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Exploring Niagara Falls in winter gives visitors a whole new experience.
Exploring Niagara Falls in winter gives visitors a whole new experience.

Where else can we take relatives in Niagara Falls besides the Falls? Add to ...

If you’ve got to see the Falls again, winter is a good time of year to do it. Visiting as the ice forms presents a more powerful, raw spectacle of nature, says Vittoria Wikston, who has been looking out at the thundering 57-metre cascade since her waterfront waitressing days. “It is just so inspiring. If I need a break, I just look at it,” says the director of business development for Niagara Falls Tourism (niagarafallstourism.com). Plus, at this time of year, you’ve got a lot more elbow room.

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Some ideas for your group:

The city has added celebrity chefs to its culinary landscape in recent years with Jamie Kennedy opening Windows at the Sheraton (sheratononthefalls.com) and Massimo Capra remaking the Rainbow Room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (fallsviewrainbowroom.com).

But Barbara Ramsay Orr, who writes about food and culture, says the best gourmet dining is to be found at AG Inspired Cuisine at the Sterling Inn (sterlingniagara.com), which bills itself as the city’s only boutique hotel.

“Chef Cory Linkson is a young and gifted chef who uses local ingredients and imaginative flavours. The tasting menu with wine pairings is unforgettable dining,” says Orr, who has written a Niagara Falls Travel Guide app, as well as guidebooks to the region.

If you’re looking for low-key local, grab a slice at Il Sorriso (5983 Clark Ave.), says Mario Pingue, a well-known producer of high-end cured meats (pingueprosciutto.com).

Since you’re in wine country, tempting side trips await. Ravine Vineyards (ravinevineyard.com) in nearby St. David’s, is a local favourite. Or consider August Restaurant (augustrestaurant.ca) in Beamsville where “the local vintners dine,” says Orr, or the single table at Mark Picone’s Culinary Studio (chefmarkpicone.com) in Vineland. “Très expensive, but oh so unique.”

And if you’re in Niagara in January, check out the Icewine Festival (icewinefestival.com).

Winter trips to the area mean your group can see the CAA Winter Festival of Lights (wfol.com), which kicked off last week and runs until the end of January. Here, strings of Christmas bulbs are taken to new heights (think an enormous Tinkerbell), there are Friday-night fireworks over the Falls (until Jan. 25) and skating overlooking the frozen wonder of the world at the Rink at the Brink (open Nov. 28 to Feb. 28). Want something a little quieter? Further along the Niagara Parkway, check out the natural beauty at the Butterfly Conservatory (niagaraparks.com).

I think they would revoke my Travel Writing Badge if I didn’t write a little more about the Falls. The Maid of the Mist (maidofthemist.com) may be dry-docked for the season, but there are other ways to experience this wonder of nature. Go into the bedrock with Journey Behind the Falls (niagaraparks.com) or up above in a chopper ride (niagarahelicopters.com).

If you can’t get out of visiting the theme park attractions of Clifton Hill recent additions include the Niagara SkyWheel, which takes you up in heated, enclosed gondolas for bird’s eye views. Kid-friendly Niagara’s Fury (niagarasfury.com), meanwhile, explores the creation of the Falls during the last Ice Age in a multisensory theatre. (This is your chance to don those stylin’ rain ponchos.) Or just go outside and see the real thing again.

Next week: A reader is planning a week-long trip to Kuwait that includes visits to either Qatar, Dubai or Oman. How does she choose where to go? What’s been your experience? Send your comments to concierge@globeandmail.com.

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