10 Things to do in Waterloo Region this Holiday Season

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by Adventures with the Hills | Updated November 2023

The Region of Waterloo Ontario is a magical place to explore during the Winter holiday season. We recently spent a weekend traveling around St Jacobs, Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge to find all the best activities happening here for you! Here are 10 things to do in the Waterloo Region that you will want to experience this holiday season:

Heritage Holiday Train Rides

two children looking out the window of a vintage railway car. The car is decorated for Christmas
Waterloo Central Railway’s holiday train ride (Photo: Adventures with the Hills)

The holiday trains that are run by Waterloo Central Railway are truly an enchanting adventure! From the lights and decorations to the costumed characters, every moment of this experience will leave you full of Christmas wonder! Our train left from its station near the St Jacobs Farmers’ Market and took us on a journey to the North Pole! Throughout the train ride, we enjoyed a singing performance, interacted with our fabulous conductor and costumed characters, played games, joined in singing Christmas songs and even got to meet Santa!
Choose from 2 holiday rides: the daytime Santa’s Countryside Ride and the evening Santa’s Christmas Caboose ride. If you’re looking for something truly spectacular this holiday season, these heritage Holiday trains are a magical delight!

St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market

St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market (Photo: Adventures with the Hills)

If you’ve never been to the St Jacobs Farmers’ Market, you are missing out! This is one of our very favorite places in the Waterloo Region and you can often find us here grabbing some fritters from the Apple Fritter Co. for breakfast on Saturday mornings! St Jacobs Market is a popular place to visit in the summertime, but it is just as wonderful in the Winter! We always enjoy the fresh produce, maple syrup, honey, baking & handmade goods. The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is a great place to support local while doing some holiday shopping. With over 250 vendors, there is something here for everyone! Check out their evening Sip ‘n Shop Night Markets where you can sip a festive beverage, shop for unique gifts, and enjoy the twinkling lights throughout the Market indoors and out!

The Village of St. Jacobs 

a girl looking at a large display of Christmas lights in the Village of St. Jacobs
The Village of St. Jacobs (Photo: Adventures with the Hills)

During November, the entire Village of St. Jacobs Ontario comes together to create a magical holiday shopping experience! Many of the St. Jacobs stores even have extended hours & special offers. We started our time here with a hot chocolate from the EcoCafe and then enjoyed some St Jacobs shopping. The kids absolutely loved Toy Soup, where we saw every kind of toy, game & puzzle! You can visit during the day and see all of St. Jacobs decorated in holiday grandeur or come at night to see the whole town lit up with sparkling lights! And, if you happen to be visiting at the beginning of the holiday season, be sure and take in St. Jacobs Sparkles – a special holiday shopping event with carolers, bonfires, visits with Santa, live music and much more!

Snyder’s Farm Winter Campfires

Two adults and two children sitting around a campfire. It is daytime and the weather is cool: the family is dressed in winter outerwear. They are smiling and making s'mores.
Snyder’s Winter Campfire (Photo: Adventures with the Hills)

Snyder’s Farm has outdone themselves with their Winter Campfire Experience. Our favorite Fall destination has now become our new favorite Winter Holiday destination! When we arrived, our personal family campfire was already burning and a s’mores kit was waiting for us. For those looking for something more to eat, a whole menu of food and drinks is available for fireside delivery. We enjoyed a pizza and hot apple cider while staying warm by our fire. After your campfire experience, you can check out the holiday shop and meet Santa! The farm also has pre-cut and u-cut Christmas trees available. This experience is definitely worth checking out with your family, for a date or with some friends.

Bingemans Gift of Lights/Jingle Bell Rock Experience

Light installations at Jingle Bell Rock

Bingemans Gift of Lights is a spectacular 2.5km drive-thru experience featuring over 300 holiday light displays. As you make your way along through the light, some of which are even animated, you can listen to the dedicated radio station playing cheerful Christmas music. This is a family holiday tradition for us that we look forward to each year. If you like getting outside in the Winter, you can book tickets for one of the walk-thru events held throughout the season and see the Bingemans Christmas lights up close!

Speaking of getting up close with the lights, make it a combined light experience at Jingle Bell Rock. This walk-through holiday experience lets you wander through outdoor displays of dazzling light features surrounding a 40 foot dancing tree illumination, sequenced to contemporary holiday music. Take in spectacular walking tunnels, sparkling illuminated decorations and immerse yourself in the beauty of the season. Relax at the open fire pits, enjoy a drink from the Jager Ice Bar, and decorate cookies in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen!

Castle Kilbride‘s Christmas at the Castle

A child looking at a large decorated Christmas Tree in the parlor at Castle Kilbride in Baden.
Christmas at the Castle (Photo: Adventures with the Hills)

Be prepared to travel back in time on your visit to Castle Kilbride in Baden Ontario. Every room of this Victorian home built in 1877 is decorated in Christmas splendor. We were given a tour through Castle Kilbride and learned about the history and family that lived in this home through 4 generations. Our kids had a lot of fun counting the number of Christmas trees throughout our tour (spoiler: there were 15!).

Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

Two children walking through an aisle in the conservatory at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. There are lush, green tropical plants surrounding them
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (Photo: Adventures with the Hills)

If you’re missing the warm days of summer and are ready for some fun out of the cold, you’ll love a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge. In this beautiful oasis you can see around 40 species of butterflies along with many types of birds and insects. We loved exploring amongst the beautiful plants and waterfalls during our visit to the butterfly conservatory. Make sure to grab a bite to eat in the Chrysalis CafĂ© before you leave.

Hotels

Whether you’re visiting from out of town or on a local staycation, you can spend the night in one of Waterloo Region’s many great hotels!

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Kitchener/Cambridge. Their newly renovated rooms were just what we needed!

Restaurants

While you’re here, be sure to check out one of the fabulous restaurants in Waterloo Region. During our stay, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Jacob’s Grill in St Jacobs and also recommend the tasty treats at the EcoCafe and Stone Crock Bakery in town. If you are looking for one of the best restaurants in Kitchener, we were blown away by our experience and the incredible food at Graffiti Market

With so many amazing activities to choose from, you are sure to have a jolly time exploring the Waterloo Region this holiday season!

*****

Two adults and two children sitting around a campfire. It is daytime and the weather is cool: the family is dressed in winter outerwear. They are smiling and making s'mores.

Adventure. Explore. Together.

Adventures with the Hills is a Canadian family that loves to travel and spend time outside. They offer tips, encouragement and inspiration to stay active, live simply & sustainably, pursue adventure and explore the outdoors! Follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

 

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