WATERLOO / KITCHENER / CAMBRIDGE

Tech is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the Waterloo Region. While home to multiple start-ups and the offices of multinationals like Blackberry and Google, Canada’s Silicon Valley wouldn’t be where it is now without the history of the Neutral and Six Nations people who were first there, and the Mennonite immigrants who followed after. The region pays homage to its roots while staying thoroughly modern with new companies and tech spaces growing in and among its historic buildings.


Day One


DAY 1 – 9:00 AM: WARM UP WITH A TOUR OF WATERLOO’S PUBLIC ART.

Start your romp through the Tri-Cities in the heart of downtown Waterloo. Over the years, the city has done a lot of work to beautify its streets while creating landmarks for residents and visitors alike, even providing an online guide to help you chart your course.

The first piece in this public collection is an ode to Waterloo’s agricultural roots, a time before big tech was the region’s economic engine. The John Labatt Barley Field is a collection of hand-forged steel stalk forms of barley made by artist Jane Buyers.

Continuing along the route will take you past several other sculptures, landscapes, and murals, leading up to Waterloo Park.

DAY 1

WALK WATERLOO’S PUBLIC ART ROUTE – 9:00 AM

DAY 1

STOP BY THE CANADIAN CLAY AND GLASS GALLERY IN UPTOWN WATERLOO – 12:30 PM

DAY 1 – 12:30 PM: THE CITY OF WATERLOO IS HOME TO THE ONLY PUBLIC ART GALLERY IN CANADA THAT SPECIALIZES IN COLLECTING WORKS OF ART MADE FROM CERAMIC, ENAMEL, & STAINED GLASS.

The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery is housed in an award-winning building designed by Patkau Architects, right on the edge of Waterloo Park and next to the renowned Perimeter Institute. The gallery itself has enormous windows, flooding the spaces with natural light, and the stained glass windows create dazzling displays as the sun makes its daily arc across the sky.

The gallery’s collection features pieces from the traditional media of ceramics and glasswork and incorporates new sculptural and material methods, including 3D printing. A glance through their catalogue proves that there’s much more to tactical crafts than teacups and bowls.

Walking around Silver Lake, you may come across a modest log structure; this is the old Log Schoolhouse, constructed in 1820 by Pennsylvania German settlers. It’s the oldest school building in Waterloo (and maybe even the entire province)!

Continuing from there, take one of the many paths through the park and find three more sculptures. Keep your eye out for a unique pair of tables near the skate park by artist Ted Fullerton.

DAY 1 – 2:00 PM: STROLL THROUGH CIVIC CENTRE PARK AND SWING BY KITCHENER-WATERLOO ART GALLERY.

Take a stroll through Civic Centre Park to discover a remarkable monument. The Kitchener Fallen Firefighters Memorial stands as a solemn tribute to firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. Civic Centre Park is a key hub of Kitchener, with easy access to the  Kitchener Public Library, the aptly named Centre in the Square, and Waterloo’s Regional Headquarters.

Continuing through the park, you’ll arrive at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. The space is home to over 4,000 works in its permanent collection, including works by major Indigenous artists like Kent Monkman and Shelley Niro. If you’re travelling with someone with sensory needs, then make this an early stop; between 10 AM and 12 PM, the KWAG hosts “Sensory Friendly Saturdays”, where the galleries and public spaces have reduced light and volume levels.

DAY 1

CHECK OUT KITCHENER’S CIVIC CENTRE – 2:00 PM

DAY 1

EXPLORE DOWNTOWN KITCHENER – 3:00 PM

DAY 1 – 3:00 PM: STROLL THROUGH DOWNTOWN KITCHENER

Spend the remainder of your afternoon exploring downtown Kitchener, and check out the former industrial buildings that remain a fixture in the city. Highlights include the Kaufman Lofts, a footwear factory turned residential building, the Tannery Building that now houses several tech companies, and the  Abe Erb Brewery. The local spot is an ode to Abraham Erb, one of the first Mennonite immigrants from Pennsylvania. To see where icons like Eleanor Roosevelt and Louis Armstrong stayed while in town, check out the Walper Hotel, a red brick beauty constructed in 1893.


Day Two


DAY 2 – 10:00 AM: VISIT THEMUSEUM FOR A VERY DIFFERENT MUSEUM EXPERIENCE.

You won’t always find famous works of art or paintings here. Instead, prepare to move your body and get creative. Permanent exhibitions include a virtual graffiti wall with a light-powered spray can, a stop motion animation studio, and a six-foot piano you can walk on. THEMUSEUM is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

After that, cut across town to Victoria Park, where you’ll find the Clocktower of the Old City Hall amid a garden and pond. It used to rest atop Kitchener City Hall, but that building was demolished decades ago. Fortunately, enough of the Clocktower survived, and with some much-needed restoration, it continues to keep time for Kitchener’s citizens.

DAY 2

DISCOVER NEW IDEAS AND EXPERIENCE AT THEMUSEUM – 10:00 AM

DAY 2

EXPLORE THE IDEA EXCHANGE AND DOWNTOWN CAMBRIDGE – 1:30 PM

DAY 2 – 1:30 PM: THE IDEA EXCHANGE IS CAMBRIDGE’S PUBLIC LIBRARY, BUT IT’S NOT YOUR TYPICAL LIBRARY SYSTEM

You’ll find your first stop in Cambridge near the water.  The Idea Exchange Old Post Office is housed in a former post office building from 1885. Designed by architecture firm RHDA, the new library, which opened in July 2018, features a 9,000 square foot transparent pavilion that wraps around the original building and looks over the Grand River. This digital hub has gaming areas, recording suites, and more.

Across the water is the Design at Riverside Gallery at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. The gallery hosts a variety of lectures, concerts, and film screenings.

Continuing along the Grand River, you’ll arrive at the Cambridge Sculpture Garden. The grounds are full of carefully manicured filled with several pieces of mind-bending sculpture. At night, the sculptures are illuminated, revealing details you might miss in broad daylight.

DAY 2 – 6:00 PM: TAKE A RIDE TO THE LUXURIOUS SIDE.

Langdon Hall was originally built as a summer home in 1898 by the great-grandson of the American real estate tycoon John Jacob Astor. Gardens surround the estate, all carefully arranged to reinforce the Victorian Era charm of its long-standing residence.

Nowadays, Langdon Hall caters to those searching for absolute luxury; there, you’ll find fine dining, high tea, and even a spa.

The Cruickston Park Estate, which has its own luxury home, lies a little further afield. The English mansion was refurbished after its purchase by Matthew Wilks in 1858, and was later expanded to the nearly 1000 acres it currently occupies. You might recognize this Tudor-style manor house from shows & movies like RED, Cold Creek Manor, and CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries.

The area also gives you easy access to the Walter Bean Grand River Trail, which closely follows the banks of its namesake waterway. Follow the trail to Devil’s Creek Falls, where you can catch a glimpse of a small but stunning waterfall.

DAY 2

SEE HISTORIC ESTATES IN CAMBRIDGE – 6:00 PM

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DAY IN THE LIFE – KITCHENER-WATERLOO

Welcome to Waterloo! Join Lisa O’Connell as she guides you around this booming tech capital showing you places to spark your inspiration, get creative, and grab a bite.

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This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting a few of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

 

The Regional Municipality of Waterloo provided information and/or assistance for the creation of this guide. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Esther Lee.