Fantastic Things to Do in Cambridge, Ontario (Local’s Guide)

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A Local’s List of Things to Do in Cambridge, Ontario!

Searching for things to do, see, and eat in Cambridge, Ontario? You’re not alone! This charming city is a great idea for a day trip from Toronto because there is something to suit all interests in all seasons.

I’m Patty from Journey of a Wandering Soul, a Cambridge local, here to help you capture the true essence of this beautiful area.

With a population of nearly 141,000 residents, Cambridge is situated about 100 kilometres west of Toronto in the Region of Waterloo alongside the marvellous Grand River.

There are three sub-regions of Cambridge: Galt, Hespeler and Preston – and the Grand River conveniently traverse through all three. Each of these areas has its own unique flair with something for everyone to enjoy.

Follow me as I help you navigate this stunning city and showcase the best places to visit in Cambridge, Ontario like hidden laneways, beautiful hikes, and delicious one-of-a-kind restaurants. Trust me, you will find something you love in Cambridge!

Cambridge Quick Guide

Best Time to Visit: Summer for warm, outdoor weather (Grand River tubing) and fall for the beautiful colours.

Getting Around: Areas of West/East Galt, Preston, and Hespeler Village are all relatively walkable but use Grand River Transit, a bike, or a car to get between them.

Top Things to Do: Explore the Historic Centres & Local Shops, stroll along the Grand River Trails, tube the Grand River, visit Four Fathers Brewing Co.

Where to Stay: Homewood Suites close to Hespeler Village, Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre for a popular hotel choice just off Highway 401, and The Laundry Rooms for apartments right in West Galt near the Grand River.

Things to Do in Galt

Oh, Cambridge – or shall we call it “little Europe”? Whether you are looking for old historical buildings, a sunset walk through European-inspired walkways or a delicious bite to eat, Galt has you covered.

Here are my thoughts on the top attractions in Galt. Follow this route to get everything out of both Galt and West Galt.

Please keep in mind that these are just my glimpse of Cambridge and what I love seeing and doing. There are many more activities and places to go and check out when you visit.

Walk Along The Grand River

church with tower along grand river in cambridge ontario.
There are lots to see when you simply stroll along the Grand.

Cambridge’s West Galt is a unique and splendid location to spend the day. Bring a picnic or enjoy foods from one of the many local vendors or restaurants. Of course, you absolutely must explore the waterway which traverses through the heart of the downtown core.

The Grand River was formerly known as The River Ouse as it crosses many different towns and cities before it returns to Lake Erie. Cambridge’s four main bridges connect West Galt to the rest of Galt including a beautiful pedestrian bridge that was newly built in 2018.

Enjoy the Grand River from above or make your way down the stairs for a more up close and personal look. As you walk along, you may even pass through Mill Race Park with its beautiful views and ruins of an 1840s mill.

Interestingly, this part of Cambridge has become more and more sought after for filming locations! Film crews and cranes are being spotted more frequently as they are taking advantage of the gorgeous backdrop of the downtown core for their shows and movies.

The popular show The Handmaid’s Tale featured many locations of West Galt, most prominently the riverfront of the downtown core! 

Cambridge Tip: You can even go river tubing along the Grand starting in Cambridge (near Preston). Check out Tubing the Grand for more information!

Grab A Bite to Eat at the Famous L.A Franks

Navigation Address: 104 Water St N, Cambridge, ON N1R 3B6

You haven’t visited Downtown Galt if you haven’t experienced L.A Franks! This seasonal one-of-a-kind establishment in Cambridge provides its guests with succulent hot dogs, burgers, fries, onion rings, milkshakes, and delicious hard-serve ice cream!

It has been privately owned for almost 30 years and the entire city anxiously awaits its opening the first weekend of May every year. With great prices to entice, L.A Franks is truly one of a kind and a small business that everyone loves to support. It is a staple of Cambridge which every citizen fondly knows of. 

I personally like to enjoy the jumbo hot dog and small fry as I sit on one of the many provided picnic tables and benches right alongside the Grand River. L.A Franks is dog friendly as well providing our fur babies with free water and a shady place to chill and enjoy your meal!

Wander West Galt’s Famous Old Streets

fall leaves along street with green lamp post in front.
The fall colours are especially beautiful along these streets. //Photo: Patty H.

Brant Street, Aberdeen Rd, and Lansdowne Rd are by far the most stunning streets to daydream on while out for a peaceful stroll.

These stunning streets feature West Galt’s most elegant and historical properties in Cambridge. You can follow this little route to enjoy these magnificent old properties.

Don’t forget to check out all the hidden laneways for a better view of West Galt’s finest. 

Enjoy a Picnic Lunch at Sheave Tower

Navigation Address: Sheave Tower, Old Mill Rd, Cambridge, ON N3H 4R8

orange wooden tower with bridge in the woods in cambridge ontario.
The Sheave Tower is definitely worth exploring. // Photo: Patty H.

At the edge of Cambridge there lies the small town of Blair. The town is known for its many trails which make up the rare Carolinian forest and boasts multiple historic monuments and buildings.

The Sheave Tower is one of them. Nestled snugly in the greenery of the forest, this tower is a special hidden gem for all tourists and citizens alike.

Bring yourself a packed lunch and enjoy the singing birds, babbling creek and the peace of the forest surrounding its historical marvel – but don’t forget to keep the site as you left it, spotless!  

Hike Along The Grand Trunk Trail

Navigation Address to Start: 135 George St N Unit 100, Cambridge, ON N1S 5C3 (near the Old Galt Bottle Shop)

One of the greatest things about living so close to the Grand River is the ability to enjoy the river in different ways. Whether you enjoy walking, hiking, biking along the Grand, The Grand Trunk Trail on the south shore of the Grand has got you covered!

With a 10km return trip, you can enjoy this wooded forest path while being immersed in nature, birds and beautiful sights. It’s a trail to be enjoyed for all hiking levels.

Don’t miss out on reading the informational signs posted throughout the trail which are well worth a look.

Be Transported in Time by The Famous Four Churches

woman exploring stone church with red door.
Trinity Anglican Church has the signature red door. // Photo: Patty H.

The “Four Ladies of West Galt” as I call them are a staple when checking out our beautiful downtown. That’s because these four churches are centrally located in the downtown core so you cannot miss them!

The Central Presbyterian Church is situated right on the river and is breathtakingly beautiful. It is the postcard image of our city that instantly makes you think of Notre Dame Cathedral. With its gothic-styled architecture and towering spire, it is a sight to see!

tall church with spire and woman in front standing in road.
Grace Bible Church is another sight to see. //Photo: Patty H.

Central Presbyterian Church is right across the square from another beautiful gothic-style church known as Grace Bible Church. Not many cities have two gorgeous places of worship within a stone’s throw of one another! 

Check Out the Farmer’s Market

Navigation Address: 40 Dickson St, Cambridge, ON N1R 1T7

Do you crave farm-fresh produce, delicious baked goods, and a wide variety of fresh meats? If you do, the Cambridge Farmers’ Market is perfect for you!

Usually, open on Saturdays from 7 am to 1 pm, the Farmers’ Market brings the already European atmosphere of downtown Galt even further so!  It’s a place you must visit which greatly contributes to the unique vibe that Cambridge has to offer.

The Market is smaller than the well-known St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market but the Cambridge Farmers’ Market helps farmers from around the area thrive. Plus, you get to consume food you feel good about eating!

Check out the Architecture of Galt Collegiate Institute

Navigation Address: 200 Water St N, Cambridge, ON N1R 6V2

Known affectionately by many as Hogwarts or the castle on the river, the home of the Galt Ghosts is something to behold.

Founded in 1852, G.C.I. is one of the oldest operating high schools in Ontario. It’s also recognized as a historical landmark by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites board.

Situated facing Water Street and backing onto the Grand River beside the beautiful old train bridge, it really is a beautiful building. The impressive stone building is complemented with its two towering pillars (which is where the castle and Hogwarts nicknames come from!)

The stunning green copper roof of the school’s two towers can be seen from downtown as well as from across the river.

Galt Collegiate Institute has a rich history and is thought by many to be haunted. I highly recommend checking out this historical landmark! Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of a ghost.

Enjoy a Treat at now A Portuguesa Bakery

Navigation Address: 118 St Andrews St, Cambridge, ON N1S 1M8

Dee’s Bakery was this cute little bakery tucked away in the old streets of West Galt. Their claim to fame? They had the absolute, without a doubt, best butter tarts around!

Now this location is home to A Portuguesa Bakery – specializing in egg tarts and other European classics.

Rather than reading about how delicious they are you should just pay a visit when you are exploring Cambridge and support this small town business! 

Relax at Queens Square By The Fountain

Navigation Address: 16 Queens Square, Cambridge, Ontario

To have the complete experience of downtown and to take it all in you simply must visit Queens Square and the fountain. A breathtaking, postcard image-inducing walk across the old bridge has you arriving right in the square.

Surrounded by our two gorgeous Cathedrals and our beautiful library, this is a lovely place to sit and relax.

Sit on the fountain wall or lay in the soft green grass of our military epitaph to experience the true vibe of this cute town.

People watch, have a picnic, or enjoy a coffee from the popular Melville Cafe or Grand Cafe! You can comfortably spend a couple of hours enjoying this beautiful and peaceful spot. 

Relax at Langdon Hall

Navigation Address: 1 Langdon Dr, Cambridge, ON N3H 4R8

As previously mentioned the town of Blair offers a serene atmosphere with lots of historical sites to explore. Langdon Hall must, of course, be on your “to see and do” list when exploring Cambridge.

Most often used as a highly sought-after wedding venue, Langdon Hall offers much more.

This beautiful mansion has a comprehensive history and offers many ways for the weary traveller to relax with their complimentary wine tasting as well as their world-renowned spa services. Transport yourself back in time and enjoy exploring this property! 

Langdon Hall makes a great place to spend a romantic or relaxing weekend getaway in Ontario.

Treat Your Taste Buds At Reid’s Candy & Nut Shop

Navigation Address: 42 Ainslie St N, Cambridge, ON N1R 3J5

Once a tiny family-run gem founded in 1935 as a nut shop, Reid’s Candy & Nut Shop is just as popular now as it was back then. It is now a candy and nut shop and offers some of the most delicious and creamy chocolate around. It has everything a true sweet tooth could ask for!

You can choose from nuts, candy apples and an abundant assortment of chocolates to surprise your loved ones on birthdays, anniversaries or special occasions. Just make sure to not skimp out on getting yourself something because it is DELICIOUS!

I would personally purchase the assorted chocolate boxes during your first visit to best enjoy the Reid’s experience!

Enjoy a Meal at Barnacle Bills

Navigation Address: 47 Grand Ave S, Cambridge, ON N1S 2L8

Calling all fish and chips lovers! Here is yet another small family-run business that Cambridge has to offer. Voted as the best place to get fish and chips in town in my books, Barnacle Bills has a friendly and intimate atmosphere.

Situated right on the Grand River you can enjoy your delicious meal and finish the evening off with a lovely stroll down the river into the downtown core!  

Cambridge Tip: If you’re close to Barnacle Bill’s, you might want to stop by the Cambridge Sculpture Garden for a wander through the interesting artwork!

Things to Do in Hespeler

The next stop on our tour of Cambridge is the town of Hespeler. Nestled alongside the Speed River in the north of Cambridge, Hespeler has many things to offer as well.

Hespeler’s downtown is another gem to explore in the city if you enjoy good food, drinks, and a serene and enjoyable atmosphere.

Enjoy a Beer at Four Fathers Brewing Co.

Navigation Address: 125 Guelph Ave, Cambridge, ON N3C 1A5

A new and absolutely fantastic addition to Cambridge’s brewery lineup (and quick-rising staple in the city) is Four Fathers Brewing Co.

As stated in the name, this small town brewery and restaurant was started by four Hespeler dads and their four sons in 2009. Each of them shared a love for beer, food, sports and a unique dining experience – paving the way for what it is today! 

Inside the brewery, you will find ping pong tables, high-top bar tables, and more gorgeous cedar-laden walls and tables than a log cabin.

It has a vibe like no other and is a welcoming family-friendly spot which I cannot say enough good things about. Not only is the beer fantastic and unique but the service and food are also phenomenal!

Take a Hike on the Mill Run Trail

Navigation Address: 49 King St W, Cambridge, ON N3H 1B5

woman in vest standing on bridge over frozen river in winter.
Mill Run Trail is doable in all seasons! // Photo: Patty H.

Another great and scenic trail to check out when exploring downtown Hespeler is the Mill Run Trail! This trail connects Hespeler and Preston if you are up for long walking, biking or running!

This stroller-friendly trail officially starts in Riverside Park and runs alongside the Speed River (the same river that you can canoe on in Guelph) under Highway 401 to Mill Pond in Hespeler. You can hop on anywhere – it’s a great place to bring your pet or family for a Sunday family adventure.

Enjoy the many sights alongside the river from birds to the beautiful trees, the water dam, and bridges along the way!

Check out the Library and Town Square in Hespeler Village

Navigation Location: Hespeler Town Square and Library

Another site to check out when exploring Queen Street in Hespeler is the recently renovated library located in the heart of downtown. It is right next to the town square which is a beautiful sight at night with all of its pretty lights!

Enjoy a coffee from the local Grind House Café and Eatery and take a nice stroll across the river to Jacob’s Landing. Satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst at the classic Ernie’s Road House, a staple of downtown Hespeler.

If you’re feeling simple, you can also just walk down Queen Street and choose from one of the many establishments conveniently nestled against the river. For yet another European vibe town, look no further than downtown Hespeler. 

Things to Do in Preston

The last stop on our tour of Cambridge is the town of Preston! It is another small community in Cambridge that has kept the flair of the olden days intact – and this is clearly noticeable while exploring.

Although it is the smallest of the three hamlets in Cambridge, Preston is well worth a visit, too.

Hike The Linear Trail

woman wandering through tall grass in flowery field.
The Linear Trail is full of natural beauty… //Photo: Patty H.

This cute 6.5km trail alongside the Grand River (because of course, it’s along the Grand) is a trail that can be used by many visitors to Cambridge as it is mostly flat and shaded at many parts of the trail.

Bring a picnic lunch or relax on the many benches situated along the trail and enjoy the scenery.

If you happen to visit during June, you will be lucky to see the endless fields of the beautiful purple phlox growing on the river bank!  

Enjoy the Amenities at Riverside Park

Navigation Address: 49 King St W, Cambridge, ON N3H 1B5

Riverside Park is the absolute best park that the city has to offer. It is huge and offers a fantastic place to enjoy many activities.

Complete with baseball diamonds, the best public tennis courts in the city, as well as more soccer fields than anywhere else in Cambridge, Riverside has much to offer to the sports enthusiast!

There are also plenty of walking trails throughout the park hidden in the trees. In the summer, the park hosts the annual Cambridge Rib Fest which is a must-attend event.

And finally, there are plenty of big pavilions perfect for picnicking! I visit Riverside park almost weekly and absolutely love every visit I have there.

Taste a Bit of Scotland at Rising Dough Bakery

Navigation Address: 927 King St E, Cambridge, ON N3H 3P4

A little touch of Scotland is located in the centre of downtown! One of the finest Scottish bakeries around, Rising Dough has absolutely everything for those missing a taste of Scotland or wish to try its unique and delicious cuisine!

Square sausage, Scottish chocolate, freshly baked bread and goodies, biscuits and drinks are all served with a smile by the lovely owner and her daughter.

If you love supporting small local businesses as much as I do then this amazing bakery is a must-visit.  

Enjoy the Atmosphere at Fiddle & Firkin

Navigation Address: 707 King St E, Cambridge, ON N3H 3N8

Hands down one of the top pubs in the city, Fiddle & Firkin is fantastic. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is straight out of the United Kingdom.

Treat yourself to a fabulous night of food, drink and live music all while being immersed in that authentic British Pub atmosphere! 

Things to Do in Cambridge in Other Areas

Cambridge is a great place to stay in and visit as it is so close to so many other places in the Golden Horseshoe area that are worth visiting.

Listed below are just a few places to visit that are my personal favourites. From easy hikes to quaint towns, these places can be enjoyed with the family or as a solo traveller! 

Valens Lake Conservation Area

Navigation Address: 1691 Regional 97 Rd, Cambridge, ON N1R 5S7

blue lake with green grass in front and blue sky above.
There’s a view for everyone at Valens Lake. // Photo: Patty H.

Valens Lake Conservation Area is about a 25-minute drive from Cambridge and provides many activities for any type of traveller.

You can enjoy the multiple trails it has to offer either on foot or by bike. If you get a bit hot, there is always the lake itself to cool off in!

Speaking of the lake, it can be used during the winter and summer months! There are things to do during the winter months like ice fish and winter camp.

However, the summer provides for many more opportunities such as kayaking, canoeing and fishing. 

The Kissing Bridge

Navigation Address: 1 Covered Bridge Dr, West Montrose, ON N0B 2V0

red wooden covered bridge with woman standing beside on green grass.
Can’t miss the famous “Kissing Bridge”! //Photo: Patty H.

The West Montrose Bridge is located about 20 km from Cambridge in the Waterloo Region.

Known as one of the oldest known covered bridges in Canada, the Kissing Bridge provides a snapshot of the Pioneer times.

Interestingly, since there is still a significant Mennonite population in the area, several locals utilize horse and buggy! If you are a scary movie buff, you would also recognize this bridge from the movie IT. 

Ayr Trails

woman standing under trees beside lake with fallen leaves.
The Ayr Trails are another classic hiking spot to embrace nature // Photo: Patty H.

Close to Cambridge, there is the town of Ayr with its small shops and small-town vibe (although recently wrecked by large developments).

Although the small town is starting to look more like a city, the surrounding forests and hikes haven’t been affected. Check out Bannister Lake trail, Sudden Regional Forest, F.W.R Dickson Wilderness Area and Drynan Regional Forest – just to name a few!

Whether you are a summer hiker or winter lover both seasons offer spectacular views and a serene atmosphere. Personally, my favourite time to go is during the fall because the colours are to die for! 

Town of Elora, Fergus, and the Quarry

Navigation Address for Downtown Elora: 12 Mill St W, Elora, ON N0B 1S0

old stone building on river side with autumn leaves and blue sky around.
The elegant Elora Mill Hotel and Spa overlooking the Grand River.

About 40 minutes from Cambridge lies the cute town of Elora! This small town offers quirky cafes, delicious restaurants and Elora Brewing Company that offers a great selection of drinks. Walk through the town and enjoy a truly European vibe with artisan shops along each way.

The town of Elora is where you’ll find the famous river tubing through the Elora Gorge at Elora Gorge Conservation Area – it’s one of the best things to do in Ontario in the summer!

While you’re there, don’t miss the Elora Quarry. Surrounded by 12 metre high cliffs, the quarry hole filled with water is perfect for some swimming and sunbathing.

Be sure to get there early in the morning if you want to enjoy the quarry and a swim as the beach is quite small and fills up quickly! 

There’s also many nice walking trails and green spaces in the area – and the other small town of Fergus is just a short drive away.

Read More: We (Eric & Lisa) now have a Detailed Visitor’s Guide to Elora.

And there you have it – some of the best things to do in Cambridge, Ontario.

Cambridge has been my home for years and although there are so many other cities to live in the region I absolutely love living here. There is just so much to do! Spend a few days here getting to know the city and create your own impression of this marvelous city.

As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
– Patty

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Patty has nearly 20 years of experience exploring Cambridge, the Waterloo Region, and other parts of Southwestern Ontario. She enjoys local and international travel and has lived abroad for a year teaching French and Spanish. Patty is also a polylinguist who enjoys meeting new people and sharing experiences over a glass of red wine!