A Family Guide to Historic Waterloo, Ontario
Disclosure: We were generously hosted by Explore Waterloo Region and their wonderful partners so that we could share this experience with you! As always, the thoughts and opinions we share below are entirely our own, and the experiences we agree to participated in align with our family’s interests and lifestyle.
When traveling, do you prefer to explore the city or more rural communities?
Waterloo Region is comprised of three cities and four townships, that together create a unique area that allows you to experience everything from rural farmland landscapes and historic towns, to city attractions and urban fare. We enjoy a little of both as we travel, and though we still have so much more to explore in this area, our 3-day stay in Waterloo is an experience I’d recommend to any family!
Where to Stay
- Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre is a beautiful, up to date property located directly off the 401 on HWY 24 in Cambridge, Ontario. We were generously upgraded to the Prime Minister’s Suite and it was an absolute treat! The suite is modern with a few rustic touches, and a comfortable space to settle into; my only complaint is that we couldn’t stay longer! With a king-sized bed in a separate bedroom and a double pull out sofa in the living area, there was more than enough room for the four of us to sleep comfortably. The over sized bathroom featuring a large soaker-tub made the perfect ending to a long, busy day!
- Radisson Hotel Kitchener Waterloo is located in the heart of Waterloo Region making it convenient to visit many of the areas attractions and historic sites. Even though the hotel is in a busy area, we were surprised with a beautiful view of treetops and blue sky looking out from the 8th floor. The hotel features four restaurants, heated indoor pool, fitness facility, free covered parking, in addition to other amenities.
Where to Eat
Each restaurant below offers a kids menu and suitable seating for young children
- The Bruce Craft House is located inside the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, making it very convenient if you’re a guest staying in the hotel. With its state of the art stone fired oven, the restaurant makes everything from traditionally inspired pizza, freshly baked breads and bagels, to delicious meals like “The Bruce Mac” (an insanely good burger) and “Perch & Chips,” all pairing nicely with their 10 local craft beer taps. We also got to enjoy a delicious hot & cold breakfast buffet, and the sweetest servers during our stay.
- The Stone Crock is a family-friendly restaurant located on the main street of St. Jacobs Village featuring home-style comforts and the option of a buffet-style meal. If you’re exploring the village, it’s the perfect place to sit down, relax, and have a great meal! We loved that there was a buffet option so that we could easily pick and choose what we would all like to eat. We finished off our meal with a delicious slice of pie from the “pie buffet,” topped with made from scratch whipped cream – So good!
- Boston Pizza Kingpin Bowlounge is located inside the same building as FunWorX Indoor Playland & arcade and the entrance to Big Splash Waterpark. With a bowling alley and floor to ceiling sports screens, you really can’t go wrong for dinner entertainment. Boston Pizza’s menu has something for everyone, and they really catered to our kiddos, which is something we always really appreciate! Our server was a delight and was really helpful when it came to menu recommendations. (A bonus, if you have young children, is that with the bowling alley inside the restaurant, it’s already a little loud so you don’t need to worry so much about the kids also being a little loud).
Highlights of our Stay:
- Touring The Doon Heritage Site at Waterloo Region Museum
- Exploring the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
- Staying in the Prime Ministers Suite at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre
- Eating at The Bruce Craft House
- Shopping at St. Jacobs Farmers Market
- Lunch at The Stone Crock
- Wandering in St. Jacobs Village
- Playing at Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark
- Dinner at Boston Pizza Kingpin Bowlounge
Day 1 | Arriving in Waterloo, Touring Doon Heritage Village, and Walking with Butterflies
It’s a beautiful drive from Stratford to Waterloo Region filled with wide open farmland. We arrived at the Waterloo Regional Museum in the morning and were recommended to begin by touring the outdoor Doon Heritage Village, before the weather turned hot and humid in the afternoon. The large interpretive exhibit features a picturesque 60 acre living history village that allows you to experience what life was truly like in the area back in 1914. The village comes to life with knowledgeable interpreters dressed in authentic clothing, and historic buildings staged as though you’d gone back in time. View the train Engine 894 on display as you enter, and grab your authentically written, and personalized train ticket as a keepsake.
Just past the train is the Martin Farm house, this was one of our favorite parts of the village. Step into the home of the Martin’s, an Old Order Mennonite family who wanted to stop the influence of the outside world on their daily lives, hold fast to their traditionally rural way, and live a more simple life without technology or electricity. The home features four kitchens, and two living spaces for the family and their in-laws. Kids can pump water in the sink, watch bread bake in a fire fed stove, and get a look at some of the toys kids a century ago played with. This incredible home features two huge floors and also a cellar.
Next you will head down the gravel path, through the covered bridge to town where there is a general store, post office, seamstress, blacksmith and meat shop. In many of these building there are staff on hand to help teach visitors about what their shops purpose was and what the town’s residents would do there.
Next, we drove 15 minutes to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, located in a beautiful rural area surrounded by acreage and farmland, the drive to the property is enjoyable in itself. We arrived at the conservatory to be met with very friendly staff, and the option to join them for a daily scheduled tour. There are two self-guided gallery rooms where you’ll find displays of butterflies and other insects; we recommend walking through these before heading into the live exhibit as it was a great way to get the kids excited and prepared for what they were going to see next.
Tip: Come prepared to be in a warm, humid atmosphere with the butterflies; either dress down or wear layers for your visit!
Entering into the live exhibit area, you’ll find yourself in a tropical room surrounded by lush plants and trees, a central pond and waterfall, and a wheelchair accessible walkway throughout. We were greeted by several fluttering butterflies, if you’re lucky one may land on you for a great photo opportunity! Throughout the exhibit, you’ll find hanging feeding plates which make it easy to observe the butterflies as they are still while they eat. We toured through this area twice, with a break in-between for a snack and some air conditioning in the Chrysalis Cafe, a full cafe offering hot meals and a large seating area.
Day 2 | Exploring St. Jacob’s Farmers Market & Village
Our second day in Waterloo kicked off with a visit to Canada’s largest year-round farmers market, St. Jacob’s Farmers Market. If you’re like us and enjoy finding locally grown and produced foods and goods, you’ll find plenty of them here! Hundreds of vendors gather to set up indoors and out to provide a complete market experience where you’ll find fresh & prepared foods, home goods, clothing, and a selection of flea market and antique items. Our favorite vendors of the day were: Craft Chippery, a Kitchener based small batch potato chip maker, and an old fashioned ice cream maker that used an old John Dear motor to churn the ice cream (photo below).
Tip: If you’re visiting with small children, bring a wagon or stroller to carry them and your goods as there is a lot of walking, if you plan to tackle the entire market
Visit the St. Jacobs Farmers Market website for directions, hours, and vendor information.
Just a six minute drive from the farmers market you’ll find the heart of St. Jacobs Village. A walk along King Street North is the perfect way to explore the area, and just a 5 minute walk from one end to the other. Here you’ll discover a number of very unique shops, from Venture Forth Bicycle Tours, a bicycle rental shop in an old train car, to a pottery studio inside of an old concrete silo. We started off our tour of the village at the Eco Cafe, serving organic, fair trade, direct trade and Rainforest Alliance coffee. The cafe is a great place to sit back and relax, watch coffee beans roast, view local artists work, and watch your kids play in a dedicated colouring & puzzle area.
Making our way down King Street N. we made sure to check out The Mennonite Story, a visitor’s centre and dedicated opportunity to gain a more in depth look into the Mennonite lifestyle. After visiting the Martin Farm at the Waterloo Regional Museum & Doon Heritage Village the previous day, and seeing dozens of horse and buggies traveling through the area, we were really intrigued to learn more. I highly encourage you to visit, and watch the short film provided in the theatre. The centre takes donations as admission so they can continue to educate the public about the history of the large population of Mennonite families in the area.
Day 3 | Playing at Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark
By the third and final day of our visit, we were ready to cut loose and play! Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark is part of a huge resort including the waterpark, FunWorX Indoor Playland (which we have visited previously and really enjoyed), and camping resort. As an waterslide park will have, there are a few restrictions for the larger waterslide including that you are 48″ tall and cannot wear a life jacket. We were pleasantly surprised that the area made for smaller children, “Spray’n’Play” was huge and featured geyser jets, controllable water flows, three children’s slides, net walk, water umbrella, 1200-gallon tipping bucket and more. Us parents didn’t even feel the need to sneak off one at a time to check out the large slides, we all got to have a blast together! In addition to the Spray’n’Play area, we swam in the wave pool and lazy river, and enjoyed an ice cream treat.
Tip: Arrive early to find a spot where you can catch some shade between playing, there are large umbrellas, but few of them. Be prepared to sit on beach / anorak chairs and bring a blanket for a space on the ground as there isn’t a lot of grassy area to sit on.
Map of Entire Bingemans Resort
Our 3-Day Waterloo Itinerary Schedule
9:30 a.m. Arrive and tour Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Village
1:00 p.m. Arrive and tour the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
5:30 p.m. Check into Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre
6:00 p.m. Dinner at Bruce Craft House
9:30 a.m. Arrive and tour the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, and St. Jacobs Outlets (you’ll want to take the kids to the LEGO Toy Building Zone at the outlets)
1:00 p.m. Lunch in St. Jacobs Village at Jacobs Grill (reservation for 4 under Stephanie, complimentary)
2:00 p.m. Tour and shop in St. Jacobs Village (recommended – Eco Café, Block Three Brewery, The Mennonite Story)
5:30 p.m. Arrive at Radisson Hotel Kitchener Waterloo (breakfast not included)
6:30 p.m. Dinner at Boston Pizza Kingpin Bowlounge (complimentary meal, bowling not included, reservation under Klavers)
10:00 a.m. Enjoy Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark or FunWorX Indoor Playland (depending on weather)
We had an incredible time exploring Waterloo Region, and there is still so much to see! We loved experiencing the history and learning about the people that were some of the first to call this area home. We explored, learned, and played and we hope it inspires you to do the same!
For more details and information for planning your trip to
Waterloo Region, visit Explore Waterloo Region:
Cambridge Hotel and Convention Centre
Radisson Hotel Kitchener Waterloo
The Bruce Craft House
The Stone Crock
Boston Pizza at Bingemans
Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark
Waterloo Regional Museum & Doon Heritage Village
St. Jacobs Country (farmers market & village)
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory