Visiting Waterloo in Ontario, Canada

Waterloo Region is a small group of cities (pop. 500,000) located in the heart of southwestern Ontario – roughly one hour from Toronto. The strong academic presence (Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo, & Conestoga College) in this region has attracted a large investment from institutions around the world due to the top talent coming out of the region, and because of this, Waterloo is now known as the Sillicon Valley of Canada.

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide: : Communitech Kitchener Ontario
One of the hubs of technology and entrepreneurship, Communitech is located in downtown Kitchener housing dozens of startup companies and larger companies like Microsoft and Google: Photo Communitech Photos / CC BY-SA 2.0

But don’t be fooled to believe that all there is to do is just check out startup companies (as fun as that may be). Waterloo is a great mix of youthfulness and history that combine to bring great events all year round. Here are a few things to do while visiting this great region.

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide

St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market:

Established in the 1970’s, The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is a Waterloo Region tradition that lives on. This is the largest year long farmer’s market in Canada, so be sure to check it out if you’re ever around. You’ll be able to try out maple syrup treats like my personal favorite; maple syrup lollipops and other great homemade treats. And if you’re looking for something more “touristy”, the Mennonites at the market have a horse-drawn carriage tour that takes you around the small community of St. Jacobs (which is connected to Waterloo).

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide:  Horse Carriage Tour
St Jacobs Farmers Market Horse Drawn Tours: Photo on Flickr by Allie Caulfield / CC BY 2.0

Winter Fun:

Of course, we can’t talk about a Canadian travel destination without mentioning its winter activities. Waterloo has multiple skating rinks as well as a small but enjoyable ski resort. So if you’re a hockey fan, an adrenaline junkie or you’re looking to really immerse yourself into the true Canadian culture then these are mandatory stops for you.

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide:  Chicopee Ski Park, Kitchener
Chicopee Ski Club, Kitchener

Elora:

Just a short drive north of Waterloo Region is a small and very historic town of Elora, which is comprised mainly of 19th and 20th century architecture to make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. There are great shops to get hand made clothing & accessories plus a massive ice cream shop located at the heart of the town to please your sweet tooth.

But the greatest part about Elora are the two natural escapes that the region provides: Elora Quarry and Elora Gorge. The Quarry is one of the most beautiful and fun mini lakes that I have ever seen, and if you’re an adrenaline junkie this is a great spot for you as it has massive 50 foot cliffs to dive off of.

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide: Elora Quarry
Elora Quarry, Waterloo: Photo on Flickr by Ontario Grand River Conservation Authority / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Elora gorge offers a lazy river to go floating and relaxing on (you can rent inflatable donuts and other equipment there) as well as great trails to go exploring around the wilderness.

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide: Tubing Elora gorge
Tubing at Elora Gorge: Photo on Flickr by Ontario Grand River Conservation Authority / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Here are some more things to do while in Elora.

Random Events All Time:

Waterloo’s progressive culture means that there are always great and spontaneous things happening – you just have to keep your eyes peeled. For example this coming June there is going to be an art festival entirely hosted on a moving train … pretty random right? I don’t know about you but this sounds like an awesome time!

Steel Rail Sessions 2011 from Huckleberry Films on Vimeo.

Uptown Waterloo:

Uptown Waterloo is a cozy place to go shopping, eating, and of course – drinking. There are a great variety of bars, restaurants, and shops to suit any tastes. Everything is a close walk away in this great part of town. This is a must see part of Waterloo, and if you leave without checking out Uptown you will have missed a large part of our culture.

Waterloo Canada Travel Guide: Central Block, Uptown Waterloo
Central Block, Uptown Waterloo: Photo on Flickr by Sean Marshall / CC BY-NC 2.0

Getting around:

Lastly, for you to enjoy all of what Waterloo has to offer. There are many, many taxis for you to get quick service, but the public transit system in this region is efficient enough to get you where you want at a fair price.

However, I am a big propenent of true exploration and neither taking a taxi nor busing around will let you explore the city well. That’s why you use a bicycle sharing system.

Currently there are two bike sharing systems in the region: The first one is Community Access Bike Share, which has bike racks all over the city for you to pick up a bicycle and enjoy your day. They operate on a flat $40 dollar membership that allows you to use their bikes for an unlimited amount of time for 7 months!!!

The second system is a startup that just launched called BykMe, which is essentially AirBnB / Uber for bicycles. BykMe connects bicycle owners with you, the tourist. If you’re looking for a 1 hour rental or a 2 month rental, you’re covered. Just negotiate with the bicycle owner using BykMe’s chat feature and you can manage a great rental at a fair price. Not to mention that they can help deliver your bike to you!

 

This has been a long post but I hope this helps you get started when you arrive in the great region that is Waterloo Region!

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About Giorgio Delgado

Website: http://giorgiodelgado.ca/

I am a 4th year Economics major at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and have been traveling ever since I can remember. I hope to travel extensively around the world once I graduate.

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