It’s true Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment team up to achieve ideal growing conditions for the area’s fruit and wine grape crops but they also work magic for sitting outside to enjoy a drink or meal.
Niagara’s bragging rights are plentiful. Among them is its long patio season, stretching well into fall when others elsewhere have moved outdoor dining and entertaining indoors until the mercury points to perfect patio weather again. There’s no shortage of decks with panoramic views of the region’s rural landscape or outdoor seating offering a more urban vibe.
It’s not just the views to sprawling vineyards that make this patio a perennial favourite for locals and tourists alike. It’s all that Ravine’s outdoor space has to offer. This is the place where you can sidle up to the outdoor bar and pizza oven for one of this winery’s incredible hard ciders and a wood-fired pie. It’s also where you can bring your family to gather around a table for a more formal meal. But don’t confuse that with stuffy. There are ping pong tables to help pass the time, wide open spaces for family matches of footie and never any rush to move along.
The atmosphere here feels very much like hanging out in your BFF’s big, country backyard. The PatiOast is a casual gathering spot for leisurely sipping of this craft brewery’s seasonal suds, including strawberry-rhubarb ale, peach hefeweizen or its flagship Barnraiser. In keeping with that backyard feel, Brushfire Smoke BBQ serves up a changing menu of meaty and vegan fare cooked over a flame and with a view to Stratus Vineyard’s pristine grapevines, which hug Oast’s red barn headquarters.
Port Dalhousie is hopping in the summer. Whether it’s with beachgoers, residents in search of their morning cuppa or revellers looking for a pint who are crowding the streets, this St. Catharines neighbourhood is one of the best places in the region to people watch. The balcony of this small brewhouse, overlooking Main Street, is the place to do that. But for those wanting a different view, brewery founder Wolfgang Guembel tapped into his German roots and set up a biergarten oasis around back. Shaded by mature trees, filled with picnic and wine barrel tables, a fire pit, and room for entertainment, this is a peaceful refuge in one the busiest parts of the city during the warm seasons.
Grit, grain, hustle, bustle and tacos sum up the experience at one of downtown St. Catharines’ largest and newest patios. Trust brings rare and unusual suds to the city, serving them alongside tacos on a large patio overlooking an alleyway where wall space serves as a canvas to graffiti artists for their next masterpieces. The scenery is colourful, just like the city’s core. And the patio, shaded with sails to protect beer pints from warming up too quickly under the summer sun, is a fun and comfortable spot to take a load off.
Leave the city in your rear view when you head west to St. Catharines’ outskirts and the deck at Creekside Estate Winery. Creekside is an award-winning producer of Syrah — and one of the few Niagara wineries teasing consistently remarkable vintages from a grape that doesn’t always fare well in this climate. But everyone fares well on the deck, which conjures relaxation overlooking a koi fish pond, and comfort with charcuterie boards and casual bites by longtime wine country chef Ross Midgley. In addition to wine, Creekside makes a stellar cider, Rood Apples, that pairs well with any summer day.
Beauty, charm and pizza — there’s not much more a person needs for a memorable patio experience. This family-owned and operated vineyard has a lock on all three. Once considered a hidden gem in Niagara, Honsberger and its outdoor pizza oven is rightfully becoming known as the place to while away a day from May to October. Tipple some of Honsberger’s swoon-worthy vintages or chill out with a non-alcoholic beverage, including a gelato-lemonade sipper or iced coffee. Pets are welcome.
It’s easy to miss this winery, set back from King Street, the artery carving a swath along west Niagara’s wine route. But you really don’t want to. Stoney Ridge is home to beautifully manicured rose and flower gardens that conjure Europe and provide an idyllic escape from, well, everything. Enjoy a tasting flight of Stoney Ridge’s diverse wines alongside cheese plates, or save yourself for Fridays and Saturdays when Avella’s Wood Fired Oven pulls up to serve some of the most notable pizzas in Niagara. Take your time taking in the sights and sounds, and enjoy a bottle with Avella’s signature pepperoni, Margherita or Blue Moon.
Set at the base of the Niagara Escarpment in Beamsville, Bench Brewing has quickly become as formidable in Niagara’s beer scene as the landform overlooking it. The patio is set in a protected alcove between the century school house that’s the heart of Bench and the ultra-modern addition where the brewing magic happens. Bench is known for its deep tap and bottle list boasting several award-winners. Bench brews hold their own when sipped alone on a warm afternoon or evening. They also pair beautifully with the regional, seasonal fare by chef Erik Peacock, who helms the Bench kitchen.
Keep heading west and you’ll find Redstone Winery, which is named for the red clay soil upon which its immaculate vineyards grow. Redstone is home to a spacious and tranquil patio overlooking rows of grapevines as far as the eye can see. In addition to offering wine by the glass and bottle, alone or alongside the locally inspired menu crafted by Chef David Cider, there’s a sizeable lawn to enjoy a packed picnic lunch. Either way, Redstone is a must-stop for enjoying the sun and warmth while it lasts.
The Good Earth is a beacon of conviviality and its gorgeous patio overlooking English gardens, grapevines and fruit orchards has a lot to do with that. Easily one of the most picturesque and comfortable patios in the region, this outdoor dining and sipping area opens early in the season.
It’s equipped with blankets to protect against the nip in the air that can linger into May and June. And it stays open well into fall for visitors to behold the breathtaking autumn colours that spread along the spine of the Niagara Escarpment in September and October. The Good Earth patio offers a seasonal menu that changes regularly and a solid wine list that goes well with any weather, whether it’s the high heat of July or September’s more easy-going temperatures.