The Region of Waterloo is a great place for a break from big city life. Only an hour’s drive west of Toronto, it’s where I go when I want to wash the urban soot from my eyes and fill them with scenes of rural beauty.
The Waterloo region is home to more than half a million residents but they’re scattered about in several centres in the countryside. The biggest city in the area is Kitchener, with over 200,000 people, followed by Cambridge and Waterloo with about 100,000+ each, and then North Dumphries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolich making up the rest. You’ll find the small but famous village of St. Jacob’s here too.
Above: Doon Heritage Village in Kitchener
The Region of Waterloo offers visitors a nice break from big city life. When I’m looking for a little taste of country driving through rural landscapes and small town quaintness, then I turn to this attractive area. But the scenery and shopping isn’t the only thing going on here. I also enjoy all the tourist attractions like the live theatre, historic museums and art galleries tucked away in the region. Hunting them down has become one of my favourite day-trip projects.
Kitchener's famous for its Oktoberfest, an annual event attracting thousands
of visitors. Other year-round activities include visits to their wonderful museums, including the Waterloo Region Museum, Joseph Schneider and more. For details, see my story about Kitchener.
Cambridge has a number of attractions for tourists, including the popular African Lion Safari Ontario, the Butterfly conservatory and a lovely little museum called McDougall Cottage. For more information visit my page on Cambridge Ontario.
Canadian Clay and Glass Museum – The museum part is quite small so unless you’re a real connoisseur I’d skip it. There’s plenty of space but it wasn’t well-used. I wasn’t expecting the Gardiner Museum but still… The gallery/gift shop though is fabulous! Many local and international artists sell their work here. Eye-popping pieces! Worth a visit.
Waterloo Loo Central Railway Excursion - This tourist train excursion runs from downtown Waterloo to the town of St Jacobs and back, mostly during the summer months. Note, if you're a rail fan, see my page on other train tourist attractions.
Above: Mural in Village of St. Jacobs.
St. Jacob’s is in Mennonite Country and visitors come here to buy the handicrafts (especially quilts), furniture and foodstuffs made by this Old Order religious community. The main street is fairly short but jam-packed with gift shops. There’s a museum devoted to the Mennonite story, a gallery of quilts, a big market selling food and more crafts, an antique market, etc. The market can get really crowded.
Castle Kilbride (Baden) – Okay it’s not a real castle but it’s a marvelous mansion with amazing decorations that you’ve got to see to believe (or should you believe? Hmmm…. See my article for the “mystery” explained).
Drayton Theatre - Runs 6 theatres in southwestern Ontario including one in the famous Mennonite town of St. Jacob’s. They’re one of the mainstays of Ontario theatre. Not terribly challenging stuff but entertaining. Features sure winners like comedies and musicals like Cats. Gets lots of senior bus tours.