By Lori Sweet
“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust
We all come from somewhere; large city, small town, rural village. How often have you heard, from friends or neighbours, “You know, I’ve lived here a long time and I’ve never seen/done that”? More and more people are opting for “staycations”, whether due to time, money or both. Visiting in and around where you live can be a great alternative to the traditional vacation.
Kingston’s Visitor Information Centre is located on Ontario Street, across from historic City Hall. Open 7 days a week.
Put on Your Tourist Hat
My hometown of Kingston has a very vibrant downtown. With a population of approximately 160,000 in Kingston and area, and having been the first capital of Canada, there is a lot to discover. On one occasion, my husband and I decided to get a hotel room right in the downtown core. We wanted to experience it as if we were tourists. We checked in to the Delta Waterfront Hotel as early as possible, then went across the street to have a light lunch at one of the many restaurants with a patio.
We spent the next couple of hours walking around, visiting the shops, and some of the local artisans that had set up in the park. For dinner that evening, we decided to visit one of Kingston’s finest restaurants, AquaTerra. Conveniently located in our hotel, AquaTerra overlooks the boats moored at Confederation Basin and Shoal Tower, one of the four historic Martello Towers in Kingston.
Later we had a nightcap on another downtown patio while listening to live music. We had requested a late checkout, which gave us time to sleep in and use the hotel pool. After checking out, we packed the car and had brunch at the hotel. We had such a good time, that we were reluctant to go home, only a ten-minute drive away.
Visit the Local Tourism Office
One thing I always advise people to do when they travel, is to contact the destinations’ tourism office. I was born here and have lived here most of my life. I thought I had seen most of what ‘The Limestone City’ had to offer. A visit to the tourism office, let us know that this was not the case.
This sign post is located right outside the Visitor Information Centre.
Downtown Kingston is busy with a variety of activities all year long. According to the free, newly published Kingston City Guide, there are 26 museums and historic sites and 4 art galleries. Add the 300 plus restaurants in and around Kingston, as well as the city’s close proximity to the water, and there is no shortage of things to do, even for long-time residents!
When we asked Chris Whyman, Manager of Visitor Services, as well as 3-time World Champion Official Town Crier and Goodwill Ambassador, to give us an idea of something different to do, he asked if we were hungry. He suggested a relatively new local restaurant called the Rustic Spud. He also suggested we visit some of the alleys in the downtown area. In other cities, this is likely not where you want to go. However, in Kingston, you are in for a wonderful surprise. With map in hand, and a full stomach, we set off to discover the alleys we had not seen before.
Martello Alley is located at 203B Wellington St. Open 10-5 daily.
Not So Dark Alleys
When you enter Martello Alley, off Wellington Street, you find yourself walking on a hand painted brick walkway bordered by historic limestone walls. This leads you to a faux French market where 20+ artisans showcase their art. Next door is Antique Alley. Once inside, you will discover over 4,000 square feet of antiques and collectibles from multiple vendors, that winds through what seems like three different buildings. I truly did not know that either of these places existed.
After a walk through the alley that leads to Rochleau Court, where local restaurant favourites Chez Piggy and The Toucan/Kirkpatrick’s reside, we truly felt we had been on a mini vacation. Finishing up with a walk through the farmers’ market at historic Springer Market Square, while enjoying a coffee from Sipp’s Coffee and Dessert Bar, was a perfect end to our afternoon.
You can enter Rochleau Court from Princess St., King St., or Brock St. The Princess St. entrance is pictured.
Hub and Spoke
In the travel industry, to hub and spoke, means to start from a central location and branch out in several directions. Whether it is a day trip or an overnight, you can do quite a number of things using your hometown as the hub.
The Gananoque Inn, built in 1896, has accommodation, a spa and a restaurant.
Travelling 30 minutes east of Kingston, you discover Gananoque(GAN-a-NOK-way), a quiet town of 5,200-year-round residents. Located on the edge of the St. Lawrence River, it is often referred to as ‘The Gateway to the Thousand Islands’. Here you can spend a day or two visiting the shops on the main street, eating at the many restaurants, taking a boat cruise, cycling or playing golf. Seeing a production at The Thousand Islands Playhouse is sure to be a highlight of your visit. This summer theatre company operates two theatres on site, beside the river. A day trip to drive around the area, enjoy a wonderful meal and take in a play or musical, are on our list every summer.
This is a view of the village of Westport taken from the lookout at Foley Mountain Conservation Area.
Heading north, 50 minutes from Kingston is the village of Westport. Located at the west end of Upper Rideau Lake, this village of 590 residents, has a lot to offer. There are restaurants and many specialty shops open all year round. Foley Mountain Conservation Area provides a picturesque lookout spot overlooking Westport. The colours in the fall are magnificent. This is an annual fall day trip for us.
Karlo Estates is a winery located on Danforth Rd. in Wellington, Ontario. It is one of the many wineries in the Prince Edward County region.
Prince Edward County
Venturing about 70 minutes south west of Kingston, you will find Prince Edward County, an area labelled as the ‘Gastronomic Capital of Ontario’. Here you can make a day of it and tour the wineries, cideries, distilleries and breweries. There are also many restaurants and cafes, as well as farmers’ markets to visit. There are many places to stay if you want to spend more than a day. This is one of our favourite places to spend a day or for one overnight stay, that is not too far from home.
Don't let the gems that await you in your own hometown or outside community stay undiscovered! Get out and enjoy!
For more information on upcoming events and attractions in Kingston go to
Lori is a freelance travel writer and travel photographer based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She has had a life-long passion for travel and for learning about other cultures, while travelling on and off the beaten path. Taking detours along the way has enriched her experiences immeasurably. Lori enjoys writing and photography, so it was a natural fit to combine this with her love of travel.
Lori was in education for 30 years. She was able to combine that with 14 years of part-time work as a Tour Director for a travel company that provides motor coach trips across North America. Upon retirement from teaching, she moved into the tour company office as a tour planner. She now spends her time working on other interests. She has kept a travel journal for over 30 years!
Lori has taken online and live travel writing and photography workshops and is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA).