We’re Giving You The ‘Key To The City’
There’s the Kingston that visitors see, then there’s the Kingston locals love. Check out how you can enjoy this city just like any local.
Meet the locals at the end of the blog and follow us on Instagram at @southeast.ontario for their upcoming takeovers on our channel!
Kingston’s City Hall is a prominent landmark on the Kingston waterfront, but did you know it’s a national historic site? Since 1844, City Hall has been the symbolic centre of the community’s civic government and administration. It was originally designed when Kingston was the capital of the United Province of Canada and City Hall is now known as one of the finest 19th-century buildings in Canada. Self-guided tours are not available this season, but Kingston’s City Hall can be explored by a 360 virtual tour which is the next best thing!
Did you hear that Kingston is Canada’s museum capital? It’s true! From niche museums like the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum to national phenomena like the Kingston Penitentiary (with a museum across the street), Kingston’s museums provide a unique experience, hands-on learning and special programming.
“My personal favourites are the Museum of Health Care and the Agnes Gallery, “Erica Harrold, Tourism Champion
Food And Drink
“The food! There are so many restaurants in Kingston. You could eat out at a different place every night for a few months,”Walt Sepc, Firefly Adventures
Kingston is a haven for craft brew fans. Ahead of the curve, Kingston has been housing brewing companies for many years – and now they’re as popular as ever. With trendy, colourful up-and-comings like Daft and the wisdom of the experienced and beloved Kingston Brewing Company, there’s a reason the city is playfully called the craft beer capital of Ontario. Many breweries are open and welcoming guests again for tastings and good times, but be sure to check on reservation status and hours before arriving as some may have altered or have service restrictions in place.
“Craft beer is EVERYWHERE! Best choices for me are Spearhead, Riverhead, Daft and Skeleton Park, “Audrey Brown, CocoaBistro Artisan Chocolate
This is the real deal for Italian gelato! It’s made on-site right before your eyes. Locally owned and operated, local fruit is used as much as possible to create signature tastes like raspberry, strawberry and more. Try the peanut butter chocolate gelato or a peach sorbet! Mio Gelato is unable to give samples this year before buying – and their ice cream box monthly delivery is proving popular!
A dazzling European-style bakery and a gourmet to-go one-stop food shop, the café patio is now open and serving breakfast and all-day brunch in downtown Kingston. Call for reservations. With artisanal breads and cheese, delectable pastries and cakes, soups and sandwiches, daily specials this fully licensed dream is a must-visit. Retail store is now open, as well.
“Chocolate Croissants… need I say more?“Penny Knapp, Cornerstone Canadian Art & Craft
A little taste of Italy in downtown Kingston! Every day is a beautiful day for a picnic – grab some takeout and find a nice spot outside to enjoy the remaining days of summer. Olivea has picnic packages, cold wine and beer, desserts, sandwiches and more! Now serving takeout and delivery!
Tango Nuevo embraces the Spanish tradition that sharing small plates, or tapas, brings people together and encourages conversation. Serving cold and hot tapas, prepared with locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as locally produced meats and artisan cheeses. Tango Nuevo is heavy on style and exceptional service. The patio is open here, delivery on select days, or immerse yourself in the elegant, Old-World charm of the private wine cellar, La Bodega. It seats only 8 people and is a specially-booked alternative dining experience.
A picturesque patio awaits! Located at on Kingston’s waterfront of the Tett Centre, the Juniper Café serves up house-made sandwiches, salads and treats, as well as Pilot Coffee and locally-sources goods. To that end, it currently is filling online orders, patio seating and is even trying some outside and distanced patio live music. Everything is made in-house daily – and the menu changes daily, too!
“Juniper Café – the best water view in the city,” Audrey Brown, CocoaBistro Artisan Chocolate
The Everly is a stylish, mid-century inspired space in Kingston offering a rotating, locally-sourced menu of refined seasonal classics, a terroir-driven wine list, and a curated selection of classic cocktails. Now open for dine-in and patio at 4PM daily – reservations available online.
Located in the heart of downtown Kingston, Chez Piggy brings grace, gusto, taste and imagination to every table. A local favourite and destination for food lovers, ‘the Pig’ must be experienced. The patio is now open for dine-in service, serving lunch and dinner daily. Call to reserve. Take out from the regular menu is also available.
Picture it: the products of 28 local farmers in one weekly order! Are your taste buds tingling? It can happen at the Memorial Centre Farmers Market. All products are grown and produced in the Kingston foodshed – within about 100km of the market. The open-air market remains closed for the foreseeable future, but the market is offering weekly online orders with contact-free pickup or delivery.
Enjoy Kingston’s waterfront while sipping sold beer, chilled Champagne or refreshing cocktails featuring local breweries and distilleries. Listen to the waves lap the shore and indulge in AquaTerra’s signature cheese and charcuterie platter. The restaurant is now also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu focuses upon freshly-prepared dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy globally inspired dishes and an extensive local, regional and international wine list. Remarkable waterfront views accompany every meal!
Arts And Culture
The Tett is a true arts hub. Not only is it home to nine arts organizations, eight Creativity Studio Artists, but it also includes a variety of rental spaces. The Tett Centre originally formed part of the Morton Brewery and Distillery Company, which was built in the mid-19th century and renovated but the city five years ago. It currently is open with reduced hours, but look for a fall market as well as virtual workshops, new art installations and much more. Masks and distancing required.
Martello Alley is an art-themed historic alley in downtown Kingston, showcasing a variety of artists. Find original and printed artwork in this unique gallery, as well as a place to meet the artists and see their work in progress. Martello on Brock launched earlier this year as a store just steps from historic market square – and quickly becoming known as Downtown Kingston’s newest art experience, featuring local artists and artisans in a historic setting.
That perfect find is just around the corner! Thrifting is fun in Kingston, where treasure hunting for clothes, accessories, household items and more is almost a sport. From vintage and consignment boutiques, to charity and discount stores, the only problem will be having enough room in the car on the way home! Peek into the Revolving Door, Kingston’s only upscale women’s consignment boutique, or Open Studios which not only has thrifted finds, but also offers creative classes, pop-up events, local art, thrifted finds and hand made goods and even house a full sewing studio with fabric and patterns! What’ll I Wear also features quality retro and classic vintage clothing and accessories, including masquerade items. Keep in mind that all stores require face coverings for entry and may have their own safety precautions in place.
As Kingston’s largest furniture and home décor consignment store, The Carson House is making shopping an experience again. With beautifully staged items, an inviting space, attentive customer service, quality home items can be discovered here from carpets, to artwork, lighting, mirrors, furniture and more. Although the store has re-opened, The Carson House undertook a unique series of “Co-Vids” videos to showcase the store and what’s available. Scroll down here to have a peek!
Kingston’s original natural food store, Tara Natural Foods is a downtown institution. A host of health and wellness products, as well as whole foods, clean body care, baked good, meat, vitamins and produce, coupled with a historic store that’s beloved in everything from the pressed tin ceiling to the authentic solid wood floorboards to make it a favourite shop. In addition to the storefront, Tara Natural Foods is also doing curbside pickup at this time, as well as shopping online.
With two locations in Kingston, Cher-Mere Day Spa provides holistic well-being from head to toe featuring esthetic services, as well as handmade, organic and natural cosmetics. With 100 polishes to choose from, natural skincare products, waxes, eyelash extensions, facials and much more, Cher Mere is known for being versatile and professional. This summer Cher-Mere in Kingston even proved popular for providing outdoor massages and manicures!
Minotaur is a beloved games and gifts store in Kingston with a reputation for being the most playful store in the city. The store is open again – pop by for games, crafts, gifts, cards, art, inspiration, conversation, a sense of belonging and most of all fun. The store is currently open Wednesday to Sunday and is limiting the number of customers in the store during the coronavirus pandemic. Please be prepared to sanitize your hands, wear a mask, and maintain physical distancing.
This upscale unique home decor boutique located in downtown Kingston offers customers great value on fashionable, exclusive housewares, jewellery, handbags, as well as even interior decorating and staging services. Through designer home accents, decor and Canadian-made products, Amanda’s House of Elegance has become a channel of stylish creativity. Stop into the store or shop online!
“Downtown Kingston has an amazing selection of retail shops, restaurants historic buildings, great customer service make this a very special place to visit,” Penny Knapp, Cornerstone Canadian Art & Craft
Bordered by Lake Ontario and Collins Bay, Lemoine Point is 136 hectares of forest, field and marsh, with a spectacular waterfront. This is a favourite Kingston spot for hiking and cycling – but also for bird watching! Many species of resident and migratory birds can be seen in the area. Be sure to also look for the stone beach at the north end of the area! Trails are open; the conservation area is asking visitors to practice physical distancing. Washrooms/privies are closed until further notice.
“Lemoine Point. It’s a nature trail where animals will literally sit in your hand and eat seeds. It’s one of my favourite places because it’s so beautiful and peaceful,” Erica Harrold, Tourism Champion
Douglas R. Fluhrer Park offers 6.22 acres with a private marina and a waterfront pathway. Look here for murals and colourful street art.
Unwind and enjoy a hot summer’s day by taking a dip in the water along the Kingston shoreline – or paddling among the waves! There are six great beaches in and around Kingston from the sandy, urban Gord Edgar Downie Pier to the rocky pebble beach at Lake Ontario Park. Kayaking or canoeing along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario is another great way to explore – and there are boat launches and spots to put in all along the waterfront. Washroom facilities are closed at most beaches due to COVID. Please note that the Gord Edgar Downie Pier and the beach area at Breakwater Park is closed for the rest of the season.
Breakwater Park provides easy access to the water within Kingston as well as green space to calm the soul. With trails, art installations, clear views of Lake Ontario and Wolf Island and even the Gord Edgar Downie Pier, this park is a little oasis with the city limits. Have a peek at the park webcam before you head over! Please note that the Gord Edgar Downie Pier and the beach area at Breakwater Park is closed for the rest of the season.
Hit the road on two wheels to take in the waterfront views in Kingston face-to-face. Kingston offers museums, historic military landmarks, and a vibrant downtown filled with great pubs and restaurants all along its waterfront. With a route that’s primarily on-road and lake-front, Kingston is a wonderful place to pedal to your heart’s content. It’s recognized as a scenic spot along the Waterfront Trail (and is even home to one of the steepest hills by Fort Henry along the entire route)! This city is cycle-friendly and the water views are divine.
Sightseeing And Tours
There are a few aspects of downtown Kingston that make it feel a little European. One example is pedestrian-only Rochleau Court, with narrow walkways, stone-walled alleys, and historic businesses dating back to the 1800s. Several restaurants have their courtyards adjoining the alleyway to give it a real old-world vibe. It’s also known to be the most haunted alleyway in Kingston, with regular ghost sounds and sightings, attributed to the ghost of Theresa Beam who met an untimely death in the alley in the 1860s.
Have a ghoul of a time in Kingston during a Haunted Walk! Experience Kingston’s greatest ghost stories of haunted hotels, hidden burial grounds, grave robbings, hangings and spine-tingling tales. Now offering premium small group Bubble Tours, with up to 12 participants, on limited, distanced versions of the Original Haunted Walk of Kingston and Ghosts of Fort Henry
“Amazing true stories, some sad, some beautiful, about the people who lived in Kingston many years ago. All stories are carefully researched and the guides are not there to scare you, “Walt Sepc, Firefly Adventures
Explore Canada’s first Capital, on a guided, one-hour Trolley Tour through downtown covering all of Kingston’s historic old town and downtown shopping district. New this year is the Ghost and Mystery Trolley Tour! Hear stories from Kingston’s mysterious and paranormal past, some dating back 200 years, on this evening trolley tour which takes you off the beaten path to Kingston’s lesser-known and difficult-to-access haunted spots. Note that Trolley Tours has introduced enhanced safety measures which require masks, sanitization and customer screening cards.
“Kingston is a city with this so much to offer, you can be a tourist for a day in your own town. Hop on our trolly bus or do a self-guided tour to all of our beautiful attractions from Fort Henry, to the museums and Bellevue house and of course our historic downtown,”Rhonda Evans, Glocca Morra Studios
Bellevue House was built in the 1840s and was home to Sir John A. Macdonald at the beginning of his political career. The house itself is currently closed for restoration work, but the gardens remain open. Explore the grounds and heritage gardens of historic Bellevue House in Kingston knowing that seeds were planted here for the birth of a country. Wander through the family’s preserved kitchen garden, orchard and ornamental garden, while a costumed guide tells stories about Sir John A. and Canada’s Confederation. Regular admission fees to do not apply at this time.
A much-beloved independent movie theatre in downtown Kingston, The Screening Room is back open and ready to entertain with movies and popcorn! The Screening Room is known for playing first-rate shows at modest prices. Some modifications are in place to ensure safety, such as distanced seating, reserved seating, online booking and more. Enjoy the show!
“I love The Screening Room, it’s small, cozy, and quaint. They have a variety of movies from new releases to classics, and indie/docs.”Erica Harrold, Tourism Champion
Kingston is home incredible talent and great spaces to share live music. A small city with a huge live music scene, there are musicians playing all genres of music across the city any night of the week. Of course, everyone is familiar with Kingston being the home of musical greats like The Tragically Hip, Headstones, The Glorious Sons, Sarah Harmer and more, but it also hosts a vibrant local scene with creative musicians who take different approaches to performances. From live streams to outdoor playing in the park, to porch sessions there are ways to enjoy the talent if you keep your eyes on socials and keep you ear to the ground.
Get your game on! With a downtown Kingston location with Improbable Escapes and a west location with Wonderland Escape Room and Board Game Lounge, fun is the name of the game. The themed games are typically an hour or more, and feature unique puzzles which require you to work with your team and escape! The games are known for being immersive as well as taking set design and theming to the next level.
This is a family-friendly activity and they only accept private bookings so you’re ensured time just with your crew.
Recommended By: Erica Harrold, Tourism Champion
Meet The Locals
Audrey Brown, CocoaBistro Artisan Chocolate
CocoaBistro Artisan Chocolate is the destination for fine Belgian chocolate with love! You can never get bored of Kingston. When Audrey isn’t creating beautiful chocolates made with love, she’s exploring more things to do in Kingston.
Upcoming Instagram Stories Takeover: Monday, September 21st, Audrey will be answering all of your chocolatey questions and giving you a tour of the city she knows and loves!
Melissa Eapen, Improbable Escapes & Wonderland Escape Rooms & Board Game Lounge
Melissa was drawn to open up a business in Kingston due to the vibrancy of the downtown core. With two businesses to run, (one downtown and one on the west end) Melissa is a prime example of local love!
Upcoming Instagram Stories Takeover: Tuesday, September 22, Melissa will take you behind the scenes (or behind the keys as she likes to call it) of Wonderland Escape Rooms & Board Game Lounge.
Erica Harrold, Tourism Champion
With a passion for art, film, and sustainability, Kingston checks off all of the boxes for Erica as a place to live.
Walt Sepc, Firefly Adventures
Firefly Adventures is a small company giving clients safe outdoor adventures from canoe trips to guided night sky viewing and wilderness survival. Walt has introduced people from all around the world to canoeing in the Rideau and Frontenac Park. Want to learn how to survive in the wilderness? Walk has a workshop you can take!
Thank you to everyone who participated in our survey and shared with us their local favourites!