How to Explore the Rich History of Niagara-on-the-Lake


Today, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a leisure destination for tourists around the world. The area’s modern tourism boom began in the 1970s.  Checking out the wineries, cycling along Niagara’s recreational trail, and visiting the Shaw festival are all popular activities. However, the region also has a deep and complex history that’s worthy of exploration. And that’s why many visitors enjoy touring the historical sites as well.  At one time, this area was the capital of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario). It was also a British settlement with a military base.  

Read on to discover how you can explore Niagara-on-the-Lake’s rich past and understand how it has become what it is today.

Niagara Historical Society Museum

If you’re looking for a complete picture, the Niagara Historical Society has you covered. The Society runs a Museum that paints a vibrant portrait of the town’s unique past.  It runs a series of exhibitions all year round that highlight various eras. These exhibitions consist of both temporary galleries as well as permanent ones.

When visitors first enter the Museum, they’re exposed to about 9,000 years of history in the venue’s first gallery. A collection of beautiful artefacts are on display, which include: the Indian Department Coatee worn by Daniel Servos during the American Revolutionary War, and a powder horn that once belonged to Chief Joseph Brant. For visitors who are fascinated by the famous War of 1812, uniforms from this important event are proudly on display as well.

Right now, the Museum is working on a number of upcoming exhibitions slated for next year. ‘Janet’s Gems’ is a much-anticipated exhibit that’s scheduled to run from May 1 – October 31, 2016. It will celebrate 120 years of the Historical Society’s collections by showcasing the wonderful and fascinating findings of the group’s first curator, Janet Carnochan.

Fort George

For history buffs, no visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake is complete without a stopover at the famous Fort George. This site served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army during the illustrious War of 1812. Fort George was strategically built — overlooking the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. It played a key role in the defence of Upper Canada during U.S. invasions of its northern neighbour. Today, Fort George is a testament to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s glorious past. From November to April, Fort George is open on weekends. And from May to October, it’s open seven days a week. Step back in time with engaging tours, musket demos and special exhibitions. The staff is often dressed in costume, letting visitors recapture the era of the early 1800s. And don’t forget to stop by the Butler’s Barracks and Navy Hall along the way. You can find more information online at The Friends of Fort George.

Historical Walking Tours

Walking tours of Niagara-on-the-Lake allow visitors to get a bigger picture of the town’s intriguing past, while interacting with locals along the way. Rather than visiting lone historical sites, these tours are often run by residents with deep roots in Niagara. Old Town Tours operates 90-minute sessions that take visitors through The National Historic District. Fall and Winter tours are available seven days of the week. And the best part? These light jaunts are very flexible. The length, pace and sites explored can all be altered to suit your preferences!