What to See & Do
There is much to see and do in the city of Kingston and neighbouring areas. Rich with culture and activity, residents and visitors to Kingston are never at a loss for entertainment. Kingston is home to many talented artists, authors, musicians, athletes, and performers. In fact, did you know that rock legend Bryan Adams and NHL hockey player Doug Gilmour are both from Kingston? Whether you are an artist yourself, or simply enjoy cultural experiences, Kingston will satisfy your needs. Indeed, Kingston has an impressive 24 museums, galleries and historic sites. If you want my personal recommendation, one of my favourites is the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, a museum I believe is a “Must-See”. But it is impossible to pick only one favourite attraction or event.
Kingston is home to some of the best events and attractions in Canada. Both the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials, held in August, and the Fort Henry National Historic Site “World Famous Sunset Ceremonies” have made the 2008 Top 100 Festivals in Ontario list! And Kingston events and attractions are getting better and better each year. For example, the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials have grown to attract more than 8,000 spectators from across North America. In addition to excitement of seeing the top handlers in action, spectators are also treated to a number of interesting side attractions, such as birds of prey, reptile and jungle cat shows, fly-ball & agility, crafts & artisans, and an interactive children’s area. Suffice to say, this is a fun-filled family event that just gets better and better each year!
To help ensure you do not miss any events or attractions, I have assembled a list that highlights many of Kingston’s Arts & Entertainment opportunities, as well as some of the many attractions of Kingston.
Be sure to take some time and explore the city on your own and find one of the many smaller galleries and attractions! Once you have become acquainted with the city, you will soon realize how many specialty shops, boutiques and galleries can be found. The downtown core boasts a number of locally owned establishments. Once the warm weather is upon us, the city is alive with outdoor cafés and patio dining. Indeed, Kingston is home to some of the finest foods from around the globe. Additionally, you will be sure to find many groups and clubs that will introduce you to, or further you interest in, a variety of different activities. From ballroom dancing to ice skating, you’ll be sure to find some like minds.
If you need any more help planning some exploration of Kingston’s sights and sounds, contact the Kingston Tourist Information office: 1-888-855-4555.
Arts & Entertainment
Kingston Arts Council
The Kingston Arts Council is committed to creating, producing, presenting and appreciating the arts. If you are interested in cultural and artistic events and activities in the city of Kingston, visit their informative website for more information.
The Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre is an impressive performing arts centre. After undergoing reconstruction to improve the Theatre, it reopened in May 2008, showcasing two fantastic spaces for performances. With this extended space, the Theatre shows hundreds of performances each year. Check their website frequently to make sure you do not miss a single one!
Do you want to see the hottest concerts, most exciting sporting events, and fun-filled family events? You won’t want to miss the action at the K-Rock Centre. Check out the website for information on events. I hope to see you at one of the Kingston Frontenacs hockey games!
Kingston Symphony Orchestra
The Kingston Symphony Association is committed to promoting and producing professional quality programmes. Prepare to be educated, enriched, and entertained. Visit their website for more information on upcoming performances.
Agnes Etherington Art Centre
The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is one of Canada’s most notable galleries. Its permanent collection is particularly impressive and numbers 14,000 items. The depth and variety of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre will astound you.
Tour the former home of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald. Experience the rich history of this home and marvel at its Italian-villa architecture. Tour the property and experience life in the 1840’s.
City Hall was completed in December of 1844. The architect was 31 year old George Browne, who was selected from twelve submissions after the city designed a competition calling for architects to submit proposals. Take a tour and view the portraits of previous mayors.
Confederation Tour Trolley
Sit back, relax, and experience the rich and colourful history of the city of Kingston from the comfort of the Confederation Tour Trolley.
International Hockey Hall of Fame
Visit the “Original Hockey Hall of Fame,” founded in 1943 by the National Hockey League and the Canadian Amateur Hockey Associations. For more information, visit the website.
Travel back in time by visiting this remarkable museum and historic site. Tour inside the fortified walls and experience a reproduction of military life in the 19th century. Though the Fort Henry that stands today is the second fort to be built on the site, it is rich with historical significance and intrigue. With the completion of the Rideau Canal, the Fort was deemed integral to the fortification of the area. However, budgetary restraints meant that only the fort and four Martello towers were actually built. The Fort cost 70,000 British pounds sterling to build. As the fort was built between 1832 and 1837, the sum of money spent is akin to about $35,000,000 in modern Canadian currency. Wow! During the summer, twice a week the Fort Henry Guard Drums, Drill Squad and Artillery Detachment educate and entertain with an hour and a half interpretive tale of the 1860’s military music, precision drill, and artillery manoeuvres. The show even includes a mock battle and comes to a close with a dramatic fireworks display.
Why not challenge your fears and take a ghost tour, highlighting Kingston’s darker past. This walking tour through deserted evening streets, lit by lantern light will illustrate the spookier side of Kingston’s rich history. Learn about the Old Court House hangings and the Organist’s Ghost.
Kingston is home to breathtaking views of Lake Ontario, one of Canada’s four great lakes. Though it is the smallest of the great lakes, it provides an excellent spot for the many water activities that Kingston residents and tourists enjoy each year. Whether you are an avid sailor, or just want to take a boat tour to experience the city from a different vantage point, I guarantee that you will definitely fall in love with the beauty of Lake Ontario.
Marine Museum of the Great Lakes
An absolute must see and one of my favourites! The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes encompasses a main marine museum and also the Museum ship Alexander Henry. You can surely spend all day exploring the Museum ship and taking in the nautical collections. You can also stay overnight at the Bed & Breakfast.
Built as part of a defence system after the creation of the Rideau Canal it fell into disrepair by 1890. Currently, it is a National Historic Site that showcases the life of the soldiers who lived and worked within its walls.
This award winning museum chronicles the intriguing history of Canada’s federal penitentiaries. What a fitting location! It is housed within the former’s Warden’s residence at Canada’s oldest penitentiary. Indeed, Kingston is the birthplace of the Correctional Service of Canada.
A World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal is a fantastic waterway, a true boater’s dream. 202 kilometres in length, the canal is actually a series of stunning lakes and beautiful rivers connected by a series of canals. The canal links Kingston with Ottawa, and is the oldest canal in North America to be in continuous operation. The canal is a true Canadian landmark, given the prestigious status not only as a World Heritage Site, but also a National Historic Site of Canada as well as a Canadian Heritage River. Each lock is run similarly to the way in which it was run in 1832 when it first opened. A tour of the canal via boat will be a truly unforgettable experience.
No list of attractions and events would be complete without specific discussion of Kingston and its sailing prowess. Indeed, the city is famous worldwide for freshwater sailing. The city even hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics Sailing Events. In fact, this event was one of more than 40 sailing events the city has held since 1972. The Canadian Olympic-training Regatta (CORK) is held every August by CORK/Sail Kingston Inc. Experts agree that Kingston has the best yacht racing venues.
When the water becomes too frozen to sail, Kingston residents skate! Join hundreds of other Kingstonians for skating at various rinks across the city. The best experience can be found at Springer Market Square. For more information on skating visit the city of Kingston website.
Springer Market Square: The Kingston Public Market
Always keeping the green movement in mind, Kingston is home to most incredible market. The oldest continually operational market in Ontario (it was established in 1801), you can find fresh produce, home made products, and even antiques on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Statutory Holidays. Preference is given to producers whose produce comes from within 100 kilometres of the city. Even crafters who live with 100 kilometres are selected first. Low rental rates and a juried selection process for products guarantees that the market is rich with copious amounts of quality merchandise and happy vendors.
Wolf Island & the Wolfe Island Ferry
Enjoy a day excursion to Wolfe Island on the Wolfe Island ferry. Experience a journey made by residents of the island and tourists alike for more than one hundred years.
For more information about Wolfe Island, the island opposite Kingston, between Canadian and American shores, visit their website. It features event and business listings as well as a history of the community.
I hope you have found this information helpful. I’m sure that you are already excited about a number of the events and attractions I’ve listed. If you are interested in more events, I suggest checking out the local newspaper, the Kingston Whig Standard online, www.thewhig.com or visit the City of Kingston website.