Since my family is spread all over the place, we try to organize family reunions as often as possible, in different places. For last summer’s get together, we wanted an affordable and quiet destination, mild summer weather, lots of outdoors/nature activities, and easy to navigate with small children. We landed on the Niagara Falls region of Canada. We had a blast and I can’t recommend it enough!
So let’s talk about our accommodations. Affordability and comfort are big factors in our family trips, so after some research, we decided to skip Toronto and hotels all together, and stick with Airbnb. We found a lovely home with a huge porch in a quiet suburban beach town that could accommodate our large group — two toddlers, a preschooler (all boys!), and four adults. The boys had space to run around and be loud, and we could cook all of our healthy meals. Win win.
Our house was located in St. Catherines, five minutes down the street from the beach (Lake Ontario). The beach was also annexed to a beautiful park and playground. Since we were there for over a week, we spread out our touristy activities and had slow beach days sprinkled in between. All of us had a chance to decompress and relax between outings, which made a gigantic difference in everyone’s crankiness levels.
Grandpa drove from the U.S. in a car big enough to fit all three car seats and much more, so we were able to get around easily and take day trips to the surrounding areas. For example, we took a day trip to downtown Toronto; a day trip to see the Niagara Falls (read about that here), and one to explore Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Now let me tell you, Niagara-on-the-Lake is just about the most adorable town I have ever seen.
This little lakefront town was dripping with charm and history. Everything was impeccably taken care of, and the weather was glorious. For all of those reasons and more, it was pretty packed with tourists, but it was not at all overwhelming. There were little shops, restaurants, cafes, and of course, the wineries the area is known for. As for us, we packed a picnic and headed straight to the lake. We figured there was going to be some sort of park where we could hang out, but we weren’t expecting the sweetness and gorgeousness that ensued:
It seemed like everyone was outside enjoying the great weather, which made sense, since their winters are brutal. Well, it turns out, people have plenty of reasons to visit the area year round; the whole region is famous for its wineries, and our Airbnb hosts, who are local musicians, educated us on all the music, food, and wine festivals that happen in the area all year long.
It all sounded lovely, but this tropical-blooded Brazilian-Floridian was still a skeptic. I get cold at our house when the thermostat drops below 75.
All in all, staying in St. Catherines was a great experience. However, Niagara-on-the-Lake would be my first choice next time. We didn’t get a chance to do a wine country tour, but I would love to go back for it!
Just not in the dead of winter.