things to do in kingston - Kingston-Pen

25 Things To Do In Kingston, Ontario (Weekend Guide)

If you’re looking to travel locally, Canada has some amazing places that often go undiscovered by locals. Spend a weekend in Kingston and explore the many hidden gems that the city has to offer.

For me, Kingston has always been just there. You pass it on your way to visiting Montreal, you pass it on a trip to Ottawa and you pass it while travelling to Toronto. End of story.

Yet, I have a colleague who raves about Kingston all the time and like most Torontonians who think Toronto is Canada, I politely give her that “Yeah, yeah I’ll visit it one-day” nod and smile. But then two things happened since I last politely nodded and smiled. Kingston was on The Amazing Race Canada which made me excited. And then the lead singer for the iconic Canadian band The Tragically Hip, Gord Downie (Kingston native) passed away at 53 which made me sad.

These two events finally convinced me to take a weekend trip to Kingston. And I’m so glad they did, because while there I managed to collect a list of things you can do there. 

So if you’re in town for the weekend, or just passing through and wanting to explore the area, this list of things to do in Kingston should be all you need.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
things to do in kingston

Table of Contents

Kingston History
Getting To Kingston
Places To Stay In Kingston
The Big Apple
(On route from Toronto)
Things To Do In Kingston, Ontario – Day 1
(Pan Chancho Bakery, Kingston City Hall, Confederation Park, Shoal Tower National Historic Site, Spirit of Sir John A. Canadian Pacific, St. George Cathedral, LaSalle Causeway, Fort Frederick, Fort Henry & Chez Piggy)
Things To Do In Kingston, Ontario – Day 2
(CRAVE Coffee House & Bakery, Kingston Penitentiary, Bellevue House, Murney Tower, Queen’s University Campus, Dianne’s Fish Shack & Smokehouse, Mio Gelato & Kingston Brewing Company)
Tours To Do In Kingston

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A Little Bit of Kingston History

  • Kingston is a city in eastern Ontario, Canada. It is on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at the beginning of the St. Lawrence River and at the mouth of the Cataraqui River (south end of the Rideau Canal). 
  • It is also home to The Thousand Islands tourist region, nearby the east.
  • Kingston is nicknamed the “Limestone City” because of the many heritage buildings that are constructed using local limestone. 
  • Kingston was once named the first capital of the United Province of Canada on February 10, 1841. While it’s time as a capital city was short (ending in 1844), the community has remained an important military installation.
things to do in kingston this weekend

How To Travel To Kingston

As mentioned above, Kingston is very much on the way to or from the larger cities. And you’re just a ±2-hour trip from Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. This makes it quite accessible, and there are plenty of ways to reach your destination.

  • Kingston Airport (YGK), also known as Norman Rogers Airport, is located within a 15-minute drive to the city’s historic downtown core.tings.
  • There are buses going to Kingston from most major centres around Canada.
  • My favourite way to travel between the cities, you can hop on a train from many of the major cities and arrive safely in Kingston.
  • This option gives you the most freedom to plan your Kingston itinerary as you wish. You can stop along the way and enjoy surrounding attractions, and when you’re in the city you have reliable, independent transportation.

Places To Stay In Kingston, Ontario

Delta Hotels Kingston Waterfront

The Delta is located right on the lake and it’s close to many restaurants, plus it’s easy to get around on foot. The room’s average is around $220 CAD and is clean and well maintained with most of the rooms having views overlooking the harbour or the lake. The hotel also has its in-house award-winning restaurant, the Aqua Terra.

TRIP ADVISOR

Econo Lodge City Centre

The Econo Lodge City Centre is for those who are looking for a room under $200 CAD per night with a free breakfast. It’s a two-star accommodation offering a modest clean room with a comfy bed. Simple is good.

 

Trip Advisor

What Do In Kingston, Ontario This Weekend… 

FYI., This list is pretty long, so you’re going to need at least two days to complete it. If you just don’t have that long, then pick your favourites and do just those. 

1) Stop Off At The Big Apple (From Toronto)

Location: 262 Orchard Rd, Colborne
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8 am to 7 pm

Like Kingston, The Big Apple is another one of those places you drive by on your way to or from someplace else. When driving by it’s hard to miss Mr. Applehead, an observatory and the world’s largest apple-shaped structure in which you can climb up and get some great views of the surrounding countryside…

Meh. I’ll save that, the petting zoo and the mini-golf course for the children.

Me, I’m after that apple pie, it’s legendary around these parts…

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The Night Before…

2) ENJOY INDIAN CUISINE AT CURRY ORIGINAL KINGSTON

Location: 253 Ontario St A
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 5 pm to 9 pm

Curry Original’s owners have been pioneers of fine Indian Cuisine in Kingston for the past 25 years. Using only authentic Indian herbs, every dish you eat – accompanied by the restaurant atmosphere (art on the walls, rich spicy aromas) feels like you just landed in India. If you like Indian food this is the spot.

curry-original - what to do in kingston

Things To Do In Kingston This Weekend

Day 1

3) Try Out Delicious Treats From Pan Chancho Bakery

Location: 44 Princess St
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8 am to 5 pm

Pan Chancho Bakery is a delicious European style bakery, a gourmet food shop and a dine-in cafe. They sell all types of artisanal bread, pastries, cakes and gourmet grab and go deli items. They even have their own line of canned goods and frozen meals.

In the evening, they have local beers on tap, signature cocktails and wines. You can choose to have your meal in their courtyard patio or in a private dining room.

to do in kingston - Pan-Chancho-Bakery

4) Take A Guided Tour Of Kingston City Hall 

Location: 216 Ontario St
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8:30 am – 4:30 pm 

Kingston’s City Hall is a national historic site and the centre for administering and governing the City of Kingston. It was built in 1844 and is one of the finest century buildings in Canada. There are free guided tours for those who want to learn more about its heritage and architecture.

kingston this weekend - Kingston-City-Hall

5) Walk Through Confederation Park 

Location: Between Ontario St and Waterfront Pathway
Opening hours: 24/7

Confederation Park is nicknamed – the heart and soul of Kingston. It’s the perfect spot to do your morning walk, watch the sunset or just hang out. Concerts and festivals are also held there. This is definitely one of the top things to see in Kingston.

Since it’s been raining all morning the park looks sort of grey and sort of empty.

kingston this weekend - Kingston-City-Hall

6) Investigate Shoal Tower National Historic Site

Location: Seen from the Waterfront Pathway
Opening hours: 24/7

7) Check Out The Spirit Of Sir John A. Canadian Pacific

Location: 209 Ontario St
Opening hours: 24/7

The Spirit of Sir John A. also called Engine 1095, is one of the rarest symbols of 19th-century technology and industry that still exists today. This is a great stop off to get a few photos and take in the stunning train. Kingston was once home to the Canadian Locomotive Company for more than 100 years. This company built more than 3,000 steam, electric and diesel engines for the Canadian Pacific Railway, including ‘The Spirit of Sir John A.’

When I see trains, I get excited – especially these old trains. Before she retired my Mom worked at CN (Canadian National Railway) so as a result, I hung out in train yards – a lot!

8) Step Inside The Charming St. George Cathedral

Location: 270 King St E

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10 am to 4 pm 

St. George Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Kingston, known for retaining its old charm. It’s a local landmark, and quite a sight to behold. There are still religious services held inside the church, but you can visit outside of worship hours to admire the structure. 

what to do in kingston - St.-George-Cathedral

9) Walk Along LaSalle Causeway

Location: LaSalle Causeway
Opening hours: 24/7

LaSalle Causeway is a bascule bridge – which I admit I needed to look up. Bascule means movable bridge and it was named after René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle who oversaw the construction of Fort Frontenac in 1673, which is now the western end of the causeway. 

LaSalle-Causeway - things to do in kingston this weekend

10) Tour Fort Frederick

Location: 15 Passchendale Dr #9
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8 am to 4:30 pm

Frederick is a historic military building located on Point Frederick on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). Its construction dates back to 1846 and the Oregon boundary dispute. 

The fort consists of earthworks surrounding a Martello tower and it is included in two separate National Historic Sites of Canada: Kingston Fortifications National Historic Site and the Point Frederick Buildings National Historic Site.

what to do in kingston - Fort-Frederick
Fort-Frederick - what to do in kingston
Fort-Frederick - what to do in kingston
Fort-Frederick - what to do in kingston
Fort-Frederick - what to do in kingston
Fort-Frederick - what to do in kingston
Fort-Frederick - what to do in kingston

11) Head To Fort Henry

Location: 1 Fort Henry Dr
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9:30 am – 5 pm

The original Fort Henry was built in the 18th century. It is located between Great Britain (Canada being a British colony at the time) and the United States of America but bears no resemblance to the existing fort. During the War of 1812, the British anticipated an attack on Point Henry due to its proximity to the Royal Naval Dockyards and to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. 

kingston this weekend - Fort-Henry
kingston this weekend - Fort-Henry
kingston this weekend - Fort-Henry
kingston this weekend - Fort-Henry
kingston this weekend - Fort-Henry

12) Grab A Drink At Sir John A. Pub (The Public House)

Location: 343 King St E
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11 am to 2 am; Sun 10:30 am to 2 am

The Public House is a cozy pub in the heart of historic downtown Kingston in a building that once served as the law office to Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister.

Earlier this year the bar came under fire, due to the fact that it was named after Sir John A. Macdonald, which didn’t have a stellar reputation for his treatment of Aboriginals. In the spirit of reconciliation with our Native Canadians, lobbyists started protesting in front of the pub which caused the owner to drop Sir John’s name and call it The Public House. Lots of controversies started on whether this was a good move or a bad move.

Personally, I’m on the fence with this one but feel free to leave a comment below so we can have a discussion.

things to do in kingston - The-Public-House

13) Pig-Out At Chez Piggy

Location: 68 Princess St
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 am to 9 pm; Sat & Sun 10:30 am to 9 pm

Chez Piggy is Kingston’s best-known restaurant since 1979 despite the fact that it is located in what was once an abandoned limestone horse stable. Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

Their menu is inspired by the flavours of world travel and is a destination in itself for foodies. It is a perfect choice for afternoon cocktails on the courtyard patio, your family celebration, a night out with friends or a romantic dinner.

Oh, and to bring everything full circle Chez Piggy gets all its bread from Pan Chancho Bakery.

things to do in kingston - Chez-Piggy
Chez-Piggy - things to do in kingston

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What To Do In Kingston This Weekend?

Day 2

14) Satisfy Caffeine and Sugar Cravings – Crave Cafe, Kingston

Location: 166 Princess St
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 7:30 am to 8 pm

CRAVE Coffee House & Bakery is Kingston’s largest independently owned and operated coffee house, scratch bakery, and full-service kitchen. If you have a sweet tooth like me you’ll definitely love their seashell macarons, butter tarts and gluten-free carrot cake.

15) Go Straight To Jail – Kingston Penitentiary

Location: 560 King St W
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 8:40 am to 6 pm

Kingston Penitentiary is Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum-security prison. Once considered a dumping ground for Canada’s diabolical criminals, it’s most well-known for holding one of Canada’s most notorious and evil inmates – Paul Bernardo.

A standard tour costs $35 each and honestly was one of the best tours I’ve ever taken. The tour incorporates stories told by the actual guards who once worked there.

what to do in kingston on - Kingston-Penitentiary
what to do in kingston on - Kingston-Penitentiary
what to do in kingston on - Kingston-Penitentiary
what to do in kingston on - Kingston-Penitentiary
what to do in kingston on - Kingston-Penitentiary

16) Explore The Bellevue House

Location: 35 Centre St
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10 am to 5 pm 

Bellevue House National Historic Site of Canada was the home to Prime Minister Sir John Alexander Macdonald from 1848 to 1849. It was constructed around 1840 and is one of the first examples of Italian Villa architecture in Canada. Sir John A. Macdonald moved into the house with his wife Isabella Clark and their son John Alexander in 1848. A trip here includes an old maid as your guide, who shares her story as well as narrating the house’s rich history.

to do in kingston - to do in kingston
to do in kingston
to do in kingston

17) Learn About Murney Tower

Location: 2 King St W
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10 am to 5 pm 

The Murney Tower was built in 1846 because of the Oregon Crisis to defend the St. Lawrence River from an American invasion. In 2007, Murney Tower became part of the Rideau Canal and Kingston Fortifications World Heritage Site – the 14th World Heritage Site in Canada and the only one in Ontario.

things to do in kingston - Murney-Tower

18) Discover Queen’s University Campus

Location: 99 University Ave
Opening hours: Visitors can take scheduled or self-guided tours

Queen’s University is a public research university in Canada. It was founded on 16 October 1841 via a royal charter issued by Queen Victoria but what’s interesting is the university predates Canada’s founding by 26 years. Even if you’re way too old to consider applying for the university, you can pay the building a visit and learn more about its history. There are often guided tours, but self-guided tours are also allowed, making it easier to do things on your own time.

things to do in kingston on
things to do in kingston on - Queens-University-Campus
things to do in kingston on
things to do in kingston on
things to do in kingston on

19) Indulge Yourself At Dianne’s Fish Shack & Smoke House 

Location: 195 Ontario St
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 am to 9 pm; Sat & Sun 10:30 am to 9 pm

Just steps from the waterfront is a classic East Coast Kitchen that meets the flavours of Mexico! Think lobster rolls, fish n’ chips & oysters along with tacos, guacamole & Mexican BBQ. Plus, savoury grilled steaks, burgers, salads, sandwiches and more! From the bar; you can grab ice-cold craft beer & local wine on tap. Premium whiskies & tequilas, refreshing cocktails and the city’s best fresh-squeezed lime margaritas.

kingston weekend getaways - Diannes-Fish-Shack-Smokehouse
kingston weekend getaways - Diannes-Fish-Shack-Smokehouse

20) Feast On All Things Sweet and Frozen At Mio Gelato

Location: 178 Ontario St
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12 pm to 10 pm

Started in 2010, Mio Gelato serves the best gelato, sorbet, frozen yogurt and ice cream. Locals say they “come for the gelato, but stay for the sorbet”. Mango pineapple is the best flavour for sorbet and charcoal coconut for gelato.

21) Visit The KBC Kingston

Location: 34 Clarence St
Opening hours: Sat-Thurs 12 to 10 pm; Fri 12 to 11 pm

The Kingston Brewing Company is Ontario’s oldest brewpub and is Canada’s oldest wine-producing pub. Beers, wines, ciders and soda pops are made on the premises. A courtyard and street-front patio, as well as a banquet room (known as the Dragon’s Lair), makes this pub a must-visit. It has a large collection of beer memorabilia and pub photos which admittedly can get a little distracting.

The building where the KBC is located used to be a telegraph office — and the original vaults are still in use.

kbc kingston - Kingston-Brewery-Company
kbc kingston - Kingston-Brewery-Company

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Tours To Do In Kingston

Guided tours can be a great option for anyone looking to experience as much of the city as possible in a short time. They’re also a great way to meet other visitors, and of course, your tour guide is usually a bundle of information and travel advice.

22) 1000 Island Cruises – 9 Min Kingston Discovery Cruise

Location: 248 Ontario St, Kingston
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10 am – 7 pm
Average cost: $35 Canadian per adult

Kingston’s Discovery Cruise introduces the unique sights and heritage of the 1000 Islands region and the historic waterfront of Canada’s First Capital. This cruise passes close to National Park Islands and National Historic Sites. It includes a lively narration of Kingston’s history and natural setting. It focuses on the history and waterfront of the city of Kingston, and its place at the beginning of the St Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands region.

Note: If you prefer to see things from above, there are also 1000 Island helicopter tours available.

My dear friend Kathryn from Kathryn Anywhere wrote all about it HERE: How To Vacation With Kids In The 1000 Islands. In addition, my long-time friend Kevin from Wandering Wagers wrote the Complete Guide To Thousand Islands National Park and A Tale of Two Castles in the Thousand Islands.

23) Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour

Location: Meeting point at 209 Ontario Street
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9 am to 5 pm
Average cost: From $30 Canadian

When you’re short on time, it can be tricky to get around to each and every must-see on this list. This is why a hop-on-hop-off trolley works so well for Kingston sightseeing. You get a lift to the big-ticket spots, enough time to get off and explore, and then a punctual pick-up and off to the next one. 

Buy a 48-hour pass to the trolley and you can space your trip out between the two days. This will mean less rushing and plenty more time to delve into Kingston’s history.

24) Ghost Trolley Tour

Location: Meeting point at 209 Ontario Street
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9 am to 5 pm
Average cost: $40 Canadian

For something a little different, take a guided ghost tour through Kingston’s older, apparently haunted areas. Enjoy a spooky trolley ride through the city as your guide tells legends and stories about the history of mysterious buildings. You also get the chance to get out and walk through the cemetery – if you dare.

kingston things to do this weekend

Image by Evi T on Usplash

25) City Walking Tours

Location: Various
Opening hours: Various
Average cost: Some are free

Often the best way to see any new destination is on foot. This helps you slow things down and really get a lay of the land. Taking a guided walk through the city gives you the perfect opportunity to really see the landmarks, buildings, and Kingston attractions that you’re passing by. 

You can pick your favourite walks, choosing from historic, architecture, food, and even haunted strolls. Or try this walking tour with tea.

Enjoy More Kingston Weekend Getaways

I can see why my colleague was raving about visiting Kingston. It’s a beautiful city…and no Toronto is not the centre of the universe… it’s the centre of Canada. All kidding aside, I would absolutely come back here again or at the very least purposely stop by for the day or spend the night while on my way to Montreal or Ottawa. There is so much history here, so many stories and true Canadians with genuine Canadian friendliness.

If you’re a foodie and don’t mind making the 28-minute drive to the nearby town of Gananoque, my good friend Chris from Traveling Mitch wrote about The Best Restaurants in Gananoque, Ontario! for Ultimate Ontario. 

things to do in kingston

Image by Evi T on Usplash

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