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Cool Things To Do In Riga, Latvia

One of the best surprises of my travelling life is visiting the city of Riga, which is the capital of Latvia. I’ll be honest, Riga was never on my radar until an opportunity to attend a conference there came up and as part of the conference, I was able to partake in a few media trips. I did not expect that there would be so many cool things to do in Riga and that the history of Latvia would be so impressive. First of all, if visiting locations that are not mainstream or overrun with tourists is a priority, Riga is your destination. By my standards, Riga is a relatively undiscovered place. I’m not saying I know everything about everywhere, but I had not heard about all the things to do in Riga. 

The most photographed building in Riga: The House Of Blackheads. It is really hard to miss that building. Demolished years ago by German and Soviet troops, it’s been rebuilt again and again.

The capital city of Latvia straddles the old and new. The old city of Riga is a UNESCO world heritage site where curious wanderers like me can take in the sights for hours in a small city centre. The new – the majority of the city is cosmopolitan, art-driven and oddly vibrant for something that was under the rule of the USSR. I think I expected something boring and gray.

Riga is seriously alive with rich art, steep history, interesting architecture, delicious cuisine and nightlife. The weekend nightlife scene in Riga, from what I experienced, is just like any other metropolitan big city. Be prepared to head out dancing at 1:00 am! Before I left, I told one of my neighbours that I was going to be visiting Riga. He relayed some crazy stories about partying hard there. I’m willing to bet the stories are true. Not because of the fact that John parties hard (he does), but because I partook in some of that nightlife myself.

I was hosted for the tours of Riga and the surrounding area by the Latvia Tourism Department through my participation in the Women In Travel Summit Conference.

I am in old city of Riga, in fact this is where they filmed some of the Bachlorette

Latvia’s Independence

The history of Latvia in the last hundred years has seen it under the rule of Germany and the USSR. Since regaining independence from the fallen USSR in 1991, Latvia has emerged on its own. The country is holding on to its pre-13th century pagan customs mixed with a modern Europe feel. Considered a Baltic nation, it’s worth noting that English is widely spoken and used. For travellers from English speaking countries, it’s a huge relief to know that translator apps and books are not necessary.

The ‘Freedom Monument’ – is the most important landmark in Riga. It is the symbol of Latvian independence and statehood. The inscription “Tēvzemei un brīvībai” means ‘For Fatherland and Freedom”. The woman at the top symbolizes Latvia’s freedom and sovereignty. She holds aloft three stars indicative of the three historical districts of Latvia. The three cultural regions of Latvia are Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale. Rumour has it, her name is Milda.

Brīvības piemineklis - the ‘Freedom Monument - is is the most important landmark, the symbol of Latvian independence and statehood. She holds aloft three stars indicative of the three historical districts of Latvia.

Cool Things To Do In Riga

In Riga, there are so many things to do! I’m going to detail the free things to do in Riga, the usual and unusual things you can do in Latvia. I’m really going to focus on what I got to do. It’s better to speak from experience.

From Riga, the countryside calls for incredible day trip adventures. There are opportunities to venture into the wild boglands for bog walking experiences. There are also national parks to hike and raft, pirts for the true Latvian sauna, wineries to sip and savour, towns to dine and explore in and castles to reminisce and appreciate. 

The coolest event I got to partake in from my time in Riga was a trip to a traditional Latvian sauna for the experience of a lifetime. We did this at Spa Hotel Ezeri after a day of hiking on the outskirts of Riga. You can read all about my Latvian sauna experience here: How To Experience a Traditional Latvia Sauna: Salt Crystals, Bush Beatings and Jumping Naked In A Cold Pond or just read the one paragraph below and see if it tickles your fancy to know more.

The Black Magic Bar in Riga is a cafe setting and confectionary, sells some pretty amazing chocolate and the Black balsam liquer, which is famous in Latvia. And it’s themed with... you guessed it, black magic. Pretty much everything you can buy as a magical and whimsical theme to it.

Free Things To do in Riga

What I personally found is Latvia is highly affordable when compared to many other European countries. Wherever you are travelling from, you will have to convert your currency to the Euro. Coming from Canada, the exchange rate hurts, but I found my Euro stretched farther in Latvia compared to other European destinations. Having travelled through Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia and Poland in 2019, I found that Latvia and Poland were the most inexpensive in terms of the amount of money spent on food and accommodations.

 Gorgeous girl in front of door in Riga, Latvia #doortraits #doorsofeurope #doorsoflatvia #doorsofriga #rigadoors100 #magneticlatvia

A couple of the best and free things to do in Riga are self-guided walking tours of the different districts of the city and hiking in Gauja National Park.

GAUJA NATIONAL PARK

More than half of the land of Latvia is forest and the country does not boast a dense population. That means if you want some peace and quiet, you’ll get it. One of the best places to do that is hiking in Gauja National Park. Here’s something I found to be really cool – one of the hiking trails I was on, Cecīļi Nature Trail actually is on private property, in the national park. There wasn’t a single sign telling you not to trespass, instead, you were welcomed.

Entrance to Cecīļi Nature Trail in Gauja National Park

Straight out of a fantasy movie, on this trail, were carefully crafted from wood saunas and picnic tables to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Cecīļi Nature Trail - Straight out of a fantasy movie, on this trail, were carefully crafted from wood saunas and picnic tables to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

And an adorable two-story cabin. I don’t know if it’s available for bookings and I didn’t see a single outdoor washroom along the path, but I’d stay there.

wooden bunkie on the Cecīļi Nature Trail, Riga Latvia

Interesting to note that alongside parts of the trail are remnants of Soviet bunkers. What was in the bunkers? I don’t know. I asked and our guide and they didn’t know either. Guess it’s just up to our imaginations to concoct up what the Soviets had going on in there back in the time of the USSR!

soviet bunker on the Cecīļi Nature Trail, Riga Latvia

AMATA TRAIL

While this is still inside Gauja National Park, it’s a completely different area than Cecīļi Nature Trail. The Amata trail runs alongside the Amata River and has been referred to as one of the most beautiful trails in Latvia. 

Full disclaimer, I hiked both of these trails in overcast rainy conditions, so if the pictures look a little blah, it’s because I didn’t replace the sky in photoshop. I could have, but that’s a false representation of my experience.

That said, it was hovering around freezing and we saw a few guys actually rafting along the river. Good on them. Latvian people don’t stay stationary or inside. I really admire that. Too bad I didn’t meet any Latvian men to show me around, but I digress…

Amata Trail Zvartes Rock

The Amata Valley is a dolomite and sandstone rich area. It being November, the season wasn’t flaunting the diversity of flora and fauna that I had read about. However, the colour of the soil was bright and reminded me a lot of what would you would see in Prince Edward Island. The hike we took ended at Zvartes Rock and we were treated to an amazing traditional Latvia lunch by Cesis Inside.

You will have to drive from Riga to get to these locations, so there is a cost in transportation. However, the experience is nature will not cost you a penny. So treat yourself to some healthy outdoor time and great scenery!

The end of the hike of the Amata trail, I found a log to sit on and pose

Wander UNESCO World Heritage site – Old Town Riga

There’s something about charming old European cities. They’re all built on rivers, have cool bridges, an old historic section and of course, a modern new section. And the coolest feature for me is always narrow, cobblestone roads. And I love to wander them and imagine the history that wandered before me.

Riga was established in 1201 and it’s a cool Medieval town. Since 1967, it has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is not a lot that remains from 1201, but there certainly is a lot of history from the centuries in between.

Places worth seeing – The House of Blackheads, Riga Castle (not for royalty, the president once lived there), Powder Tower which is a remain of the old fortress of the city, Swedish Gate, The Academy of Sciences (very contentious building with an interesting history). Look for The Riga Cat House.

Intriguing architecture, old churches of different denominations with amazing vantage points and doors. Lots of old European doors to satisfy my lust.

If you’re missing what that reference means, check out my post on Doors of Lisbon, Barcelona and Paris.

Walking the city and taking it all in? Free.

Free things to do in Riga, Latvia? Wander the old town area

Stroll the Art Nouveau section of Town

Beyond intriguing is the best way I can summarize my wander here. Did you know that the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world is in Riga? There are over 800 buildings considered to be Art Nouveau in the centre. Art Nouveau is not my area of expertise to discuss or dissect so I’ll just leave a picture to intrigue you and you can decide on your own.

Stroll the art nouveau section of Riga and fall in love with the architecture

Catch the Sunset on The River Daugava

As a permanent sunset chaser, I had to figure out where to see it in Riga. I took my chances heading west in the direction of the River Daugava and caught a treat! As I have mentioned, the majority of my time in Latvia was subjected to rain and overcast skies. I caught one magnificent sunrise and through enough cloud break, I saw the sunset. Not on a beach, but on water. so I’ll call it worth taking in!

Things to do in Riga? Catch the sunset on River Daugava

Take A Beer Tour in Riga

Beer is typically not free, but this is an experience that won’t break your bank account. And you’ll get an education in brews while doing it. An education in beer and beer history in Riga. Residents of Riga brag that beer is in their blood and that Riga was once a brewing capital of something… I didn’t catch the end of the sentence of what they were the capitol of, just that they were the brewing capital.

Kasia Writes and I enjoying our beer tour of Riga

Over your 3-4 hour tour with Riga Beer District, you will get to sample from four craft breweries in Riga – Valmiermuiža Beer Embassy, LabietisZiemeļu Enkurs and Alķīmiķis. Alkimikis is legendary in Riga – it was recommended to me even by other foreigners I met at my hotel bar. I was told it was the place to go to satisfy some of my excitement for tasting local craft beer.

Price for the beer tour: per 1 person is EUR 38, tasting of 12 local beers and snacks included. It’s a really good deal.

Cheers in Labietis in Riga Latvia on a beer tour

Take In the Views from Panorama Riga

Think from Russia with love. The Latvian Academy of Sciences building is a tragic eyesore. It’s a symbol of the long over and done with Soviet era. It was built to honour Joseph Stalin, a Communist leader. It’s ugly and it has a near twin in Warsaw.

The Latvian Academy of Sciences building is a tragic eyesore. It's redeeming factor is the observation deck and view of Riga.

However, it has an amazing observation deck that gives you a view of the city from pretty much all angles. It does cost a handful of Euros to head on up to the 17th floor to get this view. The view? The picture below with River Daugava during the day time hours.

view of Riga from the science building top floor

Bog Shoeing

If you are looking to see a most unusual landscape like I do and no matter where you are, need some silence, head to one of Latvia’s bogs. Safe to say we can file “bog shoeing” excursion under things I never expected to find myself doing. I did it anyway. Into the wild Latvian Boglands of the Kemeri bog I went. And it’s similar to snowshoeing so it wasn’t hard to figure out how to walk. It was in the end, quite a workout for my glutes!

Our guide in the Kemeri bog showing us the depth in some places

The bogs are floating moss and you have to know where to step in these snowshoes so you don’t sink like in quicksand.

You can get to Kemeri National Park via bus or train from Riga centre for a few Euros or if you book this experience through Purvubrideji with a group, you can arrange transportation.

Bog shoeing activity outside of Riga, Latvia. I'm in a bog wearing something like snowshoes so we don't fall in

Take Part In A Traditional Latvian Sauna

Some things in Europe are a little bit different than North America. We, in North America, tend to be a bit more reserved about public nudity or nudity with strangers. The idea of four naked women rinsing off in a shower together by North American standards is the start of a tantalizing pornographic story. In Latvia, it’s purely part of the sauna ritual.

The traditional Latvia Sauna hut. Or pirts. The steam sauna is in there.

The sauna masters explain to us that in Latvia, it’s recommended to have a sauna experience on a regular basis. Monthly, if not weekly is the normal procedure for Latvians. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Latvia is for males 70, and females, 79. Considering the past and history with Germany and the USSR, the country being a baby in terms of its own growth, that’s not bad. I’ll buy this.

Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but you can definitely read about my experience there here How To Experience a Traditional Latvia Sauna: Salt Crystals, Bush Beatings and Jumping Naked In A Cold Pond. 

The aftermath of the brush outside the sauna house from the Latvia sauna treatment

Convinced to travel to Riga and check out the cool things to do in Latvia? Check out the accommodation options for your dates through my booking.com affiliate search box:



Booking.com

 

Also worth noting, a day trip to Sigulda, Lativa is not a bad idea if you have time. If you’re looking for the small-town charm and adrenaline, try Sigulda. Check out my post on Things To Do in Sigulda, Latvia In A Day. Here you can see The Turaida Museum, take a cable car, tour around on fat bikes and more!

 

KathrynAnywhere is a participant in the Booking.com affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees upon guests booking reservations at the accommodations listed.

There are so many free and cool things to do in Riga! National parks to hike and raft, pirts for the true Latvian sauna, wineries to sip and savour and castles to reminisce and appreciate #thingstodoinRiga #rigaiscool #magneticLatvia #enjoylatvia #rigastories #LatviaLikesYou

Going to Latvia? All the free and cool things to do in Riga! Beer tours, walking tours, art nouveau, old city and modern architecture #thingstodoinRiga #rigaiscool #magneticLatvia #enjoylatvia #rigastories #LatviaLikesYou

Flying With Kids From Canada? What You Need To Know!

Unless you live under a rock up there in the Great White North, you’ve noticed that it is winter around these parts. Sub-zero temperatures, snow, slush, ice, lack of sunshine, people suffering from seasonal affected disorder (SAD), it’s all quite awful to many Canadians. Some families can only endure so much and book themselves on a trip south to the warmth and sunshine. YAY! But wait, they arrive at the airport and find out… GULP – that their family is seated all over the airplane. A child, assigned a seat beside a stranger. Here’s what you need to know about flying with kids from a Canadian airport to the sunny south!

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada #sunnyskies #caribbeanbound #islandlife #oceanblues

 

Flying With Kids From Canada?

1.) As of December 2019, there is the Passenger Bill of Rights. In terms of being seated with your children on the plan, the bill of rights states that airlines must comply with the following seating arrangements:

  •  Under the age of 5: In a seat adjacent to the guardian
  •  Aged 5 to 11: In the same row and separated by no more than one seat from the guardian
  •  Aged 12 or 13: Separated by no more than one row from the guardian

At this point in time, airlines are not obligated to seat your children, who are over the age of 5 with you UNLESS you have pre-purchased your seats on the airplane. Yes, as in pay money for your seat on top of the fare you already paid. Many airlines, including Air Canada, Westjet and Sunwing, have published tariffs on their website that state a parent will be seated with a child under 12 at no cost. It’s not an option that comes up when you book your flights online. You will need to call in after booking to select seats. If you opt to select your seats through their online system, you will have to pay.

Please ensure you check the airline’s policy before you book the tickets. It’s best to be prepared rather than surprised when you arrive at the airport.

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada #flightdelay

Snowstorm Delay?

2.) Weather delays happen. These are delays that are not within the control of the airline. One of the most unfortunate realities of departing from a Canadian city is that there could be a major snowstorm. And that could mean that you and your children will be hanging at the airport for a few hours. Or you’re in the plane, but seated on the tarmac for a while. Or the flight is cancelled and you have to rebook. You can check-in for your flight 24 hours in advance on most airlines, but at that time, the flight coming and going on time is not guaranteed. Check your flight status before you leave your house.

Delays for situations within the control of the airline are a different story. Airlines will be required to compensate passengers for delays not related to safety and other situations within their control. Large carriers such as Air Canada and WestJet will be required to pay more than smaller airlines, such as Porter and Swoop.

Compensation to passengers by large airlines

  •  Delay of 3-6 hours: $400
  •  Delay of 6-9 hours: $700
  •  Delay of 9 hours or more: $1,000

Compensation to passengers by small airlines

  •  Delay of 3-6 hours: $125
  •  Delay of 6-9 hours: $250
  •  Delay of 9 hours or more: $500

The new Passenger Bill of Rights state that passengers must be given the option to receive monetary compensation or a voucher for a delay.

Having insurance on your vacation is the best gift you can give yourself. Being out hundreds or even thousands of dollars due to a weather delay is a terrible situation to be in. It’s one of those things where sure, you could spend a couple extra dollars to upgrade your room view at the resort, or you could spend that couple hundred dollars on insurance. Personally, I buy the insurance and could care less about my room view as I’ll be at the swim-up bar or on the beach.

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada

Kids Do Not Sit Still For Long

3.) A lot of kids do not sit still very well for very long. Shocking bit of information right there! You will have to devote some of your carry on baggage space to small games and activities. As a side bit of information – not all airplanes have TV’s on the seatback. It’s acceptable to walk with your children up and down the airplane aisle as long as you don’t do it during the food and drink service times.

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada

 

Baggage

4.) Speaking of carry on baggage, on most Canadian airlines, passengers are allowed one small carry on bag and a personal item such as a purse or laptop. Check each airline’s website for size restrictions on carry on as it varies. This means that you cannot have bag upon bag of kid’s toys in your hand when you come to board. If your little one can bring their own backpack, make sure whatever they are bringing fits into that backpack.

I recommend that you do be sure to pack extra underwear, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts in there. Bathing suit is a bonus and doesn’t take up much room.

I cannot stress to you how fast the overhead compartments fill up when boarding. The space under the seat in front of you to tuck in bags is small too, so don’t overpack.

Don’t Take That Water Through Security

5.) You cannot bring bottles of water and drink boxes from home in your purse. Due to security measures, all fluids have to either be packed in checked baggage or purchased after you go through security. If your child is insisting to bring it on the way to the airport, have them finish it either in the car, when in line to drop baggage off or in line to go through security. Once they hit the checkpoint though, they have to discard it. Security does not care about your child’s wants.

The same goes for sunscreen by the way! Pack that in checked baggage or purchase it at a much higher price once through security or at your destination.

Exception to the rule: If you are travelling with a baby under two years of age (0-24 months), you can bring baby food, formula, medications, milk, water and juice, in reasonable amounts that will be required during your flight(s) and any connections. These are exempted from the liquids, aerosols and gels restrictions only if you are travelling with a baby under two years of age (0-24 months). They must be presented to a screening officer for a separate inspection.

Single or Solo Parent?

6.) Travelling as a single parent or without your spouse? Get a letter signed by the other parent stating you are allowed to travel across international boundaries with the children. I’ve personally never been asked for the letter at customs, but I would rather have it and have it signed by a lawyer or notary public than being stopped at the border and have the trip ruined. You can get a sample one from the Government of Canada here: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children/consent-letter

Don’t Forget Your Passport

7.) Passport! Don’t forget your passports. Yes, children require a passport. And many countries stipulate that the passport has to be valid for 6 months after travel, just in case you get stuck, stranded, whatever in their country. A parent’s valid passport is not good enough for children to fly on. Even if you are a dual citizen, always carry your Canadian passport so you can access consular services if needed abroad.

aviator child

8.) Here is a lesser-known fact that seems to surprise parents at the gate. Here is why – Canadian Aviation Regulations require that no passenger can be responsible for more than one infant. Infant is classified as a child under the age of 2. If you have two children under the age of two, another passenger must accompany one of your children, even if you buy seats for the babies. Twin babies? Can’t fly solo with them! The reason being is that the evacuation of an aircraft must be done quickly in case of an emergency. Imagine trying to run down the narrow aisle and then bolt out the window slide with two babies in your arms? While supermom says she can do it, the safety of all is at stake.

I do a flight south to the Caribbean with my children every year. Often once or twice during the year to other destinations. My kids are now 10 and 5, so that means I’ve been flying with kids from Canada for more than ten years. I’ve been there and done that! Maybe even seen it too, so if you ever have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!

Flying With Kids? What you need to know! #flyingwithkids #airplanerides #travelwithkids #kidstravel #willisitwithmykids #seatedwithkids #flyingfromcanada #KATHRYNANYWHERE #travelwriter #familytravelblogger #travelbloggersexchange

 

Winter Dry Skin – Is that Psoriasis?

I attended #KnowPso #AbbvieEvent with Dr. Melinda Jennifer Gooderham, of the SKiN Centre for Dermatology to learn about Psoriasis and possible treatments and to bring the information to my readers.

During the winter months here in Ontario, one thing is for certain. Dryness. Dry air from out heaters, not drinking enough water and it wrecks havoc on our skin.

It’s important to note that sometimes skin is just dry. Sometimes you might have Eczema and sometimes you might question – is that Psoriasis?

I attended a brunch with Dr. Melinda Jennifer Gooderham, of the SKiN Centre for Dermatology. She shared all the answers to all the pressing Psoriasis questions.

Is That Psorasis? What to know:

About 1 million Canadian are affected by Psoriasis! That’s many more than I thought and it also means that some people are certainly suffering in silence. It’s a persistent, chronic condition that’s not just on the skin, it’s actually an immune disorder.

Both males and females are susceptible at any age. My son has a dry skin spot on his arm, close to his elbow that I am watching closely. I’m lucky to have never had any issues with dermatological damage, but his father did. Psorasis can range from small flakes to larger widespread patches. You can strike hands, soles of feet, torsos, genitals, knees and elbows. During flare up, it can be itchy and painful under the inflammation.

There is currently no cure for Psoriasis, but treatment can alleviate symptoms and ease it in remission.

If you feel like you might be hiding behind ailments on your skin, and are becoming prone to losses in productivity or mental well being, it’s time to see your doctor for advice. You don’t need to be embarrassed about potential physical issues. If you are suffering from Psoriasis, or suspect that you are, be sure to ask your doctor about Skyrizi for Psoriasis.

Things To Do in Sigulda, Latvia In A Day

My time exploring the things to do in Sigulda, Latvia was courtesy of the Latvia Tourism Department. They foot the bill for all of my exciting experiences and delicious food. My opinions, however, are always mine.

Not typically one to travel north during the fall or winter months, it might come as a bit of a shock to some that I went further north than where I live in Toronto, Canada to travel to Latvia. In November. I went on a hunt for adventures and found a ton of things to do in Sigulda, Latvia to satisfy that lust.

Sigulda has celebrated it’s 800th anniversary and has a population of roughly 11,000 citizens. Of that, 86% are Latvians, 9% are Russian.The outdoor picnic culture in Sigulda. Outdoor areas to sit, eat and enjoy.

Where is Sigulda, Latvia?

Sigulda is east and outside of the capital city of Riga. If you’re curious where Latvia is, it is on the Baltic Sea and borders Russia, Estonia, Belarus, and Lithuania. It was once part of the USSR before that fell apart.

How To Get From Riga to Sigulda?

If you have gotten yourself to Latvia, chances are good you have landed in the capital city of Riga. From there, Sigulda is approximately an hour’s drive away. The highway systems we travelled on seemed a lot like ones we see in Canada and much to my surprise, they also drive on the right side of the road with drivers on the left side of the vehicle. You can also take a bus or a train to get there and they run frequently as Sigulda is regarded as a suburb of the capital.

 

What is Sigulda’s Weather Like?

As I mentioned above, it was November when I travelled to Latvia. I expected to freeze my butt off, however, that didn’t happen. While checking the weather forecast, I realized it was actually warmer by a degree or two there than Toronto. Checking the overall average weather though, the summers seem to be a bit cooler.

Full stop honesty – I didn’t see any sun while in Sigulda. It was incredibly dreary, cloudy and the air was moist. Definitely not the most inspirational weather for travelling, but the sun isn’t everywhere I go. I was assured that they do see some sun there on occasion.

The town actually sees a lot of rainfall and it lies about 100 metres above sea level.

church in the town of Sigulda

Things to Do In Sigulda

We had a full day to explore Sigulda and we fit quite a few activities into it. By no means is this a list of everything there is to do there. This is what we got to experience while there.

Sigulda Cable Car

After breakfast at Spa Hotel Ezeri where we stayed the night before and experienced the traditional Latvian sauna (that’s a story and a half, check that out when you have time), we were picked up and driven to the cable car in Sigulda. Cable Car Sigulda Krimulda takes you over the Gauja valley and river so you can see both sides. From up there on a clear day, you can see the three castles in the area (Sigulda, Turaida and Krimulda) and all the way over to the bobsleigh track… Oh yes, there is one of those!

To see this is autumn, above the treetops would have been a real treat!

View of the Gauja valley and river from the cable car

The return ticket costs 12 Euros for adults and opened at 10:00 am when we were there.

This is also where The Bachelorette did their infamous naked bungee jumping scene. Research tells me that naked bungee jumping is not a thing in Latvia despite what the show wants us to believe. Yes I would bungee jump, not sure if I would do it naked.

Smart Bike Through the town to the Castle of Sigulda

About 100 feet away from the cable car is where you can rent a motorized smart bike and make your way through the town to the Sigulda Medieval Castle. Electric bicycles are a great way to save energy and be able to see all the things you want to get too!

Motorized Smart bikes you can rent to tour around the town of Sigulda with

The castle was built sometime around 1200 protect the Gauja River and to fend off any invasion attempts from the nearby bishop’s castle in Turaida which we visited later in the day!

Ruins of Sigulda Medieval Castle in Latvia

The castle changed hands many times during the centuries through war and damage and by the early 1700s became a private estate until a newer castle was built in the late 1800s where the Medieval Castle eventually fell into ruins. And what romantic ruins they are. You can wander and tour and envision the grandeur of the are in the time gone by.

rear view of the ruins of Sigulda Medieval Castle in Latvia

There’s a great view of the Gauja River Valley from there.

Selfie of me overlooking the Gauja Valley from the ruins of Sigulda Medieval Castle in Latvia

Make A Walking Stick

We stumbled across the cutest little shop where you can make your own souvenir walking stick. The walking stick is a symbol of Sigulda and the workshop where you can make them in is employing a process that dates back more than 200 years. We scrapped the back off with what seemed to be a butter knife and then used a string to help with the curve of the handle.

The walking stick that was carved in the workshop

Guidebooks from the 19th century, are rumoured to say that “a walking stick can be bought from a boy for a walk along Sigulda’s ravines”. Today, the sale of these walking sticks are income for local farmers. The size of the one that I brought home was fairly small and I even got my name carved into the side of it. It totally came home in my suitcase.
Having my name carved into my walking stick

Inspired by the infamous symbol of Sigulda, Walking Stick Park is a great place to let the kids run around!

walking stick park in sigulda, latvia

Sigulda Latvia Bobsleigh and Luge Track

Did you know that there is a world-class bobsleigh and luge track in Sigulda? Teams from all over the world have come to train here for the Olympics!

World class bobsledding and luge track in Sigulda, LatviaWe not only went there to see the track, saw members of teams from France and Germany there… but then ALSO RODE A PADDED BOBSLEIGH IN TEAMS! Quickly helmeted for safety, we were ushered into the sleigh and told to put our bloody phones and camera away. If we didn’t, we’d most certainly lose them.

The bobsleigh and luge track from the top.

We rode in a Vucko, which is the soft bob. Super popular among insane tourists like myself I suppose is the phrase used to describe it. We went down in teams of 4 and may have reached 75km/hour in speed! Our sled made it down in under sixty-seven seconds!

Sigulda Latvia Bobsleigh and Luge Track Did you know that there is a world-class bobsleigh and luge track in Sigulda? I RODE A PADDED BOBSLEIGH! We rode in a Vucko, which is the soft bob. Super popular among insane tourists like myself I suppose is the phrase used to describe it. We went down in teams of 4 and may have reached 75km/hour in speed!

I’m going to have to admit that I did scream and laugh the whole way down. As an adrenaline junkie, I have been known to partake in activities that thrill the hell out of me. This ranked up there with a great rollercoaster.

selfie at the top of the bobsled and luge track

Turaida Museum Reserve

To see one of the best collections the country has to offer in terms of culture, history and archeology, you must plan a visit to the Turaida Museum Reserve!

Turiada Museum Reserve under the ground archeology and history displays

This attraction is home to 42 hectares with a steep history. The ethnic Livonias called this area the Garden of God. One of the not to be missed areas in the reserve is the hill of Folksongs. Commemorated in 1985, there are 26 sculptures in the garden on the hill that symbolize love, honesty and devotion in al the poems and folksongs of Latvian lore.One of the not to be missed areas in the reserve is the hill of Folksongs, Latvia folk song sculptures

Turaida Castle is the part you’ll want to see the most. Much like the spread of Christianity through a lot of Europe, it was during the Crusades that Latvia met Jesus. And this castle, on what was Livonian land was built by the request of a Bishop.

The Turaida Museum from the Tower, just outside of Sigulda, Latvia.

Gutmanis Cave

Gutman’s Cave, located on the Gauja River, in the national park is one of the biggest and most impressive caves in the Baltics.

Gutman's Cave is the widest and highest cave in the Baltic countries, located on the Gauja River in the National Park of Sigulda, Latvia. It started forming more than 10 000 years ago when meltwater eroded the sandstone rock after the Ice Age. It is the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia.

Formed during the ice age, this rock formation is the oldest and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Latvia. Many carvings in the rock, spanning back hundreds of years, you find names, dates, phrases and couple’s inscriptions.

Gutman's Cave interior

Wine Tasting at Cremon

This is me we are talking about, so of course, I had to partake in sampling the local flavour. Inside a former barn houses the winery Cremon where winemaker Janis Mikans makes approximately 15 kinds of wines and liqueurs from berries. Yes, this is berry wine. Berries and flowers to be exact and all locally grown.Inside a former barn houses the winery Cremon where winemaker Janis Mikans makes approximately 15 kinds of wines and liqueurs from berries. Yes, this is berry wine. Berries and flowers to be exact and all locally grown.

Every consider rhubarb and dandelion to make it into a wine vat? Nope, neither did I, but it did and I sampled it!Every consider rhubarb and dandelion to make it into a wine vat? Nope, neither did I, but it did and I sampled it in Cremon winery.

Convinced to travel and check out the things to do in Sigulda, Latvia? Think you might want to stay there for the night or maybe longer? Check out the accommodation options for your dates through my booking.com affiliate search box:
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KathrynAnywhere is a participant in the Booking.com affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees upon guests booking reservations at the accommodations listed.

Wait, Why Were You In Latvia?

Before the summertime of 2019, I have to admit that the country of Latvia was not really on my radar of places to visit any time soon. How did I end up there? I had originally purchased a ticket to head to Kansas City Missouri in the spring of 2020 for the Women In Travel Summit, which is a conference for female travel writers, bloggers and content creators (that includes all the Instagram Models too).

Due to my staunch beliefs that a woman should always be able to control what happens to her body, I decided to boycott any US State that enacted barbaric anti-woman, anti-choice, religious abortion laws. I mean, if they refuse to legislate restrictions on the use of a man’s penis, how dare they legislate what happens to a woman’s uterus? Therefore I would no longer be travelling to Missouri. I contacted the conference organizers to change my ticket, which they graciously agreed to do. So low and behold, I would be travelling to their next conference in Riga, Latvia, which was in November 2019!

I realize that Latvia does have legislation surrounding a woman’s choice as well. However, it’s not as intolerable as what we’re seeing happen in the Puritanical United States. We had a full day to explore Sigulda. By no means is this a list of everything there is to do there. This is what we got to experience while there. magneticlatvia #entergauja #sigulda #wits2019 #witsriga #siguldaturism #smartbike #bobslejs #krimulda_manor #turaida

How To Experience a Traditional Latvia Sauna: Salt Crystals, Bush Beatings and Jumping Naked In A Cold Pond

I was delightfully hosted at hotel Spa Ezeri by the Latvian Tourism Board as part of my travels with the Women In Travel Summit.

“Come, let’s make shower together,” the sauna master says as he leads a completely naked and vulnerable me out of the hot sauna house, in the dark, down the stairs of a deck, to where he proceeds to pour buckets of cold water over my head. I didn’t really have much of a say in the matter. Being led by my arm by a sauna master, a man in a beige linen skirt and a little black sauna master hat at Spa Ezeri hotel, outside of Sigulda in Latvia I’m embracing this walk outside my comfort zone.

Normally I would prefer men buy me dinner and drinks before we take a shower together. This night is not the case. I’m in a traditional Latvian sauna with three other ladies. One woman, Nora I know from the Toronto travel writer world. The other two women, Inma and Jenna, I met earlier that morning and now we’re all naked together. We are being doted on by our two sauna masters, both male. Let’s call this a winning moment, shall we?

Some things in Europe are a little bit different than North America. We, in North America, tend to be a bit more reserved about public nudity or nudity with strangers. The idea of four naked women rinsing off in a shower together by North American standards is the start of a tantalizing pornographic story. In Latvia, it’s purely part of the sauna ritual.

The dried bushes, a whisk, called a slota in Latvia, is used to gently swat the body and stimulate circulation in a sauna.

My First Traditional Latvia Sauna Experience

This is my first Latvian sauna experience and although I had some reservations about being naked with the sauna masters who happened to be men and part of the treatment was to be beaten by them with bushes in the process, it turned out to be amazing. I finished off cocooned on a straw mattress under the stars while having the spins… stone fucking sober. Feeling high as a kite.

Allow me to back up as to how we all got here and explain what the Latvian sauna ritual is. Northern Europeans take their sauna rituals seriously. In Latvia, a traditional sauna experience is a mix of pagan acts, aromatherapy, heat, massage and contemporary sauna experiences. A traditional Latvia sauna is called a pirts. A pirts has served many purposes throughout history, particularly prior to the 13th-century conversion to Christianity. Always a separate building from the homestead, it functioned as a bathhouse, a place to give birth, a place people were taken before passing away and a place for newborns to have their first bath.

Do you remember seeing the movie, Frozen? 

via GIFER

That’s the whole family in a sauna together and that is normal. It was explained to me that often, the father figure of the family would act as the sauna master and perform the ritual with children and grandchildren. They all have towels on, so they’re not based in Latvia clearly.

We had towels to sit on, but we weren’t wearing them. We were not allowed to bring our phones or cameras in, so I will have to paint you a picture with my words.

SPA HOTEL EZERI

After a day of hiking in Gauja National Park, we, as in the other female travel writers I was with on our media trip, are dropped off at Spa Ezeri Hotel for the night. We are divided into two groups for our sauna experience. Upon check-in, we were slightly prepped for what was about to happen. By slightly, the receptionist said it is possible to wear a bathing suit in the sauna. Great, I had packed mine and flip flops too! 

We drop our bags in our room and then I meet back with Nora, Inma and Jenna in the lobby. We are led down to the sauna hut that is also a change room, where we are briefed by one of the sauna masters, who also happens to own the establishment we are in.

Your sauna experience is presided over by a sauna master called a pirtnieks.  One of the pirtnieks talks out of using bathing suits for the purposes of our own health. Essentially we are going to be in and out of the steamy heat and cold pond, exfoliated and whipped with bushes over the course of the next three hours. Sitting in a wet bathing suit bottom is fairly nasty at the best of times.  It’s best we completely disrobe.

This is the moment where Nora from The Professional Hobo and I realize that we’re going to be friends forever after this.

Nora and I accepting the fact that we are about to be nude together for the next few hours. Photo by Inma from https://www.aworldtotravel.com/
Photo by Inma from https://www.aworldtotravel.com/

Let’s Get Naked, Shall We?

In Latvia, a traditional sauna is steeped with pagan rituals that existed prior to the country’s 13th century conversion to Christianity. There didn’t seem to be much modesty or synthetic bathing suits back then, so when in Latvia…

Group selfie of Nora, Inma, Jenna and myself prior post change room, but pre-sauna experience at Spa Hotel Ezeri.

Of course, I’m not going to show a nude picture of us… Geez.

Anyway, once we disrobe and place our belonging in drawers, we are given a robe for the walk to the next sauna hut. There, we were instructed to hang them up and get in the shower. Together. As we all stood there and giggled at the thought, we just knew that was the moment of no going back. Here we go. So on the water came, off the robes went and now we are all rinsing off with one shower head. This is just the surface rinse. The real cleansing is about to begin.

Back in those pagan times, the steam from the sauna stones was thought to have magical, purification powers. We are taken by one of our sauna masters in pairs into the steam room. The pirtneiks remain in there with us and are experiencing the heat as well. They wear a cap and linens. 

The traditional Latvia Sauna hut. Or pirts. The steam sauna is in there.

The Sauna

It’s here in the first session in the sauna that we are introduced to the brushes or whisks of leaves. Used for aromatherapy, the brushes that we are exposed to are leaves from oak and maple trees. They don’t touch us with them yet. They are waved in front of our faces and bodies to create stimulation and movement of the air.

Once it is determined that we have enough of the heat, it’s time to get cooled off.

And this is where we are making a shower with the sauna master. Each of us led out solo to have the buckets of cold pond water poured over our heads with no mercy. I don’t remember if I screamed or giggled in the moment. I’m sure I tried to run away, but really, where are you going? It’s November in a northern Baltic country. You’re not going to get far without any clothes on. I’m fairly certain he was holding me by the arm from fleeing with one hand and pouring the bucket of cold water over my head with the other.

It would be remiss of me to mention that this isn’t something you would do first thing in the morning. These sessions normally start in the late afternoon and evening. It was nightfall by the time the first plunge water was thrust over my head.

The cold pond at the Latvia sauna.

REPEAT

The sauna masters explain to us that in Latvia, it’s recommended to have a sauna experience on a regular basis. Monthly, if not weekly is the normal procedure for Latvians. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Latvia is for males 70, and females, 79. Considering the past and history with Germany and the USSR and the country being a baby in terms of its own growth, that’s not bad. I’ll buy this.

Once you have been sufficiently shocked (um, rinsed off) by the cold water shower, it’s time to go back inside for herbal tea, cheese and fruit and relax. As mentioned, this whole process is close to three hours long so you do not immediately rush back into the heat of the sauna again. When you do make your way back into the heat, the second round of the traditional Latvian sauna experience entails your pirtneik using a salt scrub on your body to cleanse your pores. They massage, follow and trace all your energy lines from your toes to your head to ensure a full purification and relaxation.

The sun went down over the course of the evening in Latvia

You are then led outside again and you are either submerged into the cold pond or once again, cleansed with the cold water from the bucket. When I say submerged, I am not joking.

And at this point, your inhibitions have gone out the window. You’re still naked. Likely very comfortable about it now. This is Lativa. Viva Latvia my friends.

the brushes in the aftermath

Brush Beatings

Your third time in the heat of the sauna is when the brush of leaves are used to gently swat the body and stimulate circulation. Starting from the bottom of your feet, the care and attention is devoted to the whole body. I can see how wearing a bathing suit would be in the way of the process. I cannot fathom the same effect being rendered at the end without the exposure.

Once this ritual is concluded, you are again led outside, in the dark, for your final plunge. Once complete, the sauna masters wrap you with blankets, cocoon you almost and lay you on a straw blanket outside in the fresh air. This is where you feel reborn. Or like a newborn. However you wish to describe it, my heart was beating slow and through my back. I looked up at the stars and was spinning in a euphoria I had yet to ever experience. Not a drunk spin, but a refreshed and cleansed feeling.

When all four of us ladies had been wrapped up, the robes went back on, we were sent back to the changing hut and then we all just laughed and laughed about what we had just done. What an experience. I can’t wait to do this again. Can’t say I’d want to do this with my kids though! The arousal factor after was kind of high – in a very cathartic way.

In Latvia, a traditional sauna experience is a mix of pagan acts, aromatherapy, heat, massage and contemporary sauna experiences. This is how to experience a northern Europe Sauna #Latviatravel #sauna #pirts #latvijaspirtis #latvijapirts #latviansauna #latviasauna The idea of four naked women rinsing off in a shower together by North American standards is the start of a tantalizing pornographic story. In Latvia, it’s purely part of the sauna ritual. Salt Crystals, Bush Beatings and Jumping Naked In A Cold Pond #Latviatravel #sauna #pirts #latvijaspirtis #latvijapirts #latviansauna #latviasauna

Niagara Wine Country – How To Spend A Couple of Days in New York State

I’m the first to admit that I thought that Niagara Wine Country ended at the border to the United States. I believed that there was only wine production on the Ontario side of Niagara, not on the New York side. Like the border was this imaginary line where the topography stopped producing the appropriate climate for wine until you got to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

I was wrong. And pleasantly surprised to learn of my mistake and I don’t mind owning up to my own ignorance. I was never told differently or that there was a wine region on the New York side of Niagara Falls. So, a very happy discovery! You see I like wine and I’ll travel a reasonable distance to taste good wine. 

***I was hosted and treated by the vinifera wineries of Niagara County, NY. While I was wined and dined, I’m always honest in my reviews***

in the basement of Arrowhead Springs Winery - barrels and barrel of their wine in Niagara Wine Country, New York

Niagara Wine Country

North America’s Niagara Escarpment runs east and west mostly through Ontario and New York. It does extend all the way through Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. I had no idea that the reach was that far west until I started the research. The escarpment is best known for the most famous cliff in the whole world. It is where the Niagara River plunges over and thus is called Niagara Falls. I also learned that the Niagara Escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, this is where the oldest forest ecosystem in all of North America lies. I’m pretty chuffed to live this close to it! There’s a lot of great hiking on the escarpment, but I digress…

On the eastern end of the Escarpment and the plains of Lake Ontario, lies a historic grape growing region. Some 400 years ago, Dutch settlers planted vines on a small island in this new world. That was followed by Englishmen on a different island to the East. And then French immigrants in a river valley to the North. Thus the area has now become a wine rich region and Vinifera grapes are the region’s ideal. Many of the wineries in Niagara Wine Country on both sides of the border develop Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling.

The towns and cities that make up this area are Lewiston, Lockport, Niagara Falls, Youngstown and North Tonawanda.

Map of the area mounted on the wall inside of Arrowhead Springs Winery.

Wineries You Will Want To Visit in Wine Country Niagara Falls, New York

Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, Chateau Niagara Winery, Schulze Vineyards & Winery, and Freedom Run Winery are the 4 wineries that are in Niagara Wine Country that I recommend visiting. These wineries have all won awards in the state, at the national and even at the international level and I have tasted their wines myself. If you did not know the Niagara wine region extended over the border into the USA, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I would advise visiting the wineries on your arrival day. This way you have the opportunity to make a purchase and enjoy it over the next couple evenings of your stay if you do not want to attempt to bring it back over the border.

sunset magic hour in the niagara wine country area. picture taken at arrowhead springs.

Arrowhead Spring Vineyards

Robin Ross and her son, James run Arrowhead Spring Vineyards and produce wines that reflect the thoughtful care and effort into the sustainability of the environment in which they reside. They are passionate and enthusiastic winemakers that live and breathe their zest for the finished product.

At Arrowhead Springs, they believe that great wine starts in the vineyards. And they are are not afraid to produce their wine by their own hands. From the field to the bottling, Robin, her husband and James are involved in every step of the way.

The Pinot Noir was one of my favourites and I am thrilled that I was able to bring a bottle home to enjoy later. I also brought back a 2016 Meritage Reserve that was aged for 24 months in Oak Barrels. Now, I truly have a love affair with beer, whiskey or anything else aged in Oak Barrels. The complex flavour of this blend is 55% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Merlot. It will match up to the heartiest of meals.

Selection of wine for sale in Arrowhead Springs winery

Freedom Run Winery

Neighbouring Arrowhead Springs in Lockport, New York is Freedom Run Winery. Freedom Run Winery treats all wine as an art form. 

Freedom Run Winery was one of the founding members of The Niagara Wine Trail. A labour of love for many years, the boutique winery sits on 93 acres of farmland. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is to die for!

The name “Freedom Run” comes from the folklore of the area – it is said that in the time of the Underground Railroad in the 1800s, many former slaves ran through the area at night towards the Niagara River, and across to Canada, to their Freedom.

Freedom Run winery Cabernet Sauvignon. Part of Niagara Wine Country, on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Chateau Niagara Winery

Sitting down for dinner with winemakers  Jim and Kathy Baker from Chateau Niagara Winery is a treat! Jim is a hoot and together they share an incredible passion for the land, the wine, and good food. They also have a curiosity for the exotic and the unique to the region, lovingly crafting Gewürztraminer and Blaufrankish, (also known as Lemberger) and Saperavi.

The winery on the Niagara Plain comprises 31 acres of prime farmland on the banks of 18 Mile Creek in Newfane. Try their Gewurztraminer, you won’t be sorry.

Chateau Niagara Gewurztraminer. Part of Niagara Wine Country, on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Schulze Vineyards & Winery

Like the other wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail, Schulze Vineyards & Winery is a family-owned and invested establishment. 

Boasting country views like none other, Schulze Vineyard sits on 122 acres of land in Burt, New York. They find themselves just minutes from the south shore of Lake Ontario. Starting back in the 1960’s the family business was juice production. After many years, the first wine was produced. The winery officially opened in 2007 and the rest is history.

If you like an off-dry white Riesling hybrid, give their Siegfried Reserve a try.

Siegfried Reserve. Part of Niagara Wine Country, on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Where To Stay – Niagara Crossing Hotel & Spa

Let’s be honest, the fall of 2019 was a little crazy for me in terms of travel. Between backcountry camping in the Kawarthas, to TBEX in Montana to being on the road covering Canada’s federal election for CPAC, I spent a lot of time in hotels. I also had my share of weird mattresses, bad nights of sleep and strange noises in hallways. My bed at Niagara Crossing Hotel and Spa was a dream. The sleep I got that night was fabulous.

My luxurious room at Niagara Crossing Hotel and Spa.

My room was incredibly spacious, inviting and comfortable. Although it was raining fairly hard while I was there, I know I did have an incredible view of the river. The continental breakfast in the lobby was great. There was a waffle maker – I’m sorry my kids missed out on it!

Niagara Crossing Hotel & Spa in Lewiston, NY overlooking the river. Stay here while in Niagara Wine Country.

Lewiston is an incredible historic town in New York state. Known as the last stop of the Underground Railroad, where slaves escaping their landowners and “masters” could get across the river to Canada, the hotel is situated on a hilltop facing the crossing. I’m proud to be from a country that offered safe passage for those looking for a better life. Although Canada has some stains on their history of human rights, this act of bravery that enabled many people to run to freedom is worth celebrating.

The hotel is roughly twenty minutes by car from the border crossing to Canada.

Lewiston, New York“Lewiston, New York” by Dougtone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

What To do In Niagara County

I really want to say that no trip across the border to New York is complete without a visit to the truly amazing and awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. Guss what? That would make me a phony because that was my first time on the New York side of the Falls.

NIAGARA FALLS

Do you know how different the USA side is from the Canadian side? On the Canadian side, it’s like we can’t get enough of the cheesy commercialism. And industry can’t get enough of making money off those who want to come and see them. And the view of the falls is outstanding.

Niagara Falls on the USA side. Looks like Ireland or Scotland!

On the USA side, it’s all parks and walking trails and lookout points. Crossing the border to wander here is worth it. The day I was there, it was raining, so the crowds were light. However, I can envision even on sunny summer days that it would be a treat to be here. As a disclaimer, it was very overcast when I visited. I could have photoshopped blue skies in place of the clouds, but it would be dishonest of me.

Niagara Falls, New York view of the Falls, Canada and Hornblower.

The view of all the hotels of the Canadian side is slightly shocking, I really have to say. All my 40 years of looking at the beauty of the New York side did not prepare me for what was looking back, ha!

Another view of Niagara Falls, Ontario. A must see on your tour through Niagara Wine Country!

See The Martin House Complex

Put on your list of things to do – tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Martin House Complex in Buffalo. Wright designed this insane residence for a rich and prominent Buffalo businessman, Darwin D. Martin and his family back at the beginning of the 1900s. If you appreciate architecture, art and buildings, this compound in an older, upscale neighbourhood should be on your list of places to visit in Niagara Wine Country. 

The Martin House - Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed a unique residential estate for wealthy Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin and his family between 1903-1905, Buffalo, NY

Altogether, the compound consists of six interconnected buildings. There is the main Martin House and a pergola that connects it to a conservatory and carriage house. Then there is Barton House, a smaller residence for family; and a gardener’s cottage added in 1909.

Window view from Inside the The Martin House - Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed a unique residential estate for wealthy Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin and his family between 1903-1905, Buffalo, NY. Things to do on the Niagara Wine Trail

The Martin House definitely has a history of changing hands and disrepair. There is are renovations going on to this day.

There is not just one, but four examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture in Buffalo. If you have the time to see more than one of the buildings while you are enjoying the Niagara Wine Trail, I’ve heard it’s worth doing.

Frank Lloyd Write has 6 interconnected buildings at the Martin House.

 

Where to Eat In Niagara Wine County

Local flavour and culture go hand in hand in New York State. Here are some of my picks of where to eat in the area:

Zam Bistro

Chef Michael Zambito introduced Historic Medina to exceptional service in a fine dining atmosphere after opening Zambistro in 2006.
Boasting seasonal flavors and bold ingredients, the chef creates his own spin on upscale comfort food. Chef Zambito’s extensive seasonal menus present a culinary experience that will ensure your devoted return.

Find Zam Bistro in Medina, New York.

Part of the delicious meal had at Zam Bistro on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Dick and Jenny’s

Restauranteurs Dick and Jenny Benz first met in New Orleans working at a restaurant together – she was a server and he was the chef. After they got married, they decided to open a little dinner restaurant in Uptown New Orleans and they called it Dick & Jenny’s. They had many years of success and then were hit with tragedy – Hurricane Katrina. Dick and Jenny lost their home and eventually relocated to Grand Island, New York to stay with extended family. They sold the restaurant in New Orleans to the staff and eventually started over in New York with their new venture, aptly named Dick and Jenny’s.
The cajun infused menu is amazing and I pretty much recommend it all.

Sampler plate at Dick and Jenny's on Grand Island, NY

The Terrace 

Visitors to The Terrace at Delaware Park are in for a treat! One of the most picturesque settings in all of Buffalo is the home for some of the best dining and cocktails in the city.  

The Terrace in Buffalo

All beautiful interior woodwork and mosaic tiles are a sight to behold. The interior is cozy and modern. The building itself was once a boathouse before it was destroyed by a fire in 1899, rebuilt and it also once lived a life as a casino.

Now, it’s the perfect place for a sunny day to enjoy a cocktail and charcuterie board in the early evening.

Charcuterie board  at the boathouse terrace in Buffalo, New York on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Going Home Across the Border

Please note that border crossing laws can change on short notice. As a Canadian resident, you must be out of the country for more than 48 hours to be exempt from paying taxes on your alcohol and tobacco purchases. After 48 hours, this is what you are allowed to bring back without paying any duty and taxes.

  • You can bring back up to 1.5 litres of wine or 1.14 litres of alcoholic beverages or up to 8.5 litres of beer.
  • You can bring back 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200 grams of manufactured tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks.

The following is my advice if you plan to go and make a weekend trip out of Niagara County and the wine trail. If you plan to purchase and to bring back any wine products from the wonderful vineyards in Niagara Wine Country that you are going to visit, cross the border from Canada into New York as close to noon as possible. That would make your 48 hours, two days later at the same time. If you plan to have a lunch stop BEFORE you cross back into Canada, you will surpass the 48-hour threshold.

Enjoy responsibly and please don’t drink and drive.

I thought that Niagara Wine Country ended at the border to the United States. I believed that there was only wine production on the Ontario side of Niagara, not on the New York side.  I was wrong.  #niagarawinecountry #niagarawinetrail #niagarawinecounty #niagarafallsny #lewiston #lewistonNY #lockport #lockportNY #arrowheadsprings #freedomrun #NYwine #NYwineries Spending a couple days on the Niagara Wine trail What to see and do in a couple days in New York State. #niagarawinecountry #niagarawinetrail #niagarawinecounty #niagarafallsny #lewiston #lewistonNY #lockport #lockportNY #arrowheadsprings #freedomrun #NYwine #NYwineries