Staying physically active and spending time outside during the winter months could make a big difference to your health & mental wellbeing. Kitchener-Waterloo Region has a wide variety of outdoor activities, many of which are located along the banks of the mighty Grand River. From trail walking, tobogganing & skating, to shopping at an outdoor farmers’ market & taking in the sights aboard a steam locomotive, here is a list of activities that has something for everyone.
Outdoor Skating and Tobogganing Hills
- The city of Kitchener operates 30+ free outdoor skating rinks that are open from December till March. Rinks are operated by volunteers and are weather dependant.
- Opened in 1896 and named after Queen Victoria in honour of her diamond jubilee, Victoria Park is a favourite destination amongst couples to take a romantic walk around the lake, visit the clock tower relocated to the park from the original city hall, and go skating hand-in-hand at the parks’ outdoor rink. Learn more about this historic part of town with a free self-guided walking tour available from the city of Kitchener.
- McLennan Park, located on the South end of Kitchener has one of the best tobogganing hills in KW. Known by locals as Mt. Trashmore, this former landfill site is now a scenic vantage point to take in a sunset and a view of the entire city. A couple of other tobogganing options include Foxglove Park and Hillside Park.
- Waterloo Public Square is a popular date night destination in Uptown Waterloo. The city’s largest Christmas tree, an outdoor skating rink and the many coffee shops and restaurants in this area keep it buzzing all winter long.
- A short walk from Waterloo Public Square, the Waterloo Park offers lots to see and do. Stop by outdoor Eby Farm to see some llamas and alpacas, visit the oldest log house school in Waterloo Region, circa 1820 or stroll along the wooden boardwalk and enjoy the holidays lights.
Experience an Adrenalin Rush
- Chicopeeski hill draws in skiers and snowboarders from all over Southern Ontario. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, there is a hill here with your name on it. And when you are done for the day, enjoy a relaxing après ski bite or drink by a cozy fireplace at the Silvertip Lounge.
- If skiing or snowboarding is not for you, why not give snow tubing a shot?! Located on the other side of the ski hill, Chicopee Tube Park is a popular destination amongst youngsters and adults alike. Zip down one of the six chutes and ride the magic carpet back to the top. Additional information and restrictions are available on the company’s website.
Winter Fun at Grand River Conservation Parks
Credit: Grand River Conservation Authority
- Located in North Waterloo, Laurel Creek is part of Grand River Conservation Authority. Their 4.5 km groomed and tracked pine forest trail network is ideal for hiking, snowshoeing and bird watching. Equipment rental is available on site.
- Belwood Lake Conservation Area, located in the town of Fergus, features a 12km reservoir created during the construction of the Shand Dam in 1942 and is ideal spot for ice fishing, hiking and bird watching.
- Another Grand River Conservation Authority area worth mentioning is Pinehurst Lake. In addition to ploughed hiking trails, groomed and tracked cross country skiing trails, snowshoeing trails, this conservation area offers ice fishing and bird watching. Equipment rental is also available on site.
- South of Kitchener, Shade’s Mill Conservation Area offers the longest trail network of all Grand River Conservation Authority winter trails. The 10km groomed and tracked trail network is ideal for hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and bird watching. Ice fishing is available on the reservoir when conditions are suitable. Day use of fish huts is allowed and skiing and snowshoeing equipment rentals are also available.
- A little less known Grand River Conservation Area is Snyders Flats. It’s a former gravel pit that’s been transformed into a looped hiking trail with ponds, forests and meadows.
More Hiking Trails
- An oasis in a busy metropolis, Huron Natural Area is a network of scenic hiking trails, running along provincially significant wetlands, forests, and meadows. While this area is undergoing a transformation to make it a space that represents past and present Indigenous communities, it is also ideal for winter biking, bird watching or simply having a play date at the children’s natural playscape.
- The Kiwanis Park is a great starting point for a hike along the scenic Grand River and if you have a four legged friend with you, there is also a leash-fee dog park on-site.
- On the outskirts of Kitchener, the trails belonging to the RARE Charitable Research Reserve are a hiker’s paradise. Winding through the forests and moss covered stone formations; the trails converge for a stretch along the Grand River. This conservation area is used to preserve the native plant and animal species and is a popular spot for bird watching.
Explore Culture and History
- Go back in time and experience an authentic steam engine locomotive ride at Waterloo Central Railway. The non-profit heritage short line railway operates between Northfield Dr., Waterloo, the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, the Village of St. Jacobs, and the town of Elmira. A variety of themed train excursions are offered throughout the year. (Subjective to COVID-19 restrictions)
- Open every Thursday and Saturday all year round the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is a great place to shop for fresh produce, indulge your sweet tooth with a famous apple fritter, and meet some Old Order Mennonites who still travel to the market by horse and buggy. Explore the Market Building, the Peddlers Village and the Market Tent for locally grown or freshly made eats or browse through hundreds of one-of-a-kind gifts from local artisans.
- From “The Log Cabin”, located at the entrance to the St. Jacob’s market, take a horse drawn trolley ride offered by the St. Jacobs Horse Drawn Tours. Visit a Maple Sugar Bush or ride through the nearby Mennonite Farm during this unique and educational experience. Winter Sleigh Rides and private tours are also available.
- Originally built in 1885 and restored in 2015, The Old Post Office is one of the many architectural marvels in the Historic Downtown Cambridge. Located just a short drive from Kitchener, this area is popular amongst film makers and wedding photographers, who like use the historic buildings and the bridge over the Grand River as their backdrop. Watch visual effects transform the Old Post Office every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night during winter nights.
- Another popular film backdrop is the West Montrose Covered Bridge. Located in the nearby Township of Woolwich, this 19th century bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in Ontario. It spans the Grand River and has been designated as a cultural heritage site in 2007.
- In the heart of Kitchener, you’ll find the childhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s tenth, and longest-serving Prime Minister. There is an admission fee to visit the museum inside, but access to the grounds and the trails around Woodside National Historic Site is absolutely free.
- Kitchener Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday’s year round. There are activities for children and classes for adults, plus lots of fresh produce, mouth-watering desserts and delicious smelling gourmet coffee.
- The Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower is a tribute to the Pennsylvania-German pioneers who settled in Waterloo Region in the early 1800s. Overlooking the Grand River, the tower is a good access point to the Walter Bean Trail.
- On the other side of the Grand River, the Walter Bean Trail continues through the Old Mill Ruins. Considered haunted by some, this site represents the conflict between the Six Nations of Grand River who originally occupied this land and the German-Dutch settlers who began to harnessed the water power of the Grand River in the 1800s and build the many mills, whose foundations are still scattered along the mighty river.
- Part of the Trans Canada Trail, the Iron Horse Trail connects the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo along the former railway corridor. While you walk or cycle along this paved trail, you’ll come across industrial artifacts from KW’s industrial heritage and pass through popular destinations like Victoria Park and Waterloo Park.
- See drive-thru light show at Bingemans. Gift of Lights is a family-friendly drive-thru holiday light display with two tunnels and over 300 animated and static light displays! Enjoy this holiday spectacle from inside the comfort of your own vehicle and tune into Gift of Lights Radio at 103.3FM.
- Get out your fishing gear and auger then head to Pinehurst Lake to catch lunch. You can easily snag bluegill or black crappie during the winter months.