Waterloo Region

Overview

Introduction

Ontario's Waterloo Region, about 55 mi/90 km west of Toronto, includes four cities all within a short distance of each other. Kitchener and Waterloo share public transportation, but Guelph and Cambridge are within a 20-minute drive. All the communities share a common German heritage, but Kitchener is responsible for the area's largest annual Oktoberfest celebration, which spans a week of activities across the region.

More than 700,000 people visit for the festivities, making it the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich. Beer, the unspoken hero of the event, spotlights some of the best breweries in North America. Larger breweries, such as Sleeman's in nearby Guelph and Brick in Waterloo, as well as a multitude of microbreweries, offer tastings and tours of their facilities. The Oktoberfest Parade, which is always held on Canada's Thanksgiving Monday (early October), is televised nationally.

In Kitchener, Doon Heritage Crossroads is a re-creation of an early 1900s village, complete with living-history demonstrations, tastings and a craft shop. The Kitchener Farmers Market, held on Saturday year-round on King Street in the downtown core has not only fruits and vegetables, but also arts and crafts. You'll also want to visit St. Jacob's Farmer's Market and Outlet Mall—a mecca for tourists visiting the region.

Many German Mennonites live in the surrounding countryside, and horse-drawn carriages are a fairly common sight. Just outside the city limits, you'll find roadside fruit stands and baked goods for sale at Mennonite homes. Mennonites don't do business on Sunday though, so plan your route accordingly.

All four cities contribute to the arts. Waterloo is home to 10 galleries from the eclectic Artery Gallery to the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, the oldest and largest in the region. In Guelph, the strong university community is an incubator for emerging artists and results in a vibrant arts scene. The Guelph Arts Council runs a dynamic Web site on media, literary, visual arts, dance, music and theater events. http://guelpharts.ca.

In Kitchener, the Woodside National Historic Park houses the Victorian boyhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada's 10th prime minister.

Waterloo was voted one of the top seven "smart" communities in the world by the Intelligent Communities Forum and is a technology hot spot for Research in Motion, the inventors of the BlackBerry and the center of Waterloo's technology industry. Visit the Perimeter Institute where the terms "theoretical physics" and "quantum loops" are bandied about with ease.

Nicknamed the "City of Ghosts," Cambridge has its fair share of otherworldly residents, including paranormal activity at the Old Galt Post Office, Queen’s Square, the pergola in St. Andrew’s Park, and an inconsolable student at Galt Collegiate Institute. Commonly thought of as a bedroom community for Toronto commuters, it is also home to a fair number of manufacturing plants.

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