Family Biking in Niagara-on-the-Lake
My parents live in the Niagara Region of Ontario and I spent my high school years there (I mostly stayed in Boston once I went to college, but have spent a fair bit of time up there as an adult). I headed up there this week for a working remotely part-time vacation (I know kind of weird) while my husband was busy with work commitments.
Niagara Region of Ontario is known for amazing wineries, historic sites (especially related to the war of 1812), waterfalls (beyond Niagara Falls), and tourist attractions. There is also extensive bike networks. A popular activity is to tour wineries by bicycle. The 140 km Niagara Circle Route is a wonderful sampling of the different regions of Niagara.
A segment of the Niagara Circle Route follows the Niagara River Recreational trail. A path from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie that follows the Niagara Parkway and is close to many of the significant touristic attractions in the Niagara Parks system (such as the floral clock, the butterfly conservatory, Niagara Glen, and of course Niagara Falls). You could have a great day exploring this path, locking up your bike to explore attactions along the way.
The company we rented our bikes from also has BikeShare Locations along the Niagara River Recreational Trail which would allow you to take a one way trip along the route if you are renting a standard bike (and don’t need a tandem or a trailer like we did).
I like Ontario by Bike to learn more about the different bike paths in the Niagara Region. The Niagara Cycling Tourism Center also has lots of resources. (It should be telling that there’s a cycling tourism center in the region)
Back to our experience:
On Sunday, while no one was working, we headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a family bike ride. My brother, his girlfriend, my parent, my kids and I met up at Zoom Leisure in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We picked the company because of the availability of bike trailers for the kids and free parking on site. I also liked the option of renting the equipment for several days, but I did not take advantage of this.
I rented a hybrid bike and a bike trailer for the half day. Each piece of equipment was $20 + taxes. Bike lock, helmet, map, handlebar bag and kickstand were all included with the rental. My kids loved picking out their own helmets and refused to wear the helmets I brought from home. Brittany, my brother’s girlfriend, also rented a bicyle because she hadn’t biked in so long that her parents had put her bike in storage. But everyone else in our party used their own bikes.
The shop is only a block away from a road with a bike lane. Although this was a shoulder style bike lane, the road was quiet enough that I wasn’t worried about my kids in the trailer. We crossed a relatively busy road to the Butler’s Barracks National Historic Site. This site has some historic buildings and interpretive signs and is open to the public year round. It has pleasant tree lined paved bike paths and I loved riding through there.
Next on our mini tour, we passed by Fort George National Historic Site. If we had more time I might have locked up the bikes to visit (it’s free in 2017 because of Canada 150) but we plan on visiting later this week.
Instead we decided to try to visit the Fort Mississauga National Historic site, but it’s located within the Niagara-on-the-Lake golf course. We didn’t find a place to lock up the bicycles, so we didn’t go check it out. It wasn’t a waste. The town of Niagara-on-the-lake has beautiful homes on this quiet side road and it was a pleasant ride.
We returned to Fort George then headed out to the Niagara River Recreational trail. This paved path had many other cyclists, walker and runners all out enjoying the day. I also like that there are picnic shelters and bathrooms along the way.
I think we ended up biking and hanging out about 2 hours. My kids did great in the stroller (but it was so much slower! I think I was pulling close to 100 lbs) and no one in my family hurt themselves biking. When three generations end the ride with smiles on their faces saying that they should do it more often I would call it a success.
P.S. I worked as a waitress in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a summer as a teenager, yet I had never explored it like I did Sunday morning. It’s a charming town and I understand more why it drew tourists from all over the world now.
Have you ever been to Niagara-on-the-Lake?
Have you ever tried pulling a bike trailer with kids in the back?