Back in the nineties, when I used to be a tour guide, my favourite trip was of New England and the Maritimes. I lead that tour 22 times and I never tired of it. From the American Revolution to the expulsion of the Acadians, the history behind the area was fascinating and very much "in your face". The sites, attractions and people kept it alive.

The same can be said for the Niagara area this year as Parks Canada and Ontario prepare to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

If you are thinking of heading to the region this summer I would encourage you to do more than just soak in the Falls. With a large number of special events and attractions happening this summer, it will be a great opportunity to really appreciate the culture and history of Ontario.

Here are some highlights:

Fort George, Niagara on the Lake

On June 18, the official date war was declared 200 years ago, Parks Canada's 200th Anniversary of the War 1812 evening will take place from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The Fort will be abuzz with music, muskets, lights and sound as it hosts the opening of several exciting displays including the opening of the new museum and interactive experience at Fort George. Also, the premiere of Part 1 of "Forged in Fire," the new War of 1812 documentary, will take place as will the premiere of the new Son and Lumiere show, "Flames of War." Admission is free.

On June 30 check out the Bi-Centennial Concert Celebration, which will feature The Tragically Hip, Death Cab for Cutie and The New Pornographers.

Old Fort Erie, Fort Erie

On August 11 and 12 witness the fierce fighting of 1814 which turned Old Fort Erie into Canada's bloodiest battlefield. Ongoing events will take place throughout the weekend at Canada's largest 1812 re-enactment. Watch the Fort come alive during special lantern tours after the Saturday evening battle. Camps and battles are open to the public and the admission is free.

One June 23 the town of Fort Erie will pay tribute to the soldiers from the War of 1812 with the largest Grande Parade in North America. General Rick Hillier, the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces, will be the honorary Parade Marshal, saluting the procession of more than 50 marching bands, floats, antique cars, and more. The celebration will continue that evening with a traditional Military Tattoo at Old Fort Erie. The night will conclude with an 1812 themed fireworks display.

FortHenry, Kingston

One June 30 check out the Flight of the Royal George and Evening Military Tattoo. Head out to the hill on June 30th to witness an 1812 encampment, tour the new Discovery Centre and take part in daily activities. A War of 1812 speaker series featuring Gary Gibson and Major John Grodinzski will take place, as well as an English Country Dancing workshop. Purchase a combo ticket to the event and also gain access to Fort Henry's Evening Military Tattoo starting at 7:30 PM on June 30th. A small Naval Re-enactment will take place from 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., prior to the Tattoo.

The re-enactment of the Flight of the Royal George on July 1 will see an incredible series of events unfold between Bath and Kingston along the shores of Lake Ontario. This living history event will feature three tall ships and seven gunboats in a carefully orchestrated display of military history. Be a spectator at one of the largest naval re-enactments to take place over the bicentennial celebrations.

In addition to these and numerous other events, don't miss some of the key 1812 sites in the Niagara Region including:

  • Laura Secord Homestead. This was the residence of Canadian heroine Laura Secord from 1803 to 1835. It was the starting point of Secord's perilous 32 km journey to warn the British of an imminent American surprise attack in June of 1813 during the War of 1812. It is in the village of Queenston, just off the scenic Niagara Parkway, and is conveniently located just minutes away from a People Mover bus stop.
  • Brock's Monument. This 56-metre column atop Queenston Heights is dedicated to Major General Sir Isaac Brock, one of Canada's heroes of the War of 1812. Brock and his Canadian aides-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, are buried at the monument's base on the heights above the battlefield, where both men fell during the Battle of Queenston Heights. A 235-step spiral staircase up the column leads visitors to a small indoor platform underneath Brock's statue. Porthole windows provide views of the surrounding Niagara region and Lake Ontario.

For more information on this year's War of 1812 celebrations visit the websites for 1812 Niagara-on-the-Lake and Old Town Tours.