Kingston Ontario is one of my favourite travel destinations. I love old architecture and they have preserved that so well it feels as though you are truly walking back in time. It has a warm, welcoming feel as soon as you enter. Even when I was working and they needed someone for Kingston, my hand was in the air with an Oh, Oh, pick me! Kind of reminded me of Epstein on Welcome Back Kotter. Oh, there is that age showing again. Let me slip that back in and come along and let’s explore Kingston.
History runs deep in this town. You can see it around every corner. Kingston was first named Katarokwi on First Nation’s land when the first settlers arrived in the 1600s. It began to be known as King’s Town as a tribute to King George III. In 1788, it was shortened to Kingston.
Kingston was Canada’s first Capitol City in 1841. Only for a few short years until 1844, but as you can see walking through town its importance in Canada’s history did not stop there. Kingston’s role in our military defense was instrumental to our success. Its proximity to the US made us vulnerable at that time. The location on the water made it an excellent resource. It was the birthplace and residence of Sir. John A MacDonald, our first Prime Minister. You can tour his house, the Bellevue House, built in the 1840s.
As you walk through town you notice all the buildings are made of stone. There are a few wooden buildings now but you can tell this is a city made of stone. Why? A lot of old towns I have been in were a mixture of the two building materials. In the 1840s a fire devastated the downtown, including city hall. A law was passed that you had to use stone to build instead of wood. Kingston has an abundance of limestone. The city is known worldwide as “Limestone City” for the beautiful architecture that is made mostly from local limestone.
Many of these buildings have been transformed into different uses over the years. As an example, City Hall, which was built in 1844 was once a Tavern, a woman’s medical college, and even a city jail. The old Kingston Fire Hall is now a Lone Star Texas Grill and the Pembrook Railway Station is now a Visitor Centre. I also must mention that a lot of these old buildings are accessible to the public whether being transformed into a public space or providing tours into the past. I think that’s what I love most about this city. History is accessible.
There are so many interesting places to visit. Put your walking shoes on. Let’s go on Tour.
I put this first on my list because I found the history fascinating and it was a working prison not that long ago. Built in the mid-1800s this federal penitentiary was one of the first in Canada. For the first 99 years, it held both men and women and a few children. Walking the halls of the cells that held some of the most notorious criminals in Canadian history was kind of eerie. Hearing about the changes that had been made over almost 200 of history was fascinating. Check out my blog on Kingston Penitentiary for all the juicy details. Do not forget to take a walk across the road to the Warden’s Museum. The top floor will make you shiver.
Rockwood Insane Asylum
Construction began on the Rockwood Insane Asylum in 1859. Built on the side of Lake Ontario it was thought the water would help to calm the patients. It opened for business in 1868 to non-criminal patients and would help mentally ill patients until it closed its doors in 2000. It is an impressive huge building with many buildings surrounding it on the grounds.
You cannot go into the building but you can stroll around the grounds. Some of the buildings have been repurposed for other uses and some are abandoned. There is an old dock at the back of the Asylum. I am assuming here they would receive supplies as well as move people. When I was there, there was a boat sitting at the dock. It looked so forlorn there. I am not sure if it was in use or not but the scene was very tranquil of what once was.
Kingston Public Market
Kingston Public Market is the oldest produce and artisian market in Canada. It has showcased local produce and local artists since 1801. I love a good farmers’ market. This one is a must on my list. With the variety of vendors they have, I know I will find something I am going to take home. From juicy apples to hand-made jewellery to prepared foods, they have everything. The Market runs from April until November on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It is open from 9 am to 6 pm and is located behind City Hall. Make it a point on your travel itinerary. Bet you cannot go through and not take something home.
Cemetery and Ghost Tours
I love an old cemetery. A stroll through an old cemetery is relaxing and it is interesting reading the tombstones of those that are now gone. Kingston has miles of cemeteries. Tombstones from the 1700’s until today can be found here. Kingston’s Lower Burial ground is the oldest cemetery there. It opened in 1783 to bury Loyalist Soldiers, up until its closing in 1850, it would become the final resting place for many citizens of Kingston. The Cataraqui Cemetery opened in 1850 is where Sir John A MacDonald, our first Prime Minister is buried. Dignitaries with large ornate headstones to slaves with only an unknown headstone. It is a sobering reminder that in the end, we all lay together.
Where there is old, there are ghosts! Ohhh I love ghosts and creepy tales. Tours where you walk at night through alleyways and old cemeteries by lantern light, listening to the stories of ghostly sightings and the tales of why they are still here. The Ghost and Trolley Tour will lead you through Kingston’s most notable neighborhoods and mysterious past of old. I love riding on trolleys and love ghost stories. A perfect combination.
Thousand Island Cruises
Thousand Islands in Ontario is home to beautiful Islands, shipwrecks, castles and, spectacular views. They consist of Islands on both sides of the Canadian and United States border. Settled in the St. Lawrence River they are an “archipelago” (a group or chain of islands in a small area, yes I had to look that up. Lol) of Islands. There are 1,864 Islands on an 80 km (50 miles) stretch of river. An island can be up to 100 square km ( 40 square miles) to a small outcropping of rocks.
The largest Island, Wolfe Island sits at the entrance of the St. Lawrence River at Lake Ontario with a population of 1400 people. The smallest island is located in New York State. It is about 1/13th of acre or 310 square meters (3,300 square feet). The name… Just Room Enough Island or Hub Island. It is known for being the smallest inhabited island.
Fun fact: To be an island it must have .093 square meters (1 square mile) of soil or rock above water all year round and have at least two living trees.
The best way to see these beautiful islands is on a Kingston 1000 Island Cruise. They have a variety of types of tours you can take to make the most of this breathtaking scenery. Sightseeing Tours, Dining Tours, and even a Ghost Tour. Float through the Island scenery while having a fabulous lunch or dinner. Take in the magnificent sunsets mother nature has to offer on the Sunset Cruise. When you are going to Kingston make sure you put this on your memory-making itinerary.
Kingston Trolley Christmas Light Tour
Christmas lights are one of my favourite parts of Christmas. I love to tour around and see the creative art that people do with their Christmas lights. Kingston has a Trolley Christmas Light Tour. Riding in a Trolley is fun and you can kick back and take in the lights of the season of Christmas in Kingston.
Food, Fun and History
I love finding those perfect restaurants. The ones you remember not only for the great food but also the atmosphere. Kingston has an excellent variety of eateries. You can dine on the waterfront at Aquattera to have a wonderful dining experience while enjoying the views of Lake Ontario and Confederation Harbour or try some of the delicious food at Chez Piggy. Enjoy a trip downtown to the Old Historic Farmers’ Market District and stop in for a pint and some great pub food at the Black Dog Tavern. All these restaurants and more are a part of an event called Kingstonlicious that starts in January.
Not sure where to go? Kingston Food Tours operates all year round and will talk you for a walk downtown to sample a variety of cuisines mixed with stories of history.
Fun Fact: My favourite TV show Murdock Mysteries is filmed in Kingston. Set in the early 1900’s it involves an inventive police detective, William Murdock, and his progressive wife, Dr. Julia Ogden. With a cast of characters that you can fall in love with. All solving crimes of murder in the early 19th century.
Make Kingston your next travel destination. Stay at one of the many hotels along the waterfront and dine at some of the finest restaurants in the city while you enjoy a stroll back in time.
Special Thank you to Lexy at Kingston Tourism for the pictures and information.
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.
See you next time