Kingston is a city in Canada located on Lake Ontario, at the beginning of the Cataraqui and St. Lawrence Rivers. It is referred to as “Limestone City” owing to the fairly large number of grand 19th-century buildings built from limestone, one main one being the lakeside Kingston City Hall. The city of Kingston has historic landmarks, museums, and also a vibrant downtown that is filled with an abundant number of restaurants and pubs.
If you are considering a short trip over the weekend, and are wondering what to do in Kingston, then these are the things absolutely have to do in your time here. Read on to find out the best things to do in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
1. Lake Ontario Park
Lake Ontario Park is Kingston’s largest urban waterfront park. After a lot of renovation, it was opened once again for the public a few years back. It offers a noteworthy natural landscape that attracts both residents as well as visitors for picnicking and walking along the waterfront. The park is open every day of the week from 8 am until dusk.
2. Kingston City Hall
Kingston’s City Hall is a national historic site, and remains the city’s administration and governing centre. Kingston City Hall is one of the best 19th-century buildings in Canada and is a nationally-nominated heritage site. The City Hall is visited by several thousand tourists as well as local citizens every year. The City Hall, apart from housing banks and governments also contains the body of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada. The City Hall is open on weekdays from 8.30 am until 4.30 pm to visitors.
3. Murney Tower
Murney Tower is a Martello tower, small defensive forts that were built in the 19th century throughout the British Empire. The construction of this tower dates back to 1846, built for the Oregon crisis (a border dispute). It was officially named Murray Tower, but the locals referred to it as Murney Tower since it was built on Murney Point. The name was eventually changed to match the local usage. This 19th-century tower makes for a nice short visit. The tower is open to the public from 10 am to 5 pm on all days of the year.
4. Fort Frederick
Fort Frederick is an important military building that is located on Point Frederick, and situated on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston. The construction of this building also dates back to 1846, constructed during the Oregon boundary clash (Oregon crisis). The RMC museum that is housed in the Fort Frederick Martello Tower is a National Historic Site and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum tells the story of the oldest military college in Canada.
5. Penitentiary Museum
The Kingston Penitentiary is actually a former maximum security prison that is located in Kingston, near Lake Ontario. The museum is closed from November to January. You can visit the museum by appointment from February to April, and from May until October. The museum is open on weekdays from 9 am to 4 pm and on weekends from 10 am to 4 pm. Timings are slightly different from June to September, with extended evening opening times. Donations are accepted for entry fees.
6. Kingston Waterfront
If you are looking for a fun walk that has a variety of views, the Kingston Waterfront is the place to go to. Visitors say it is truly worth the time spent there. This place is highly recommended for families with young children. You can easily burn your energy and also have great fun at the same time as a family. There are lots of local eats that you can try here, so after your activities you can munch on some great food that is sold here. Apart from this, being a waterfront, you can expect to see some boats, walk along the shore, or walk or bike along the pathway at the waterfront.
7. Bellevue House
Bellevue House is yet another National Historic Site of Canada. It was home to Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald, from 1848 until 1849. It is noteworthy for its Italian Villa style of architecture, a non-symmetrical style at that. Bellevue House is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, open on the rest of the days of the week from 10 am to 5 pm. The entry fee is 3.90 CAD (approximately 3.00 USD) per adult. If interested, you could also choose to take the guided tours that are available on weekends.
Kingston Mills were built as a result of a series of falls on the Cataraqui River. The British built a grist mill and a saw mill to help the new settlers in that region. Kingston Mills is located at the southernmost end; it is one of the 24 lock stations of the Rideau Canal. You can camp here; an entry fee of 4.90 CAD per head (approximately 4.00 USD) is charged if you wish to camp here in groups.
1.5-Hour Rideau Canal Cruise with Live Commentary in Ottawa
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
9. Cathedral of St Mary
The Cathedral of St Mary is a Roman Catholic cathedral. It was extensively renovated some years back, and today it stands in its full restored glory. The church is open every day, with masses held at various times; you can check the timings on their website.
10. Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area
Explore some authentic local wildlife, at the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area! Featuring a stunning array of local, natural sights and sounds, many of them indigenous to the region itself, the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area is your effective introduction to the wonders of lush, Ontario life. No matter the season, there’s always a wonderful series of recreational opportunities in which to partake, from cross country skiing in the winter, to kayaking and canoeing in the summer, to hiking through easy paths characterized by crisp leaves in the fall!
The entire conservation area is laid out in a visitor-friendly structure, typified by frequent bridges, open spaces, and photo opportunities! The area is set well within the city limits, so you’re not going to have to travel far from the center of town to get in on this unique shade of natural rejuvenation. Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area is also one of the ideal Ontario locations for bird watching! Catch a sensational variety of local aviation, from chicadees to robins to blackbirds to Canadian geese!
Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area
Address: 1641 Perth Road, Glenburnie, ON [no name], Canada
11. Military Communications and Electronics Museum
The Military Communications and Electronics Museum is a military signals museum located in Kingston, Ontario. Lonely Planet describes this museum as a “comprehensive and well-designed museum offering chronological displays on communications technology and sundry military gadgets”. This museum traces the development of military communications from 1903 through the World Wars, during various other war times and peace-keeping missions right up till today, the era of communication satellites. The museum is highly recommended for people of all ages.
12. Memorial Centre Farmers' Market
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
You’re in for a delicious treat when it comes to the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market! A wonderful synthesis of sights and sounds, together with some of the finest tasting ingredients to be found in the immediate and extended Ontario area, are yours for the taking at the farmers’ market. Proving equal parts a recreational, outdoor walking experience and effective introduction to some authentic Ontario culture and cuisine alike, the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market easily succeeds in delivering the best of that which was grown locally, right to your doorstep!
The Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market is set near the center of town, so it’s indeed a short journey to the beginning of the market itself. Locals love picking up a bite to eat at any one of the local eateries, before venturing through the streets, discovering the constantly changing flavors and natural offerings of the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market. A bevy of top-tier flavors are available for your sampling, including the market’s famed giant pretzels, as well as their locally harvested carrots, apples, and preserves! You’ll find yourself the privileged guest of a constantly shifting portfolio of booths, each a respectively different local flavor or offering, each facilitated by a friendly local, willing to answer all of your questions! If you’re looking to kill time in Ontario, or if you’re looking to finish off a recipe with that ideal, locally grown ingredient, there isn’t an easier way to elevate a dish of an afternoon than the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market!
Memorial Centre Farmers' Market
Address: 484 Albert St, Kingston, ON K7K 1R7, Canada
Website: Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market
13. Opera at The Grand Theatre
Those who are children of the theatre and are certified thespians have got to find their way to see a show at the Grand Theatre in Kingston. This Ontario landmark has staged several iconic productions throughout the years and is a great place to experience and see culture and art first hand. Some of the current productions on right now include Beethoven 5 & Tchaikovsky, the National Ballet Theatre of Odessa: Romeo and Juliet, and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. The Grand Theatre hosts some of the finest artists from all over Kingston and of course the world. From ballet, modern dance, orchestras to musicals and comedy shows, this local theatre is an avenue for a great Kingston experience. Grab the opportunity to see stunning local talent come to life and bask in the beauty of each production first hand while supporting the arts in the process.
Opera at The Grand Theatre
Address: 218 Princess St, Kingston, ON K7L 1B2, Canada
Website: Opera at the Grand Theatre
Opening hours:12pm to 6pm, Mon-Sat
14. Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Kingston is filled with a bustling art scene and with many local students and amateur artists showcasing their work, here and there, there’s definitely space for people to come to take a look. There’s a huge interest in budding artists in Kingston and thanks to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, more educational institutions are likely to boost the morale behind the art in Kingston. Located in the Queens University campus, this art center take s a deep dive into what art and research can do together as a concept. The art center highlights the traditional artistic techniques and boosts the innovative vision of many up and coming artists seen in the university’s students. Several exhibitions and galleries are plagued with a whopping 16,000 works which have a mix of contemporary art, historical art from The Bader Collection, the Lang Collection, and even 200 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. What’s even better is that visiting this museum is one of the free things to do in Kingston. Indeed, this one’s for the art enthusiasts, you won’t want to keep this off your itinerary.
Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Address: Queens University, University Ave & Bader Ln, Kingston, ON K7L 2V9, Canada
Website: Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Opening hours: 10am-4:30pm, Tues-Fri; 1-5pm, Sat-Sun,
Price: free admission
15. Kingston Axe Throwing
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Axe throwing is a favorite among the locals, and Kingston Axe Throwing is definitely the place to visit in Kingston when you want to let some rage out, it’s an institution that has an accumulative experience of about 60 years in the coaching and throwing business. Kingston Axe Throwing is a sure bet for those who wish to experience something more interactive and unique when in Ontario. It’s open for drop-in visits and also available for parties and events, which starts at 25 USD per person plus HST on Mondays and Wednesday nights for walk-ins. For parties and events, rates start at 34 USD per head and have additional catering services along with the coaching and tournament to be reserved a week prior. For those who are uber-competitive, there’s the league at 130 USD per head with which happens once a week with coaching and requires attendees to sign up a month prior.
Kingston Axe Throwing
Address: 785 Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, Unit 7J, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Website: Kingston Axe Throwing
Opening hours: 6 pm to 9 pm, Mon & Wed
Price: 25 USD
One great way to learn more about Kingston is through its eerie and chilling history - and there’s no better way to do so than through a haunted walking tour. Whether you’re a fan of the paranormal or just looking for a unique activity, then this tour is definitely for you. Lasting about 90 minutes, the tour is hosted by a well-versed local who will guide you and your friends along some of the spookiest spots of Fort Henry National Historic Site. Be sure to bring a camera and some friends if you’re not up to going alone. Venture along the historic streets of this site and slip into its rich past - this is truly a thing you must not miss when in Kingston, Ontario.
The Haunted Walk Experience at Fort Henry National Historic Site
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Who would have thought that mushrooms could be so interesting? One of the most unique and best things to do in Kingston, Ontario, Canada is this Mushroom & Wild Edibles Hike. Truly a one-of-a-kind experience, this workshop last for about four hours. Hosted by Ruthie, a known expert in the field of mushrooms and wild indigenous edibles, this activity teaches you nearly everything you need to know about mushrooms. Not only do you get to have a wonderful hike, but you also learn the unexpectedly necessary skill of foraging. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather, and bring some refreshments - this experience, however, also includes a light snack that you can enjoy during the mid-hike picnic.
Mushroom & Wild Edibles Hike
Duration: 4 hours
How to get around Kingston
Should you plan on using public transport to get around Kingston during your holiday, here are a few options that you would find useful!
1. Kingston Transit
What is it? It is a bus service that travels within the urban area of Kingston.
Fares: 3 CAD (2.30 USD) per adult, free for children below 14
Website: Kingston Transit
2. Kingston Trolley Tours
What is it? It is a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Kingston’s historic old town and shopping district. During summer, the trolley would stop at six of the most renowned attractions in Kingston, including Fort Henry and the Kingston Penitentiary.
Fares: 32 CAD (24 USD) for an adult day pass, 21 CAD (16 USD) for a child day pass
Website: Kingston Trolley Tours
What is it? Should you wish to explore the gorgeous Wolfe Island, a ferry would be the only way to get there.
Fares: It is free of charge.
Website: Ferry services
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History-lovers and fans of nature should visit!
As you can see from the above list, Kingston is filled with history. It ensures that the important history of Canada is conserved and passed on to future generations. There’s interesting architecture to admire, peaceful parks that are perfect for relaxing, and sights and activities aplenty. Plan your visit to Kingston, Ontario, Canada!
Frequently asked questions about things to do in Kingston, Ontario
1. What are the top attractions to visit in Kingston?
Kingston boasts numerous attractions, from historical sites to museums and natural wonders. But if you’re looking for the best attractions here, the list of top must-visits should include Kingston Penitentiary, Bellevue House, Kingston City Hall, and Kingston Waterfront.
2.  What are the most popular things to do with kids in Kingston?
Few of the most popular things to do with kids here in Kingston include visiting Lake Ontario Park and letting your children have fun at the playground or the water pad, biking along the Kingston Waterfront or have a picnic and watch boats come and go, and go camping at the Kingston Mills / Rideau Canal.
3. What are the best outdoor activities in Kingston?
Kingston offers numerous outdoor activities, including picnicking at Lake Ontario Park, strolling around Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market, biking at Kingston Waterfront, and camping and boating at Kingston Mills/ Rideau Canal.
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