Kitchener Ontario Travel Guide. Detailed review of attractions including heritage sites, museums, the famous farmers' market and more.
This large southwestern Ontario city in the Region of Waterloo is famous for its German Oktoberfest, an annual event that draws thousands of visitors intent on enjoying folk music, dance, beer, schnitzel and other delicious food. I love to visit at this time of year, when the fall colours of the countryside are at their most vibrant.
But the city is a great destination at other times of the year too. For visitors interested in art, culture, heritage and food, there are many things to do in Kitchener year-round.
The Waterloo Region Museum is one of the newest Kitchener Ontario tourist attractions. The building opened in 2010 with exhibits opening in November 2011.
Without a doubt, this is the most stunning new building in the region. The two-storey-high lobby is a work of art. It’s often rented out for special events and you can see why, when it offers such a fantastic view.
The museum showcases interesting historic artifacts from the region, covering everything from the earliest Aboriginal settlers to kooky characters from the area, like a local high wire walker.
The eclectic collection tells the stories of immigrants and industries with the use of artifacts large and small.
The Waterloo Region Museum is also
the new gateway into the Doon Heritage
Village, an outdoor pioneer village that has been around since 1957.
Doon Heritage Village is a fun place to explore. If this is your first visit, plan to spend at least half a day there visiting 20 historic buildings including restored homes, stores, a church, workshops and heritage gardens. You’ll also find farm animals such as horses, pigs and chickens – a great attraction for the kids.
The heritage buildings come from
all over the Region of Waterloo. The village is designed to reflect the time
period of 1914 (with many buildings and artifacts much older of course).
Costumed interpreters demonstrate crafts and answer questions.
The houses and business buildings are decorated inside with authentic artifacts from the region of Waterloo. One of my favourite pieces of the collection is this train.
A short drive away is another great museum to visit, the Homer Watson House & Gallery. Watson, who was born in the area in 1855, was one of Canada’s first internationally-recognized painters. He specialized in rural landscapes. This house used to be his home and studio and you’ll find many of his paintings here as well as a community gallery featuring exhibitions by contemporary artists. My favourite part is the wall decoration he did in his gallery. Each panel pays homage to his favourite artists.
Another famous Kitchener resident was Joseph Schneider. At the Joseph Schneider Haus, you can get a sense of what life was like for immigrant Mennonite families in 19th century Ontario.
Political history junkies will
enjoy the Woodside National Historic Site of Canada. Here you can wander
through the boyhood home of Canada's 10th Prime Minister, William Lyon
Mackenzie King. Even if you’re not into politics though, this house museum is
fascinating, with its intriguing glimpse into the intimate life of a typical middle-class
family in 1890s Ontario.
If all of this exploration is making you hungry, you might want to stop at the Kitchener Farmers Market to pick up some fresh goodies. This is one of the oldest markets in the country. Vendors here sell produce, flowers, gourmet chocolate, cheese, baked goods and more. The upper level has some good casual eateries if you’d rather sit down and have a meal instead of taking it “to go”. This is a great casual place to have brunch on a Saturday when the market is buzzing with shoppers.
For nearby towns, see Region of Waterloo.