Editor’s Choice Award: Niagara-on-the-Lake’s 25th Annual Icewine Festival Offers a Unique Winter Date Activity

Women's Dating

Editor’s Choice Award: Niagara-on-the-Lake’s 25th Annual Icewine Festival Offers a Unique Winter Date Activity

Amber Brooks
Amber Brooks Posted:

The Short Version: Every January, Niagara-on-the-Lake puts on a wintry celebration full of laughter, libations, and good cheer. The annual Icewine Festival is a unique event that transforms Queen Street into an icewine village full of ice sculptures, food vendors, musical entertainment, and the region’s finest icewine makers. Attendees can sample glasses of icewine and savor culinary creations in a uniquely festive atmosphere. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charming date spot throughout the year, but it really shines in the winter months and creates a flurry of excitement for locals looking for something fun to do with their loved ones.

The Sparkle and Ice Gala is a beloved winter event that marks the beginning of icewine season in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small town in southern Ontario.

The adults-only gala takes place in the Old Courthouse on Queen Street. This elegant celebration showcases specialty icewines in the ballroom and then tops the night off with fireworks and an outdoor toast. People turn out in droves to expand their palates, listen to live musical performances, and snuggle up with loved ones in the cold.

Three years ago, one young man popped the question to his girlfriend while the fireworks lit up the night sky. She said yes, and the couple shared an unforgettable moment at the Sparkle and Ice Gala.

Niagara-on-the-Lake has a knack for throwing one-of-a-kind events that bring out excitement, joy, and wonder in people of all ages. And, sometimes, its engaging activities can lead to romance as well.

Screenshot from Niagara-on-the-Lake's website

The Icewine Festival is one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s most popular annual events.

The Icewine Festival is a perfect example of the fun in store for couples visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. This two-weekend extravaganza turns Queen Street into a wine lover’s paradise as local wineries offer samples of their very best icewines. Plus, local chefs put out plates of delectable dishes to pair with each glass.

The 25th annual Icewine Festival started Jan. 18 and ran until Jan. 26.

Whether you want to break the ice on a first date or create a special memory for an anniversary, Niagara-on-the-Lake can offer a lovely backdrop and fun-filled events to make the experience truly memorable.

“We are Niagara’s Original Icewine Festival and are proud of how the festival has grown each and every year,” said Eduardo R. Lafforgue, President of Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. “It is a great place for a first date. The festival has a great atmosphere and everyone is always smiling and happy.”

A Weekend Adventure for Locals & Out-of-Towners

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Festival draws people of all ages and backgrounds. You’ll see young couples on first dates, friends on vacation, and parents or grandparents on family outings. Whatever brings them to the Icewine Festival, people come out of their shell as they sample delicate dessert wines and savory cuisine.

Some visitors have been going to the Icewine Festival for years and can identify every varietal and vintage by taste, while others are experiencing the festival for the time and can enjoy exploring new flavor combinations.

Photo of a couple at the Icewine Festival

Every year, Niagara-on-the-Lake presents two weekends of food, drink, and entertainment.

The Icewine Festival is a cherished event in the local NOTL community, and it also attracts tourists visiting Ontario and looking for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Visitors quickly become immersed in the wonderful sights, sounds, and tastes of the festival. The vendors offer many types of icewine as well as culinary dishes cooked up by NOTL’s 13 Signature Kitchen Chefs. Plus, a strolling band provides background music throughout the weekend.

As an added kindness, the event organizers set up warming stations throughout Queen Street’s Icewine Village so attendees can warm their hands while savoring a cold glass of icewine. These spots attract couples, friend groups, and families who want to take a break from the crowds and have a quiet conversation.

The Icewine Festival sells tokens, souvenir glasses, and insider passes before and during the event. Each food and wine sample costs one token ($6) and commemorative icewine glasses cost $5. The insider pass ($33.90) includes five tokens and the souvenir glass.

The Icewine Festival puts couples in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s shopping and restaurant district, and that means couples are surrounded by fun date activities. If they’re from out of town, they can also find lovely accommodations just up the street at local hotels, country inns, and bed and breakfasts.

Couples couldn’t ask for a more stunning backdrop for a date night. Thanks to its jam-packed, fun-filled January calendar, Niagara-on-the-Lake has become the perfect winter vacation spot for couples who want to icewine and chill.

“It’s always a bit chilly as it is an outdoor event, so that’s always a great excuse to stay close to your date and warm around one of our fire pits,” Eduardo said. “And of course, once you have enjoyed the Icewine Festival, you can visit the shops along Queen Street and then have dinner in one of our amazing restaurants. Sounds like a great first date!”

A Dedicated Team Makes Sure Everything Goes Smoothly

The Icewine Festival is organized in collaboration with several local wineries scattered throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL taps these wine experts to create unique libations and start the year on a sweet note.

The winery staff show up in force to share their love of wine with festival attendees. These highly knowledgeable and skilled professionals can educate people about the icewine-making process and flavor profile. They’re also on hand to answer any questions, offer recommendations, and sell icewine by the bottle or glass.

Photo of the Icewine Festival

The Icewine Festival showcases the artistry of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Icewine Festival is the culmination of months of preparation, craftsmanship, and hard work, and it’s definitely a labor of love.

For the last six years, Nicole Cripps has been the event coordinator for the Icewine Festival and other NOTL events. She puts in the legwork to make sure local vendors, wineries, and musical talent have everything they need to shine on those two weekends in January.

During the Icewine Festival, 10 Chamber Staff members are on call to handle any issues that may arise, and about 30 volunteers take care of the event’s logistics, including ticket taking and cleanup.

“Many residents and students generously contribute their time to make the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Festival a success,” Eduardo said. “It’s one of the most highly anticipated and well-attended winter festivals in Ontario.”

Couples visiting the NOTL Icewine Festival will have no shortage of things to talk about as they roam from tent to tent shopping, eating, and drinking locally made icewines. The annual event brings out the best in this friendly community in Ontario, and everyone is welcome to take part in this lighthearted and relaxing atmosphere.

NOTL’s Original Festival Creates Romance on Queen Street

The beginning of the year is a time for new resolutions, new beginnings, and, for Ontario residents, new icewines. The annual Icewine Festival has made Niagara-on-the-Lake a must-visit destination for January tourists, and it continues to add vendors and vintages year after year.

If you haven’t had icewine before, Niagara-on-the-Lake will soon fix that. From the Sparkle and Ice Gala to the Icewine Festival itself, the quaint village goes to great lengths to celebrating the unique flavors cultivated by its local wineries and chefs. The event promises to provide plenty of delicious treats and lively entertainment, and it can facilitate romance and intimacy for couples enjoying date nights or celebrating special occasions.

Looking to the future, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce intends to spread the word about the festival’s Icewine Village and increase the exposure of local wineries and their delicious icewines.