Tucked into the eastern corner of Lake Ontario and sandwiched between Toronto and Ottawa, Kingston had middle-child-city status for years. But its charm, independent makers and grand 19th-century architecture are finally getting the attention they deserve, without the city losing its down-to-earth feel. If you find yourself planning a day trip from Toronto or a longer stay in the Limestone City, we've got the ultimate guide to the best things to do in Kingston. 

Kingston's pace isn't slow; instead, it's thoughtful. People take their time strolling through the city's winding stone-walled alleyways, stopping at antique shops or for an extended lunch in the historic Market Square (which hosts Ontario's oldest farmers' market). This thoughtfulness shows up all over the city, from the plates of hyper-local food to the restoration of heritage buildings. Kingston's storied past isn't smoothed over with fresh concrete; it's on display. 

Within an hour's drive of downtown Kingston, you've got the vineyards of Prince Edward County, the Thousand Islands sprinkled over the St. Lawrence River and acres of farmland supplying the restaurants with seasonal bounty so good it'll make you want to pack your bags, buy a Tragically Hip t-shirt and stay forever.

What to do in Kingston, Ontario

Agnes Etherington Art Centre

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This public art gallery (admission is free), located in the heart of the Queen's University Campus, is one of Canada's leading art museums. Inside, you'll find a plethora of curated collections (over 17,000 works) that range from ultra-modern interactive exhibits to 17th-century original Rembrandts. The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is the perfect activity for a rainy day when you just want to be cozy and give your eyeballs a break from your phone screen. 


Trolley Tour

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"Anything off the trolley, dears?" OK, so you're not going to Hogwarts, but a guided trolley tour through downtown and old town Kingston is pretty magical and will make you feel like you've travelled back in time. The one-hour round trip on the iconic red trolley covers over 300 years of Kingston history and all the top sites. 


Kingston Penitentiary Tour

This former maximum-security prison is now a place where movies and television shows are filmed, and where families can spend the afternoon. It's a wild experience to not only go inside a prison but also leave the premises whenever you want. There are a bunch of different tours offered at Kingston Pen, but the standard one lasts for 1.5 hours and explores the history and stories of Canada's oldest (and most infamous) prison.  


Antique Alley 

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Tucked away in a literal alley with pictures and retro signs hanging on the brick walls, this vintage Narnia off Wellington Street is way larger than it appears. Inside, over 4,000-square feet of one-of-a-kind decor, unusual collectables and eclectic vintage clothing await. For more secret alleys, make sure you seek out Martello Alley, a whimsical outdoor art gallery nearby. 

Haunted Walk 

Think you have baggage? Kingston's past is riddled with more ghost stories than a dating app. For those who want to add a little spookiness to their trip, the Original Haunted Walk is for all ages and covers the eerie basics: haunted hotels, grave robbings and hidden burial grounds. For more goosebumps, check out their Ghosts of Fort Henry Tour and Paranormal Investigations series. 


What to eat and drink in Kingston, Ontario

The Everly

First, the Everly will catch your eyes with its millennial pink walls and patio chairs, velvety indigo banquets and gorgeous interior design. Then, it will steal your heart with stunning plates of hyper-seasonal fare. The downtown Kingston restaurant works with over 20 farmers and producers in the area, and their menu changes monthly. Expect small plates like crispy deep-fried rabbit, bowls of fresh pasta made in-house daily and expert wine pairings. 


Juniper Cafe

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Good luck getting any work done at this charming, light-filled café overlooking the St. Lawrence River. First of all, it will be too hard to look away from the sparkling water and second, you'll be too distracted by the smell of their scrumptious baked goods and sandwiches. There's a no-laptop policy between 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. so more people can share and enjoy the space. 


Tango Nuevo

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For a taste of that Spanish tapas lifestyle (small portions of bold flavours paired with sips of local wine), walk slowly to Tango Nuevo. Nothing is rushed in Spain, most things, from siestas to meals are meant to be savoured. And you'll find plenty to relish in at Tango, from creamy avocado tartare to grilled octopus pintxo on brown butter-fried bread drizzled with hot honey tomato oil.


Chez Piggy

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If you don't go to Chez Piggy, did you even go to Kingston? 'The Pig,' as locals like to call it, might just be Kingston's most iconic restaurant and is not meant to be missed on a trip to the Limestone City. For starters, it's located inside a former limestone stable, and you have to walk through Diagon-Alley-style passageways to get there. In warmer months, the hidden courtyard patio is the ideal spot for bevies and brunch. Head inside their funky, stone-walled space and cozy up to homey meals. 


Spearhead Brewery 

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Development Drive in Kingston's west end is a burgeoning area full of makers like Spearhead Brewery, Hard Way Cider Co. and CocoaBistro Artisan Chocolate. Spearhead's taproom is open every day from noon till late, and they always have fun events like live music and trivia (bring your A-game, it gets competitive). Just like their events, the food offerings change weekly and feature local Kingston food trucks and vendors. 


Hard Way Cider Co. 

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This Development Drive cidery does things differently than those sickly sweet cans you might be familiar with. Hard Way's cider is bone dry and aged in oak barrels from some of North America's best distilleries and wineries. This ageing technique gives their crisp cider 'depth of flavour' — a phrase sure to impress strangers. If you're a margarita lover, check out their Loco Blanco cider which has been aged in anejo tequila barrels. If you like a bit of tartness, their ruby red Ramboozle aged in Caribbean rum barrels is a cult-fave.


Where to stay in Kingston, Ontario

The Frontenac Club 

This newly renovated boutique hotel is a dream stay set in a 175-year-old Kingston heritage building (originally Upper Canada's first bank). Every morning, you can get their complimentary breakfast brought to your king bed. And we're not talking a mini-box-of-cereal complimentary — the Frontenac's breakfast is outrageous (in the best way). Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, Nutella-stuffed crepes, an oozing cheese omelette — like, come onnnnn. 

Once you're ready to start the day, check out downtown Kingston, a five-minute walk away, or stay and indulge in the hotel's stunning amenities: gas fireplaces, soaker tubs and a rooftop terrace with views of the lake. Then, unwind (you've had a hard day, clearly) at The Bank Gastrobar downstairs for a chef's tasting menu with vino, of course.