Photo by: Brenden Cowan
Let’s face it: when you’re a university student in a small Ontario city in the middle of a never-ending winter, it feels near impossible to find something fun to do. Once you mix this level of boredom with being low on funds, you’re stuck with a recipe for disaster.
Despite popular opinion, however, there are a few options around Brock and Niagara at-large for students to take advantage of for a fun time on a dime.
Wander Around Port Dalhousie
Port Dalhousie is a waterfront community in the northern end of St. Catharines. It’s known for its quaint appeal and rowing on the Henley Pond, but Port Dalhousie also has a number of charming shops, ice cream spots, cafés and restaurants, and perhaps most notable for those on a tight budget: a nice waterfront trail and a near-free (¢5) historic carousel ride that runs during the warmer months.
Although it’s a bit chilly this time of year, taking time to walk around outdoors can be a great form of study break. To cut down further on costs, Brock students can take public transit to get to Port Dalhousie, with a number of routes arriving in the community on both weekdays and weekends.
Visit Historic Sites Around Niagara
You may already know this but the Niagara Region has a rich history and it can be explored by students for cheap.
Within St. Catharines, you can visit spots like the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre where you can learn about the history of the city and can watch ships go through the locks. The museum and canals centre is technically free, although they ask for donations around the $5 mark. If watching a ship pass through the locks is of particular interest to you, check out the schedule to ensure that you go at a time where there is one to see.
Another historic centre that students can visit for free is Niagara-on-the-Lake’s museum, which is home to many interesting artefacts from the early colonial period of the town. The museum’s entry cost is $2 for full-time students and they have a number of exhibits, both those that are continuously present and those that are sessional. In addition, the public can access free online guided walking tours to help them during their visit. Like Port Dalhousie, Niagara-on-the-Lake is accessible by a number of public transit options.
Enjoy Niagara’s Natural Beauty
This time of year, the Niagara Region might be seen as dull, grey, and cold. While this may be true, there are a few outdoor spots for students to visit and escape the drab winter conditions – or at least pretend to.
Near Brock, there is Short Hills Provincial Park, which is accessible through a number of street entrances. Short Hills has seven trails to choose from and a number of waterfalls to look at. The trails range in difficulty and length, with some taking up to three hours to complete. Those with accessibility needs can visit the specially-designated Palaeozoic Path, which is meant to be usable for strollers, wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
If you’re looking to get away from St. Catharines for a few hours, you can visit Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in Grimsby – a small town sitting on the border of Niagara and Hamilton. Commonly referred to as “Beamer’s,” the area has a number of lookouts where you can see across Niagara and Lake Ontario. Those looking for a more intense hike can also head down the trail’s stairs to meet-up with the Bruce Trail. Ensure that you check conditions before venturing out as oftentimes the aforementioned stairs can become slippery during wet or snowy conditions.
Unlike the other mentioned spots, the Niagara Botanical Gardens is a man-made spot in Niagara Falls on the Niagara Parkway where students can enjoy award-winning horticulture. Unlike many botanical gardens, Niagara’s is free to enjoy for visitors, featuring over 80,000 plant species, a number of walking trails and greenhouses.
Those wishing to visit one of these spots are reminded to be respectful to nature, including staying on marked trails and carrying out any litter you create.
This is just a short list of things to do for near-free or completely free in the Niagara Region. Although being a student can mean sticking to a strict budget, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get out and have fun.