Sitting along the banks of the Speed River, Guelph is a small city that is located less than one hour west of Toronto. It is a beautiful city that is known for its limestone architecture, dynamic culture and high standard of living. In fact, it has been voted as one of the country’s best cities to live in.
In terms of visiting Guelph, there is much to see and do in this small, yet lively city. History buffs, art lovers, adventurists and festival goers will all find things to do in the city.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Guelph:
1. Walk above the water
In 1992, around 400 volunteers built a pedestrian-only bridge over the Speed River. The bridge was built with timber in a 1800s style design and is part of the Royal Recreational Trail.
The bridge is roughly 36.5 metres long and walking across it will result in some lovely scenery. It gives you the chance to see both sides of the river.
The bridge is covered, so no matter what the weather is you can walk across it. It is also bicycle and wheelchair accessible.
2. Visit an old cottage
McCrae House is a small limestone cottage that was built in 1858. But what makes it so famous is that it was the childhood home of John McCrae; writer of the famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.
Visit the cottage and learn about the life of the doctor, soldier and poet through its exhibition.
3. Explore the heart of the city
Downtown Guelph is a stunning part of the city that is filled with numerous Victorian era buildings. Explore the heart of the city and learn about its history.
Wellington St. E. to the south, Norwich St. to the North, Woolwich St. to the East and Dublin St. to the west are what bound Downtown Guelph. Within this area you will see limestone architecture, heritage buildings and boutique shops.
Some notable landmarks in the area include the Guelph Armoury, Guelph City Hall, St. Georges Square and Douglas Street. It is also home to newer buildings, like the River Run Centre and the Sleeman Centre.
4. Go to church
Right in the historic area of Downton Guelph is the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate. This Roman Catholic basilica is known to be one of the finest works of architect Joseph Connolly.
The church was built between 1875 and 1883 in Gothic Revival style. It is a beautiful building that features decorative carving and stained glass that was created by skilled craftsmen.
5. Learn about the city’s culture
Visitors of all ages can learn about the city’s culture at the Guelph Civic Museum. The museum focuses on culture and natural history, and even has a children’s museum onsite.
There are over 40,000 artefacts at the museum that bring the city’s past to life. Wander around the museum and learn all about its history.
6. Surround yourself in nature
The Rockwood Conservation Area sits along the Eramosa River, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and caves. The 32 hectare conservation area is open year round and offers plenty of activities.
One of the biggest features of the conservation area is its massive glacial potholes, one of which is the largest in the world! It also has plenty of other unique geological features, like its extensive cave system and glacial bluffs that formed thousands of years ago.
7. Look at Canadian art
The Art Gallery of Guelph (AGG) has a large collection of Canadian art in its large collection, some of which is Inuit art. Stroll through the gallery’s two floors and enjoy its fantastic collection.
In addition to Canadian art there is also some contemporary international artists showcased in the gallery collection of 9,000 pieces. In addition, there are exhibitions that take place throughout the year.
8. Shop in a market
The Guelph Farmers Market has been running since 1827. It has since grown, and moved, and today is a lively market with anywhere from 60 to over 120 venders.
The best time to visit is in the summer, when the market expands and there are the highest amount of venders. Still, it is open all year so you can always enjoy walking around and shopping for souvenirs and gifts.
9. Wander around an arboretum
The Guelph Arboretum was modelled after Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. This arboretum is also housed in a university; the University of Guelph, and is run by the agricultural department.
Wander around the 165 hectare arboretum and enjoy its collection of 1,700 different trees and shrubs. It is open year round from dawn to dusk and sees over 73,000 visitors per year.
10. Have fun at a festival
Being a city rich in culture results in plenty of festivals, something that Guelph has become quite known for. These can be anything from music festivals to multicultural festivals. There is even a Pride week!
If you are an art lover, you will not want to miss the Fab 5; the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Eden Mills Writers Festival, Hillside and the Guelph Film Festival. These are also the top 5 festivals in the city.
11. Mingle with donkeys
The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada has been running since 1992 as a refuge for neglected or abused donkeys and mules. Visit the sanctuary and get up close to the animals living there.
The sanctuary sits on a tranquil piece of land that has become a safe haven for these animals. Meet, brush and feed the donkeys, or watch a demonstration on their care. You can also go to a talk to learn more about the donkeys and their history.
12. Splash around at a waterpark
Cool off on a hot day at Emerald Lake Waterpark, which is just 30 minutes south of Guelph. The waterpark is open all summer from 10am to 7:30pm.
The waterpark features a 61 metre waterslide that will throw you into a 1.2 metre pool. There is also a splash pad that is over 1,000 square metres, complete with water-guns and sprinklers.
13. Enjoy a show
The River Run Centre is a performing arts centre right in the heart of the city. The centre opened in 1997 and has been offering performing arts shows ever since.
If you are a music, drama, comedy or dance lover, be sure to enjoy a show at the centre. There is always something going on at the River Run Centre and tickets are pretty easy to get.
There is also the Ed Video Media Arts Centre, which focuses on video art. It is the only artist-run centre in the city, though contributors and exhibitors have come from all over the world.
14. Eat some delicious food
Guelph has everything from fine dining to pub grub, so there is something for everyone here. Regardless, you will not be disappointed, as Guelph has some delicious food.
There are ethnic treats like Thai, Indian, Greek, Vietnamese and Mediterranean cuisine. There are also vegan and vegetarian establishments.
To Guide you this summer on your journey through Guelph, ranked the third best city in Canada to raise a family. We have compiled a short list of some of the best spots to grab something to eat and also some of the Top places to try a new activity. Here is our Summer Guide to Guelph:
Top Italian Restaurant of 2018 - La Cucina
Top Pastry Shop of 2018 - Decadently Yours
Top Dance School of 2018 - Performance Dance Academy
Top Fitness Club of 2018 - Stay Fit Health Centre Ltd
Top Martial Arts School of 2018 - Guelph Family Martial Arts
Top Yoga Studio of 2018 - Pilates in Guelph