At the turn of the 19th century, conflicts in Europe had a direct impact on British North America and the United States–newly independant after the American Revolution in latter quarter of the previous century. Pushed to the edge by Great Britain, President James Madison and the United States Congress declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, attacking its colony, Canada.
During this time, our peaceful and scenic Parkway was a battlefield. Now, after almost 200 years of peace, you can explore the heroes and legends of this tuultuous time. Welcome to the Niagara Parks War of 1812 Heritage Trail. A 53-km, scenic route awaits along the Niagara Parkway, between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you’ll discover over 100 plaques and monuments that helped establish peace between two great nations.
Starting north in Niagara-on-the-Lake, McFarland House stands as a testament to gracious 1800s-style living. This beautiful Georgian home is the oldest property owned by the The Niagara Parks Commission. Qualified costumed interpreters provide guided tours of this historic home throughout the day, or enjoy the exquisite Tea Room, featuring over 30 kinds of permium loose leaf tea and a lovely wine list. McFarland House is open daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., with last seating and tours one half-hour before closing.
Next, explore the home of Canada’s Most Famous Heroine. During the war, Laura Secord set out on a perilous journey to warn Lt. James Fitzgibbon at Beaverdams of a planned American assault. This 32-km trek took more than 18 hours to complete, but accompanied by British-allied Natives, she delivered her warning. As a result, the Natives forces, under the command of John Norton and Dominique Ducharme, ambushed the invading Americans and defeated them in the Battle of Beaverdams, June 24, 1813.
Enjoy a guided tour of Laura Secord Homestead, enjoy light refreshments, ice cream, and Laura Secord chocolates. Open 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with the last tour beginning one hour before closing.
Right nearby, you’ll learn the secrets behind the original text message at the Mackenzie Printery. The restored home of rebel publisher William Lyon Mackenzie displays 500 years of printing technology, amid the authentic ambiance of a period print shop. Canada’s largest operating printing museum is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Next, stop for lunch at Queenston Heights Restaurant before taking a self-guided walking tour of this National Historic Site which tells the story of the famous War of 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights. Admission to Brock’s Monument is available at an additional cost, where you’ll get a fantastic view of Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls.
Wednesday nights through August 29, you can experience a unique dinner party, 1812 style, at the Queenston Heights Restaurant’s “A Soldier’s Story”. Enjoy the gorgeous covered patio, and learn about the Battle of Queenston Heights. Call (905) 262-4276 to book your reservation.
Finally, at Old Fort Erie, experience the sights and sounds of the Fort under siege at this War of 1812 National Historic Site. Join British or American soldiers on a tour of the grounds and authentic buildings, experience live musket demonstrations, and in August, witness full battle reenactments like you’ve never seen before! Catch Canada’s largest annual reenactment and witness the Siege of Fort Erie–Canada’s bloodiest battlefield– on August 11 and 12.
Until then, check out Old Fort Erie’s Friday Night Frights July 13. This popular tour fills up fast, so call 905-871-0540 to reserve your spot!
If you’re interested in exploring the Heritage Trail this summer and helping us commemorate 200 years of peace between two great nations, the Niagara Parks Heritage Trail Pass gives you admission into McFarland House, Laura Secord Homestead, Mackenzie Printery, and Old Fort Erie. You’ll save 35% off regular admission prices and receive additonal coupons, including half-priced admission to the Sir Adam Beck Power Tour. Passes are available in-person or online. Visit the Niagara Parks Heritage website for more info, an interactive map of the sites, and some fascinating bits of history.