re wondering), guess what.

It’s summer, baby.

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Oh, and all this info is chronological, and there’s a bit to take in. I’ve tried to be brief and not so “Joanne-y” but this one’s kinda long. Grab a coffee, glass of wine or beer, and get stuck in.

Speaking of beer…

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You can start your summer weekends off this Saturday, May 14th at the Albino Rhino Beer Fest in Ridgeway. I’m a beer newbie, so festivals like this one are an easy way for me to get an overview of the craft beer world. And for all who love beer, it’s a great way to sample some tasty craft brews, with delicious food from several food trucks.

You can get tickets online here for $20, or you can buy them at the door for $25

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The following weekend, of course, is Victoria Day weekend – our first long weekend of the summer! Celebrate that by attending the fifth annual Food Truck Eats at Peller Estates Winery. Peller’s site says this event will bring together twenty Food Trucks and pop-up food vendors for some of the most daring and delectable street food available. Along with this scrumptious fare, you can wash it down with some of Peller’s VQA wines.

I have heard nothing but good things about this event. According to their website the Saturday event is sold out, but it looks like tickets are still available for Sunday and Monday. Tickets are $15, you can get more details and buy them here. I’m sure the remaining tickets will go super fast, so act quickly.

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Next up, the Niagara Folk Arts Festival. This is running throughout the month of May, from the 6th to 29th, so it’s not just a weekend thing, and there is so much going on. Different communities are hosting open houses and events, and it’s a way to get out and learn a bit about some of the cultures that make Niagara great. Most will have some of their country’s dishes on offer, so you can get a chance to try their cuisine as well. These are spread out throughout the month, and you can find all the listings here.

But they have two events on upcoming weekends you should know about.

On Saturday May 21st, they are hosting an Underground Railroad Tour. It wasn’t until I moved to Niagara that I realized the importance of the Niagara Region in the Underground Railroad. On this tour you will learn even more, while also visiting some of these historically significant sites. You can read a bit about St. Catharines and the Underground Railroad here. I’m sure the tour will fascinating.

For the final weekend of the Niagara Folk Arts Festival, come to Folk Arts in the Street at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. This sounds like it will be a hub of activity, happening on both Saturday May 28th and Sunday May 29th. There will be music and dance presentations in the Robertson Theatre, hands-on cultural activities in the Pen Centre Family Area, a Marketplace for cultural crafts and art pieces, and cultural foods from food truck vendors. Best of all, admission is free! Details are here.

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Fourth on the list is Springlicious, which will run the entire weekend of May 27th through Sunday May 29th on Queen Street in Niagara Falls. I’ve never been to Springlicious, but they are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year. It looks like there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy – lots of food and music with fun rides for the kids.

All the details are here.

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Now, we’re getting to one of my favourite events from last summer – Graze the Bench, held on Saturday June 4th, and Sunday June 5th. I had such a great time last year, and you can read all about it here. I went for the entire weekend, but there are no weekend passes this year – you must get a ticket for either the Saturday or the Sunday. Unfortunately, Saturday sold out weeks ago, and I’m pretty sure they’re down to the last few tickets for Sunday.

Grab those tickets though. This is such a fun event that just seems to get more popular every year. Delicious food, wine, music, and those gorgeous views from the Bench. It’s especially fun to do with a group of friends, and it’s a great day out. Last year we had gorgeous weather, but I’m sure I would have a blast even if it rained – and that is not something I say lightly.

Go online and get those last few Sunday tickets now. You will thank me forever.

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You still with me? We’re half-way through. The next event is number six.

It’s the Niagara Integrated Film Festival, which this year is running from June 10th-19th, so you’ve got two weekends there to get your film fix in. This year’s highlight Filmalicious event will consist of a dinner at Trius winery, and a screening of All Roads Lead to Rome. Sounds like a fantastic night out, watching a movie under the stars at a winery! You can purchase a movie and dinner package or a wine+popcorn+movie package which is a little easier on the budget.

The complete list of all films and locations is up on the website, and you can purchase tickets here. One that might be of special interest to all of us is the screening of Chasing Niagara

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Fellow wine lovers, we can’t forget the New Vintage Festival.

For two weekends in June – the 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th –  you can wend your way from winery to winery, indulging in Discovery Pass tastings that feature new vintages. The Passes are $40 each, and contain eight tasting vouchers to be redeemed at the wineries participating. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done the Discovery Pass programs for our wine festivals – it’s such a fun, relaxed way to spend the afternoon. Often, it turns into a chance to re-stock my cellar, which makes me happy too. You can buy your Discovery Passes here.

There is also the TD Tailgate Party for the Festival, which I have heard good things about in the past. It will be held June 18th, amongst the vines in the Niagara-on-the-Lake home of the 2015/16 Grape King.  Of course, there will be some terrific food to accompany the wines, and a list of featured chefs should be on the website soon. Tickets are $80 until June 1st, and can be purchased here.

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When history lovers think of Niagara, they usually just think of the War of 1812. But a couple of years ago, I attended a series of lectures at the Niagara Historical Society Museum where I learned about Camp Niagara – specifically its role in training soldiers for World War 1.

This summer, some dedicated World War I re-enactors are going to bring Camp Niagara to life.

On Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th, Fort George will be hosting the event Fort George in the Great War: A World War I Commemoration. There will be lots of displays and demonstrations honouring those who fought in the Great War. I have always enjoyed attending re-enactments, and  have found them to be an extremely informative, effective way to get a feel for the people of the past.

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Number nine is every Chardonnay Lover’s dream, and will be held from Friday, July 22nd to Sunday, July 24th. It’s i4C – The International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration.

I LOVE Chardonnay. I have always loved Chardonnay. It was the first wine I started to truly appreciate, after I graduated from the poor alcoholic choices of my youth.

Awhile back, cool wine folks claimed that Chardonnay was passé, using the term ABC – “Anything But Chardonnay”. My acronym though was “Always Buy Chardonnay”. See what a noble stalwart I was for my favourite white wine, still championing its greatness. Luckily, this weekend will bring me together with those who think like me –  my Chardonnay-loving tribe.

But that’s not all. This year i4C is expanding to include other cool climate varietals such as Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. So even if you haven’t won your friends over to Chardonnay (and to my friends, you know who I’m looking at) there should be something to please them also. But with so many amazing Chardonnays to taste from Ontario and other cool climate regions too, I know we’ll win them over.

There are lots of events for all price ranges, so check the schedule out. I’ve already bought my tickets for “Flights of Chardonnay”, and I think it will be a great night.

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And finally, number ten!

The last summer weekend event I will mention is the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, from July 29th-31st. If you love jazz, this is a weekend packed full of terrific music, with something for all budgets too. Performances are taking place all over the Niagara region, so check the newly released schedule for all the details.

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Wow. If you’ve made it with me this far, thanks so much for sticking around. To date, this is my longest post ever, but I just had so much to share with you. And the more time we have for planning, the better, right?

I’d love to hear your experience if you attend any of these events. Also, let me know what other exciting summer things you hear of. I think it’s going to be another terrific Niagara summer!

Now I’m off to toast it with a glass of rosé.

**In case anyone is wondering, this is not a collaborative post – just my own research and thoughts on some great things to do this summer in Niagara.

  • Victoria Westcott

    We also have a Rosé Day Festival with La Carnita cooking at Westcott Vineyards. Mexican food with a gringo twist! Bit.ly/RoseDayFest for tix. 🙂

    • I’m looking forward to it! Tasty Mexican food, your delicious Rosé, and those gorgeous views at Westcott. Will Nellie and Emma be there too? 🙂