Located on the River Speed River, Guelph is a small city less than an hour west of Toronto. This is a beautiful city known for its limestone architecture, vibrant culture and high standard of living. In fact, it has been voted one of the most liveable cities in the country.
As far as visiting Guelph goes, this small but lively city has a lot to see and do. But for some reason, it’s not high on Ontario’s list of tourist attractions.
History buffs, art lovers, adventurers and festival goers will find things to do in this city.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Guelph:
1. Walking on the water
In 1992, about 400 volunteers built a pedestrian bridge over the Speed River. The bridge is constructed of wood and designed in the style of the 1800s, and is part of the Royal Leisure Walk.
The bridge is about 36.5 meters long, and you will see some beautiful scenery when you walk over it. It gives you the opportunity to see both sides of the river.
The bridge is covered so you can cross it no matter the weather. It is also bicycle and wheelchair accessible.
2. Visit an old cottage
McCrae House is a small limestone cottage built in 1858. But what makes it so famous is that it was the childhood home of John McCrae; author of the famous poem “In Flanders”.
Visit the lodge and learn about the lives of doctors, soldiers and poets through the exhibition. Some of the key items on display are John McCrae’s medal, his officers’ cap badge and the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps button.
Visit in summer and enjoy special events such as teddy bear picnics, poppy pushes and tea in the garden. The gardens at this Canadian National Historic Site are actually award-winning.
3. Explore the city center
Downtown Guelph is an amazing part of the city, full of Victorian buildings. Explore the heart of the city and learn about its history.
Wellington St. E. in the south, Norwich St. in the north, Woolwich St. in the east and Dublin St. in the west are the boundaries of downtown Guelph. In this area you will find limestone buildings, heritage buildings and boutiques.
Some notable landmarks in the area include Guelph Armory, Guelph Town Hall, St George’s Square and Douglas Street. It is also home to newer buildings such as the River Run Centre and the Sleeman Centre.
4. Go to church
Just in the historic district of Downton Guelph is the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This Roman Catholic church is considered one of the finest works of architect Joseph Connolly.
The church was built between 1875 and 1883 in the Gothic Revival style. It is a beautiful building with decorative carvings and stained glass made by skilled craftsmen.
The limestone building is a National Historic Site and can be visited any day of the week. It’s as grand inside as it is outside, but be sure to check VW hours before stepping inside.
5. Learn about the culture of the city
Visitors of all ages can learn about the city’s culture at the Civic Museum of Guelph. The museum focuses on cultural and natural history and even has a children’s museum.
The museum houses more than 40,000 artifacts that bring the city’s past to life. Walk around the museum and learn all about its history.
Photographs, furniture, decorative art and toys are part of the collection, most of which was donated by residents of Guelph. The Children’s Museum section has interactive exhibits that teach children through play.
6. Surround yourself with nature
The Rockwood Reserve is located along the Erlamosa River and is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and caves. The 32-hectare reserve is open year-round and offers plenty of activities.
One of the biggest features of the reserve is its huge glacial craters, one of the largest in the world! It also has many other unique geological features, such as its extensive cave system and glacial cliffs formed thousands of years ago.
Camping runs from May to October, and there are 105 campgrounds in Rockwood Reserve. Guests can also fish, canoe, hike and swim.
7. See Canadian Art
The Art Gallery of Guelph (AGG) has a large collection of Canadian art in its vast collection, some of which is Inuit. Wander the gallery’s two floors and admire its wonderful collection.
In addition to Canadian art, the gallery’s 9,000-piece collection showcases a number of contemporary international artists. In addition, there are exhibitions throughout the year.
Part of the Art Gallery of Guelph includes a sculpture park that cannot be overlooked. If you’re looking for a unique gift to take home, head to the gallery’s store.
8. Shopping at the market
The Guelph Farmers Market has been operating since 1827. It has continued to grow since then and is now a bustling market with over 60 to 120 suppliers.
The best time to visit is in summer, when the market expands and the number of suppliers is greatest. Still, it’s open year-round, so you can always enjoy walking around and shopping for souvenirs and gifts.
At the market, be sure to try some delicious food. Vendors started selling homemade pies and breads, authentic Turkish desserts, fresh juices, Taiwanese dumplings and Ethiopian delicacies.
9. Wander the Botanical Gardens
The Guelph Botanic Garden is modeled after Harvard’s Arnold Botanical Garden. This botanical garden is also housed in a university. University of Guelph, managed by the Department of Agriculture.
Wander the 165-hectare botanical garden and admire its collection of 1,700 different trees and shrubs. It is open year-round from dawn to dusk and welcomes more than 73,000 visitors each year.
Several key features of the Guelph Botanic Gardens are its beautiful Frances Powell Rose Collection, its 400 species of trees in the World Arboretum, and the G. Porter Memorial Japanese Garden. There is also an English garden on site.
10. Have fun at the festival
As a culturally rich city, there are many festivals and Guelph is famous for it. These can be anything from music festivals to multicultural festivals. There’s even Pride Week!
If you’re an art lover, you won’t want to miss Fab 5; Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Eden Mills Writers Festival, Hillside and Guelph Film Festival. These are also the top five festivals in the city.
There are many other events including the Guelph Multicultural Festival and the Fergus Scotland Festival and Highland Games. No matter what time of year you visit Guelph, there’s bound to be a festival to enjoy.
11. mingle with the donkey
The Canadian Donkey Sanctuary has served as a sanctuary for neglected or abused donkeys and mules since 1992. Visit the reserve and get up close and personal with the animals that live there.
The sanctuary sits on a peaceful stretch of land that has become a haven for these animals. Meet, brush and feed the donkeys, or watch a demonstration of their care. You can also attend lectures to learn more about donkeys and their history.
Unfortunately, the Canadian Donkey Sanctuary is not open every day. Visit any Sunday from May to November or Wednesdays in July and August.
12. Have fun at the water park
On a hot day, cool off at Emerald Lake Waterpark, just 30 minutes south of Guelph. The water park is open throughout the summer from 10 am to 7:30 pm.
The water park features a 61-meter waterslide that takes you into a 1.2-meter pool. There is also a splash pad of over 1,000 square meters, complete with water guns and sprinklers.
Another great feature of Emerald Lake Water Park is the large quarry with trampoline, climbing wall, obstacle course and diving area.
13. Go to college
Well, not a real lecture, but no visit to Guelph is complete without hanging out on the University of Guelph campus. This is one of the top universities in the country; home to the Ontario College of Veterinary Medicine and the Ontario College of Agriculture.
Although the university was only established in 1964, there are still many historic buildings on its campus. These include the War Memorial, Creelman Hall and Day Hall.
It’s a lovely campus full of trees and red clay brick walkways. Stroll the campus and admire the stunning outdoors and grand architecture.
14. Enjoy the show
The River Run Center is a downtown performing arts center. The center opened in 1997 and has offered performing arts programs ever since.
If you’re a music, theater, comedy or dance lover, be sure to catch a show at the center. There is always something going on at the River Run Centre and tickets are easy to get.
There’s also the Ed Video Media Arts Centre, which focuses on video arts. It is the only artist-run center in the city, although contributors and exhibitors come from all over the world.
15. Eat something delicious
Guelph has it all, from fine dining to pub food, so there’s something for everyone here. Regardless, you won’t be disappointed because Guelph has some delicious food.
There are ethnic cuisines such as Thai, Indian, Greek, Vietnamese and Mediterranean cuisine. There are also vegetarian and vegan options.
If you’re looking for a fried breakfast, you’ll find it in fine French, Italian and eclectic bistros. There are also casual restaurants suitable for families and bars where you can enjoy a pint with your meal.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Guelph, Canada
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