Located in the Region of Waterloo, Kitchener is a wonderful and vibrant place. The town’s mixture of activities, combined with its small-town vibe, makes it the ideal place to explore. It’s also only a 75-minute drive from Toronto making it a great place for a day trip from Toronto.
Whether you enjoy spending an exciting day in the great outdoors or a cozy day browsing collections in galleries and museums, we have loads of fun things to do in Kitchener for the whole family.
Be sure to check out things to do in Waterloo, Kitchener’s neighbouring city!
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Honour the City’s German Heritage
Have you ever dreamed of experiencing Germany’s Oktoberfest? Well, I certainly have. While it might not be that easy to travel internationally at the moment, you can still get a taste of Oktoberfest in little old Kitchener.
This Bavaria Festival was first launched in 1969 and has evolved into a large, popular event. In fact, it’s one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany! With music, dancing, and plenty of beer to get drunk, the annual Oktoberfest in Kitchener, Waterloo, should be on the top of your list of things to do.
Uncover the Ways of the Mennonites
The Mennonite Story
Just a 15-minute drive from Kitchener, you’ll find the historic village of St. Jacobs. Here, you can discover the life of the Old Order Mennonite population. I found their way of life incredibly fascinating and we highly recommend The Mennonite Story. Our super friendly and informative host Gerry Horst explained the migration to North America, the different types of Mennonites, uncovered myths and so much more!
Aberfoyle Model Railway & Waterloo Central Railway
A model train city at Aberfoyle Model Railway and a railway ride on the Waterloo Central Railway are just two things to do in St. Jacobs. Additionally, this old-world settlement also boasts incredible eateries and an array of retailers selling hand-crafted artisan goods such as pottery, quilts, and glasswork.
Visit a Museum
To be honest, museums sometimes get a bad rep for being more boring than thrilling – especially amongst kids. Well, I can tell you that this certainly won’t be the case at TheMuseum.
Here, you’ll come across exciting exhibits that emphasize interaction – graffiti and animation are just two of the things you can try here. The museum also hosts events for special holidays, like Halloween or St Patrick’s Day.
Immerse Yourself in Nature
Huron Natural Area
While Kitchener already has a laid-back setting, spending some time in nature is one of the best ways to enjoy even more peace and quiet. Located along Strasburg Creek, the Huron Natural Area boasts 107 hectares of streams, meadows, forests, and wetlands.
Trails and boardwalks wind through the park for you to meander or hike along. While taking in the gorgeous scenery, be sure to keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife living here. This is sure to be a hit with the kids too.
Victoria Park is the oldest park in Kitchener, opening in 1896. The park still has some of its original features; its iron bridge, flower beds, trees and shrubs. Victoria is not only home to the historic pavilion, a popular event and wedding venue. It is also is home to Otis and Ophelia, Kitchener’s swans. They live in the park during the summer and travel to Stratford for the winter. Aside from the Kitchener clock tower, this is where a few popular events take place: Cruising on King Street, Kitchener Blues Festival & Ribfest!
If you’ve got a creative soul, then the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery is the place to go. With its extensive array of contemporary artwork (created by both local and international artists), this is definitely where Kitchener shows off its cultural riches.
Apart from its exhibitions, the art gallery also hosts many events, tours, and workshops to educate and include all family members.
Tip: The gallery is open every day of the week, except Mondays.
Head to the Slopes
When the snow falls, the slopes call! Whether you love skiing, snowboarding, or tubing, you can do it all at Chicopee Ski Club. With eleven runs varying in difficulty, it’s a great place for both novices and pros looking to enjoy winter activities in Ontario.
While winter sports may be exhilarating, Chicopee also offers many things to do during the summer months. Mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing are just a few of the adrenaline-infused activities to try out. You’ll also find volleyball and tennis courts where you can get all your friends and family members involved.
Learn More About Kitchener’s History
If history is your thing, then you’ve come to the right place. Despite Kitchener’s smaller size, it guards a large portion of the area’s history. There are many places where you can uncover Kitchener’s heritage; I recommend heading to Schneider Haus and the Doon Heritage Village.
Schneider Haus National Historic Site
This Kitchener landmark is also the oldest home in the town. Here, costumed staff perform the traditional tasks once undertaken by the residents who lived here in the early 1800s.
You’ll find this monument in Kitchener’s downtown area. With over 200 years of history, it holds significant value for the Kitchener community.
Mount Hope Cemetery
As strange as this suggestion may seem, a stroll amongst the headstones at Mount Hope Cemetery is a unique way to learn about Kitchener’s past.
Here, you’ll find the resting places of prominent leaders from the Kitchener community, such as politicians and well-known businessmen. In addition to this, the graveyard features several historical monuments. One of these is the war monument, commemorating Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War.
Ken Seiling Musuem & Doon Heritage Village
This historical site offers you the chance to see what life in the Waterloo region was really like in the early 1900s. Spread out over 60 acres, the village features historic buildings, farm animals, and a host of fun, interactive activities for you to try.
Knowledgeable guides are there every step of the way to act out the histories and teach you about the village’s past. I found that this made the experience that much more authentic.
To access the village, you’ll have to purchase a ticket for the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum (which I loved).
Tip: The museum is open from Thursday until Sunday. However, the Doon Heritage Village has its own schedule for opening times, so be sure to check their website first. Also, tickets must be purchased in advance.
Woodside National Historic Site
Built in 1853, this historical home has seen many tenants. The most prominent was William Lyon Mackenzie King, who lived here with his family from 1886 till 1893. For those of you who may not know, William King was Canada’s tenth Prime Minister and occupied this position over three non-consecutive terms.
Today, visiting this historic home gives you the chance to catch a glimpse into what William’s boyhood would have been like in the late 1800s. Audio and visual presentations provide enriching information about the King family and the Woodside site. There are also several fun, family-friendly activities, such as crokinole and bagatelle.
When you’re not touring the Victorian home, admiring heirlooms, be sure to take a stroll through the gorgeous gardens and 11.5-acre forest. The gardens surrounding the home have been landscaped according to letters and other records from Kings time here, in order to recreate the garden that once existed in the 1890s.
During the Industrial Age, throngs of immigrants moved to Canada to find jobs and create prosperous lives for themselves. Scottish immigrant, James Livingston, was no exception to this trend. When James moved to Ontario in 1854 with his brother, he began working on a flax mill. Little did James know that the time spent working here would lay the foundations for his successful empire.
James and his brother went on to build their own flax mill as well as a linseed oil mill and started the ‘J & J Livingston Linseed Oil Company’. Their business grew from strength to strength, and by 1877, James was known by many as the Flax and Oil King of Canada.
To represent this ‘royal status,’ Livingston decided to construct his very own castle. The name, Castle Kilbride, pays homage to his Scottish hometown of East Kilbride. As you stroll through the castle, you’ll come across numerous beautiful murals and statues and also get the chance to learn about James’ interesting life.
There’s no need to fear if you can’t make it to Kitchener in time for Oktoberfest. With its rich German heritage, Kitchener is home to a host of craft breweries offering unique beers on tap.
At CounterPoint Brewing Company, you’ll find magnificent craft beers that are both well-balanced and have an experimental twist. The Descendants Beer and Beverage Co Ltd are known for their award-winning beers, making it a great pit stop for a freshly poured pint
Ready to Explore Kitchener in Ontario, Canada?
Kitchener’s mixture of history, culture, outdoor activities, and food and beverage scene make it an exciting place for anyone to visit. If this sounds like a town you would like to see, consider including nearby areas like Cambridge and the greater metropolitan area of Waterloo in your visit.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to pack up the car and head out on a road trip.