Waterloo Region is filled with cultural experiences and heritage hallmarks, from the city streets to the country lanes
by Doug Wallace, Ignite magazine | November 2023
The best way to learn about a city is to immerse yourself in it,” says Juanita Metzger of Stroll Walking Tours in Kitchener Waterloo. Her tours of the noteworthy urban and rural spots in the area are great examples of the different cultural experiences that await visitors to Waterloo Region.
Metzger and her team of local experts get groups out of the boardroom and onto city streets, giving people “a flavour of the life and the social histories that informed Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, as well as smaller places like St. Jacobs. Our tours are specifically about the places, people and histories, and we’re hyper-locally focused.” Metzger also zeros in on the specific interests of corporate groups, whether they’d like to learn about the region’s history, its architecture or the changes that have evolved over time. There is even a walking tour of 15 murals through the side streets and alleys of downtown Cambridge.
A walking tour in the town of St. Jacobs outlines the area’s Mennonite history. It is now home to one of the largest populations of Old Order Mennonites in Canada. “Our tour goes into much of the earlier history of Indigenous treaties, the settlement by early German Mennonite settlers, and then the different chapters in the history of St. Jacobs that have all informed how it has reinvented itself over time,” Metzger says. A pit stop at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market reveals more than 200 vendors selling everything from fresh produce and baking to art and antiques.
Further along the rural lines of experiences, Udderly Ridiculous Farm Life, reconnects visitors to land, animals and food through inventive outdoor programs, many of them involving goats, alpacas or Highland cows.
“We launched our business in 2021 with things like goat yoga and recess with the goats, which is essentially a goat obstacle course where you interact with them and learn about them along the way,” says founder Cheryl Haskett. “We also do immersive alpaca walks and alpaca picnics. Our Taste of Farm Life tour is our signature certified experience, a three-hour discovery around food and agriculture and farming through the lens of the animals. You not only interact with them in a farm setting, but you also get to understand the importance of the family farm and the importance of our food systems.” This particular experience ends with a goat ice-cream tasting. And of course, everyone always wants to take the baby goats home!
Haskett spent 18 years in corporate training, working with staff all over Canada on employee engagement, conversation, emotional intelligence and team building. She has now started to combine these skills with farm life, offering corporate sessions for groups of around 20 that want to do something different.
“We use the farm as a stimulus for ideation, as part of the process, where groups work on a real-life problem,” Haskett says. For example, a program called Alpaca Emotional Intelligence leverages the alpacas and their personality to talk about behavioural observation. “We dig into the brain science and talk with the teams about managing difficult relationships and emotions.”
Many more heritage and cultural attractions await those looking for beyond-the-boardroom excursions in Waterloo Region. Hotspots include public artworks curated by the Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area, the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum and the Cambridge Sculpture Garden, to name just a few. Historic sites like the McDougall Cottage, the 24-acre Doon Heritage Village and Schneider Haus bring the past right into the present.
Waterloo Region truly gives guests the best of both urban and rural environments, served up in a comfortable mix of old and new, with all the authentic hospitality this part of Ontario is known for.
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