Windsor is a mid-sized city that sits right along the Detroit River opposite the US city of Detroit. It is a city of history and culture, which can be seen at every turn, what with its historic architecture, modern towers and multicultural residents.
Tourism plays a big part in Windsor’s economy, as it is home to numerous fabulous attractions. It is also home to some lovely parks and green spaces, a lively downtown area and some great festivals. Here are the best things to do in Windsor:
1. Try your luck at a casino
There are four casinos in the Detroit–Windsor area, though Caesars Windsor is the only one in Windsor itself. The casino sits along the waterfront overlooking Detroit, so even if you don’t want to gamble you can still enjoy the views from the bar.
The casino attracts over six million visitors each year, featuring a Roman Empire theme. Try your luck at Caesars Windsor’s poker tables, blackjack tables, craps tables or baccarat tables, or slip coins into one of its many slot machines.
In addition to gambling, the casino also lets you bet on sports games at its onsite sports bar. Bets are taken on any professional sports game as well as American college basketball and football games.
2. Go back in time
Having such a long history, it should be of no surprise that Windsor is home to a number of National Historic sites. Go back in time and visit these iconic buildings.
One of the most notable historic sites in the city is Willistead Manor; a Tudor-Jacobean style manor house that was designed by architect Albert Kahn. The mansion has a total of 36 rooms and sits in the middle of a beautiful park.
François Bâby House was built by politician François Baby and today is home to Windsor’s Community Museum. Then there is the Sandwich First Baptist Church, which was established by Underground Railroad refugees.
3. Go for a bike ride
If you love the outdoors and cycling, the Roy A. Battagello River Walk Bike Trail is a must. The trail starts at the Ambassador Bridge and continues through the city for eight kilometres.
The bike trail goes through Downtown Windsor and many of its parks, including Dieppe Gardens and the Windsor Sculpture Park. It also connects with other trails, like the Russell Street Neighbourhood Trail and the La Salle Trail Network.
There are five service spots along the Roy A. Battagello River Walk Bike Trail where you can stop and rest, put air in your tires or just enjoy the skyline and the river. Parts of it also runs along main streets in the city, though there are designated bicycle lanes.
4. Look at art
A great thing about Windsor is that this can be done both inside and outside. On a nice day, go for a leisurely stroll around the Windsor Sculpture Park, which is home to 35 large-scale sculptures.
If you would rather stay indoors, head to the Art Gallery of Windsor. The gallery was established in 1943, and since then it has grown considerably.
One of the country’s best collections of Canadian art is displayed at the gallery, though there are also pieces by international artists. Wander around the gallery and look at the art, either in the permanent or temporary galleries.
5. Splash around at a water park
On a hot or a cool day you can have some fun splashing around the Adventure Bay Family Water Park. The 10,000+ square metre water park is one year-round, although some parts of it only open in the summer months.
People of all ages can enjoy the waterpark’s five waterslides, surfing simulator, wave pool and lazy river. There is also a dry area where kids can play on a three-level giant playground.
The Python is the most thrilling attraction in the park, while Tot Loch is best for the young ones. After splashing around you can relax and get a snack at the concession stand.
6. Wander around a garden
There are a plethora of lovely gardens in Windsor that make for a nice afternoon. These are all over the city, although Coventry Gardens is one of the best of the best.
Coventry Gardens is a 28,000 square metre park that sits right along the riverfront. The park dates back to 1931 and is home to several historic monuments.
Dieppe Gardens is another great place to walk around, what with its beautiful flowers and grassed area. The Bert Weeks Memorial Gardens features a curved waterfall, a terraced garden and a reflecting pool.
7. Head to the beach
Yes, there is a beach in Windsor. It is right at the mouth of the Detroit River on the very northeast corner of the city.
Sandpoint Beach; aka Stop 26, is the most popular beach in the area, which opens from May 24 to September every year. The beach is backed by a lovely park that is great for relaxing, sunbathing and picnicking.
Spend a hot summer day windsurfing, boarding or swimming, or just walk along the Ganatchino Trail and enjoy the fresh air. There are also barbeque areas, volleyball courts and shady treed areas, as well as ice cream stands and other concession booths.
8. Be one with nature
The 350-hectare Ojibway Prairie Complex is filled with parks, trails and nature reserves. It is a fantastic place to go if you want to surround yourself in nature.
There are five separate areas within the complex, including Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve. In addition to hiking through the complex, you can also join a fee educational program or enjoy one of its exhibits.
While exploring the complex, you may encounter lizards, turtles, frogs, bats and even snakes. It is also a fantastic place for bird watching, as there are a plethora of bids that call the forests, prairies and ponds home.
9. Go on a walking tour
What started off as a French Parish is now a community that has seen many faces in history. Ford City is a community that was formed around the Canadian Ford Motor Company.
There are several examples of different types of architecture within the planned community, many of which were built by or for immigrants that came to work for the massive car manufacturer. Go on a walking tour of Ford City and explore this unique area of the city.
Some iconic buildings within the community include its four Byzantine-styled Orthodox churches and Edgemere, which was the house of Wallace Campbell. There are also murals on many of the building depicting the story of Ford and of Ford City.
10. Enjoy a festival
Being quite a culturally rich city it should be of no surprise that Windsor hosts many annual festivals and events. Some of these are in conjunction with Detroit, while others are only within Windsor itself.
Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival is the largest of them all, which is put on by the two cities. The festival is held during Canada Day (July 1st) and the Fourth of July and features one of the world’s biggest fireworks displays.
If you enjoy music, don’t miss Bluesfest International Windsor each July, while cinema lovers should be sure to check out the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival if visiting in June. There is also the Windsor Emancipation Celebration Festival that is held in August.
11. Play a round of golf
There are a couple of fantastic golf courses in Windsor that any golfer should play a round in if visiting the city. One is a newer course, while the other dates back to 1926.
The Thomas McBroom designed Ambassador Golf Club was ranked as one of the top new courses in the country! It is an 18-hole, 71 par course that is open to the public.
The historic Roseland Golf Course is actually designated as an Ontario Heritage Site. Since it opened its doors it has hosted numerous tournaments, and will still challenge any golfer to this day.
12. Visit an island
The 36 hectare Peche Island sits on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. It is completely uninhabited, but is open to the public for day trips.
On the island there are beaches, trails and picnic areas. It also boasts spectacular views of Detroit.
The only way to get to the island is by boat, canoe or kayak, so be sure to be prepared before heading there. But it is well worth the visit, as it makes for a great place to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet.
13. Drink whiskey
Everyone knows that Canadian Club is of course a brand of Canadian Whiskey. But what many people don’t know is that it was founded in Windsor.
The Canadian Club Brand Centre was built in 1894 and is today a historic site. The building itself is a stunning example of historic architecture in the city, although most come to the centre for the whiskey.
Canadian Club is over 155 years old. Visit the centre and take a 90 minute tour of the building and learn about the history of the whiskey. The tour of course ends with a tasting.
14. Be a scholar
Not literally, although you can take a course at the University of Windsor. However, its grounds and architecture are far more interesting to visitors.
The university was established in 1857 as a theological institution. Today it is a 51 hectares campus of greenery, a riverside promenade and some beautiful buildings.
Dillon Hall is the oldest building on campus, which dates back to when the university first opened its doors. Other iconic buildings at the university include Memorial Hall, Lambton Tower and the Odette Building.
15. Go shopping
Being a border city, Windsor is of course a shopper’s haven. There are duty free shops, specialty shops and shopping malls that will please any shopaholic.
Cigars is the biggest buy in Windsor, as the finest Cubans can be snatched up for great bargains. Fashionistas will want to head to Devonshire Mall or the Windsor Crossing Premium Outlets.
If you are coming in from or heading to the USA, be sure to make a stop at one of the duty-free shops. There are two, both of which sell all of the usual duty-free goods.