Welcome to Guelph
These are some of the best things to do when you visit Guelph.
Are you itching to travel?
If the pandemic travel restrictions have got you down, don’t worry, you are not alone. Being told to stay home when you have a strong wanderlust is hard. We get it, but we also want to follow medical guidelines and will listen to public health officials to ensure we stay healthy and safe. When the pandemic is almost over, and travel restrictions get lifted, the temptation might be to book a big vacation or plan a road trip. Let’s pump the brakes for a little bit before you do.
Now is the perfect time to get out and explore your own backyard. There are probably a lot of attractions in your local area that you may have never experienced. Times have been tough for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown. Businesses, including shops, restaurants, hotels, bars, and various other tourism dependant attractions, have been hit especially hard. They need you now more than ever.
You can show your support for your local businesses and attractions by visiting them when the restrictions get lifted. Keep your tourism dollars in your local community and help them get back on their feet once things start to get back to normal. Get out, explore, and discover some of the great things that there are to do right in your own backyard – as a tourist.
While you will have to investigate some of the things to do that are specific to your town or city, the City of Guelph, Ontario, is where we call home. These are some of the best things to do in Guelph that you can enjoy if you want to play tourist in your backyard.
Arts & Culture
There is certainly no shortage of culture, art, and history in the city of Guelph.
The Art Gallery of Guelph
The Art Gallery of Guelph is home to a vast collection of works of art from many Canadian and international artists, including an extensive selection of works by First Nations artists. The art gallery grounds consist of a 2.5-acre sculpture garden featuring over 40 gorgeous works by Canadian sculptors. It is the most comprehensive outdoor art collection at a Canadian institution. Walk around the yard and find your favourite piece – from the cute and whimsical to the thought-provoking. The Begging Bear -which stands out in front of the AGG, has become a Guelph icon.
Guelph Civic Museums
Three facilities make up the Guelph Civic Museums collection:
- The Guelph Civic Museum, located in the former home of the Loretto Convent, is adjacent to the Church of Our Lady Basilica. The City of Guelph was founded nearly 200 years ago, and the Civic Museum houses a collection of tens of thousands of artifacts that help to piece together some of that long history of the Royal City. Outside of the museum is a beautiful little sitting area with a sculpture of Colonel John McCrae – one of Guelph’s most notable citizens.
- McCrae House is a small limestone cottage on Water Street, and it is the birthplace of famed WWI soldier, doctor, and author Colonel John McCrae. McCrae is most famously known for writing “In Flander’s Field”, a poem he wrote during the First World War to give voice to his fallen comrades. The poem and the poppy are now two of the most prominent Remembrance Day symbols we use to honour military personnel and veterans around the world.
- Locomotive 6167 is a restored 1940’s steam-powered locomotive that you can visit at the central downtown terminal (moving to John Galt Park later in 2020). This locomotive made countless trips through Ontario to the Maritimes and back, shuttling soldiers to Halifax during World War II. Train enthusiasts will enjoy learning about the history of this nearly 100-year-old, steam train. A throwback to Canada’s golden age of railroad history.
- Guelph Little Theatre has been entertaining audiences since 1935 with their live theatre productions – including dramas, comedies, musicals, full-length plays and one-act performances.
- River Run Centre is Guelph’s large performing arts theatre venue situated in the heart of Guelph along the Speed River. They host touring companies, community theatre, concerts, comedians, dance troupes, as well as children’s entertainment and much more.
If you enjoy visiting a farmers’ market for farm-fresh foods, and locally grown and produced items, there are several markets in the city limits to get your fix.
- The Guelph Farmers market, located in the heart of downtown, is a top-rated attraction and a favourite Saturday morning activity for many Guelph-ites.
- Mosborough Farmer’s market and Wellington County Marketplace are two smaller markets where you can purchase fresh produce, meats, baked goods, and other locally sourced products. They work with neighbouring local farmers to provide customers with the freshest items in the season of exceptional quality.
- The Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and parish church and the focal point of the city of Guelph. Not long ago -it was the highest point in Guelph so it is seen from all directions. It is a gorgeous building with magnificent gardens and views of the city. It sits high atop the hill, next to the Guelph Civic Museum, and cannot be missed.
- Aberfoyle Antique Market is a long-standing attraction that draws many visitors to the area from all over. For over 60 years, the Aberfoyle antique market has had many vendors with gorgeous antiques, vintage décor, collectables, and trinkets.
- The Donkey Sanctuary, located in the south end of town, is a top-rated attraction for locals and tourists alike. The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada is a lifelong home to over 70 donkeys, mules and hinnies that have been abused, neglected, or are no longer wanted.
- Strom’s Sweet Corn and Bakery is Guelph’s favourite Pumpkin Patch. Strom’s has a fantastic bakery with delicious treats, including pies, cookies, muffins, and butter tarts. In the autumn, come by and check out their fantastic selection of pumpkins and gourds and try their expansive corn maze.
- Halton County Radial Railway Museum, while not technically in Guelph, it is just on the outskirts of Guelph and worth checking out. It is a working museum with a fantastic collection of train cars, electric streetcars, other railway vehicles, buses and trolleybuses.
Check out our Article on Jay Walking Guelph walking tours HERE
Around Guelph, there are many fantastic places to enjoy a meal. You will find the standard chain restaurants throughout the city and many pubs to go to for a pint and burger. However, Guelph is a great foodie town. The city has several well-known, long-standing, local restaurants that are sure to please – Greek Garden, Vienna, Angels, and Shakespeare Arms.
For a unique taste experience, some of our favourite places in Guelph to grab a bite are Royal Electric, Miijidaa, Queen’s Café, Baker Street Station, York Rd Kitchen, and La Reina. All of these restaurants are located in or near the downtown core. You will enjoy elevated pub food, authentic dishes, delicious farm-to-table, and fantastic flavours at these places.
A local attraction that has become a “tradition” for many Guelph residents is Rocky’s Hot Dogs on Elizabeth St. Rocky’s is a retro 50’s diner that has been serving footlong hotdogs, fries, and sodas in Guelph for many decades. This place brings back feelings of nostalgia for days gone by for many people who grew up in Guelph.
Craft Beer & Spirits
Guelph has several great places brewing some delicious adult beverages that we visit quite often. We have Wellington, Fixed Gear, Royal City Brewery, and Brothers brewing for craft beer. All have bottle shops and indoor seating to enjoy a brew on-site. Some offer food for you to enjoy with your suds.
Guelph is also very fortunate to have two craft distilleries making fantastic spirits – Dixon’s Distillery and Spring Mill Distillery. For some locally made gin, rum, or vodka, check these places out. Early on in the pandemic, these distilleries were quick to switch gears. They started making large quantities of hand sanitizers for first responders and customers.
Parks and Recreation
Guelph has an abundance of green spaces, naturalized areas, parks, recreational trails and public gardens throughout the city. There is no shortage of places to enjoy a walk, bike ride, hike, or any other outdoor recreational activities.
Riverside Park is Guelph’s largest recreation facility. It hosts many of the local festivals and events. It has the river running right through it, gorgeous landscaping, a floral clock, and many picnic areas for you to make the most of your visit. There are amusement rides like the historic Allan Herschell Carrousel and a miniature train ride that the children will love. Visit in Winter for the Sparkles in the Park holiday light display. Riverside Park is one of the best places to visit in Guelph.
Click here for more on Allan Herschell Carrousels.
The Guelph Arboretum is a 400-acre area of plants, gardens, trails, natural wooded areas, wetlands, and meadows. The Arboretum is home to over 2000 varieties of plants, with almost all of the trees and shrubs being native to Ontario. This is a gorgeous place for a leisurely stroll.
If you like to hike, Guelph has many great Hiking trails.
Guelph hosts many unique festivals that attract thousands of visitors to the area every year. While Covid-19 caused the cancellations of all celebrations this year; some festivals in Guelph you will want to check out are:
Art on the Street, Jazz Fest, Rib Fest, Multicultural Festival, and Hillside Festival which is arguably the most popular. Many people from all over Ontario visit Guelph for Hillside Festival.
Explore Your Own Back Yard.
Take a walk around your downtown core. Visit the unique neighbourhoods that make up your city or town and discover new things you didn’t know before. Read the historical plaques that are around to learn more about the history of where you live. When you see a sculpture or statue in your town, endeavour to understand more about it and why it is there.
Back Yard Tourism
Before you book your next vacation, take some time to explore your own backyard. Visit the attractions right in front of you for years that you have never checked out before. Invest in your local economy and support the small businesses that are near your home.
As the opportunity to travel opens up more and more, keep these small businesses that need help in mind. Spend your money in Canada and help to keep more restaurants, shops, and attractions in business. Just do so safely – follow the guidelines, wear a mask, practise social distancing, and wash your hands/use hand sanitizer.
More Back Yard Tourism ideas can be found HERE.
Don’t forget to visit your local tourism bureau office to learn more about the fun and exciting things you can do in your home town.