20+ Things to Do in Guelph, Ontario (+ Tips from A Local)

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Check Out These Things to Do in Guelph, Ontario!

As a rural guy born and raised, Eric thinks Guelph, Ontario is a great place to visit! This quaint, rural city boasts a growing tourism scene and offers visitors loads – from festivals and parks to downtown Guelph with bars, restaurants, and more.

We love Guelph. Eric has been dozens of times – having had many friends living there over the years. Lisa has now been many times since her first Ontario weekend adventure there when we connected with one of Eric’s best buddies, Cam.

Armed with his local knowledge (and a pair of good walking shoes), we explored Guelph properly!

So, from farmers’ markets to Riverside Park and the University of Guelph, here’s our list of things to check out. FYI: Guelph makes a great day trip from Toronto. There are also plenty of things to do in Guelph with children if you’re coming as a family!

Guelph Quick Guide

Best Time to Visit: Summer for sunny riverside activities and fall for lovely colours. Winter can also be cozy as a small city to get away in!

Getting Around: The city centre is very walkable/bikeable, as are the riverside paths. Use Guelph Transit for buses. A car is best for surrounding attractions/nature areas.

Top Things to Do: Explore Downtown and Guelph Farmers’ Market, enjoy a riverside treat at The Boathouse, and experience nature at The Arboretum or with Speed River Paddling.

Where to Stay: Western Hotel and Suites for a popular downtown Guelph hotel, Norfolk Guest House Inn for a lovely guesthouse by the river, and the Comfort Inn Guelph for an affordable choice with easy parking.

Things to Do in Guelph, Ontario

Okay, now that we have covered the basics things that you should know when travelling to Guelph, let’s dive into the things to do and see!

These are in no particular order – and we didn’t do all of these, but we did most of them. Also, be sure to look into details like prices, parking, and hours as they can always change!

Explore Downtown

Navigation Address for Market Square: Google Maps

metallic sign for market with flag poles behind.
Market Square is a good place to start!

Once you get to Guelph, there’s no better thing to do than to park downtown and just wander the downtown core.

The centre of Guelph isn’t huge so after a few passes of streets, you’ll come to understand the grid-like blocks and pass every cafe, restaurant, shop, etc that is around!

trees outside city hall in market square guelph ontario downtown.
The splash pad/skating rink at Market Square by City Hall!

Market Square is right by City Hall. In the summer, there’s a giant fountain/water feature that is popular for kids to splash in. In the wintertime, it’s a great skating rink that is maintained by the city!

Besides the skating rink, downtown is where you’ll find all the best places for Guelph eats, nightlife, fun, and more.

We could name everything to check out downtown but that would take a while – so we will give you a sample of things in each category.

city street with buildings and church at the end in downtown guelph ontario.
Douglas Street with The Red Brick Cafe on the left.

A great cafe is Eric the Baker (haha), but there’s also The Red Brick Cafe (see up).

If you want a pub/drinks/bar, check out Baker Street Station (see below), McCabe’s, or Doogie’s.

If food is what you want, go for Crafty Ramen, Baker Street Station (again), or 1881 Steakhouse and Burger Bar (in the Western Hotel). If fun is what you’re after, The Round Table is the place for board games and more fun (RIP, The Boardroom)!

old yellow house with front patios and pub sign in front.
Baker Street was great for food and drinks!

See? There are too many places downtown and we haven’t even scratched the surface. You can try out these suggestions and/or read more about Guelph’s bars and pubs here.

Wander Royal City Park + River Paths

Navigation Address: 139 Gordon Street, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

lake with green shoreline rivers in guelph ontario.
Looking out over where the rivers meet.

When you are just south of downtown and right beside the Boathouse (see below) you’ll find the place where the rivers in Guelph – the Speed River and the Eramosa River – meet.

This is a special area in Guelph as there are many parks and walking trails that line the banks.

Fun River Fact: If you follow the Speed River south out of Guelph, you’ll eventually end up in Cambridge and meet up with the Grand River!

bridge with river under and green park in front.
This is us actually standing in Royal City Park looking towards the Boathouse.

One of the main parks in Guelph is Royal City Park. This park runs the length of the Eramosa River to the west as it leaves the downtown area.

The park has trails (parts of the Royal Recreation Trail) as well as live music, a playground area, sports fields, and more.

two guys crossing wooden covered bridge in guelph ontario.
Crossing the Speed River using the “Covered Bridge”

If you cross the Speed River using the Covered Bridge (seen above), you’ll end up heading to York Road Park.

This long park also has parts of the Royal Recreation Trail which you can follow away from downtown in the other direction from Royal City Park.

You can follow this trail along the Eramosa River to Eramosa River Park (close to Royal City Brewing and the Grotto Climbing Gym mentioned down below).

wooden sign with trail directions and small map.
Just follow the signs!

Finally, if you walk the Speed River north from this area, you’ll be on what’s called the Downtown Trail (becomes the Speed River Trail) and you’ll end up at Riverside Park (mentioned below) and eventually Guelph Lake!

There are lots of river trails to follow and parks to check out so put on your shoes and get active!

Indulge At The Boathouse Tearoom

Navigation Address: 116 Gordon St, Guelph, ON N1H 4H6, Canada

pink house with tree in front beside river.
You can’t miss The Boathouse… it’s pink.

If you want a sweet treat, a cup of tea, a well-made sandwich or wrap, or a scoop of ice cream, then go to The Boathouse.

Located right after a bridge over where the rivers basically meet as you head towards downtown Guelph, you cannot miss the pink house on the right.

mint chocolate chip ice cream cone in front of sign.
We got Mint Chocolate Chip!

Outside, you’ll find seating in the sunshine by the river. Inside, there’s a side for ice cream and a huge side for serving up classic afternoon high tea (on a three-tier tray), a classic cream tea (tea and scone), or smaller eats like wraps, flatbreads, salads, soups, and more.

Since it was hot out, we got ice cream (which was great) – but Eric is a huge fan of chicken Caesar wraps and didn’t realize they had it on the menu! We will be back. You can check their menu and call to reserve a spot for tea!

Rent a Canoe/Kayak on the Rivers

Navigation Address (outside The Boathouse): 116 Gordon St, Guelph, ON N1H 4H6

pink sign with shrubs in front beside busy road.
Drink tea, go for a paddle – what could go wrong?!

In front of the Boathouse, you have the chance to rent a canoe or kayak and take it out on the rivers. It was the morning of a Saturday when we wandered by and there were already people putting on their life jackets and getting ready to hop in a canoe!

canoes tied in a line in river with bridge behind.
The boats waiting for you to take them out!

For the record, the company renting the boats is called Speed River Paddling. Check the very bottom of The Boathouse Page for rates for rentals and dates/hours of operation.

Shop the Guelph Farmers’ Market

Navigation Address: 2 Gordon St, Guelph, ON N1H 4G7, Canada

If you are in Guelph on a Saturday, one of the things that you should check out is the Guelph Farmers’ Market.

It’s one of the oldest running farmers’ markets in Ontario and with such an agricultural and green-oriented city like Guelph, it’s easy to see why.

While the original location and building for the Market was built back in 1827, it moved a handful of times. Today, the Market has been in its spot behind City Hall/Train Station since 1968.

There are dozens of stalls set up inside and outside selling everything from fresh produce to baked goods, flowers, cheeses, you name it!

Check Out the Basilica of Our Lady

Navigation Address: 28 Norfolk St, Guelph, ON N1H 4H8

stone church with two towers and men walking up stairs in front.
Walking up to the Basilica.

We’re not religious – but any chance to see a mini Notre Dame Cathedral we’re in to check it out. Luckily, Guelph is home to the Basilica of Our Lady!

Opened in 1888, this impressive church can be seen upon the hill as you drive towards downtown. Honestly, we’re used to European churches (Lisa is German, after all) but by Ontario standards this church is gorgeous.

The church is done in a Gothic Revival style – for those of you keen to know the architectural style. We didn’t go in but you can attend mass if that’s your thing. You can also do a virtual tour online if you’re curious to see the inside.

Oh, and you also get great views from up on the hill of downtown – so at the very least, you get some exercise and a photo if you go check it out!

Visit the Guelph Civic Museum

Navigation Address: 52 Norfolk St, Guelph, ON N1H 4H8

stone museum on hill with sign set in grassy slope.
You can’t miss the Civic Museum from downtown.

Located right beside the massive Basilica on the hill overlooking downtown, the Guelph Civic Museum is another place you might want to check out.

Opened back in 1967 but moved to the renovated Loretto Convent building, this museum is dedicated to cataloguing and showcasing the history of Guelph and life in the surrounding area. As such, they have over 30,000 artefacts in the collection!

They also have rotating exhibits, art shows, and events like live music which might interest you.

Explore Riverside Park

Navigation Address: 709 Woolwich St, Guelph, ON N1H 7G6

wooden shed with gardens around in riverside park.
With so many people/kids around, we didn’t take too many photos!

Probably one of the most popular parks in all of Guelph is Riverside Park. Where do we even begin?! Aside from lovely green spaces and trails that hug the Speed River, this park has something for kids and the whole family.

There is a concession stand serving up sweet treats and other tasty items that are terrible for you. There’s a carousel and a mini railroad for the kids as well as a disc golf course on the other side of the river.

Eric played with Cam there and it was great. You should give it a try if you are into disc golf!

There are also sports fields scattered around and other garden areas (and a floral clock) with benches along the river.

To get there, you can drive or walk on Woolwich Street until you see the park on your right (from the downtown direction). Alternatively, if you are where the rivers meet at Royal City Park, you can simply follow the Speed River trail the whole way to Riverside.

If you walk this path, you will pass the Goldie Mill Ruins – the limestone shell of an 1800s sawmill! We saw it and it was fenced off for safety but still pretty cool. In any case, check out Riverside – you won’t be disappointed.

gravel path through trees with grass beside.
We really liked Exhibition Park!

Pro Tip: If you are looking for another great park, check out Exhibition Park – it’s closer to downtown than Riverside Park. We had a walkabout with our local buddy and found it quite nice.

Visit the McCrae House

Navigation Address: 108 Water St, Guelph, ON N1G 1A6

old house behind white fence with red gate and tree.
The whole grounds are neat to explore.

For the history buffs visiting Royal City Park, you’ll notice a small stone cottage nearby and a red gate. Go check it out – that’s the McCrae House!

The house was originally built in 1858 and was later the birthplace of John McCrae. This man was a doctor, who would become a soldier in World War I – and would become most famous for being the author of the poem “In Flanders Fields” – the one about the poppies and the war dead.

We wandered into the grounds – which are lovely – and took a moment to read his famous poem. For Lisa (not growing up in Canada), it was nice to learn about something that is a big deal at Remembrance Day for Canadians.

The house became a place of significant historical importance around 1966 and it was made into a museum to preserve a piece of Canadian history.

It’s technically a National Historic Site of Canada. These days, you can go inside and check it out. The grounds also have various events like tea, music, and art talks.

Get Lost at The Bookshelf

Navigation Address: 41 Quebec St, Guelph, ON N1H 2T1, Canada

bookstore on street corner with white tents outside.
The Bookshelf has EVERYTHING.

Described by our local friend as a “wild business”, The Bookshelf has something for everyone. No, seriously.

This shop on Quebec Street is a bookstore, a movie theatre, a cafe + bistro next door (Miijidaa), and a bar upstairs that has a salsa night and a pool table!

We went for a wander inside the bookstore part but wanted to come back to catch a movie. They even serve beer and wine in the theatre!

Wander the Art Gallery of Guelph

Navigation Address: 358 Gordon St, Guelph, ON N1G 1Y1, Canada

sign by road with red brick building behind.
The entrance is just off of Gordon Street.

If you want to get in a bit of a walk and are interested in art, you could check out the Art Gallery of Guelph. Located right beside the University of Guelph campus (more on that below), this old building houses an impressive gallery.

It was originally opened in 1978 as the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre but was renamed in 2015. We didn’t go inside the day we visited – but we did wander around outside.

Around the whole perimeter of the Gallery, you’ll find what’s called the Donald Forster Sculpture Park. This grassy, wooded area is full of cool, weird, and certainly thought-provoking works – to say the least!

Explore the University of Guelph

Navigation Address: 50 Stone Rd E, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada

large black football stadium with trees and parking lot.
You can check out a football game if it’s Gryphon football season!

If you’re up for learning a bit of history, catching a sports game, or just generally feeling like you’re in university again, then check out the University of Guelph.

Founded in 1964, it’s one of the younger universities in Ontario but it’s built up quite a reputation for veterinary medicine, life sciences, agricultural studies, and more.

The campus is quite lively with some older buildings to check out. You can actually do a historical self-guided walking tour of the campus by checking out this self-guided walking tour itinerary.

large grey stone building beside road in guelph.
War Memorial Hall on the U of G Campus.

Of note, the War Memorial Hall is one of the more beautiful buildings on campus. You can also catch a sports game if it’s during the school year.

The U of Guelph Gryphons play at the nice stadium and Canadian University Football is pretty good.

Oh, and if you wander the campus, don’t forget to see The Cannon – a statue of an old war cannon that gets painted by rival schools, student associations, etc.

Explore the Arboretum

Navigation Address: 390 College Ave E, Guelph, ON, Canada

wood and metal sign post with garden pavilion behind at arboretum.
The Arboretum is HUGE!

Technically owned by the University of Guelph, The Arboretum is this green space (that is connected to the main campus of the University) is over 400 acres of trees, gardens, trails, wetlands, and more.

fountain seen between green gardens in distance.
The gardens are lovely – and that’s just one area.

The grounds feature many things like sites for research, pavilions, beautifully curated gardens, a Nature Centre, and a disc golf course. Eric has also played this course (with Cam) and it was an absolute blast!

two guys walking through wooden gate in tall hedges.
Wandering through Arboretum Gardens.

We took a drive out with Cam since Lisa hadn’t seen the grounds before. It was lovely – as you can see from the photos. Other people were wandering about enjoying nature, too. It’s free to park and check out which we love!

They even have little name tags on the trees so that you can learn about the different species. We’d recommend checking it out if you have the time.

Visit a Guelph Brewery

Navigation Address for Royal City Brewing Co.:199 Victoria Rd S, Guelph, ON N1E 3J3, Canada

outside of brewery with logo above glass windows.
Pulling up to Royal City.

Guelph is a great place to visit if you are into beer (and Ontario craft beer) because there are several breweries in Guelph to check out!

The area boasts five major ones: Brothers Brewing, Fixed Gear Brewing, Royal City Brewing, Sleeman Brewery, and Wellington Brewery.

Wellington is actually Canada’s oldest independently owned microbrewery (which is a pretty big deal).

wooden tables inside shop with beer menu on wall.
Inside Royal City is super cool – with beer for purchase onsite!

In this post, we’ll talk about two: Royal City and Brothers Brewing. We drove to Royal City. It’s a little bit outside the city centre but it’s worth the drive.

Inside, there’s plenty of space for tasting and they even have retail space along the sidewall.

The beer fridges are stocked with cans and larger sizes to take home, so we grabbed a few to enjoy later: an Exhibition IPA and a Hibiscus Saison!

brewery shop front on downtown street.
Brothers Brewing Co. is right downtown Guelph.

Another great Guelph brewery is Brothers Brewing (shown above) located right downtown. Cam really likes it because they do all beer in-house.

Navigation Address Brother Brewing Co.: 15 Wyndham St N Unit A, Guelph, ON N1H 4E5, Canada

They have a great sour Berliner Weisse that they make fun variants of – agave sour, blueberry sour, peach, lemon, etc.

You can also take bottles to go AND you can even buy people a beer. They write it on the wall and you can claim it later!

In the summer of 2019, the five breweries started an initiative called “Guelph.Beer” and created the “Beer Bus” – a Guelph city bus partnership that takes you to each of the five breweries responsibly!

It ran once each month of the summer but we weren’t in town to do it – and this made Eric sad.

Cheer on the Guelph Storm

Navigation Address: 50 Woolwich St, Guelph, ON N1H 3T9, Canada

If you’re visiting Guelph between the months of mid-September and April, you’ll be in town for hockey season!

This means that – if you want to take part in a very Canadian pastime – you can go to an OHL hockey game in Guelph!

OHL stands for Ontario Hockey League – a junior league that is pretty good hockey (players go from there onto NHL teams, kind of).

In any case, Guelph is home to the Guelph Storm and they were OHL Champions in 2019! (That’s a pretty big deal).

The Storm play at the Sleeman Centre Arena which is located close to downtown Guelph so you can go for dinner and then to a Friday night game!

Attend a Great Guelph Festival/Event

white pop up tents on paved road in city downtown guelph.
The “Art on the Street” Festival on Quebec Street right downtown.

Count on Guelph – a tight-knit community – to have loads and loads of events, festivals, and other things happening throughout the year to bring people together and engage the community.

Case and Point: when we visited we accidentally hit the same Saturday as the “Art on the Street” festival!

There were dozens of tents set up downtown each with artists showing and selling their work. It was great to wander through to see the different styles!

So, if you’re in Guelph, check the Guelph Wellington Events Calendar because there’s a good chance you’ll hit a local event.

Below are just a handful of the yearly events on the calendar – there are dozens and dozens more covering food culture, music, and more!

Climb at The Grotto Climbing Gym

Navigation Address: 199 Victoria Rd S, Guelph, ON N1E 6T9

Located outside the centre, right beside Royal City Brewing, The Grotto Climbing Gym is a huge part of the Guelph community.

Because the city is so active, it makes sense that a climbing gym with top-notch facilities is a popular meeting spot.

The Grotto prides itself on being a place where climbers of any age and skill can participate. They offer all different kinds of indoor climbing from bouldering to lead climbing.

If you want to have a go, The Grotto would be a great place for it!

Things to Do in Guelph, Ontario – Out of Town

So far, we have covered most of the things to do in Guelph downtown. That said, there are a few things/places that you might want to check out just outside of town.

It’s generally just an excuse to name a bunch more conservation areas or parks great for hiking!

Enjoy Guelph Lake + Beach

Navigation Address: 7743 Conservation Dr, Guelph, Ontario

river with brown bottom and green trees lining the bank.
Just follow the Speed River from Downtown to Riverside Park to the lake!

Officially Guelph Lake Conservation Area, there’s a large lake north of Guelph that you can check out! The lake is actually man-made – they built a damn in 1974 and the water pooled here!

These days, the lake (and surrounding park space and conservation area) is a gathering place for swimming, hiking, fishing, and even camping.

There are two beaches in the area and picnic grounds so it’s a great spot for groups and families with kids.

We drove by on our way out of town and the water looked lovely given that it was a hot day!

Hike Starkey Hill Conservation Area

Navigation Address: 735 Arkell Rd, Puslinch, ON, Canada

church tower through green forest in distance at starkey hill conservation area.
There’s the Basilica away in the distance! // Photo: Cam.

If you aren’t sick of hiking yet, we’ve got another conservation area for you to check out. Located just outside of Guelph, Starkey Hill is 37 hectares of hiking trails.

The best part is the 4-kilometre loop that is a bit of a workout even for moderately fit hikers.

In any case, you go for the views. The location of the area outside the city means you get views of Guelph and the surrounding area. Parking is onsite off of Arkell Road, too.

Depending on the season, you might have to bring bug spray – or you can just hike faster!

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada

Navigation Address: 6981 Conc. 4, Puslinch, ON N0B 2J0

This one is a little out there but it caught Eric’s attention and now he’s obsessed with the idea of going.

There’s a farm outside Guelph called the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada – and they house old, abused, or abandoned donkeys and mules.

The Sanctuary has specific Open Days when you can visit, meet the animals, and learn all about them through “Donkey Talks”.

Since we love animals, we are planning a visit to the Sanctuary on an Open Day – and you bet we will write about it!

Things to Consider Before Travelling to Guelph

Before you head off to explore Guelph, there are a few things you should consider – from transportation to where you might want to stay a night or two.

How to Get to Guelph

red brick train station with cars in front.
The Central Station is the hub for trains and buses!

For a small city in Southwestern Ontario, you’ve got quite a few ways to get to Guelph: driving, bus, or train. We have a whole post on how to get from Toronto to Guelph if you’re interested in the details.

Guelph By Car

If you are driving (usually from Toronto), you just take Highway 401 west towards London/Windsor. Then you can take Highway 46 which turns into Gordon Street and takes you RIGHT through downtown.

The other option is to exit north on Highway 6 to head into town. You’ll then have to get off at Wellington Street West to head downtown.

Both are pretty simple – just follow the signs. If you are visiting, a rental car comes in handy about now.

Guelph By Bus

If you want to take the bus, the only option is the GO Bus. You can check the GO schedule.

Guelph By Train

If you want to take the train, again, you have two options: the Go Train (regional Ontario Train) and the ViaRail (Trans-Canada Train).

You can find the GO Train schedule above with the GO Bus and the ViaRail schedule ViaRail schedule. Tip: You can also buy the GO Train ticket through the ViaRail site!

We are writing a whole post on all these options above (car, buses, trains) so stay tuned for that post on travelling to Guelph (from the Toronto area).

Getting Around Guelph

city street with cars parked and buildings in distance.
Just one shot of downtown Guelph.

Once you arrive in Guelph, the downtown core is very flat and walkable. However, the area around the University of Guelph and heading towards downtown (and the rivers) is pretty hilly. Most pathways following rivers are also quite flat.

Guelph is a green city so the biking infrastructure is much better than in other Ontario towns/cities.

If you plan on using the bus – to access parks or conservation areas further out – it’s $8.00 CAD for a day pass per person. You can learn all about Guelph Transit and bus fares, route maps, and more.

Where To Stay In Guelph

old stone building at city intersection  downtown with cars parked in front.
You can actually see the Western Hotel & Suites to the right.

If you plan on staying overnight, you’ve got a few options. There aren’t a ton of accommodations in Guelph but enough choices to find a hotel, inn, or guesthouse that works for you.

Check Here For Accommodations and Hotels in Guelph.

Specifically, the Comfort Inn Guelph is outside of the town centre but is an affordable, popular choice. The Delta Hotel and Conference Centre is walkable to the University of Guelph campus and a walk to downtown.

For a quiet stay, the Norfolk Guest House Inn is a lovely guesthouse by the river and a short walk downtown.

Finally, if you want to stay right in downtown Guelph, you might check out the Western Hotel and Suites. It has a popular bar/pub/restaurant on the ground floor (which Eric has been to – really good).

Related Articles

If you’re planning on exploring Guelph (or wondering what else to see in this area of Ontario) for a day or two, you might find these posts helpful for trip planning!

And there you have it – just a few things to do in Guelph, Ontario! As we said before, this isn’t everything – but it’s a pretty good list.

We’ll be writing more about visiting Guelph in the future so get in touch if there’s something we should check out!

As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
– E&L

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photo of stone museum building with text overlay Great Things to do in Guelph Ontario Canada.
Eric Wychopen is a Canadian content writer who loves to share his passion for Ontario. Originally from a small town in Simcoe County, he has almost 50 countries under his belt - but Ontario will always be home. Having travelled thousands of kilometres across the province for work and play, Eric has a wealth of knowledge about the province and is always looking for new experiences in Ontario.