This southwestern Ontario city is best known as being the birthplace of the telephone, though it was named after important Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. Brantford is a small, but historic city, as well as a city that is filled with culture.
There is much to see and do for a city of its size, attracting people both domestically and from further afar. There are museums, historic sites, recreational activities, markets and some great yearly events, making it a city that everyone can enjoy. If you ever visit the city or are looking for an escape from the larger city of Hamilton, these are the 14 best things to do in Brantford.
1. See where the telephone was invented
The Bell Homestead National Historic Site was the home of Alexander Graham Bell and it is in this home that he invested the telephone. Today, the home is one of Brantford’s biggest draws.
Walk around the four hectare property and through Melville House, which is now a museum. The large 10-room, two story wooden farmhouse opened its doors to the public in October 1910.
Also onsite is Henderson House, which was once home to the business office of Canada’s first telephone company. It is now a telephone museum that features exhibits of early telephone technology that dates back to the 1880s.
2. Go to church
And not just any church, but Upper Canada’s first ever Anglican Church. Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks also happens to be the oldest surviving church in the entire province of Ontario!
The carpenter gothic church was built in 1785 and constructed by the British Crown for the Mohawk people. Today, the chapel is a national historic site and a Chapel Royal.
Visitors are able to visit the church from May until October, but it closes its doors for the rest of the year. Still, it is open all year for weddings, Christian baptismal services and other types of religious moments.
3. Look at art, both inside and outside
Brantford is a city of art, being home to a great little gallery as well as numerous works of public art. Wander around and look at some great art done by local artists.
The Glenhyrst Art Gallery is the city’s main gallery, which is located in a beautiful park on the banks of the Grand River. The gallery has 600 works of art in its collection that are both contemporary and traditional.
Another great place to look at art in Brantford is at the Robinson Fine Arts Gallery. This private gallery has some beautiful art on display, all of which is for sale!
4. Beat the heat
If you happen to be visiting Brantford in the summer, then a great way to beat the heat is by splashing around at the Earl Haig Family Fun Park. This fun water park is run by the city and is great for people of all ages.
The park features a 182 metres long lazy river, an 18 metres high water slide, a splash pad and an 18-hole mini putt. Plus, there are batting cages, picnic areas and a leisure pool.
The Earl Haig Family Fun Park is an outdoor attraction, which means it is only open in the summer. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t find fun things to do in Brantford in the winter months.
5. Skate around
The greatest hockey player ever, Wayne Gretzky, hails from Brantford, so it is a given that it is a great place to go ice skating. In fact, there is a massive sports arena named after ‘The Great One’ where visitors can do just that.
The Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre is more than just an ice rink and hockey arena. It also has a swimming pool, an indoor track and a weight room.
You can literally spend an entire day here, skating, exercising and swimming. If you have kids in tow, no problem at all, the centre even has day camps and kid care.
6. Sleep under the stars
Nestled in a bend of the Grand River is the Brant Park Conservation Area, which is the best place in the city to sleep under the stars. In fact, it boasts over 400 camping sites, 126 of which are hook-up sites.
The conservation area is a fantastic place for outdoor lovers to be at one with nature, offering canoeing, fishing and swimming. There is also a trail that runs along the river that is great for hiking and cycling.
Those that would rather not rough it can still spend a day here enjoying all of the outdoor activities that it offers. You can even bring a picnic lunch or cook up burgers on a barbeque.
7. Place a bet
At a casino that is, as Brantford is home to the large Elements Casino Brantford. A great thing about this casino is that profits go to the Trillium Foundation, who then distribute them to charities.
Place a bet at the craps table, roulette, blackjack, baccarat or three card poker, amongst others. There are also slot machines and a poker room where larger antes are made.
Elements Casino Brantford also has live local entertainment and an excellent restaurant. There is even a bar that stays open until 2am!
8. Get close to animals
This happens at the Brantford Twin Valley Zoo, which is stretched across 10 hectares just east of the city. The zoo houses both native and exotic animals that visitors can get close to.
There are flamingos, zebras, kangaroos, lions and tigers at the zoo, as well as peacocks, fox, wolves, bears and deer. Some of the animals are grown up, while others are just babies!
This is a great zoo for getting close to animals and is especially great for the kids. They can learn all about each animals living here, and may even get the change to pet some of the animals.
9. Go to the theatre
The Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts is located right in the heart of the city. It offers theatre performances and concert by local artists, including the Brantford Symphony Orchestra.
The theatre first opened its doors in 1919 as a vaudeville and silent movie house. It later become a cinema, but the city purchased it and made it a performing arts centre in 1986.
Today, there are shows going on for people of all ages, as well as ones that anyone of any age can enjoy. If you are visiting Brantford and want to enjoy a night out, the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts is highly recommended.
10. Enjoy the food
Yes, believe it or not, there are a plethora of restaurant options in this small city; from fine dining to pub grub. There is not a lot in terms of international cuisine, but there are still plenty of options.
For something special, head to The Olde School Restaurant for escargots, filet mignon, rack of lamb or Alaskan king crab legs, or take a dinner cruise along the Grand River. There’s also Trattoria Giuliana, Cafe Andreou and The Keg.
If you want something more casual, try the Sociable Kitchen + Tavern, Starving Artist Gallery Café or Warmington’s Bistro. Don’t forget to have a coffee and doughnut at Tim Hortons.
11. Enjoy a scenic walk
The 14 kilometre SC Johnson Trail runs between Brantford and Paris, passing through some lovely scenery along the way. Walk through farmland, prairie grasslands and vistas that overlook the Grand River.
The trail starts where River Road becomes Eagle Avenue just south of the city centre on the east side of the river. Many start here or at Wilkes Dam, as there is a car park there. The trail can also be accessed at Kraemer’s Way, which is the halfway point.
The SC Johnson Trail is linked to many other trails both in the city and outside of it. It offers hiking and cycling all year, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.
12. Take the kids on an adventure
This can be done at the Kidtastic Adventures, an indoor play area just for the kids. The jungle themed indoor playground caters to children up to the age of 10.
The kids can climb, slide, jump and crawl through spaces, all of which have a jungle theme. It is a great place for them to release their energy and go on an adventure.
Kidtastic Adventures is open every day all year and has rates for kids and for the whole family. They even have half and full day summer camp, so the kids can stay and enjoy while mum and dad go off and explore Brantford on their own.
13. Learn about the Canadian military
The Canadian Military Heritage Museum is the place to go to if you are interested in anything military related. The museum is all about the Canadian military, displaying artefacts from many wars.
See an MG 08 Spandau machine gun from WWI, a Ferret armoured car and a replica of a Pfalz DIII fighter plane. The museum even has a display of artefacts that date back to the War of 1812.
Also on display are weapons that were used by the Six Nations long before Confederation or the World Wars. Visiting the museum is a step back into time and a lesson on the Canadian military.
14. Shop at the market
The Brantford Farmers’ Market takes place every week on Friday and Saturday, serving up to 3,500 people each week. It is a great place to spend a morning shopping for fresh food and souvenirs.
The market was first established in 1848 to serve residents of the city and its surrounding area. Today, it is also a tourist attraction and a great place for visitors to go to mingle with the community.
Many residents set up booths selling fresh produce from their farm, freshly made food, and arts and crafts. There are around 50 indoor stalls, as well as an additional 20 stalls outside between May and November.