Kitchener City Guide - Where To Stay, What To See and Where To Eat!

Kitchener, Ontario

Just in time for our city's biggest celebration of the year, I am sharing my full Kitchener City Guide for the city that I have lovingly called home for 20 years.

I didn't grow up here, but that doesn't make me any less a Kitchenerite. I married one, my boys are from here and I have done it and seen it all. I've watched Downtown Kitchener rise into the bustling city centre it now is and have witnessed the expansion of our great city that is now home to 242,000 people and growing every day.

There's so much to see and do here. Kitchener has a defined downtown core and many, many neighbourhoods that have their own distinct vibe. You can be downtown in front of our City Hall grabbing a Starbucks then jump in your car and in 15 minutes you could be out in the countryside. It's actually my favourite thing about this city. We have the best of both worlds right here, city and country!

This weekend is the official start to Oktoberfest, which is what our city is most well known for. Our city (and entire region which includes the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo) was founded by German and British settlers. The town's original name, Berlin, was in place for 100 years. Following anti-German wartime sentiment a vote was held and in 1916 Kitchener, which was the name of a British war time hero, was selected as our city's new name. The name won with only 346 votes out of the 5,000 eligible votes (many were not in favour of changing the name and elected to skip voting)

Fast forward to 1969 and a group saw an opportunity to celebrate their German heritage on a large scale. Inspired by Munich's Oktoberfest they started the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest which is now the second largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world! It's a city wide 9-day celebration of German food and culture (beer), Thanksgiving and everything our city has to offer. Willkommen to those visiting our city during this celebration!

So you've got a little history of Kitchener and some information about on our Oktoberfest celebration. Now let me show you where to stay when you're here, what to eat and what to see and do! For a few of these suggestions we will be venturing out into some nearby cities/towns, nothing too far from our city centre.

What To Do:


Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

There are so many events going on during Oktoberfest, I'd need an entire page to write them out! If you are visiting over the next few days, I encourage you to check the events page on the Oktoberfest website.

If you want to visit a festhall (I recommend grabbing some friends, it's more fun as a crowd!) you need to pre-purchase tickets here. Each hall has something different to offer, but there's mostly German food and drink and lots of polka music and chicken dancing. If you're lucky, Onkel Hans and Tante Frieda will make an appearance!

Personally, there are a few things that I love doing each Oktoberfest. It all starts with the Tapping of the Keg, at the Kitchener City Hall on Friday October 11th at 11:15. This officially opens Oktoberfest and many notable celebrities have attended to tap the keg, including our Prime Minister. Then it's off to the Oktoberfest Store on Benton St (you can't miss it, it looks like a castle!) to grab a new button for the year and check out the lederhosen, dirndl and alpine hats which everyone in town wears for 9 full days.

Sunday, Oct. 13th (noon to 6 pm) is Family Day at Concordia Club, where the idea of Oktoberfest in Kitchener started. Admission is $12 (under 16 free) and you can grab some pig's tails, apple strudel and warm beer nuts, all to be washed down with a very large beer!

On Monday it's time for the Thanksgiving Day parade. The parade starts at 8:30 am (here's the route) and I recommend getting there early to get a good viewing spot. Bring folding chairs, a blanket and a thermos of something warm. There are so many other things to do during Oktoberfest; pancake breakfasts, barrel racing, 5k races, the Miss Oktoberfest gala, even a classic car show. Truly something for everyone!

Christkindl Market

Christkindl Market

This German Christmas Market takes place the first weekend in December and spans the entire downtown core. Inside City Hall vendors sell everything from food to handmade Christmas gifts. Outside there are concerts, live animals, skating and more vendors. It's truly magical when you're sipping a mug of mulled wine and the snow starts to fall. A great way to get into the Christmas spirit!

Centre In The Square


A live theatre and performing arts centre with a little over 2,000 seats. Here you can see a play, live musical concert, the symphony and other special events. Check the events calendar here.

Pumpkin Patch - The following are perfect for a fun fall day out and offer many photo ops!

Good Family Pumpkins

Good Family Pumpkins - Just outside of Waterloo is a farm that offers a large variety of pumpkins and gourds that you will not find anywhere else in the city, all at fantastic prices! Bring cash. This is the best place to snap a few pumpkin photos, and dogs are allowed too! Just keep them on leash.

Shantz Farm - In Mannheim just outside of Kitchener. Most school aged children have visited here at least once with their class. Just for little ones. Cash only, no pets allowed.

Snyder's Farm - In Bright, Ont just outside of Kitchener there is Snyder's Farm that offers fall fun for the whole family. Kids can enjoy the expansive grounds during the day then at night, Fear Farm takes over to scare the older ones in the family. Buying tickets online is recommended. No dogs allowed.

Fall Harvest Farm - In St.Agatha, just a 20 min drive into the country, you will find the Fall Harvest Farm store. Pumpkins everywhere and now a shop with local produce, eggs and honey. Bring cash.

Christmas Tree Farms - Pre-cut, chop your own or photo op


Benjamin Tree Farm

Benjamin Tree Farm - Christmas trees, gift shop, photo ops, thay have it all! Dogs allowed, all forms of payment.

Chickadee Christmas Trees -  Christmas trees and wreaths, gift shop, kids area and walking trails, complimentary warm drinks, dogs allowed on leash. Cash or debit.

Kroes Christmas Trees - In nearby New Hamburg you can visit this tree farm that supplies saws and warm drinks. Bring cash.

Movie Night - Apollo Cinema 


Single screen movie theatre that plays big budget flicks, art house indie projects and special re-airing of seasonal favourites. Craft beer on tap and dinner delivered to your seat.

Stay:

Langdon Hall

Luxury - Langdon Hall A Relais & Chateau country hotel, restaurants and spa surrounded by woodlands and gardens. Consistently praised for their excellence they were recently announced as the #2 hotel in Eastern Canada by Conde Nast and ranked #4 in Canada's 100 Best Restaurants.

Downtown - The Walper Hotel Boutique style hotel and restaurant right in the heart of downtown Kitchener.

Eat:


Fine Dining - Langdon Hall, TWH Social, Gilt

Fun Night Out - Lancaster Smokehouse, Abe Erb, Martini's RestaurantThe Rich Uncle Tavern, Scran & Dram Scottish pub in New Hamburg

Traditional German - Concordia, Metro Restaurant, Two Goblets, J & B Family Restaurant

Local Food:


Kitchener Market - Saturday morning farmers market that focuses on local vendors offering in season produce.

Martin's Apples

Martin's Apples - Orchard market offering many varieties of apples and related products.

Hilltop Acres Poultry - Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys, poultry, eggs and beef the rest of the year.

Oakridge Acres - Bison farm offering fresh meat and prepared food items

Herrle's - In St. Agatha this grocery store focuses on local and is only open May - October 31st.

Bakery:


Debrodnik's Donuts - Daily and seasonal donuts. The flavours they dream up are out of this world!

Norris Bakery - Traditional bakery, excellent selection of Christmas baked goods. They operate a booth at the Kitchener Market on Saturdays.

Golden Hearth Bakery - Breads, croissants and other baked goods all by hand using local ingredients. Shop early for the best selection.

Legacy Bakery - Breads, pastries and sandwiches all made by hand with local ingredients.

Sproll's Fine German Bakery - 300 Trillium Dr. No website. Link for hours of operation

Lisboa Bakery & Grill - Traditional Portuguese baked goods. Eat in or take home lunch and dinner items.

Shopping:


White Tiger Vintage - The best spot for vintage clothing from the 50's - 90's

Rumners Wobble - Antiques & Gifts in quant Belmont Village in Kitchener

The Millionaire's Daughter - Consignment furniture and home decor

KW Surplus - Everything from craft supplies to camping gear. Must see to believe!

Bits & Pieces - Furniture, art, home decor consignment shop

Biba Boutique - High quality fashions for women

Sports:

Kitchener Rangers OHL Hockey

Kitchener Rangers OHL Hockey - The team is such a big deal in our town that on game days Tim Horton's offers special donuts with sprinkles in Rangers colours!

Kitchener Panthers Baseball (IBL - Intercounty Baseball League) - From May to September come out and cheer on the Kitchener Panthers baseball team!

Fun For Dogs:

Snyder Flats

Snyder Flats - Located in Bloomindale, this is known as the unofficial off leash dog park. Technically, you are supposed to have the dog on leash but the minute you walk into this 100 hectare park you will see that no one listens to this rule. It's a great place for dog owners, bike riders and swimmers.

Dog Parks in Kitchener

Fun For Family/Kids:


Skating at Kitchener City Hall - Free skating with changing area located off to the side

TheMuseum - Ever changing exhibits keeps you coming back time and time again

Bingeman's - Camping, waterpark, paintball, Scare park, Christmas lights, mini golf, bowling, Oktoberfest and lots more!

Steckle Heritage Farm -  Farm tours and special events

History Lovers:


Schneider Haus - 1816 homestead of the area's earliest non-Aboriginal settlers, Joseph and wife Barbara Schneider, Pennsylvania-German Mennonites. One of the oldest buildings in Kitchener.

Woodside National Historic Site - Boyhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada's tenth, and longest-serving Prime Minister. A Victorian home set on 11 acres of mature forest, it's a glimpse into the Victorian era with special programing for Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Doon Heritage Village - A living history village that shows visitors what life was like in Waterloo Region in the year 1914. Open May until December 23rd. The Doon by Lantern Light Christmas event always sells out, book your tickets early!

Kissing Bridge/West Montrose Covered Bridge

Kissing Bridge/West Montrose Covered Bridge - Located in West Montrose just 20 minutes outside of the city is the only remaining covered bridge in Ontario. It's the perfect spot to visit and snap a few photos. It was recently featured in the movie Stephen King's IT. Sadly, a crack was noticed this September and the bridge is closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Work is taking place to fix.

Outdoor Fun, Nature Hikes & Trails:

Victoria Park

Victoria Park - Kitchener's main park with play areas for kids (playground equipment & splash pad), walking trails, connection to the Iron Horse Trail, The Boathouse Restaurant on the lake, historia clock tower that was once on top of our former City Hall, art and gardens throughout, bridges over the lake, an island with a gazebo and lots more! One of the best places in the city to take photographs.

McLennan Park - City run 96 acre park with play structure, splash pad, BMX park, dog off leash area, sports courts, walking trails and giant hill for sledding in the winter and the best spot to watch a sunset in the city.

Doon Mills Ruins Trail

Doon Mills Ruins Trail - Walking trail along the Grand River with a ruins of an 1839 building

Iron Horse Trail -  Paved trail great for walking and bike riding

Rockway Gardens - Tended to by the Kitchener Horticultural Society, this outdoor garden boasts a variety of flowers and is used as a backdrop for photographs for so many special events.

Huron Nature Area - Walking paths with scenic lookout areas. Perfect for wildlife watching and for photographers.

Blair Sheave Tower

Blair Sheave Tower - Nearby in Blair is a forest walking trail with a non-operating hydro tower from 1876

Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort - Best known for their ski hills and tubing park, they also offer summer camps, bike park and more.