To discover: Kitchener-Waterloo, known for its German influences and modern charm

About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of day trips and longer trips highlights the great experiences you can have in the province and shows you why Ontario is ‘must see’.

Home to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo have a youthful energy thanks to their large student population. Affectionately known as KW or K-Dub, these twin communities host the world’s largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich each fall, but you’ll feel the German influences year-round. From antique markets to local restaurants, Kitchener-Waterloo also knows how to embrace the best of all that’s grown and homemade. Here’s your plan for a day trip to the region.

In the morning: Leave Toronto around 8 a.m. heading west on Highway 401. Your first stop is just over an hour away, Yeti Cafe, an artsy breakfast spot with amusingly named dishes, like the Sasquatch, an artisan bun topped with avocado, cheddar and tomato. , coleslaw and greens with aioli. Choose to sit on the heated patio of this welcoming café and fuel up for your day of exploration with a cup of house roast coffee with the Pregnant Cowgirl, an organic multigrain bagel with bacon, fried egg and cheese.

If you’re taking this road trip with your kids, don’t miss TheMuseum in Kitchener, which offers hands-on activities related to arts, science and technology. Its five floors feature permanent and rotating interactive exhibits, including a virtual graffiti wall and a stop-motion animation studio.

Adults might find the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery more their cup of tea. It is the only art gallery in the country devoted to contemporary ceramic, enamel and glass works. Her shop is a great place to buy handmade pieces by artists from across Canada.

The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery gift shop features works by artists from across the country.

You should also head to the Kitchener Market and experience its vibe. Vendors have been selling fresh produce, meat and dairy in this market for over 150 years. There’s often live entertainment and other programming, and its bustling Saturday Farmer’s Market includes food stalls and artisan vendors. For lunch, the Caribbean Kitchen in the market’s food hall is a must for a jerk chicken roti or an oxtail platter with rice and beans.

The Kitchener Market has a great local vibe and is full of fresh produce, meat and dairy vendors.  It also houses a food hall.

In the afternoon: Next, go shopping in St. Jacobs, a walkable village just north of Waterloo with a large Old Order Mennonite population. It’s not uncommon to see horse-drawn buggies speeding down streets filled with shops dedicated to home decor, clothing, and handicrafts such as pottery and quilts. Don’t miss Market Road Antiques, a sprawling shop with over 100 vendors selling vintage furniture, jewelry and other collectables.

If you have time to snap a photo, drive 12 kilometers northwest of St. Jacobs to the hamlet of West Montrose. There, you can strike your best pose in front of the Kissing Bridge, one of the last wooden covered bridges in Canada.

After a few hours of shopping, it’s time to experience the creative side of Kitchener-Waterloo by following the Art Fresco Table Trail, a series of colorful picnic tables in the area’s outdoor spaces. Be sure to swing by the table at the Four All Ice Cream Scoop Shop, where you can also grab a waffle cone topped with small batches of ice cream made from local Guernsey cow’s milk. It also offers plant-based alternatives like sorbets for dairy-free people.

If you prefer a guided walk, you can sign up for the Murals and Outdoor Gallery Tour with Stroll Walking Tours. If art isn’t your thing, Stroll also offers tours that explore other elements of Kitchener-Waterloo history and culture, including one dedicated to the area’s first black settlers.

In the evening: For dinner, you can’t go wrong with S&V Uptown’s local menu. Formerly known as Swine & Vine, the restaurant recently changed its name, expanded its culinary offerings and moved to stylish new digs on King Street. Celebrity chef Jonathan Gushue, who previously ran the kitchen at Langdon Hall in Cambridge, is now S&V’s culinary director and has crafted a menu full of delicious and surprising dishes. Start with the caramelized veal tongue with salsa verde before tasting the braised pork stew with saffron pasta sheets.

End your evening with a concert by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, one of Canada’s greatest orchestras. It offers a variety of pop, baroque, classical and family concerts in various venues in the region. Finally, pick up a ramen kit at local noodle shop Crafty Ramen – which offers all the essentials needed to make restaurant-quality ramen at home (including homemade Ontario wheat noodles) – to bring back. with you in Toronto.

COVID-19 need to know

Kitchener-Waterloo is following Ontario provincial guidelines regarding COVID-19. Some local businesses may ask visitors to wear masks. Contact individual companies before your trip to find out how they currently operate.

For the reader

Kitchener-Waterloo has a remarkable blues music history. The city hosts the huge annual Kitchener Blues Festival and has hosted artists such as Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor. Experience the city’s soundtrack as you listen to the music of Mel Brown, a famous American-born blues guitarist and singer who made Kitchener his home for the last three decades of his life.

driving guide

Drive West on Highway 401

Take exit ON-8 for Kitchener-Waterloo

  • 11am TheMuseum or Canadian Gallery of Clay and Glass
  • 12:30 p.m. Kitchener Market
  • 2 p.m. St. Jacobs and the Kissing Bridge
  • 4 p.m. Fresco Art Tables Trail
  • 8 p.m. Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony

  • 10 p.m. Return to Toronto

Note: Times are suggestions only. The author was hosted by some of the companies featured, who did not review or approve this article before printing.

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James R. Rhodes