The sister cities of Kitchener and Waterloo combine to form a Southwestern Ontario hub for technology, higher learning and, of course, big city fun.
Kitchener, a city of German heritage, was known as ‘Berlin’ up to 1916. It's no surprise then that Kitchener-Waterloo hosts the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany, drawing crowds in the hundreds of thousands over nine festival days. Kitchener’s most well-known landmark is Victoria Park, the site of major outdoor events in the downtown area. It is home to annual festivals, has growing cultural institutions and offers great shopping experiences.
Waterloo is home to two universities, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, so the city naturally prides itself on its innovation culture. Put your thinking caps on while visiting the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics or the Institute for Quantum Computing. But it's not all study and no play around here. Waterloo also boasts thriving arts, food and drink and shopping scenes.
To learn more about all there is to see and do in Kitchener-Waterloo, scroll down or visit the region's tourism website.
Where is Kitchener-Waterloo?
Part of Grand River Valley, Kitchener is just 100 km west of Toronto. It is in the Saint Lawrence Lowlands which is bounded by Great Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Along with Waterloo and Cambridge, Kitchener makes up the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, often referred to as the Tri-Cities or KWC. Kitchener is a 75-minute drive from Toronto, or two hours by train.
Things to Do in Kitchener-Waterloo
In addition to Oktoberfest, Kitchener-Waterloo is known for its music festivals. Kultrún World Music Festival brings two days of international sound to Victoria Park every July, accompanied by stalls offering food and other goods. It has pushed beyond ordinary concerts by including activities like mural painting and designing a concert for deaf and hard of hearing people. The Kitchener Blues Festival takes place a month later. In the past, it has been attended by over 140,000 people. It’s completely free of charge with the exception of one fundraising-centric concert, and there’s even a free bike check!
THEMUSEUM—yes, this is the real name—is a family-friendly must-see in downtown Kitchener. Its permanent exhibitions include the Virtual Graffiti Wall, which lets you experience all the fun of spray paint, but no mess. Children are sure to love the six-foot Walking Piano where they can become little Mozarts. There is more than enough to intrigue adults, too. Featured exhibitions change often, so be sure to check what’s on when you’ll be here.
If shopping is what you want, Kitchener’s got you covered. From Kitchener Market for the best in fresh produce to CF Fairview Park Mall with scores of retailers, you’ll find everything you need. For a relaxed atmosphere, you can stroll around Belmont Village and wander into stores with products that catch your eye or follow the aroma to the site of your next meal.
Waterloo Park, often referred to as 'the jewel of the city', is 45 hectares of four-season activities and events. Waterloo is also a centre for culture, offering museums with diverse focuses, from looks at the region's past at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Village to the fine arts at The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery.
Kitchener-Waterloo Neighbourhoods & Districts
Kitchener is deemed a great place to live because of its growing job market, affordable housing, geographic location, abundance of green spaces and diversity. Doon and Stanley Park are among the top-rated areas to live.
This neighbourhood was built in the 1980s and sits between Henry Sturm and Detweiler Creeks. Here, you’ll find lots of parks and trails to explore.
On the west end, Forest Heights is a suburb with a community center and grocery stores.
This centrally located neighbourhood is a mix of residential and commercial buildings, great access to public transportation and proximity to grocery stores and Highland Hills Mall.
Things to Know About Visiting Kitchener-Waterloo
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Kitchener-Waterloo, you'll appreciate what the locals recommend.
Where to find great street art
Visit Goudie’s Lane in Kitchener to see vibrant murals created as part of a public art installation. Be sure to bring a camera.
Where to take a romantic stroll
The West Montrose Covered Bridge, about 20 minutes north of Waterloo, is also known as the “Kissing Bridge” as it affords couples a bit of privacy. Take someone special for a stroll around the grounds and enjoy one of Canada’s oldest (and Ontario's only) covered bridges.
Where to snap a great Instagram pic
Where to see the holiday lights
Where to get great ice cream
Four All Ice Cream Scoop Shop in Waterloo is your go-to for all-natural, hand-crafted ice-cream made from local ingredients with flavours to satisfy childhood nostalgia, foodies, vegans and of course the tried and true classics.
Where to get a great cup of coffee
Last updated: November 24, 2022
Explore More of Ontario Through Our Visitors
Tag your photos with #DiscoverON to inspire others.