Your Guide to the Top Activities in Kingston Ontario

Narayani Bhardwaj
Narayani Bhardwaj Things to Do
23 Min Read
Shoal Tower Kingston by Ahnaf Piash at pexels

Dating a few years back, Kingston also served as the capital of Upper Canada. But, now, the best suited is Ottawa. This pretty area is mainly located in eastern Ontario and is filled with adventurous things to do here.

1.  12 Best Things To Do In Kingston, Ontario

1.1.  A Visit to Fort Henry National Historic Site

The Fort Henry National Historic Site should be the first visiting site when thinking of what to do in Kingston, Ontario.

It is an elevated point situated in Point Henry, Kingston, Ontario. Located closer to the Cataraqui River’s mouth, from where it streams into the St. Lawrence River.

The fort is constructed on the point and was named after Henry Hamilton. He was the Province of Quebec’s former Lieutenant-Governor. However, this historic site is constructed on an ancient fort’s site in 1812 during the American War. The incredible fortifications were built in the 1830s, which you can see now.

These fortifications protected the Royal Naval Dockyard of Kingston for decades. It also served the Rideau Canal’s mouth that connects Lake Ontario to the city of Ottawa.

In 1938, it was started as a museum. Since then, it has become a famous tourist attraction in Kingston. Also, it provides classic vibes of early 1800s life.

In 2007, the fort was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though, the fort has its history as well as strategic importance. The Fort Henry Guard is a decent informative staff here. They recreated the former occupant’s lifestyles at the fort and organized guided tours.

You can also have a self-guided tour. Displaying the crafts and trades at that time for the visitors is an interesting thing to explore here. The staff also organizes historical military re-enactments like the thrilling Garrison Parade.

It facilitates a classic Victorian schoolroom for kids to experience a historical lifestyle. Moreover, it also provides historical costumes and information to the kids.

1.2. Explore the Thousand Islands

Exploring the Thousand Islands is one of the most delightful things to do here. It is an archipelago in North America that is comprised of 1,864 islands.

It crosses the Canadian side and the United States side as well in the St. Lawrence River. It stretches downstream from Kingston about 80 kilometers.

However, the islands in Canada lie in the province of Ontario. Meanwhile, the islands in the US lie in New York’s state. The waterways and channels between these islands can be explored with private boat rentals, amazing cruises, and by car.

  • Wolfe Island is the biggest island group that resides completely within Ontario. Howe Island in Ontario, Grindstone Island, and Wellesley Island in New York are the other large islands.
  • Carleton Island in New York is a ruined fort site. During the Revolutionary War in America, Fort Haldimand was ruined by the British in 1779. During the War of 1812, the three American soldiers captured the island, and it is left as part of the US.
  • Skull and Bones, a secret community, owned Deer Island.
  • Zavikon Island is a pair of islands. Out of which, the smaller island is in US, and the larger one is in Canada. The pedestrian bridge that connects these two islands is known to be the world’s shortest international bridge.
  • The only artificial island is Longue Vue Island in this area.
  • Meanwhile, the world’s smallest inhabited island is Just Room Enough Island.

You can tour these islands with sightseeing cruises. It is an adventurous activity to do.

1.3.  Wander the Historic Downtown Kingston

The beautiful and splendid downtown is an amazing place to spend your time. It is centered in Queen and Princess Street, can easily be explored when taking a walk. Two impressive thoroughfares begin or end at the Kingston Harbor in Kingston Downtown.

You can stay here at many fantastic places like Frontenac Club. The main attractions of downtown are also nearer to these staying places.

However, thinking of where to start? The waterside Confederation Park could be an amazing place to start with. You will probably come across the most photographed landmark, Kingston City Hall.

A broad public space, “Market Square,” is an excellent reflection of Europe’s traditional city squares. Many of the events are held here throughout the year. Also, it holds regular farmers’ markets. Meanwhile, if you are visiting in summer, you can enjoy the free screening of movies here.

However, you can have fun in winter at the adventurous skating rink. Moreover, after all day exploring the downtown, it’s time to relax.

While one left-out thing is shopping which is one of the not-to-forget things if you are in Downtown Kingston, you will have an amazing shopping experience while exploring this beautiful downtown of Kingston.

Driving around downtown Kingston

At last, it provides peaceful and delicious dinner to its visitors. You can enjoy cuisines from all over the world before going to bed. It has plenty of landmarks to visit. After dining, a night walk to these landmarks where downtown looks super beautiful could relax you.

1.4. Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts

The Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts is situated at 390 King Street W, Kingston, Ontario. It is known to be one of Ontario’s famous theatre and concert places. This venue was started in the year 2014.

However, it provides a wide variety of art programs along with entertaining programs for visitors.

The site is part of Queen’s University that is beautifully structured. Also, you can enjoy the leading orchestra’s performances, which it hosts regularly.

It also includes theatrical and jazz performances with classical musicians’ programs. Further, it has a large concert hall with more than 560 seats.

The place also has film screening rooms. It facilitates more than 92 rooms with a large rehearsal hall. Also, the interior of the building is beautifully designed.

Most of the stunning finish of the building is made of brightly looking-wood. It is worth watching the screenings and concerts here. You better ensure to go on time when shows are going on.

Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts

1.5. Experiencing Life Behind Bars at Kingston Penitentiary

Do you want to do something adventurous and still think about what to do in Kingston, Ontario? Then the Kingston Penitentiary is also among the famous tourist attractions to visit. It is a fortress that was constructed in 1835. However, it was opened as a prison with maximum security.

It was the oldest serving prison in the world, which is continuously in use in 2013. At that time, it was on its closure in 2013.

Kingston Pen, a museum, offers a reflection of the prison from the 1800s to the 1900s. It fascinates the prisoners’ lives and prison guards. Also, it offers a wide range of guided tours for the best experience of visitors.

It provides these guided tours in various languages. So, taking an extended tour is a better option. Also, it includes informative tours.

The tours last for about 2 and a half hours, which is not recommended for children, as it takes a longer time. However, these are the depth tours, in which you will be provided with many great experiences.

Urbex: Kingston Penitentiary Tour

You will be gone through the main cell dome and many other work spots. It also includes hospitals and gyms of that time in the depth tour. Here, the circumstances of that time will be shown to you. In addition, famous prison riots, inmates, and escapees’ conditions and lives are also included.

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum is also a worth-visit museum adjacent to the penitentiary. This amazing attraction represents the top prisons of Canada’s artifacts and displays.

However, this spot is best recognizable for its location in the former historical home. It is at Kingston Pen Wardens that was constructed in 1870.

1.6.  Explore the History of the First Prime Minister of Canada at Bellevue House

The Bellevue House is a part of the National Historic Site. It was the former home of the first Prime Minister of Canada. He was Sir John A. Macdonald.

The historic house is situated in 35 Centre Street, Kingston, Ontario. However, it is an excellent example of the architecture at Victorian-Era. Also, it offers many tours around the historic site. These are the informative tours that will help you explore the wealthiest citizens of the country.

The house was built in the year 1840. It served the Macdonald from the year 1848 to 1849. Meanwhile, the house is best recognized as the country’s earliest example of Italian Villa Architecture.

In addition with, it is well-preserved site. So, it can show the almost actual things when he lived here with his family.

You can take a full guided tour with a costumed guide that will give you the vibes of that time. Tour includes exploring the history, lifestyle, and ground activities.

It looks extremely impressive in summer and spring due to its lavish extensive green gardens. These include delightful ornamental gardens and kitchen gardens. However, the former orchard of the site is still exactly looking.

1.7.  Tour Around the Historic Kingston City Hall

The Kingston City Hall was built in the year 1844. At that time, it was the seat of the Province of Canada. It is situated at 216 Ontario Street, Kingston, Ontario.

However, the Kingston City Hall is now under the government of the city. Also, it is best notable for its significant iconic heritage building in the state of Ontario.

Further, it is also one of the largest heritage buildings in Ontario. In the downtown core of Kingston, the city hall occupies an entire block. Also, it is just a few steps away from Lake Ontario.

The tall dome is the most recognizable feature in this building. George Browne is a famous architect who designed this building. He also designed this tall dome feature for this site.

As a part of the guided tour, you can also visit the beautiful interiors of the building. The interiors are equally spectacular as its outer colossal architecture. The tours are provided on the FCFS (First Come First Serve) basis. So, don’t forget to arrive early there. Meanwhile, you can also have a self-guided tour.

City of Kingston - Inside our City - Ep. 3 - City Hall Tours

In the tour, you will be shown the Memorial Hall and the Council Chambers as its highlights. After taking this breathtaking tour, you can have fun at the city’s most renowned place, Market Square. Along with the Centennial Park, as it is also closer to it.

1.8.    Visit Kingston Waterfront

Along the shoreline of Lake Ontario, eight kilometers away, the Kingston Waterfront is a must-visit spot. It has various attractions that include parkland and many level trails.

These trails link the top tourist places of the city to spend your time. It includes the Historic Engine 1095, Murney Tower, Kingston Visitor Center, and City Hall.

The waterfront is situated at the Waterfront Pathway, Kingston, Ontario. Confederation Park is the green space waterfront of Kingston Ontario. However, it will be amazing if you can also visit Lake Ontario Park.

It is just a few minutes away from the historic downtown of Kingston. An exciting place for the kids and enjoying the family picnics must be included in your list.

You can enjoy the beauty of numerous beaches at the waterfront. Out of which, the most renowned beach is Breakwater Park Beach. Visitors are allowed to enjoy in the water of the beaches too, instead of just looking at the beauty. Waterfront offers you numerous things to do in Kingston, Ontario.

On the shore of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, enjoying fishing and sailing is another part of these fun activities.

There are many vendors along the waterfront that sells fishing and boating types of equipment to visitors. You can also rent these pieces of equipment with the paddleboards and more. One of the rentals, Ahoy Rentals, is at the back of the Pumphouse Steam Museum.

1.9.   Take a Nature Walk in Frontenac Provincial Park

The Frontenac Provincial Park is an amazing place for enjoying nature. It is situated in 6700 Salmon Lake Road, Sydenham, which is just forty minutes away by Car from the city of Kingston. Sydenham is a small town near the north of Kingston. The park is spread in an area of 13,000 acres.

Entitled as a Natural Environment Park, it crosses the area of the Frontenac Axis. It is an unusual meeting place of the Adirondack Mountains to the south and the Canadian Shield to the north.

The wide wetlands and mixed forests are framed by the rugged granite decipherment. These all together set up a wonderful adventurous environment.

Kayaking and Canoeing on the Southern and the Northern Otter Lakes are fun activities here. Twenty lakes are located here. You can enjoy these activities at either of the lakes. The park is most notable for its backcountry camping and its 100 kilometers long trails.

Also, visitors can take guided tours around the entire park. Probably, you will encounter wildlife here, including mink, grey wolves, otters, black bears, and red foxes.

Frontenac Provincial Park -  Backpacking

Further, many popular activities like swimming and fishing can be done here. You can also enjoy the fun winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. Meanwhile, the park remains open throughout the year to visit.

1.10. Visit the Marine Museum at Great Lakes

The location is just adjacent to the dry dock of Kingston. The Marine Museum is a historically important building which was constructed in 1892. It is mainly situated on 55 Ontario Street, Kingston, Ontario.

The Marine Museum at Great Lakes was originally founded in the year 1975. This marine museum was founded to protect the city’s rich marine history.

Further, it mainly emphasizes the conservation of earlier artifacts and stories. You will get to know about Kingston’s unique position at the St. Lawrence River’s mouth.

It also includes every topic from shipbuilding to shipment in the Great Lakes and Lake Ontario ships.

This museum facilitates many things, namely the wide collections of photographs and books related to the shipment of the Great Lakes.

You will find other research material of shipbuilding. Also, it showcases the rich history of the dry dock. Guided tours are offered for educational purposes and workshops.

The museum can easily be accessed from the waterfront pathway of downtown Kingston. Also, it is accessible from many of the landmarks within the city.

1.11.  Kingston Trolley Tour Ride

Taking the ride on the Kingston Trolley is one of the most exciting activities to do here. Just hop on any of the red trolleys, and it will tour you around Kingston, Ontario.

It will show you all the highlights and popular landmarks of the city. A fun thing to do in summer, it allows you to get off anywhere and take photographs.

Further, you can catch another trolley that will pass by within a few minutes. These trolleys facilitate live commentary by the driver about the landmarks and highlights. Also, if not live, the recorded guided audio will show you everything with all the information.

These are also good transportation vehicles to many of the Forts and landmarks here. It passes very frequently from the tourist center. You can take the tour tickets of the trolley ride. The tickets for the tour can also be booked online.

1.12.   Downtown to Fort Henry With The Trolleys

Fort Henry is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites at 1 Fort Henry Drive, Kingston, Ontario. It is an amazing and important place to knowing about the military history of Canada.

Further, it is also part of Kingston Fortifications National Historic Site. Also, it is among the top visiting attractions in Kingston.

This site has old citadels and a great entrance to the Rideau Canal. The historic citadels are located all around the sites of Kingston Harbor.

There are many historical sites located along Fort Henry. Firstly, the RMC – Royal Military College of Canada; secondly, the Murney Tower is located closer to the fort.

In addition, the walls and towers of Fort Frederick and Shoal Tower are also nearer to the Fort. These are all historic sites, and most of them are related to military history.

Also, you can get an authentic experience in this military fort of British. As part of the finishing tour, rifle shooting, a restaurant, and a ceremony of sunset canon firing are exhilarating activities of summer.

It is recommended to take a look at the Fort Henry on the Trolley Tour. You can get off at this Fort to visit it thoroughly. The trolleys will make it easier for you to stop by at these places. Also, you can take a walk to Fort Henry. But, a hilltop location is quite far from the downtown.

Walking along this path would be a bit too much. So, you can visit there by your personal vehicle like car, bike, etc. However, the trolley tour is also available. Moreover, bike and car rentals for the tour are also available for the visitors.

2. Conclusion

Kingston is an amazing city in the state of Ontario. The local visitors popularly call this city as “Limestone City”.

This title is given to it because of the many choices in building materials from 19th-century homes. It is packed with many attractions and the best classic things to do here.

Kingston is packed with fun activities and top-notch historical attractions to visit. If you are thinking about what to do in Kingston Ontario? Then, do not think much and just pack your bag to visit here.

This is an exciting place for the history buffs. Along with the attractions, it is also an excellent place for the foodies. It has hundreds of restaurants with a wide variety of delicacies.

The things as mentioned above are the most recommended things for foreign travelers. It will offer you best chilling things during the entire year. In addition, the city has a great and long history. Old public buildings and fortifications are the historical places that you can visit in Kingston.

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