Where to Eat, Play & Stay in Kingston November 9, 2017 · 12 min. readDisclaimer: While the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
At over 175 years old, Kingston is a thriving city of entertainment, history, food and culture. Located on the crossroads of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, Kingston has aspects of each city woven into its cobblestone streets. Home to scores of national celebrities, towering limestone architecture and an impeccable food scene, Kingston is easily one of the top destinations you'll want to visit in Canada.
While this article explores many aspects of Kingston, there's also a lot I wasn't able to cover. If you visit, don't be afraid to explore the city and make your own adventures too!
Where to Eat in Kingston
Downtown Kingston has everything a foodie could want, from global food chains to locally sourced pubs. It's impossible for me to list all the places you'll want to visit but, thanks to the folks over at Kingston Food Tour, I have several recommendations.
If you're somebody like me, your day doesn't start until you feast on a monster breakfast. Bacon, eggs, sausages, potatoes, corn, bread and a glass of orange juice is the best way to get your morning started – and that's exactly what I had at Pan Chancho. Operating as both a bakery and café, this restaurant is the perfect way to start your day. You can grab a bite on your way to work, or you can sit down and indulge in a mouth-watering meal; it's your choice, but I recommend the latter.
To start off your day on the lighter side, The Common Market is the perfect place to drop in, grab a bite and hit the road. With mouthwatering ice cream, pastries, paninis, tea and coffee, there is no better way to start your morning.
For lunch, you'll want to visit Dianne's Fish Shack & Smokehouse. Here you can crunch on a seafood poutine packed full of shrimp, haddock, calamari and mussels. You could also enjoy some lobster rolls, fresh oysters or a nice juicy six-ounce burger. This restaurant also has gluten-free buns available.
Dianne's is also the perfect place to drop by and have a drink. While they have a wide selection of beers and wines, they specialise in martinis and margaritas – and, when added with some fish tacos, makes for the perfect midday snack!
If seafood isn't your thing, there's also Atomica Pizza & Wine Bar. We stopped here on the food tour and tried some delicious thin-crust pizza and locally crafted beer. Beyond their staple pizza, they also serve falafel and lamb sandwiches, home-made hummus, "Chicago Style" deep dish pies and pasta, with gluten friendly alternatives.
If you're looking for more of a casual Italian restaurant, you'll want to visit Olivea. While this place could be considered a lunch destination, you'll probably eat so much food here you can't function for the rest of the day. Here you can try bruschetta, grilled squid, meatballs al forno or just about any kind of pasta. I sat and ate here for over two hours, tasting everything I could and it was all incredible. As this location is right downtown, you'll have a perfect view of Main Street Market, Kingston's very own market square. If you visit in the winter, the market closes down and it is transformed into an outdoor skating rink.
Your options for a nighttime dining experience don't end at Olivea. If you're looking for a night out with a significant other, you'll want to visit Casa Domenico or Chez Piggy. Both restaurants offer fantastic dishes and a very formal atmosphere. If you plan to take a special somebody to Chez Piggy, the only tip I'd give you is not to order the duck wings. While they were probably the most delicious thing I ate while in Kingston, they were also the messiest.
Deserts at both restaurants were delicious. Casa Domenico had the Torri di Cioccolato, which was a delicious hazelnut cake with cherry sauce, while Chez Piggy had a Lime Lite, a strong cup of lime jello, blackberries and whip cream.
Beyond their classic tour, Kingston Food Tour also has their Beer & Bites tour. I'm not sure what this tour would all entail, but as there are many bars and micro-breweries throughout the Kingston area, I'm sure you won't go home hungry.
Kingston also has several food festivals throughout the year. In 2018, they will put on their 20th annual "Taste of Kingston" festival. They will also have their Chef Cooking Demo between the months of June and September and Fort Henry will put on their annual Cannonball Crush, which concludes with their YGK Craft Beer Fest.
Where to Play in Kingston
After eating to your heart's content in Kingston, you'll want to find somewhere to burn all that energy. As I've written about before, Kingston has a wide variety of walking and trolley tours you could take. These tours can be historical, or even venture into the paranormal. If you're a lover of all things spooky like me, the ghost walking tours and mystery trolley rides should go to the top of the list.
If you love exploring a city, but don't want to do it aimlessly, you should visit Improbable Escapes. Almost every city these days have an escape room of one kind or another, but Improbable Escapes has something unqiue. Instead of locking participants in a room, guests will get a backpack, a map and are told to hit the streets. Exploring the city with a time limit looming over you makes you feel like a participant in "The Amazing Race Canada". The only hint I'll give you is that there is an unexpected twist waiting for you at the end. I was told it had never been completed within the time limit by a single participant before, so be sure to bring a buddy with you!
If you're looking to explore Kingston's wide range of history, you'll want to visit locations such as the Kingston Penitentiary, Fort Henry, Bellevue House, the Tett Centre or the Isabel Centre. All of these locations take you down a winding road of crime, love, wars, politics and mystery. Give yourself plenty of time to explore these places but remember some of them close early, such as the Bellevue House, so plan your trip accordingly.
If you're looking to explore the city, learn about its history and have some fun along the way, you'll want to go on a tour with Kingston's very own Town Crier, Chris Whyman. With more knowledge about the history of Kingston than anybody else, Chris will take you to the jail cells below City Hall, show you haunted alleyways, architectural wonders and some of the best places to drop by for a drink. Of all the ways to explore the city, I found Chris' tour to be the most fun so I cannot recommend it enough.
As I am from land-locked Saskatchewan, I haven't experienced many cruises, so I jumped at the chance to go on the 1,000 Island Cruise. While on Lake Ontario I saw scores of gorgeous island houses, listened to live music, learned about the history of the area and had a fantastic buffet-style lunch. The cruise is also the perfect date idea for a couple wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Where to Stay in Kingston
If you're going to Kingston you must stay in one of their stunning 19th century castles. While not officially "castles", these massive stone bed-and-breakfasts are perched all throughout the city. When I was booking my trip to Kingston, all it took was one picture of the Hochelaga Inn for me to decide where I wanted to stay.
The Hochelaga Inn's rooms cost a different amount according to which one you stay in. This odd pricing method is because every room in the building is a different size. When it was first built in 1879, it was originally a house, then it was converted into a bank, then an apartment building and now a bed-and-breakfast. Some of the original rooms were turned into offices, while other rooms, like libraries, were turned into bedrooms. Some walls were even knocked down in this process. This led to many of the rooms being different sizes and thus the different prices.
Of all the rooms in the Hochelaga Inn, the prize is the Honeymoon Suite at the top of the building. This room takes up three floors and offers a 360 degree view from the building's iconic tower. It's the perfect place to relax, meditate and gawk at the historic neighbourhood surrounding you.
The inn also has complimentary breakfast, free wifi, a gift shop and a variety of pamphlets of places for you to go see while in the city. They even have a book that discusses the building's history and the staff are more than happy to take you on a tour.
If you're looking for history, food, culture, architecture or any of the above, you'll want to visit Kingston. It's the perfect distance from Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal and it always has something going on. From walking tours to trolley tours, boat cruises to beer festivals, Kingston is one of the best cities in Ontario to visit, any time of the year. How would you spend your time there?
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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