by Bri Mitchell
Situated just northwest of Hamilton and southwest of Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Area, Waterloo Region is a gem of outdoor fun and discovery for the whole family.
Let us take the guesswork out of planning a weekend family road trip throughout the region to celebrate the last long weekend of summer.
We’ve built out a few different options throughout this itinerary. Choose the activities that make the most sense for your family, whether the kids are younger or older, and depending on the adrenaline rush level or relaxation seeking experiences you’re looking for.
Make sure your packing list includes a sturdy pair of closed-toed shoes for exploring, a waterproof bag, a bathing suit, sandals, bug repellant and plenty of sunscreen.
Get ready to gear up for a fun family weekend in Waterloo Region!
Where to Stay
Depending on where this road trip takes you, there are two perfectly situated accommodations to choose from for your weekend away.
Homewood Suites Waterloo-St. Jacobs is always an excellent base, since the rooms are spacious, there is ample parking, and you are so close to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market for either breakfast or lunch on Saturday.
The DoubleTree Kitchener is the perfect central location for this weekend itinerary. Waterloo Region has so many different corners to explore, so positioning yourself right in the middle of the action makes it easy to get around during your road trip weekend.
You’ve Arrived! Friday Evening
Welcome to Waterloo Region! Get yourself situated in town for the weekend by having dinner at Graffiti Market. This is a community hub known for their Detroit style pizzas and their support of local artists.
Not only is their food great, but they have interactive dining tables, too! Everyone can spend time as a family drawing on the doodle boards or playing interactive games as they wait at their table.
After dinner, if your family is looking for a nice evening walk, there are lots of walking trails in Waterloo Region. The Iron Horse Trans-Canada Trail is just steps away from Graffiti Market. It’s a multi-use, 5km trail that runs runs from Kitchener right through to Waterloo.
Day 1: Saturday
Wake up and get ready for a fun-filled day outdoors. Start by fuelling up at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market for ready-made breakfast and lunch-to-go options, plus more than a few tasty treats. People come from far and wide for the market’s famous apple fritters, so it’s a must to sample one of these on your visit!
There are so many vendors to choose from that span several market buildings, so feel free to stroll and sample, or have everyone order something different to try. Take some time to walk around before pinning down your choices–too many options is always a good problem to have!
Depending on how old the kids are and what the family is interested in doing, here are a couple of options for your morning activity today:
Elmira Wagon Tours is great for all ages and takes off straight from the farmers’ market. Take the ten o’clock tour for an hour-long trip on a wagon behind an antique tractor. You’ll learn all about Mennonite heritage as you ride through Mennonite country.
Another great option to check out is Conestoga River Horseback Adventures. Experience the beauty of the Conestogo river’s forests, wildlife and landscape from horseback! Trail rides are an option for more experienced riders, but for the more novice riders, on-site pony and walk around rides are available, too.
After a fun morning getting up close and personal with farm life in Waterloo Region, take some time to relax at a brunch style lunch at Cafe du Monde Creperie. They’re known for their handmade sweet and savoury crêpes, and fresh waffles.
The afternoon calls for some time with a more unique animal adventure. African Lion Safari features 7 large game reserves, a pet corner, the Misumu Bay Wetplay area and more. This is an excellent opportunity for the whole family to see more than 1,000 exotic birds and animals, and to learn about the award-winning conservation efforts at African Lion Safari.
Another great idea for kids of all ages is a visit to The Perth Farmhouse. They have goats and chickens on the farm, and depending on availability, you can book a time to take part in one of their “goat socials”. These fun experiences allow you to get up close and personal with the little goats at the farm.
Finish up this exciting day outside with dinner at The Mule Cambridge. It’s a taco and tequila bar, giving everyone something to look forward to after a day spent adventuring outside!
Day 2: Sunday
Wake up and head to breakfast at Play a Latte Café, which is perfect to head to if you’re travelling with small children. They have an indoor play room and offer delicious snacks and coffee for parents to enjoy while their kids play.
A weekend spent in Waterloo Region wouldn’t be complete without Canoeing the Grand. There are several different routes you can take with a variety of pickup and drop off points. Book ahead and feel free to choose the ones that make the most sense for you on your road trip.
Before heading home from Waterloo Region for the summer, wrap up this exciting family weekend road trip by cooling off at Waterloo Region’s largest water park. Bingemans Big Splash. Spend the day in the heated wave pool, on one of the 9 water slides or for the smaller family members there’s the Spray N Play splash pad.
For those who like to cool off with a nice breeze, you’ll be excited to know that Chicopee Tube Park provides a unique ziplining experience, perfect for every member of your family! Feel the wind in your face as you fly down the 80 meter MiniMe zipline or the 300 meter Pineridge line – it’s a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of Waterloo Region from the air!
Before you hit the road, re-fuel at Four Fathers Brewing Co.. Started by four hockey dads, they understand how to cater to a family! Their taproom features menus for adults and kids, great crafts brews for the parents to try, and even a disc golf course and lots of games if the kids still have energy to wear off before the drive home!
About Bri Mitchell
Bri was born and raised in Ontario. She spent many years living abroad, but returned to the province with a curiosity to keep travelling closer to home.
You can find her canoeing and swimming across Ontario with a craft brew in her hand in the summer, and snowshoeing or curling up with a good book and an Ontarian Pinot Noir in the winter.