Small brick alleyways, local coffee shops, people who actually smile and hold the door open for you, sweeping views of Lake Ontario from the handcrafted gazebo; are you in a small European town? A Gilmore Girls episode? A dream?!
Nope, you're actually in Kingston.
Kingston is the best place to fall in love with because, unlike your ex, it's not a place that you can just read in one go. It's got depth that goes beyond its concrete streets that keep pulling you back for more.
Kingston doesn't just have an insane history, like it being the home of the First Prime Minister of Canada but it's built on that history to foster a town that you would only expect to find in a rom-com. We're talking about passionate people that bring the local scene to a level that is anything but "good enough", parks and water that look like a Hollywood backdrop, world-class theaters, and hidden bars and cafes so chic you'll feel fly af just sitting in them.
So get ready to explore the 613, and good luck getting the will power to leave!
1. Kingston Waterfront
Something about a magnificent, sweeping, view of Lake Ontario makes this classic Kingston landmark anything but basic. Kingston's Waterfront Pathway is 8km, giving you plenty of time and space to take in the beauty. The pathway is located a short walk away from downtown,which makes it the perfect place to start your day fresh. If you head west from downtown along the pathway you'll hit Breakwater Park, which offers one of the best views of the lake in the city, with its clear view of the sunset. Walk down the tree-lined paths or take a seat in the gazebo and get ready to never want to leave this place.
Why we love it: this isn't just your average lakeside view, it seems to bring in the very charm of Kingston with every visit down to the water. There's something about having a combination of sunset-tinted sky, sailboats floating idealistically down the bay, and windmills leisurely turning on Wolfe Island across the way that makes this an unforgettable sight.
2. Fort Henry
When something was built to defend the city, you know it has to be worth seeing. Especially considering it has been protecting that city ever since 1832. Former home to the British Army, and as a prison for combatants in the 1800's, it's a renowned Kingston landmark that gives visitors an unforgettable look into some underrated Canadian roots. It's also Ontario's only UNESCO World Heritage site - add that to another thing to check off your bucket list!
Why we love it: It's pretty much the real life version of Night at the Museum; there are tours that feature historic characters, you'll hear about military strategies, and may even trigger some interactive exhibits during your stay. Experience life as it was in 1867, through the ghost tours, a garrison parade, seeing David the Goat (the mascot), firing a snider Enfield rifle or Armstrong canon (with the supervision and training of a Fort Henry Guard obviously), or relaxing at the Battery Bistro!
3. The Brooklyn
Hidden off the beaten path of the downtown Hub, the Brooklyn has been a recent favorite addition to the growing craft beer scene in Kingston. The bar's eclectic yet sleek atmosphere makes an unreal setting for you to enjoy one of their 20 rotating craft beers to choose from. It's a really upbeat atmosphere where you can dance like a freak or chill around the hip wooden tables, making it a spot for any kind of bar lover. Its discrete location and constantly grooving atmosphere will help you realize that you've found a winner that you're going to be hard pressed to leave.
Why we love it: it's the place to go if you're looking for a change from the overdone clubbing scene. Whether you're there for a casual drink, hitting up their Trivia/Open Mic night on Sunday, jamming to their mod club scene on Tuesday, singing your heart out with karaoke on Wednesdays, or taking in some awesome live music on Thursdays - the Brooklyn is never one to disappoint.
4. Bellevue House
Oh you know, just a casual visit to our legendary country's first Prime Minister Sir John Alexander Macdonald's house - HOLD UP. That's right, Kingston's regal glow wasn't just a coincidence. Not just for history buffs, this historic Kingston landmark has been a huge visiting site for anyone looking for a look into a different side of life that they can not only hear but see. Long story short? Anyone who appreciates not only history but beautiful architecture, an unreal story, and having an unusually cool story to tell will be a fan of this Kingston destination.
Why we love it: The other appeal of Bellevue House is in it's simplicity. The former resident aside, Bellevue gives you a really cool look into what life was like for our the man that ran our country. The staff will make you feel like history buffs by the end with a seemingly endless stream of knowledge about the house and leader who lived there, some even dressed in costume.
5. Kingston Mills
A little trip north of downtown k-town will get you to the southern-most lock station of the Rideau Canal system, doesn't sound like your thing? Well, what if we told you that this lock station happens to be part of the Rideau Canal National Historic Site, and happens to be a World Heritage Site. There we go. It's been one of the top places for nature lovers and urban dwellers alike to go explore for the day. Whether you're there for a picnic, or to rock climb on the southwest end of the locks, it's the perfect way to spend another beautiful Kingston day.
Why we love it: you don't have to be a huge outdoor buff to enjoy this stunning park. It's a fantastic place to escape the bustle of everyday living for a day and take in natural Kingston beauty at it's finest.
*Only experienced Rock Climbers!! Stay Safe!*
6. Chez Piggy
Chez Piggy has been hyped as one of the best restaurants in Kingston for years now, pulling people in from around town for their world traveled inspired menu. They serve up a delicious brunch, afternoon cocktails, and meals that can take any celebration or date to the next level. It was winner of the 2016 OHI Gold Award for Independent Restauranter, and also the winner of Open Tables top 75 Brunch spots and top 100 Outdoor dining spots. With creds like that, it no wonder people kept giving rave reviews for their service, atmosphere, and, obviously, amazing meals. Steaks, fish, sourdough french toast oh my! Haven't had enough? Head to their equally popular bakery & cafe - Pan Chancho!
Why we love it: the location of Chez Piggy makes you feel like you are in small town Europe. We're not just talking about the charming downtown streets of Kingston, but the alleyway right beside the restaurant is a beautiful cobblestone path that starts at the restaurant patio and continues to weave through the old brick houses in Kingston to Brock St. This entire ambiance that surrounds the restaurant only adds to the unreal meal!
7. The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts
Opening only two years ago the Isabel Bader Centre for the performing arts has already made its mark on Kingston as the premiere artistic haven in Kingston. The stunning 7,400 square meter concert hall, black box studio theater, art gallery, rehearsal space and film screening room has already attracted some major talent. Located right on the water head down here for one of their many featured shows, or just to take in the sleek beauty of the marvelous addition to the Kingston artistic community! It's the center for any orchestra, classical and jazz musician - and also the center of learning for any Queen's University student in the creative arts. Not only bridging the gap between students and the community, but it also enhances the opportunity for some insane displays of the creative mind with its dynamic space and breathtaking facilities. Mic-drop.
Insider tip: Right next to the Isabel is the Tett Centre, another artistic hub for learning. Tucked in here is one of Kingston's hidden gems, Juniper Cafe! Grab a coffee or some handmade eats and get ready to let your inner artist loose.
8. Stone City Ales
This brewery is seriously hoppin' (get it?! Cause it's a brewery? No....okay...). This hip Kingston favourite has been getting more and more popular by the day, and it's no wonder thanks to its unreal craft beer and food selection. This place has every ideal aspect to make it a must hit stop on our Kingston visit, a kick ass vintage decor, a charcuterie board for even the snobbiest of eaters, unreal craft beer made IN STORE, a warming, local vibe, and finally an eclectic and beyond satisfying menu that will keep you coming back for more.
Why we love it: they state right away that before anything they are a brewery. The dedication the owners put into the process of this beer is clearly displayed through the taste. They were inspired by the American craft beer revolution and also by traditional Belgian brewing. Which means? They don't rush anything, they only use the finest ingredients possible, and your pint of beer has never tasted better.
9. Kingston Penitentiary Tours
Okay, we know what you're thinking, "so you're saying I'll never leave...after I visit a prison...". Well don't worry friends, you'll only get a 90-minute visit, but it'll definitely show you another side of Kingston that makes it a little more interesting.
Why we love it: It's a MUST see if you're looking for a bad ass excursion, not only because it was a former prison, but because the Kingston Penitentiary was Canada's oldest and the most famous maximum security prison. Dating back to the 1800's, you're guaranteed to get your money worth of information and unreal stories about this past Kingston landmark during your visit.
*The tours are only available during summer-fall season!*
10. Bread and Butter Bakery // 1530 Bath Road
Just try to leave town after trying Kingston's best-rated pie from the locally run and owned bakery Bread and Butter. Starting the bakery in 1998, Wendy Whitall and her family have been winning over the hearts of every customer through their delicious pastries and savory side dishes. Sound like your basic bakery? One taste of a freshly made flaky crust of your peanut butter pie will make you seriously rethink that thought.
Why we love it: the home-run, friendly environment of this bakery goes beyond the customer service. Tasting anyone of their dishes you feel instantly comforted knowing it was made from actual ingredients. They're not trying to keep up with some superficial food fad and use the kinds of recipes your Grandma would on Thanksgiving dinner. We're talking real butter, pure sugar, and all the things that make those crusts so delectable. It's real food, and it's really not something to miss!
Insider tip: check out their restaurant (newly opened!) Toast and Jam, and please, get the strawberry jam. You won't be disappointed.
11. Agnes Etherington Art Centre
In the heart of Queen's University lies one of Kingston's most prized art collection, one that proves that quality is definitely better than quantity. This is a research-intensive art museum housing 16,000 works from chic contemporary art, Canadian historical art, Indigenous art and artifacts, and even the collection of Canadian Historical Dress and the Lang Collection of African Art. Don't let it's small exterior deceive you, take a walk through the beautiful eight galleries to delve into your inner artiste! Who knows, you may even come across one portrait and two character studies by the famous Rembrandt when looking at one of the 200 plus paintings from the Dutch Golden Age graciously donated by The Bader.
Why we love it: not only do they offer a huge variety of artwork (with only a pay by donation admission), they also offer classes, workshops and hold events for art lovers of any kind.
12. St. Mary's Cathedral
No, we're not trying to convert you. No matter your faith, any person can appreciate the beauty of this stunning Roman Catholic Church. It's not only rumored to be the tallest building in the city but also has a building that has the Chair of the first Roman Catholic Bishop in English Canada. Whether you're there for the history, the faith, or just the beauty - anyone can appreciate this stunning landmark.
Why we love it: we love the handcrafted details that went into this building. From its official opening in 1848, it has been a beautiful addition to the ever charming landscape of Kingston.
13. 1000 Islands
The 1000 Islands run between Northern New York State and Southeastern Ontario, covering kilometers and kilometers of stunning shorelines, charming towns, and unique culture. And of course, Kingston is one of the main spots to see the best of what 1000 Islands has to offer - the way to do that? Hop on Kingston 1000 Island Cruises for the ultimate sightseeing adventure! Castles, cottages, and stunning scenery? Sounds like a keeper.
Why we love it: besides the fact that Kingston's 1000 Island Cruises let you take in the natural wonders of the Islands, you can also choose how you want to do that. You can choose from sightseeing cruises, a dining cruise or private charters to make sure that you get the best experience possible.