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NOTE: Visit Kingston hosted me for a long weekend in exchange for coverage on my travel blog. As always, all opinions are my own, and it is my main priority to truthfully write about my experiences.
As a solo traveler, I love small university cities. Love them. Personally, as someone who lives near a big university, I can’t imagine residing anywhere else.
In general, cities with universities have a special youthful energy that positively impacts students, locals, and visitors. The frequent cultural events, as well as intellectual coffee shops and international population, all make you believe that anything is possible to achieve.
And Kingston? Was no different.
Kingston, a historic and beautiful city in Ontario, is also home to Queen’s University, which is one of the top public research universities in all of Canada.
But what if you’re only traveling to Canada rather than moving? Is Kingston Ontario worth visiting?
I asked myself the very same question as I boarded my flight to Toronto. As travelers, we hear a lot about Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, and Quebec City.
So it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t know much about Kingston, even though solo travel in Canada is one of my favorite pastimes ever (haha, I’m not kidding; I’m glad to live somewhat close to the border). I wasn’t sure what the long weekend had in store for me.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised!
Is Kingston Canada Worth Visiting?
Yes, absolutely! In particular, if your Canada travels take you to Toronto or Ottawa, then Kingston is a short train ride away, and perfect for a weekend escape. I loved Kingston so much.
And seriously, don’t worry about going to Kingston from the airport. The train ride is super easy. It took a little over two hours to go from Toronto to Kingston, and no train switches were required. I loved unwinding with a book on the train.
Additionally, the Kingston Train Station is small, safe, and accessible, and it’s easy enough to call a taxi to take you to Kingston’s pretty historic center.
All in all, I think Kingston is the perfect Canadian city for history buffs, foodies, and nature lovers. Don’t skip it for a bigger city if Kingston falls onto your travel route. I promise you will love it.
7 Reasons Kingston Canada is Worth Visiting
So, if you’re still asking yourself, “is Kingston Canada worth visiting?”, then stay put in this post, because I have seven reasons explaining why you ought to add Kingston to your itinerary.
I tried to cover a bunch of different topics and activities, because believe me (and I’ll reiterate), Kingston has something to offer to every type of traveler.
Amazing Local Food Scene
Kingston’s food is awesome. Seriously, come to Kingston on an empty stomach, because all the local restaurants know how to cook divine dishes that will leave you full and happy. I definitely needed to diet a bit when I returned to New Jersey, but oh gosh, the food was so worth every single bite.
Furthermore, I especially love that all of Kingston’s restaurants are small and unique to the city, so you know your money will go back into the community. Chains don’t really exist here.
Food prices vary. You can treat yourself to a posh dinner one night, and hit up a casual bar the next night. Since Kingston is a college city, it is possible to visit and dine out on every single budget. Just do your research in advance.
Below are a couple suggestions to get you started.
Food Recommendations for Kingston
- Black Dog Tavern: This tavern has a French-inspired menu, as well as a cozy and pub-like atmosphere. I loved their poutine. Delicious.
- The Everly Restaurant and Lounge: This stylish restaurant is perfect if you want to dress up and take yourself out to a classy dinner. The locally sourced, rotating menu always promises a delicious meal.
- Tango Nuevo: Wanna try a variety of food items? Tango Nuevo is a tapas-based menu, so you can order a bunch of small plates and sample many different dishes.
- Wooden Heads Gourmet Pizza: As someone from NJ, I looooove a good pizza. Wooden Heads was absolutely delicious, and the staff is SO welcoming and sweet. I highly recommend stopping here on a trip to Kingston.
Beautiful Natural Wonders
Do you want to experience some of Canada’s nature but want the convenience of a small city? Then Kingston is perfect for your upcoming trip.
Kingston is beautifully located on the St. Lawrence River, which offers stunning views, especially in the summer months. The water looks photoshopped. As a visitor, you won’t want to miss a chance to take a walk outside in Kingston’s green spaces.
On a sunny day, take a stroll along the Waterfront Trail for some glistening views of the water. You can walk from the downtown all the way to the Great Lakes Museum or even MacDonald Park. I loved unwinding on this trail and admiring the old homes, as well as the water views.
Furthermore, you don’t want to miss a boat tour in this beautiful region. For instance, Kingston 1000 Island Cruises takes you to the gorgeous 1000 Islands where you’ll enjoy views of the adorable cottages, as well as the splendid natural beauty in this region.
I personally loved their Brunch cruise! The food and musicians were excellent, and you could open the windows on a nice day to enjoy the fresh breeze. I could’ve stayed on this cruise all afternoon. It was a delight.
Kingston 1000 Island Cruises have a bunch of boat ride options, too, so I’m sure you’ll find the perfect tour to fit into your Kingston itinerary.
A Fascinating History
Are you a huge history buff? Then you need to visit Kingston. Need to.
Kingston has a long and rich history that makes this city a very worthwhile destination. Did you know that Kingston was actually the first capital of Canada.
The tourism infrastructure here makes history accessible to all visitors. One of my favorite things to do in Kingston was take the hop-on, hop-off trolley tour all around Kingston’s downtown and surrounding area. The drivers are also tour guides who offer valuable insights about the sites that surround you, and you won’t miss any snippets of the tour by hopping on or off.
This well-organized trolley tour stops at some of the most famous historic sites in all of Kingston, including Fort Henry National Historic Site and Kingston Penitentiary. Perfect if you don’t have a rental car.
Speaking of Kingston Penitentiary, did you know that you can tour the inside of the prison? Kingston Penitentiary was recently shut down to inmates, meaning that not long ago some of the most notorious criminals in Canada were jailed inside. While intense, a introspective traveler can learn a great deal here.
Furthermore, the tour guides themselves are incredibly thoughtful and respectful toward the victims’ families, and instead teach visitors what it was like to work here. Most tour guides are former employees of the prison. I thought it was really fascinating to learn about their experiences on the job.
So definitely pay a visit to Kingston Penitentiary.
Last but not least, Kingston has a haunted history too! Haunted Walk offers nightly ghost tours around Kingston. This company has been offering its tour since 1995, so you know you’re in for a spooky and high quality treat!
Without a doubt, you will learn a lot of Kingston’s darker history on these tours, which I personally enjoyed, and on some tours, you may even see a ghost! Of course, your mileage may vary, haha. The guides themselves are wonderful storytellers too. We got scared and laughed, and had a great night on our own tour. I would definitely go again.
Small and Safe
Still not sure if Kingston Canada is worth visiting? Well, if you’re looking for a safe and relaxing vacation, then this city is the perfect option for you. After all, Kingston is smaller compared to, say, Toronto and more manageable. In a small city, it’s much easier to plan out your days, as well as schedule some “down time” to relax.
I also felt that Kingston was very safe. No one bothered me on my stay here. I felt comfortable exploring, even after dinner, and never felt like I had to “look over my shoulder.” Of course, you ought to treat Kingston like any other destination in the world, and use “common sense” precautions, such as keeping an eye on your belongings and only accepting drinks from a bartender.
At the end of the day, I loved that Kingston was a small and safe city, because I felt like I could truly unwind here.
Tons of Delightful Shopping
Your credit card will also fall in love with Kingston, because the shopping is amazing here. You won’t find any large chains. Just several delightful local galleries, vintage shops, food specialty stores, and so much more.
In particular, I loved shopping at Martello Alley. This indoor/outdoor art gallery has a lot of really amazing pieces, and you’ll even meet some of the local artists. I was able to buy beautiful souvenirs here that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in the world. I loved it.
So definitely leave some room in your luggage. Shopping awaits.
Very Friendly Locals
As a solo traveler, I like striking up conversations with locals, and luckily for me, everyone in Kingston was very welcoming and kind. I would even recommend Kingston as one of the best cities in Canada for solo travel because all my social interactions were so positive.
Every night, I sat at the bar of a different restaurant, and was able to make conversation with the bartenders and other locals. I also had a chance to make friends on my brunch tour. At least in my experience, everyone seemed really exciting and willing to talk, so I never felt alone even though I was a solo traveler.
Wonderful Tourism Infrastructure
Last but not least, you’ll always have help in Kingston if you need further assistance with your itinerary, even when you’re “on the ground” so to speak.
As you can see, Kingston has a wonderful tourism infrastructure. The best part? Their tourism board’s office is right downtown, and the staff has plenty of information to make your vacation in Kingston a wonderful one.
For a city of its size, Kingston is packed with a wide variety of activities, so you’ll always find something fun to do. And because it’s so easy to get around, you’ll be able to see a lot without the added stress of transportation or traveling for long distances.
Where to Stay in Kingston Canada
Unsurprisingly, Kingston is home to many stunning historic inns that will make you feel as if you’ve transported back in time, Many of these boutique inns have a limited number of rooms, so make sure that you’re booking in advance at the height of high season (which is summer).
I stayed at Frontenac Club on my visit. Oh my gosh, this is one of the most beautiful and wonderful hotels that I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in. I absolutely adored every second of my time here. I
f you have a bigger budget, then definitely splurge on a room at Frontenac Club. The hotel is located inside a renovated old bank, and the rooms are so luxurious. I could’ve legit soaked in my tub all day. And their breakfast? Pure perfection.
Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about Frontenac Club. I would visit Kingston again just to stay here.
What do you think? Is Kingston Canada worth visiting? I hope the answer is overwhelmingly “yes!!” As always, feel free to reach out if you have questions about traveling to Kingston or any of the other destinations featured on this blog!