15 Best Things to Do in Kingston (Ontario, Canada)

Kingston is a small city located between Toronto and Montreal. This is an old town built in 1673 and used as a French trading post.

Today, the history of the city can still be seen, especially in the city center. In fact, Kingston is known as the “Limestone City” for its magnificent limestone historic buildings.

Not only does Kingston itself have a lot to do, but it’s also the gateway to the famous Thousand Islands. Let’s explore the best things to do in Kingston:

1. Explore the fort

fort henry

Fort Henry was built to protect the Kingston Royal Navy Yard during the War of 1812. Today, it is a National Historic Site and well worth a visit.

Explore the fort and learn about its history, and watch military interpreters demonstrate British military life. Watch history repeat itself and garrison parades, and even get a chance to shoot!

You can also attend a Victorian school, dine with a view and buy souvenirs. Stay for the sunset and enjoy the sunset ritual.

2. Visit the Military Museum

Royal Military Academy Museum

If you’re interested in military history, be sure to visit the Royal Canadian Military Academy Museum. The museum is located on the campus of the Royal Canadian Military College and is administered by the college.

The museum displays a range of artifacts, research and records from RMCC, including the Royal Naval Dockyard in Kingston. The museum houses more than 7,000 objects, some of which date back to the First World War.

See loot, planes and tanks including Sherman, Centurion and Leopard tanks. Also HMCS Huron (G24) X Guns, Blomefield SBML 32-pounder Gun and SBML 32-pounder Guns.

3. Visit the prison

Kingston Prison

Kingston Penitentiary was a high-security prison that closed in 2013. It is well known that some of Canada’s most dangerous criminals are held here.

Today, the infamous prison is open to the public. Experience life in a prison with a visit to one of the oldest prisons in the country.

Your guide will take you through the prison and the tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Cameras are allowed, so be sure to be prepared.

4. Get to know the Prime Minister

Bellevue House

Bellevue House was the home of Sir John Alexander Macdonald; Canada’s first Prime Minister. Today, it is a museum and a National Historic Site.

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The house is one of the first Italian villa-style buildings in the country, and certainly one of the best. It has three floors with balconies, windows of different shapes and various roof gables.

It’s a beautiful house filled with artifacts and exhibits, with informative videos on display. A guide dressed in 1840s clothing will guide you through the house and tell you about its history.

5. Go to the theatre

Grand Theater

Not only is the Grand Theater one of the best theaters in the city, it’s also a historic site. The theatre opened in 1902 and has staged numerous performances since then.

The main theatre has 776 seats and a stage and orchestra pit. There is also a black box theater with a capacity of 105 people.

Since 1964, the Kingston Symphony Orchestra has called the theatre home. It also features many big-name performers such as Sandra Bernhardt, Nellie Melba and Eddie Palmieri.

6. Living in the 19th century

upper canada village

Milk the cow, ride the miniature train, walk the calf or take a carriage ride in Upper Canada Village. This 19th century village allows you to live like the people of the time.

The village depicts life in an English Canadian countryside with over 40 historic buildings. There are many working factories and trade buildings, as well as churches and doctors’ homes.

Take a one- or two-hour tour of the village with a guide dressed in period clothing. You can even put on the costume yourself for the full effect.

7. Sailing along St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence, Kingston

Head to the Chrysler Park Pier and sail along the St. Lawrence River. You can also go kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding.

You can bring your own boat here, or have someone take you on their boat. You can even rent a cabin for the night and relax along the river.

After enjoying a cruise along the river, have a picnic, dine at a restaurant or buy souvenirs. You can also relax at Chrysler Beach, a great place for a swim.

8. Look at art

Agnes Etherington Arts Center

Check out the art at the university, the prestigious and historic Queen’s University has two galleries. One is the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre and the other is the student-run Union Gallery.

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The Agnes Etherington Arts Centre is a research-intensive museum focusing on great artistic traditions from the past to the present. Its collection contains over 16,000 works dating back to the 14th century.

United Gallery is a contemporary art gallery featuring university students and local artists. There is no permanent collection here.

9. Walk around City Hall

Kingston City Hall

Kingston City Hall is not only a stunning building, it is also a National Historic Site of Canada. The building was built in a neoclassical style and features the iconic dome.

Wander the famous landmarks dating back to 1844. Visit the building and learn about its history and amazing architecture.

Guided tours are available from May to October and last approximately 45 minutes. The first two floors are open to the public year-round if you want to move around on your own.

10. Explore the waterfront

Kingston Waterfront

During the cooler months, the waterfront is a bit of a ghost town, but when the weather starts to warm up, it’s one of the busiest places in the city. With the waterfront spanning eight kilometers, the possibilities here are endless.

Explore the waterfront on foot, bike, tour bus or boat. There are parks, beaches, cafes and shops, as well as amazing historic buildings.

Attractions found along the waterfront include the Rideau Trail, Kingston Gaol, Bellevue Mansion and City Hall.

11. Walk down Princess Street

Princess Street, Kingston

This is the main retail strip in downtown Kingston. It also houses restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as some stunning limestone buildings.

Princess Street was formerly known as the shopping street, because the shops are very large. The name was changed after the birth of Princess Victoria in 1840.

The portion of the street that crosses downtown goes east between Division Street and Ontario Street. Take this along and enjoy yourself.

12. Relax in the park

Lake Ontario Park

There are many parks within Kingston, but one of the best is Lake Ontario Park. As the name suggests, it sits on the shores of Lake Ontario in Kataraki Bay.

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Lake Ontario Park, the largest waterfront park in the city, is a great place to relax. It features a picnic area, waterfront walkway, splash pad and playground.

The park also has a large pebble beach, a boat launch area and sand play area right on the waterfront. In winter, it has a natural ice rink.

13. Visit the islands

Thousand Islands National Park

As the gateway to the Thousand Islands, no visit to Kingston is complete without a visit to the Islands. There are more than 1,800 islands along the St. Lawrence River, stretching approximately 80 kilometers.

The islands vary in size, the largest being about 100 square kilometers. Twenty-one of these islands form the Thousand Islands National Park and are easily accessible from Kingston.

All islands are accessible by boat and are popular places for camping. There are also walking trails, historic sites and some magnificent flora and fauna.

14. Take a medical history

Health Museum

The Healthcare Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to the history of health and wellness. This is evidenced by its extensive collection of medical and healthcare artifacts.

The collection dates back to the 18th century, with handicrafts from then to the present. The museum houses more than 30,000 artifacts, including surgical, medical and laboratory instruments, as well as patented nursing supplies.

The museum is located in the historic Ann Baillie Building, a beautiful Beaux-Arts limestone building and National Historic Site. The building was originally a dormitory for nursing students.

15. Go to a festival

Limestone City Blues Festival

No matter when you visit, the city has no shortage of these. Foodies, art lovers, music lovers and novelists will find a festival to enjoy in Kingston.

Some of the most popular festivals include Kingston Writers Festival, February Festival, Limestone City Blues and Arts Festival. There are also Kingston street performers parties, the Reelout Film Festival and the Kingston Jazz Festival.

Foodies are sure to come for the Kingston Tasting in July, while beer lovers shouldn’t miss Ontario Craft Beer Week. Other honorable mentions include Díade los Muertos Kingston Festival, Lviv Ukrainian Festival and Wolf Island Festival.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Kingston, Canada
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