The University of Guelph’s own Arboretum contains thematic gardens as well as natural trails that preserve and showcase native Ontario plants. The Arboretum is located just a 5 minute walk from Rozanski Hall. Walkers, joggers, and bikers will delight in Guelph’s extensive system of trails and parks, many with river views. One easy access point to the river-side trails is located near the Boat House Tea Room at the bottom of Gordon Street, just a 15-minute walk from the university. A short drive from Guelph, the Halton Hills Conservation Areas include many prominent local biodiversity hotspots such as Mountsberg Conservation Area and Crawford Lake. These parks form part of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserve.
Just 20 minutes away, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory will allow you to stroll amid tropical butterflies and flora in a steamy greenhouse complete with waterfalls. The Royal Botanical Gardens near Hamilton offer both gardens and natural trails in the special setting of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. The Toronto Zoo, African Lion Safari in Cambridge, and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto each offer special opportunities to view the diversity of animal life.
The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is an internally renowned museum of natural history and civilization.
Activities for Families Traveling with Children
Children will love seeing animals at the Toronto Zoo, African Lion Safari, and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. The zoo and safari attractions also feature splash parks that are a big hit with small children. Just a 10 minute drive from the University of Guelph you can also find the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, where visitors are welcomed on Wednesdays and Sundays. On hot days, families can enjoy the many splash parks and wading pools of Guelph, including one located at Market Square in downtown Guelph. Riverside Park in the northern part of the city features a playground, park train, carousel, paddleboat rentals, an ice cream shop, and river-side trails. For a rainy day in Guelph, Funmazing Playcentre and the Children’s Art Factory are popular choices for families with young children.
Canada’s Wonderland is a major draw for families and is located about one hour’s drive from Guelph. Teenagers will be thrilled by the roller coasters, which are among North America’s longest, highest, and fastest. Young children greatly enjoy the Kidzville zone, which includes gentle rides suitable for toddler. Kids of all ages can enjoy the Splash Works Water Park, featuring exciting water slides as well as a splash park area for small children. Another excellent nearby attraction for families is THEMUSEUM. Featuring interactive activities and exhibits for children, this museum is located about a 25-minute drive from Guelph, in downtown Waterloo.
Towns and Markets
The historic core of downtown Guelph offers diverse dining and boutique shopping opportunities. The downtown Guelph Farmers’ Market is held on Saturday mornings from 7 am to noon. A bustling staple of the Guelph community, the Market offers fresh baked goods, produce, and local crafts. Just outside of Guelph, Strom’s Farm and Bakery and the Aberfoyle Antique Market (open Sundays) are features of the local shopping landscape. Stone Road Mall, with over 150 retailers and services, is within walking distance of the University of Guelph.
Within a 20 minute drive of Guelph you will find Elora, described as Ontario’s most beautiful village. In Elora you will find art shops, boutique clothing stores, fine restaurants, and walking trails along the spectacular Elora Gorge. Elora is also home to the much-acclaimed Elora Festival, a series of exceptional classical music concerts typically held in July.
The village of St. Jacob’s is famous for the St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market, Canada’s largest year-round farmers’ market. It is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 am to 3:30 pm. In addition to fresh foods reflecting the agricultural nature of southern Ontario, this market offers diverse hand-made crafts, clothing, and furniture.
Art and History Museums
The Art Gallery of Guelph is located right on the University of Gueph campus. The collection features three centuries of Canadian art, including contemporary art, a unique collection of Inuit drawings, and an outdoor sculpture garden, which is open to the public at any time. The Guelph Civic Museum in downtown Guelph is a historic former convent, now a museum detailing the history of Guelph through exhibits and artefacts. McCrae House in Guelph is the birthplace of John McCrae (1872-1918), doctor, soldier, and author of “In Flanders Fields”, the poem that captured the sentiments of World War I and is still recited today, almost 100 years later.
Located approximately 1 hour by train or bus from Guelph, the nearby and cosmopolitan metropolis of Toronto offers exceptional cultural experiences. Highlights among the museums of Toronto include the Art Gallery of Ontario, with its famous collection of Canadian as well as international art, and the Royal Ontario Museum, with its diverse exhibits on natural history and civilization. Located in the north part of Toronto, the new Aga Khan Museum showcases the arts and civilizations of the Islamic world. Just west of Toronto, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is renowned for its outstanding collection of Canadian art, featuring exhibitions by the Group of Seven, First Nations, Inuit, and contemporary artists as well as an outdoor sculpture park.
The Niagara region is famous both for its excellent wineries and breweries and for the stunning Niagara Falls themselves. If seeing this natural wonder from above isn’t thrilling enough, you can get up close on the Maid of the Mist boat or even journey behind the falls!
The town of Niagara Falls is located approximately 1.5 hours by car from Guelph and offers excellent view of the falls, which are lit at night. There are many other attractions in the town, including Bird Kingdom, the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, and Niagara Parks’ Botanical Gardens. Diverse additional activities for families include fun houses, water parks, and helicopter rides.
Great Wolf Lodge, located just outside of the town of Niagara Falls, is a family resort that contains a water park, while the Fallsview Waterpark is connected via elevated walkway with several downtown hotels. The nearby town of Niagara-on-the-Lake offers beautiful lake views, fine restaurants, boutique shopping, wineries, and the Shaw Festival.
The Stratford Festival is an internationally renowned theatre festival that runs from May to October, featuring works by Shakespeare as well as modern playwrights. The City of Stratford is located approximately one hour drive west of Guelph. Niagara-on-the-Lake also hosts an acclaimed theatre festival: the Shaw Festival, which runs from April through October. The thriving arts scene in Toronto includes theatre, film, ballet, opera, symphony, museums, and festivals.
National and Provincial Parks
Within a few hours’ drive of Guelph, there are stunning and diverse parks that will allow you to experience Canada’s natural environments. One of the National Parks of Canada, the Bruce Peninsula National Park features dramatic cliff views and is located in a World Biosphere Reserve. The Ontario Provincial Parks system is even more extensive within southern Ontario. Perennial favourites among Guelph residents include Algonquin Park to the north, with its wild mixed forests and thousands of lakes, and The Pinery located just 2 hours drive to the west, with its magnificent sand dunes and the turquoise waters of Lake Huron (which are surprisingly warm by August!). The sunset views from The Pinery have been rated in the top 10 by National Geographic.