Millions of tourists flock annually to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada to witness the thunderous water flow along the Niagara river, but what many travelers don’t know is that this beautiful region is also home to a booming vegan scene with international influences. In fact, many restaurants in the area have begun offering separate plant-based menus to meet the demand for cruelty-free food. Furthermore, just northwest of Niagara Falls lies St. Catharines, where the nickname “The Garden City” is fitting due to its shift toward more cruelty-free businesses motivated by an increasing population of young vegans. In addition, there are vegan restaurants located near the Niagara Escarpment, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Besides vegan food, the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (located north of Niagara Falls) is ripe with arts, culture, vineyards, wineries, and picturesque views of Lake Ontario. Whether you’re visiting for one day or an entire week, prepare to fall in love with the Niagara region’s variety of vegan flavors and breathtaking scenery.
There is endless excitement and adventure on the Canadian side of the majestic Niagara Falls. Weather permitting, hop aboard a Hornblower Niagara Cruise to the bottom of the falls to experience their power first-hand. Once you’re done marveling at this natural wonder, spend the afternoon on Clifton Hill. Open year-round, this public street has become an amusement area full of attractions for the whole family. There is a dinosaur-themed outdoor miniature golf course, the Great Canadian Midway indoor arcade, and the Niagara Skywheel, which will take you 175 feet in the air overlooking the falls. For dinner, head down Lundy’s Lane to Mai Thai Cuisine for authentic Thai food. The menu features many delicious vegan options, including fresh vegetable rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce. If you like spicy food, check out the large vegan menu at Moksha Indian Bistro, where the vegetable pakoras (fried chickpea flour-battered fritters) are delectable. Complete your evening watching the nightly summer fireworks display over the illuminated falls.
Indulge in The Garden City
For the most vegan options in the region, go to St. Catharines. Saint Paul Street in the downtown area is home to Rise Above, a must-visit vegan restaurant/bakery with a seasonal menu. For lunch, have a veggie burger with a side of cashew macaroni and cheese or a kale Caesar salad. On Sundays, Rise Above offers a brunch menu with a weekly pancake special that ranges from peach crumble to banana walnut and toffee. Down the street, choose from more than a dozen gourmet vegan pizzas such as the Hawaiian pizza (topped with hot sauce, pineapple, and jackfruit), fresh salads and cruelty-free nachos at Bella Noella’s. For an Italian meal, reserve a table at Cafe Garibaldi, where the risotto primavera comes with zucchini, pepper, mushroom, carrots, and spinach in a tomato-basil sauce. For a tasty snack, pick up a cold-pressed juice blend and some coconut-cashew granola at Small Batch Co. Then, treat yourself with a stop at Beechwood Doughnuts, where plant-based varieties include lemon poppy seed, strawberry-rhubarb fritter, and cookies and cream. On Ontario Street, The Lemon Tree brings a taste of the Mediterranean to Canada as a completely vegan restaurant serving traditional fare such as hummus with grilled pita bread or the dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) with tzatziki sauce. After eating your way through St. Catharines, head to the waterfront community of Port Dalhousie for a stroll along Lakeside Park beach, and look for the antique carousel that costs five cents per ride.
Unwind in a small town
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a quaint old village with a European feel. On Queen Street, there are plenty of boutique shops and historic buildings, including the Royal George Theatre. Step into Old Town Goodies for a vegan panini with sun-dried tomato guacamole or a cranberry-balsamic salad, and don’t leave without stocking up on some pure Canadian maple syrup. During spring and summer, play a few holes at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, North America’s oldest course. Finally, the climate in the Niagara Region creates a perfect environment for cultivating grapes, so have a tour and a tasting of vegan-friendly wines at Reif Estate Winery on the Niagara Parkway.
Explore the escarpment
Start your day with a modern breakfast (avocado toast, vegan carrot gravlax, or French toast with spiced pears) at Revalee Brunch Café in Vineland, Ontario. Then, hike the trails at the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area in Lincoln, Ontario, where guests can learn about the heritage of this site while enjoying the 19th century buildings on the property. After a long day, refuel at Root 8 in Beamsville, Ontario. This hidden gem is a fully gluten-free, vegan restaurant offering a selection of Buffalo cauliflower wings, Buddha bowls, refreshing juice, and almond milk smoothies. Before you leave, make sure to ask about the locally made Sweet Sunshine Ice Cream, which is handcrafted using plant-based ingredients into fun flavors such as chocolate raspberry, charcoal, and s’mores.
Courtney Tyler runs thankfulvegan.com, a food and lifestyle blog focussing on plant-based living.