Kitchener is a lovely city with a small town vibe that is located in in the Saint Lawrence Lowlands of Southwestern Ontario. The former German Mennonite town is now a thriving city with a lot of European heritage, much of which can be seen today.
Kitchener is a culturally rich city with loads to offer any visitor. Still, it is often missed by many, though its proximity to Toronto makes it an excellent choice for anyone that wants to explore a different kind of city. If you do find yourself contemplating visiting, here are the best things to do in Kitchener:
1. Have fun at a museum
Some may not think of a museum as ‘fun’, but THEMUSEUM is all about having fun. The museum is an interactive museum that is predominately aimed at kids.
Children of all ages can practice their graffiti skills on a wall, create an animation film, construct a fort, lie on a bed of nails or dance on a giant piano. There is also a 125 gallon fish tank, an indoor garden and a few art installation pieces.
In addition to the permanent exhibitions, there are also temporary ones that offer loads more fun to museum visitors. The museum also hosts special events on holidays, like Cinco De Mayo, St Patrick’s Day and Halloween.
2. Drink like you would in Germany
Yes, that is correct, drinking is a favourite pastime in Kitchener, especially considering its German heritage. But what’s more is that the city has the world’s largest Oktoberfest outside of Berlin.
The Bavarian festival is held every year in October and lasts nine days, starting the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving. Around 700,000 people come to the festival each year.
Drinking copious amounts of beer is the main theme of Oktoberfest, although there are also cultural activities that go on. The most well-known non-drinking event is the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade.
3. Go back in time
See what life was like in the region in 1914 at the Doon Heritage Village. This 24 hectare living history village is filled with homes from the era that have been removed, restored and rebuilt here.
Go back in time as you walk around the village and admire what life was like then. There are barns and other buildings, and staff is dressed up in costumes from the time.
There is a post office, a grocery store, a sawmill, a harness shop and a fire hall at the Doon Heritage Village, amongst many other things. Explore the buildings, watch the farm animals being fed and wander around the beautiful gardens.
4. Go skiing
The Chicopee Ski Club features 11 runs for all different levels. Whether you are a pro or a beginner you can go skiing while in Kitchener. It is also possible to go snowboarding and tubing.
The ski club actually officially changed its name to the Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort. This means it is open year round.
Visit in the summer and go mountain biking or hiking, or climb its 9.1 metre high rock-climbing wall. There are also volleyball and tennis courts onsite.
5. Spend a day in a park
Right in Downtown Kitchener is a beautiful park; the Victoria Park. This is also the oldest park in the city and it is a great place to spend a day.
The park was designed by the same people that designed New York’s Central Park, complete with a lake and lovely gardens. Other features include a clock tower, a bronze statue of Queen Victoria and a bandstand.
Bring a picnic to the park or enjoy a meal at its onsite restaurant. Don’t forget to stroll along the pathways and breathe in the fresh air.
6. Play a round of golf
It seems that no matter where you go there is sure to be a golf course nearby, and the same is true in Kitchener. There are two golf courses in the city that will please any golfer, both of which are championship courses.
The Doon Valley sits right next to the Grand River and has an 18-hole and 9-hole course, as well as a Pitch ‘n Putt course. After playing a round or practicing your swing, grab a bite to eat and/or a beer at the restaurant.
The 18-hole, par-70 Rockway Golf Course was designed by Stanley Thompson. It is known to be one of the finest public courses in all of Ontario.
7. Stroll through a graveyard
This seems a bit dark, but a stroll through Mount Hope Cemetery is also a walk through history. The cemetery is the oldest in the city and where many notable people lie.
In addition to headstones, the cemetery also has some historic monuments within it that date back to the 1700s. There are politicians, prominent historic business leaders and entrepreneurs that lay in the cemetery.
Guided walking tours are available of Mount Hope Cemetery, or download a map and tour around it yourself. There are three designated tours that guide you through the historic cemetery.
8. Grab a bite to eat
Regardless of what you fancy, there is sure to be a restaurant that appeals to you. Kitchener is not big, but it does have a great selection of places to eat.
The downtown area has the most options and the most variety in terms of cuisine. Greek, Japanese, Caribbean, Chinese and Ethiopian cuisine are all available, as is, or course, German fare.
If you want to eat on the cheap, head to a food court in a shopping mall. There is also a farmers’ market that is great for grabbing fresh fruit or a quick snack.
9. Look at art
Kitchener is a culturally rich city. And with that comes a great art gallery; the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery showcases contemporary art by both Canadian and international artists. A great thing about the gallery is that it is partnered with a few others that loan their work to each other, broadening the art that is on display.
In addition to displaying permanent pieces, the gallery also has special exhibits and events. It also hosts art programs for adults, children and families.
10. Enjoy a show
There are a few venues in the city for watching a theatrical play, a musical or the symphony. Some are small community theatres, while others are large 2,000+ seat venues.
The biggest venue in Kitchener is Centre In The Square, which is a theatre and performing arts centre in the downtown area. The theatre is best known for being the home of the K-W Symphony and for its Broadway shows.
The Registry Theatre is a small theatre that features inexpensive performances. There is also the community Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, Lost&Found Theatre Company and the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre, which is the oldest in the city.
11. Get involved with the culture
Meaning, go to a festival, in which there are many, most of which are culturally based. Oktoberfest is the biggest, though there are also a few other great ones that should not be missed.
If you are a music fan, come for the three-day KOI Music Festival in September, which features over 100 bands. If you can’t make that one, go to the Kultrun World Music Festival in July.
The two-day Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival is also great. The festival has been running for over 50 years and features food, music and dance from all over the world.
12. Learn about the city’s history
This can be done at the Waterloo Region Museum, which showcases over 12,000 years of the history of the area. It can also be done by visiting historic sites.
One of these is the Joseph Schneider Haus that was built in 1816 and today is a living museum. Homer Watson House & Gallery is another, which is the former home of the Canadian landscape painter.
Another great one is the Woodside National Historic Site, which is the childhood home of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The house was built in 1853 and in additional to the Victorian era home, also features stunning gardens and lawns.
13. Be Harry Houdini
Enjoy live games and get your adrenaline going at the Adventure Rooms. There are four different rooms, each of which allows you to do Houdini type escapes.
At the Adventure Rooms you have to escape or break free from a room you are locked in before the 60-minute clock turns to zero. This is done by searching for codes, keys and other clues.
Up to seven people can play on a team together. They also can accommodate larger groups that will complete against each other.
14. Surround yourself in nature
Any nature lover should spend time at the Huron Natural Area. The 107-hectare area is great for hiking, photographing and just enjoying the natural surroundings.
The Huron Natural Area is home to streams, meadows, forests and wetlands. There are also several hiking trails and boardwalks, as well as lookout areas where you can truly take in the spectacular scenery.
Trails run through the forest, the meadow, the woodland and along Strasburg Creek. All of these trails stem from one main asphalt trail that starts at the main access area.
15. Shop till you drop
Like any city, Kitchener also has its fair share of places where you can spend your money. Downtown is where you will find independent shops, while the Fairview Park Mall is the place to go for brands.
Fairview Park Mall is the largest mall in the region, having large shops like Walmart, The Bay and Sears. Other known stores in the mall include The Gap, Banana Republic, American Eagle Outfitters and The Body Shop.
For a more unique shopping experience, head to the Kitchener Market. The market is held every Wednesday and Saturday morning and a number of artisans sell their products here.