My Hometown: Kingston, Ontario
I first saw Kingston on a bright, crisp Christmas day. The city had been dusted lightly with snow and its handsome limestone buildings were sparkling in the sunshine.
Kingston’s City Hall building was built in 1843.
What I remember most about the day, however, was the ice rink. Installed in a wide-open space called Market Square, at the foot of the City Hall building, the rink buzzed with people skating in gleeful circles to piped in music. I felt like I was standing in a Christmas card.
Now that I live here, I appreciate the ways in which Kingston actually is postcard perfect. The elegant buildings in the older parts of town have earned the city its nickname of the “Limestone City” due to the fact that so many of them were built from the once locally-sourced material.
Discover Kingston by Foot
A great way to see some of the city’s nicest buildings and most important sites is by taking a walking tour. If you happen by on the right day, you’ll run into the vibrant farmers’ market at Market Square (open three days a week from spring through fall) or the fascinating antique market that sets up on Sundays in the warmer months.
Shopping in Kingston
Kingston’s downtown is a fairly bustling place. The city’s main drag, Princess Street, provides an excellent mix of independent shopping and bigger chain stores like Lululemon, Indigo and The Gap. Some of my favourite stops include Willow (225 Princess St.), a cute spot that sells jewellery, housewares and great baby stuff.
Being a university town, Kingston is a great city for books. Check out Novel Idea (156 Princess St.), the city’s last great independent bookstore. For used books, you can’t do better than Berry and Petersen (348 King St. E.), a cramped shop stacked high with well-thumbed tomes.
Also worth a visit is Cooke’s Fine Foods (61 Brock St.): exotic and imported delicacies line the dark wood shelves, and the warm, old-fashioned décor will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Tara Natural Foods (81 Princess St.) is another local favourite: the creaky wooden floors and attractive bins full of organic beans and grains make it a great place for stocking up on healthy eats.
Where to Eat in Kingston
Kingston also has great eating options. Surprisingly, the city is bursting with tasty, inexpensive Thai and Cambodian food, including my favourite standby, Cambodian Village (347 King St. E), a fabulous little hole-in-the-wall where the food is fast, cheap and oh-so-delicious. For a higher end dinner, try Le Chien Noir Bistro (65 Brock St.), a French-style restaurant that serves local and seasonal food.
No visit to Kingston is complete without a visit to Chez Piggy (68R Princess St.), a restaurant that has put the city on Canada’s culinary map since it was established more than 30 years ago. The owners also run Pan Chancho (44 Princess St.), a bakery and café that’s a popular Sunday brunch spot.
You can also experience city life by visiting one of Kingston’s many coffee shops. In the morning, they’re full of locals reading newspapers and fueling themselves with caffeine to take on the day. By the afternoon, they’re often the domain of laptop-wielding students. One of the city’s best known coffee-sipping stops is The Sleepless Goat (91 Princess St). A worker-owned co-operative, ‘The Goat’ is an eclectic spot with mismatched chairs and a down-to-earth vibe that serves vegetarian food, baked goods, and cakes.
Cultural and Other Activities in Kingston
Living in Kingston, I love that I live a few short minutes from Lake Ontario. Sometimes, when the sun is shining and a warm breeze is blowing, I take a book down to the shore where I sit on a big rock and let myself get distracted by children playing at the edge of the water and people jogging along the waterfront trail. It’s also where I have a perfect view of Wolfe Island (the largest of the Thousand Islands), with its distinctive line of swooping wind turbines. On summer days, I like taking my bike over to the island on the ferry (it’s free!) for a perfect mini-holiday. It doesn’t take long before you’re surrounded by horses and hay bales. Finishing the day with a butter tart from the Wolfe Island Bakery is highly recommended.
One of the best things about Kingston is its proximity to other places. Situated about halfway between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal makes it a perfect stopping place, no matter where you’re going. If you come for a visit, be sure to wander the Queen’s University campus, visit the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, or sprawl out on the grass at one of the city’s many parks.
And if it’s winter, don’t forget your skates! We’ve got great skating.