Queen Victoria Park is a fixture of the Niagara Falls riverside, and the Oakes Garden Theatre is easily the queen’s crown. As both a venue for public and private events and a superbly-crafted garden environment, the theatre grounds are the centrepiece of Clifton Hills and Niagara at large.
The theatre has been open since 1937, designed in a fan shape with a Greco-Roman aesthetic for an amphitheatre feel – except with much more greenery. The garden opens up along the riverside to provide a direct view of the Horseshoe and America Falls upriver. The rest of the grounds features a variety of terraces, rock gardens and lily ponds constitute a free-flowing landscape wrapped around the more structured and formalised gardens in the center. The overall feel is of a small space of serenity, offering a separation from the more modern developments around the Niagara riverfront.
This is precisely the reason why the garden is so popular for hosting public and private events, using its unique setting to full effect. The amphitheatre setting is ideal for performances and concerts, and the City of Niagara uses it to full effect for larger events and festivals, especially in the summer months – New Year’s Eve being only one notable example. Movies and live broadcasts are also screened in the gardens for special events.
The gardens are also a favoured setting for weddings, with pergolas set up along the river’s edge using the aptly-named Bridal Veil Falls central in an unparalleled backdrop. The gardens provide perfectly for a small intimate ceremony, with the surrounding restaurants giving plenty of opportunities to continue the festivities.
There are so many global influences woven together – the Victorian garden beds, the Mediterranean architecture, the Japanese-inspired lily ponds – and yet with all the plant life remaining indigenous, the garden is still distinctly Canadian. Whether going for an event, to admire the view of the falls or just to take a stroll around the ponds and colourful surrounds, the garden theatre is a unique fixture with something for everyone to admire. As its own attraction or a seat to view the rest of the Niagara landscape, the garden theatre is an essential destination.
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