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 Eric lived in Kingston for few years. It’s a city that he has quite a bit of knowledge on – and it will always hold a special place in his heart. 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 winter time in January, we’ve got you covered! If you’re heading to Kingston, Ontario, check out our other posts on exploring the city:
- Great Coffee Shops in Kingston
- Where to Stay in Kingston – Hotels & Areas
- Some of Kingston’s Best Restaurants
- Our Favourite Bars, Pubs, and Breweries in Kingston
- Explore the 1000 Islands on a Boat Cruise (We Did It!)
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 are also hotels out by the highway (not that close to downtown) and you could stay here to potentially save money. If you do, you then have to factor in the cab ride or parking downtown which isn’t a huge deal. Eric has stayed at The Ambassador a bunch of times and it’s a great hotel with pool but the Thriftlodge Kingston is also very popular.
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. You can check here for accommodation deals in Kingston.
Things to Do in Kingston, Ontario
Now that we’ve covered a bit about a visit to Kingston, let’s dive into the things to do in Kingston, Ontario. Keep in mind, this isn’t a complete list – but it’s pretty good. We like to think it mixes both local knowledge with the top tourist attractions worth your time – whatever the season!
Stop by the Visitor Information Centre
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. 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!
The Information Centre is 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 amount of things to see and tours you can do in the summer time, it makes sense to package them together and buy something called as K-Pass. Basically it gets you discounts on admissions if you plan on doing loads of activities anyways. You can ask about more information in the Visitors Centre or read more here.
Address: 209 Ontario Street, Kingston
Take a Ride on the Kingston Trolley Tour
One of the top attractions tours in Kingston is hopping on the red Trolleys and doing the 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, 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 and loved the tour. It’s also a good mode of transportation to get to Fort Henry – but we will cover that.
If you want to take the Kingston Trolley around, you can check here for Trolley Tour tickets. It leave from right outside the Tourist Centre.
Hit the Water on a 1000 Island Boat Cruise
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 Next: Our 1000 Islands Boat Cruise Experience!
Like we mentioned above, a popular thing for visitors to do is to actually combine is the boat tour AND the trolley tour. So, you can even package them together for savings. You can check here for 1000 Islands Boat Tour tickets.
Go Shopping on 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.
You will also find many of the larger chain stores here like the Gap but you didn’t come to Kingston to shop at popular stores, did you?
Have a Drink at a Classic Kingston Pub
Summer time 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, Tir Nan Og, or Kingston Brewing Company 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. Like 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
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, 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.
Address: 1 Fort Henry Drive
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!
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
Across from the Visitor Centre dominating the waterfront is the dome at 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.
Address: 216 Ontario St, Kingston
Go to the Leon’s Centre for a Frontenacs Game
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 affordable for a game – and you can check out the website here. Keep in mind hockey season runs from September to April so it’s more of a winter things.
Address: 1 The Tragically Hip Way, Kingston
Check Out The Agnes Etherington Art Centre
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. If you want to learn more about the Agnes, check the website.
Address: 36 University Ave, Kingston
Take a Tour of Queen’s University
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 round for almost a decade.
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.
Address: 99 University Ave, Kingston
Walk the Kingston Waterfront Trail
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 WAY 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
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 do a boat tour of the Rideau Canal if that interests you – but that’s for another post!
Address: Rideau Canal Locks 46-49, Kingston Mills Road, Kingston
Explore City Park
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.
Address: City Park, Downtown Kingston
Visit Historic Portsmouth
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 visit the Portsmouth Tavern – 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!
Learn at The PumpHouse Museum
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.
Address: 23 Ontario St, Kingston
Hike Lemoine Point Conservation Area
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 bright 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 rental car or bikes!
Address: 1440 Coverdale Drive, Kingston
Go Climbing at The Boiler Room
Want to check out Canada’s highest indoor rock climb? Head over to The Boiler Room for a little workout!
This former mill/red brick factory complex has been converted into usable space for shops, offices, and a 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.
The highlight of the Boiler room is the 100 foot tall brick chimney – which you can see from areas of the Kingston waterfront. You can climb the inside and sneak a peek through the windows of the city below. Hopefully you aren’t afraid of heights! You can learn more hours and prices at the Boiler Room website.
Address: 4 Cataraqui St, Kingston,
Experience the Historic Bellevue House
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 live 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.
Address: 35 Centre Street, Kingston
Eat at a Great Kingston Restaurant
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. Having lived there, 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 SO many restaurants downtown and we are absolutely going to write a whole other post on just restaurants in Kingston. 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!
Address for Wooden Heads: 92 Ontario St, Kingston,
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 half way down to the bottom of downtown.
Rent a Boat/Kayak at the Waterfront
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, paddle board, 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 s bike is a great way to get around the city – and you can take it to Wolfe Island … an activity we mention next!
If you want to check out the Ahoy Rentals website, is it here.
Address: 21 Ontario Street, Kingston
Take the Ferry to Wolfe Island
If you fancy another boat ride you can take the Wolfe Island ferry to – you guessed it – Wolfe Island. This island is a great summer time destination 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. Here is the ferry schedule for you to check out.
Address: the end of Barrack St, Kingston (295 Ontario St)
Throw Axes at Kingston Axe Throwing
One of Kingston’s newest things to do is throwing axes. Yup – axes. 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 ti right and have a blast. It’s located a bit uptown so you may need a car or cab to get there.
If you want to plan a visit, check the official website.
Address: 785 Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, Unit 7J, Kingston
Visit a Kingston Brewery
Kingston, like many other places in Ontario, have 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, we have briefly covered Kingston Brewing Company which is old and established. As for newer additions, you can check out Stone City Ales for their signature food, great vibe, and great beers. Their Oatmeal Stout is wonderfully tasty.
Another great spot is the newest addition to the beer scene, SanTur. We went to SanTur shortly after it opened (at the time of writing) and the place was just awesome. The atmosphere was great, the food was amazing (Eric got bacon Mac N Cheese) and, of course, the beer on tap was great. We got two flights between the table of four and tried all their beers!
Address for SanTur: 177 Princess St, Kingston
Tour the Kingston Penitentiary
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 and baddest criminals for decades.
These days, “The Pen” as it’s called is closed down and features a museum and tours. Eric has never been inside but has always wanted to and should have gone when they started running tours a few years back! To book a tour, check the official website.
Address: 560 King St W, Kingston
Visit Canada’s Penitentiary Museum
While you’re out by The Penitentiary, 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.
If you’d like to visit the museum, admission is by donation – and it’s a stop on the Trolley Tour. Visit the official website for all the details.
Address: 555 King St. West
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?
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