I absolutely love playing tourist in my hometown.
Despite living in Kingston, Ontario for the better part of my life, I have always been blown away by the sheer amount of amazing activities, attractions and features that the Limestone City has to offer. From delicious culinary experiences to scenic nature walks and a fascinating history – it quite literally never gets old.
While the warm summer months are a peak season for tourism in Kingston, the party doesn’t simply stop once the snow arrives. Winter is a fantastic time of year to explore Kingston, and the all-new Winter K Pass helps visitors get a generous sampling of uniquely Kingston experiences.
The fine folks at Waterfront Gifts & Apparel were kind enough to hook Heidi and I up with a pair of Winter K Passes so we could try them out for ourselves. We quickly planned a fun day-trip for the first weekend in January – and without further ado, here is an account our wintery #YGK adventure!
A Hot Sip & Tasty Snack In The Square
Our story begins on a particularly chilly Sunday morning in Springer Market Square. The recent cold-snap that gripped much of the nation was just ending, but the morning air was still sitting as low as -20. Heidi and I were a tad early – so we made a fortuitous detour to an old haunt of mine: Kingston Coffee House (formerly Coffeeco).
The quaint little cafe, with it’s exposed brick walls and warm atmosphere was a perfect spot to sip a hot beverage and enjoy a baked treat before we set off on our day trip. Although the name of the cafe has changed, everything else remains the same – in a good way. The coffee was brilliant as always, and the delicious blueberry scone I devoured was exactly as I remember it.
The view of the square itself from the window-side tables was superb. Despite the frigid morning air, several people were already enjoying the ever-popular outdoor rink, and having a good time as they skated about in the historic square. It was a rather inspiring and authentically Canadian scene to behold.
A Wonderful Winter Ride On The Kingston Tour Trolley
After a splendid morning coffee, we made our way through the square toward the Kingston Trolley Station on Ontario Street. Situated across from City Hall, the station is just one of many intriguing historic locations to see. Formerly a hub of the Kingston & Pembroke Railway, this immaculate limestone building now houses Kingston’s tourism information centre.
As the famed trolley arrived, we were relieved to notice that it was an enclosed and heated model, unlike the open format trolley used for summer tours. After greeting Kevin, our driver and tour guide we eagerly climbed aboard the trolley to begin our first experience! The Winter KPass includes both a walking tour (reg. Price: $19.50), and the trolley tour ($25). Due to the rather cold weather that morning, we opted for a ride on the trolley for obvious reasons.
What followed, was a scenic and informative ride among Kingston’s famed historical landmarks which were all blanketed in a layer of crisp snow. Visually, I would have to say that Kingston grows ever more beautiful during winter months. The victorian and turn of the century architecture gives you an unparalleled feeling of walking amid history.
Everywhere you look, are the remnants of a beautiful and bygone era. Gorgeous arched carriage-ways, brilliant limestone buildings representing several styles and motifs – and of course the ornate facades of the storefronts that adorn Princess Street like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.
Kingston’s downtown area is where you can easily find some of the most brilliant and historically evocative window shopping in the province. For me, all it takes is a stroll down Princess, or through the Brock Street Common to ignite the history buff within. Each side street, and “secret” alleyway is a path through time.
Discover An Epic Digital Playground At The VR Hut
After a few brisk walks outside we were ready for an indoor activity, and I couldn’t think of a better way to warm up than with a Virtual Reality game-session at The VR Hut!
This cool VR arcade is a relatively new arrival to Kingston’s roster of fun activities, allowing customers to enjoy a big selection of high-end VR games at a reasonable rate. Our Winter K Passes included a 30-minute VR experience each ($25) which also includes a 15 minute briefing to help get you oriented before diving into the digital dimension.
I chose to take on the undead horde, in Arizona Sunshine – a shooter game that pits players against a relentless swath of hungry zombies in a post-apocalyptic virtual world.
I spent the next half-hour traversing an unforgiving and brilliantly interactive world, scrounging through derelict cars for ammunition and other items that might help me in my fight against the undead. When the zombies show up, you are pitted against an unforgiving scenario that forces you to not only dispatch your enemies but use the game’s environment to your advantage.
In the end, I had backed myself into an abandoned shack, in an attempt to force the ever-increasing wave of zombies through the front door in a textbook bottleneck. After delivering final justice to scores of the snarling, snapping ghouls I eventually ran out of bullets – only to be helplessly eaten alive in my heroic, yet fool-hardy final-stand.
A Brilliant Lunch At Harper’s Burger Bar
After all that zombie killing, I had really worked up quite the appetite. Luckily, we had returned to the real world just in time for lunch! The K Passes have a tantalizing selection of included restaurants to tempt your taste buds with some even sweeter discounts.
Heidi and I are unapologetic burger aficionados, so we made our way to Harper’s Burger Bar to satisfy our hankering. Similarly to the other restaurants operated by Black Dog Hospitality Group, Harper’s uses an entirely local approach to their culinary craftsmanship. The burgers are made with Enright Cattle Co. beef resulting in a unique and unparalleled taste and quality.
For my fellow foodies who are less carnivorous in nature, there are some marvellous meatless options for your burger including a portabello cap, or chickpea patty!
I ordered my personal favourite: The ‘Quebecer’ – which comes topped with deep-fried Black River cheese curds, molasses-cracked pepper bacon, gravy and roasted garlic-rosemary mayo. Mon Dieu! Heidi chose The Smokehouse – which boasts double smoked cheddar, molasses-cracked pepper bacon, crispy onion straws and Kansas City BBQ sauce. Oh, snap!
“Dash Through The Snow” with Improbable Escapes
The last stop on our awesome Kingston day-trip was #YGK’s popular escape room venue: Improbable Escapes. Included in our Winter K Passes was a specifically designed experience entitled: Dashing Through The Snow. This holiday and winter-inspired experience was created specifically for the Winter K Pass by IE’s team of creative game developers.
It’s likely prudent to point out, that this particular scenario is an outdoor experience – that takes teams consisting of 2-8 players on a walking trek that spans several city blocks, and key landmarks in Downtown Kingston. Players are elves in training to be one of Santa’s workshop elite. Old St. Nick has a disassembled sled – of which you must acquire the parts in order to repair.
Players will need to use their detective skills and work together to unlock the secrets and find cleverly embedded clues that will help them advance through this fun and in-depth outdoor challenge! I won’t spoil the story, but I was absolutely impressed with the amount of creativity and ingenuity that must have gone into designing this incredible game.
Try The Kingston Winter K Pass This Weekend!
Between scenic trolley rides amid Kingston’s beautiful and historic downtown, pulse-pounding VR experiences, delicious food and testing our mettle at Improbable Escapes – we had an amazing day exploring the Limestone City’s selection of epic experiences!
All-in-all the Winter K Pass offers an incredible value to visitors both local and from out of town. It’s a fantastic way to spend a weekend, as the passes are good for 72 hours (3 days).
For only $49.00 (+HST) per pass, you get access to seven local attractions, (including Lumina Borealis) discounts at 8 legendary restaurants, as well as several bonus offers. It’s an awesome all-in-one pass containing close to $200.00 worth of activities and savings to help make the most of your visit to Kingston, Ontario!