Here Are Some Of Our Favourite Things To Do In Kingston, Ontario!
As one of our favourite cities in Ontario, Kingston is full of great things do to and fun facts. For example, its nickname is the “Limestone City” and it was the original capital of Canada!
This connection to the past makes Kingston one of the best places to visit in Ontario for history buffs, foodies, and everyone else in between. We think Kingston makes a pretty good weekend getaway in Ontario!
It’s no secret that we’ve lived in Kingston for the better part of a decade. It’s a city that we have quite a bit of knowledge of – and it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
From exploring the historic downtown to walking the Kingston waterfront, there are plenty of free, paid, romantic, or fun ideas that are great for kids, couples, or groups!
So, whether you are looking for things to do in Kingston in the summer months like August or the wintertime in January, we’ve got you covered!
Kingston Quick Guide
Best Time to Visit: Summer is popular for hot weather, fall for the colours, but winter has skating/outdoor activities!
Table of Contents
Things to Do in Kingston, Ontario
Let’s dive into our list covering things to do in Kingston. We’ve compiled a healthy mix of the top attractions and some more local tips and ideas.
No matter the season you visit Kingston in, there’s an activity for you!
Stop by the Visitor Information Centre
Address: 209 Ontario Street, Kingston
Located in the old train station down by the waterfront, The Visitor Information Centre is a great first stop if you are new to exploring Kingston. It’s located right across from the City Hall building, shown above, which makes it easy to find once you’re downtown!
Inside, you can learn about a ton of the things to do in the city. You can book tours and other things here, too. You can also buy classic Canadian souvenirs!
As we said, the Information Centre is technically located in Confederation Park which is right downtown across from Kingston City Hall. This is also where you can have a look at the Spirit of Sir John A. – an old steam engine that was restored and put on display at the waterfront.
We should mention here that loads of the top tours leave from right here or very close by. We will cover them below in detail but – just so you know – this area is where you catch the boat tours and trolley tours, among others.
Given the number of things to see and tours you can do in the summertime, it may make sense to package them together and buy something called a K-Pass.
Basically, it gets you discounts on admissions if you plan on doing loads of activities anyways.
Take a Ride on the Kingston Trolley Tour
Start Location: Outside the Visitor Information Centre
One of the top attractions tours in Kingston is hopping on the red Trolleys and doing the Historic Trolley Tour!
This “hop-on hop-off” style tour takes you all around to the highlights a visitor would want to see. You can even get off, explore the attraction (like Bellevue House), and catch another Trolley – they come by very frequently in the summer!
The trolleys have a live commentary from the driver and/or audio guide so it’s a great way to learn about the historical points of the city – and then some!
Eric has done it numerous times and loved the tour. It’s also a good mode of transportation to get to Fort Henry – but we will cover that.
Hit the Water on a 1000 Island Boat Cruise
Address: Leaves from the Pier at the End of Brock Street
The other very popular activity that leaves from close to the Visitor Centre is the 1000 Island Boat cruise.
The waterway near Kingston – the Thousand Islands and the Saint Lawrence River – are historically very important and beautiful places to explore from the water.
There are loads of different boat tours you can do – some are quick while others are the whole day. Some are sunset dinner cruises on different boats. You can pick the one you want and plan accordingly based on price and timelines.
We did the 3 Hour Cruise to the 1000 Islands and really enjoyed our half-day on the water!
The live guitar performer was great, the audio commentary was full of interesting knowledge, and the sun was shining on the top deck all day! Eric has also been on the sunset cruise with friends and it was SO worth it.
Read More: Our 1000 Islands Boat Cruise Experience
As we mentioned above, a popular thing for visitors to do is to actually combine the boat tour AND the trolley tour. So, you can even package them together for potential savings.
If you do a tour in the summer, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and potentially a sweater because it can get sunny and windy out there on the water.
Go Shopping on Downtown Princess Street
If you feel like shopping, Princess Street is the place to do it. Princess Street is a very long street that cuts right through downtown all the way to the waterfront. Downtown Princess Street is also on a hill that conveniently slopes down to the water!
Princess is great because there are loads of shops on the street.
Many of them are local businesses selling things from food to artisan crafts, clothing, and other things! The streets that connect to Princess are also full of places to check out.
Here are just a handful of Kingston local establishments right on downtown Princess that we like to frequent:
Have a Drink at a Classic Kingston Pub
Summertime in Kingston isn’t complete without enjoying a drink on an outdoor patio. Luckily, there are plenty of amazing local bars and pubs to have a drink at. We cover lots of them in a post on Kingston bars and pubs.
For a shortlist, check out The Iron Duke on Wellington, Red House, or The Merchant Tap House to get you started. Shout out to K.B.C. in particular – great beer, great history, great food, great place!
For the experience alone, you can also check out Jack Astor’s right downtown since they have a huge rooftop patio overlooking Springer Market Square.
As we said, good views for a summer evening – but you should try to “spend local” if you’re in Kingston. Just sayin’.
Visit Historic Fort Henry
Address: 1 Fort Henry Drive
Want to dive into Canada’s military history at one of the most important sites? Then Fort Henry, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is definitely a stop you should make when visiting Kingston!
Fort Henry is actually part of a larger historical site known as “Kingston Fortifications National Historic Site”. This site includes the old fortifications around Kingston Harbour and the entrance to the Rideau Canal.
Besides Fort Henry itself, the historic sites include the Shoal Tower (right by the waterfront downtown), the Murney Tower Museum, and the tower/walls of Fort Frederick which is out near the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) close to Fort Henry.
Back to Fort Henry, this “authentic” experience in a British military fort is complete with tours, a restaurant, rifle shooting, and a sunset cannon firing ceremony in the summer.
This is something that you should NOT miss. If you want to check out Fort Henry, here is the official Fort Henry website to plan your visit.
We recommend that you visit the Fort as a stop on the Trolley Tour – because the trolley makes it easy to get there.
You CAN walk to the Fort – but the hilltop location away from downtown might be too much for some. So you can either get there with a (rental) car, bikes, or The Trolley Tour – which makes a stop here anyways and you can always hop on and off.
Go on a Kingston Walking Tour
Because there is so much to learn in Kingston, you can do one of the many Kingston walking tours. There honestly is something for all interests and fitness levels!
Notably, there are very popular Historical Kingston walking tours, bike tours, Kingston Food and Beer Tours, and even The Famous Haunted Walk of Kingston – Ghost Tour that you can go on.
Start Location for Classic Haunted Walk: 200 Ontario St, Kingston (in front of the Prince George Hotel)
While many of these tours leave from close to the Tourist Centre, you should double-check the tour website individually or ask when you book your ticket, just in case!
Check Out City Hall/Springer Market Square
Address: 216 Ontario St, Kingston
Across from the Visitor Centre dominating the waterfront is the dome at the historic city hall. It’s a beautiful building – and you can go inside to do a self-guided tour.
Outside – and around the back away from the water – is a large open-air square called Springer Market Square.
This place is a hub for activities in all seasons. In the summer, there are farmers/flea markets, and “movie in the square”. You can check the market schedule here.
In the winter, the square gets an ice skating rink and you can go ice skating! Skating is free and you can rent onsite for a fee – the rentals and lockers are in City Hall close by.
Tour the Notorious Kingston Penitentiary
Address: 560 King St W, Kingston
If you are just hearing about Kingston, you might find out that it is home to one of Canada’s most (if not, THE most) notorious prisons: Kingston Penitentiary.
Opened in 1835, this prison held Canada’s worst criminals for decades.
These days, “The Pen” as it’s called is closed down and features a museum and offers guided tours.
We actually did one of the guided tours (we did the 1.5-hour Standard Tour) one summer and it was really, really interesting. The guide was very knowledgeable and the tour makes use of former guards who spoke at different parts about their time working there across the decades.
It was neat to see what was “behind the walls” of this historical institution. To book one of the tours, you should check out the official Kingston Penitentiary tours page.
Go to the Leon’s Centre for a Frontenacs Game
Address: 1 The Tragically Hip Way, Kingston
Once called the Krock Centre, it’s now the Leon’s Centre. The largest arena in downtown Kingston is home to a few events throughout the year. Mainly, however, this is where the Kingston Frontenacs play.
If you are visiting Kingston (or Canada) for the first time and want to see an ice hockey game, watching an OHL game (Ontario Hockey League) isn’t the worst way to do it!
Tickets are relatively affordable for a game, too. Keep in mind hockey season runs from September to April so it’s more of a winter thing.
Check Out The Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Address: 36 University Ave, Kingston
Located on the campus of Queen’s University, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre is a public art gallery with loads of art on display.
There are permanent exhibits like Canadian and European Baroque art as well as fascinating rotating exhibits.
It might seem small – but there are even three Rembrandt paintings in there! Conveniently, The Agnes is not too far from the Trolley Tour stop on Queen’s Campus.
Admission is also free – and a donation is always welcomed.
Take a Tour of Queen’s University
Address: 99 University Ave, Kingston
Speaking of Queen’s University campus, if you want to see some historic buildings, take a stroll through Queen’s.
Queen’s is one of Canada’s oldest post-secondary institutions since it was founded back in 1841. If you’re keeping track – this makes it older than Canada itself!
Fun Fact: Eric went to Queen’s and also worked for the school in various capacities. One of which was… a university tour guide. This is one of the reasons he loves Kingston and stuck around for almost a decade.
The Haunted Walk also runs a Ghosts of Queen’s University Tour, if that interests you!
Queen’s has actual student-led tours but they are catered to students looking to study there. So you can just do a self-guided tour by walking around. The campus is very pretty with green space at Summerhill and the waterfront close by.
Walk the Kingston Waterfront Trail
Address for Breakwater Park: https://goo.gl/maps/MpxomJNrHX6pacZV6
If you just want some fresh air, you can walk along the Kingston waterfront. There are walking paths/sidewalks along most of the areas close to downtown, in front of Queen’s University, west towards Portsmouth, and east towards Fort Henry across the Causeway (a bridge).
Fun Fact: The Kingston Waterfront Trails are 8 kilometres and part of a much longer 900 km trail that runs from Niagara Falls and into Quebec.
There are benches, tables, and even a pier area where people swim in the summertime. Definitely hang out by the water if the weather is nice – and watch the cold wind off the ice in the wintertime!
Check Out the Kingston Mills Locks
Address: Rideau Canal Locks 46-49, Kingston Mills Road, Kingston
If you want to get out of downtown for a bit, you can drive north to a piece of the Rideau Canal called the Kingston Mills Locks. Originally built in the 1820s, this set of locks is part of the waterway which leads all the way to Ottawa!
The area itself isn’t too exciting – but the locks are a World Heritage Site and there’s a visitors centre.
The green space is nice for a picnic if you want to get a feel for Canadian nature. The drive there alone is worth the trip if you are new to Canada!
You can also rent a boat and explore parts of the Rideau Canal if that interests you. It’s one of our best ideas for a day trip to take from Kingston!
Explore City Park
Back in the city centre, there is a large green space between Queen’s University and downtown Kingston – and this is City Park! The park is a massive space with paths in all directions. There are plaques and monuments throughout – one pictured above – so you can learn a bit about the city.
At the north end of the
Having lived close by, Eric spent loads of time in City Park playing sports in the summer, walking to and from the university campus, and skating in the winter.
Visit Historic Portsmouth
Address for Portsmouth Tavern: 96 Yonge St, Kingston, ON K7M 1K4
If you do end up taking the waterfront walking trails west, you will pass the Kingston Penitentiary (mentioned below) and end up in Portsmouth Village.
This village, technically a neighbourhood of Kingston, is a small historic place to visit.
There isn’t a whole lot to do there besides visiting the Portsmouth Tavern (known as “The Ports” – a very old, classic bar/inn from 1863.
So walk the waterfront/King Street to get there, have a drink, and walk back to downtown Kingston!
Visit Canada’s Penitentiary Museum
Address: 555 King St W, Kingston, ON K7L 4V7
While you’re out by The Penitentiary/Portsmouth, why not check out the Penitentiary Museum?
Located in the old warden’s house and built between 1871 and 1873, this house offers a unique look at a different part of Canada’s history.
So we’re clear, this is a separate building from the Penitentiary – it’s located right across the street. If you’d like to visit the museum, admission is by donation – and it’s a stop on the Trolley Tour!
Experience the Historic Bellevue House
Address: 35 Centre St, Kingston, ON K7L 4E5
Back on about history – you can visit Bellevue House. This National Historic Site of Canada was the former residence of Canada’s First Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald. He lived here with his wife between 1848-1849.
Built in the 1840s, Bellevue House is now a heritage centre and museum where you can learn about his life, the estate, and the story behind the birth of Canada. They even have character actors to chat with and lead tours.
The Bellevue House is located in a neighbourhood between downtown and the Kingston Penitentiary. It’s on Centre Street and can be accessed either via Union Street or King Street. Check the official website to plan your visit – it’s also a stop on the Trolley Tour.
Learn at The PumpHouse Museum
Address: 23 Ontario St, Kingston
If you’re feeling curious and want to learn about history, too, then visit the PumpHouse! This steam museum is a great way to learn about steam engines, engineering, and what was considered “modern technology” back in the day.
It’s an interactive place for kids if you are travelling to Kingston with the family! Here is the official PumpHouse website.
Hike Lemoine Point Conservation Area
Address: 1440 Coverdale Dr, Kingston, ON
If you want to get away from downtown without going too far north or outside of Kingston, then Lemoine Point might be for you. Located to the west of downtown – out by Kingston Airport – this conservation area is a nice little nature getaway.
The parking area is big and the trails are well-marked. There’s a variety of paths to take – from thick woodland trails to open fields.
There are even ones that give you great views out over the water (Collins Bay) and ones that bring you right to the shore of the lake.
Eric wandered through a few summers ago and it was great – good for dogs, too. If you want to get out for a nature day in Kingston, this is where you should go with a car, rental car, or bike!
Go Climbing in The Boiler Room
Address: 993 Princess St Unit 12, Kingston, ON K7L 1H3
Head over to The Boiler Room for a little workout! This popular climbing spot is actually in a brand new space after moving from across town. It’s an awesome climbing gym that is great for all skill levels.
If you’ve got kids, it may be a great place to burn off some energy. It’s also a great activity for all seasons since it’s indoors.
Whether you’re new to climbing or a local, the staff are great and are keen to make sure everyone has a safe and fun experience!
Eat at a Great Kingston Restaurant
Address for Wooden Heads: 92 Ontario St, Kingston,
We have added “eat” as a thing to do in Kingston because it’s an important thing to do. It’s said that Kingston has the most restaurants per capita in Canada.
As a local, Eric can attest to the fact that there are so many restaurants – and all featuring basically any cuisine or ethnic style you could ask for.
There are quite a few restaurants all walkable right downtown – with many others scattered throughout the city’s other areas. You can dive into our detailed guide on some of Kingston’s best restaurants.
For now, check out a Kingston classic like Wooden Heads for arguably (sorry, Atomica) the best pizza in town. If you know you want to go, book a reservation!
Attend a Local Performance
There is plenty of culture to be found around Kingston – and the performing arts are no exception. From comedy shows to vocalists and theatre groups, there is always a performance happening somewhere!
Two of the main locations to check out are the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (also known as The Isabel) located right on the waterfront or The Grand Theatre which is on Princess Street about halfway down to the bottom of downtown.
Rent a Boat/Kayak at the Waterfront
Address for Ahoy Rentals: 21 Ontario Street, Kingston
If you want to get out on the water on your own, you can do that! Near the PumpHouse, there’s a rental place called Ahoy Rentals. Here, you can find kayak, paddleboard, and canoe rentals – as well as bike rentals and more.
The waterfront is gorgeous and exploring it from the water is definitely recommended in the summer.
Renting a bike is a great way to get around the city (they even run Kingston bike tours) – and you can take it to Wolfe Island … an activity we mention next!
Take the Ferry to Wolfe Island
Address: Ferry Leaves from the end of Barrack St, Kingston (295 Ontario St)
If you fancy another boat ride you can take the Wolfe Island ferry to – you guessed it – Wolfe Island.
This island is a great Ontario summertime thing to do/see for beach seekers, and those looking to explore another part of the massive waterway. It’s actually super close to the American border – and you can take another ferry to go to the USA from the island if you want.
The Wolfe Island ferry is free to get on and the crossing takes about 20 minutes!
A popular thing to do is to rent a bike in Kingston and then take the ferry across to the island. You’ll end up in Marysville – a small town with a general store and a few waterfront places for a great pub lunch or a drink!
Take your bike to explore the island, enjoy the day at the beach (Big Sandy Bay), and then catch the last ferry home.
Throw Axes at Kingston Axe Throwing
Address: 785 Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, Unit 7J, Kingston
One of Kingston’s newest things to do is throw axes at Kingston Axe Throwing. Axe-throwing places have opened up in recent years across Ontario – and the trend was brought to Kingston by a couple of people that Eric knows from school.
While we haven’t been to the Kingston location yet, good friends have been and said they’ve done a great job of the place.
It’s safe, fun, and enjoyable for all! If you’ve never done axe throwing before, their coaching and safety will ensure you do it right and have a blast. It’s located a bit uptown so you may need a car or cab to get there.
Visit a Kingston Brewery
Kingston, like many other places in Ontario, has jumped on the craft beer train.
As a result, there are a few breweries that have opened up in recent years and many of them are downtown and even right on Princess Street. Of course, you can’t forget the breweries in the West End or north of the city centre like Spearhead or Skeleton Park!
As for walkable breweries as a visitor, Kingston Brewing Company is old, established, and always a good choice if you’re right downtown at the waterfront.
As for newer additions downtown, you can check out Something in the Water Brewing right on Princess Street.
We also like Daft Brewing. We lived right around the corner so it was easy to get there for a pint or two with friends. Their patio area is huge – and their indoor seating is also very cool and welcoming. Good beer, too!
You can read up on our detailed post on Kingston breweries!
Things to Consider Before Travelling to Kingston
Before you head off to explore Kingston, there are a few things that you should consider. We outline them below to help you plan your trip.
How to Get to Kingston, Ontario
Kingston, Ontario is – by car – located about 2.5 hours east of Toronto, 2 hours south of Ottawa, and 3 hours west of Montreal.
Right on Lake Ontario, this historic waterfront city is right between these bigger centres. Just hop on the 401 and aim for exits like #613, 615, or 617.
You can also get to Kingston by bus, ViaRail train, and you can even fly there – but the airport is TINY and only makes sense if you are flying in from further away.
It makes the most sense to rent a car in Ontario given the distances between things.
We have written a guide on getting to Kingston from Toronto if you are coming from that direction!
Where to Stay in Kingston, Ontario
If you are looking for a place to stay in Kingston, there are a few places to choose from. Again, we have a whole detailed guide on where to stay in Kingston but we’ll cover the basics here.
Most of the main attractions are located in downtown Kingston. So, if you are visiting to play tourist, you can certainly stay downtown near the historic waterfront.
The Confederation Place Hotel or The Holiday Inn Downtown are two possibilities that basically get you staying right at the water. You will be able to walk everywhere – from dinner and drinks to other attractions.
Tucked away in the beautiful older neighbourhood downtown (where Eric used to live), there are also traditional bed and breakfasts and inns. Check out The Hochelaga Inn or the Rosemount Inn if that interests you.
There’s a new boutique hotel called The Smith Hotel. They’ve renovated a historic church building close to downtown so that might be worth looking into!
There are also hotels on Princess Street heading away from downtown (The Comfort Inn & Suites is newer or the Best Western Fireside Inn would do) as well as several hotels out by the highway (Courtyard by Marriott Kingston Highway 401).
You may save money at these non-downtown locations, but keep in mind you’d either need to drive or cab downtown to the main sights. It’s not a huge deal, just something to consider.
All that said, if you’re looking for a place to stay as a visitor to Kingston, we’d suggest somewhere downtown. It’ll just be the best experience for you.
And there you have it – 27 of the best things to do and see in Kingston, Ontario. In the end, we may have missed a few things but this is a pretty comprehensive list – if we do say so ourselves!
Kingston is a fun little city with lots to explore – so visit the Tourism Centre (or print out this post!) if you are unsure where to start. Let us know what you get up to!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
If you’re heading to Kingston, Ontario, check out our other detailed guides on exploring the city:
- Great Coffee Shops in Kingston
- Where to Stay in Kingston – Hotels & Areas
- Lovely Ideas for Day Trips from Kingston
- Explore the 1000 Islands on a Boat Cruise (We Did It!)
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