Visiting Ontario’s Waterloo Region: 10 Must-See Stops!
Known both for its urban technology hubs and rural wide-open spaces, Waterloo Region provides visitors with many unique opportunities to explore. Here are 10 things to see and do when you visit Waterloo Region, located in the heart of southwestern Ontario!
Waterloo Region is made up of the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. It also includes four rural townships—Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich and North Dumfries—and it’s in the countryside of Woolwich that you’ll find the picturesque Village of St. Jacobs. Spend the day shopping its boutique-style stores, indulge in delectable baking and enjoy the serenity a day in the country brings. St. Jacobs is steeped in Mennonite history, and it’s not unusual to see traditional horse and buggies driving through the village. Just down the road you’ll find Canada’s largest year-round farmers’ market—the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. Make sure to take home some apple fritters!
Cycle the Trails
You can cycle almost anywhere in Waterloo Region. With trails winding through each of the cities and townships, there are many different landscapes for cyclists of all abilities to explore. The Trans Canada Trail makes its way through the Region as it follows along the Iron Horse, Schneider’s Creek, Homer Watson, and Kissing Bridge trailways. Bikepacking enthusiasts can tackle the Grand Nith Rambler (GNR) route, while mountain bikers can experience the thrill of the Hydrocut Trails—considered one of Ontario’s top mountain biking destinations. For a truly unique adventure, Grand Experiences offers a guided 2-day/2-night cycling trip through St. Jacobs’ Mennonite country called The Path Less Travelled—which has been designated as an Ontario Signature Experience.
Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa
Langdon Hall is one of only 14 properties in Canada recognized by Relais & Châteaux for its standard of excellence and luxury. Situated in Cambridge and surrounded by rare Carolinian forest, Langdon Hall is known for its incredible Five-Diamond dining experiences, exquisite accommodations and its beautiful architecture that resembles an old Ontario estate. Stroll through the stunning gardens, be part of an interactive culinary activity, relax and rejuvenate at Langdon’s award-winning spa, or take a complimentary bicycle and explore the property’s 12km of trails. A stay at Langdon Hall is sure to spoil you, while also feeling like a home away from home.
For anyone planning a trip to Waterloo Region in the fall, experiencing Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is a must! This is Canada’s largest Bavarian festival, and celebrates Waterloo Region’s German roots. There are many ways to enjoy an Oktoberfest experience during the festival. With different festhallen venues offering authentic experiences, and dozens of family and cultural events to choose from, Oktoberfest has something for everyone! Enjoy traditional dancing and German food (including schnitzel and strudel), and raise your glass to a rousing chorus of “Ein Prosit”—which roughly translates to “Good Health”. It’s all part of the fun and Gemütlichkeit that is Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest!
The Old Post Office
The Old Post Office in Cambridge is the newest location of the City of Cambridge’s library, known as Idea Exchange. It has the distinction of being Canada’s first all-digital library, and is a creative space where visitors can explore, create and build! Originally built in 1885, the building was restored and reopened in 2018. Since then, the Old Post Office has received numerous architectural awards including a 2020 International Architectural Award for Libraries. The Reading Room on the main floor features large glass panels that overlook the Grand River—it’s a beautiful place to read, enjoy a coffee and take in the view. While the Old Post Office is a stunning limestone building by day, the structure’s facade really shines at night as themed digital light shows illuminate the building on select evenings!
Fashion History Museum
In the mid-1800’s, the City of Cambridge became known as an industrial community that was home to many wool and textile mills. Fast forward to 2013, when the city’s textile past made it the perfect home for a new Fashion History Museum. With more than 10,000 artifacts including 19th and 20th century French, British, American, and Canadian clothing and accessories, the Fashion History Museum has been recognized as one of the finest collections in Canada.
The Grand River
The Grand, as it’s known locally, is a scenic and significant river that has been designated as a Canadian Heritage River. Waterloo Region is at the heart of this waterway that winds its way through the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. The Grand River watershed is on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples: there is evidence of settlement in the area by the Neutral First Nation people dating back to the 1500s. Spend a day on the Grand River in a canoe, kayak or tube to get scenic views of the Region from an entirely different perspective. The Grand River is also home to more that 90 different species of fish, and is popular destination for reel and fly fishing.
Talk about one-stop family fun! Bingemans is Waterloo Region’s largest attraction and offers year-round activities. There’s Big Splash—the region’s largest—two mini golf courses, Kingpin bowlounge, an indoor playground, camping, the On The Grand Drive-In and more. Bingemans also hosts special events throughout the year that attract thousands of visitors to Waterloo Region. Each fall thrill seekers head to Bingemans to see if they are brave enough to make it through the six terrifying attractions that make up Screampark, while the holiday season at Bingemans shines with Gift of Lights—a family-friendly drive-thru holiday light display.
Ontario’s craft-brewing craze got its start in Waterloo Region in 1984 when the Brick Brewing Company first opened its doors. From its origins in Uptown Waterloo to its current large-scale brewing facility in Kitchener, Brick Brewing changed its name to Waterloo Brewing and is now Ontario’s largest Canadian-owned brewery. “Pour the Boar!” and try one of Waterloo Brewing’s many award-winning craft beers, including the Dark Lager (and if you want to find out the story behind the boar’s head on Waterloo Brewing’s packaging, be sure and ask your server!)
Waterloo Region Museum
For many people, exploring a new area includes finding out more about its history. The Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum is the place to go to not only see but experience a piece of the Region’s past. The museum’s main gallery features the exhibit What Makes Us Who We Are? and tells the story of Waterloo Region, while the second floor of the main museum gallery is where you’ll find the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame. Also at the museum is a 60-acre living history exhibit called Doon Heritage Village. You can stroll through the village where more than 22 restored buildings and costumed interpreters provide a glimpse into what life was like in Waterloo Region in the year 1914.
For more things to see and do in Waterloo Region, check out explorewaterloo.ca.