Enter a window into the past in this riverside community
At the gateway to the 1000 Islands and the UNESCO-designated Rideau Canal, Kingston is rich in history, culture, attractions and cuisine
Nestled where the Rideau Canal and St. Lawrence River meet Lake Ontario, Kingston is a city built on a grand heritage and defined by an exquisite ability to blend the beauty of yesterday with the passion and sophistication of today.
Stroll through Kingston's endlessly diverting intricacies: from its urban heart, a bustling gathering place sparkling with a casual boutique and bistro vitality, to its meandering waterfront with a mix of historic neighborhoods and breathtaking parkland.
All of this in a city that dazzles with soaring 19th-century limestone architecture and the amenities of a major center, but retains the fascinating allure of a small town. Explore its history; immerse yourself in its vibrant culture. With so much to see and do in Kingston, there is a wealth of attractions to choose from, and each one unravels the secrets of this beautiful city.
It's not only easy to get to Kingston, but it's also easy to get around while you're there. Kingston is conveniently located just off Highway 401 at the center of the hub between Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Syracuse.
The Kingston Trolley Tours offer tours of historic Kingston aboard a fleet of three comfortable 32-passenger trolleys. It's the ideal way to enjoy Kingston's history and attractions. Experienced tour guides provide an informative, engaging overview of Kingston's more than 300 years of history. The trolley route covers all of Kingston's historic old town and shopping district, as far east as Fort Henry and as far west as the Kingston Penitentiary.
In the summer season (mid-May to early September) the trolley makes six stops in the heart of the most popular visitor destinations, including Fort Henry, the Penitentiary Museum and Queen's University; you can hop off at any stop, stay for as long as you like, and then hop back on and continue your tour. Trolleys follow a circular route; a trolley passes each stop once every half hour.
Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises offers a wide variety of cruise options. Discover local islands and sights such as Fort Henry, Kingston Penitentiary, and the Alexander Henry along Kingston's historic waterfront onboard the 90-minute Discovery Cruise.
Or cruise the river in style taking in the majesty of the 1000 Islands onboard the triple-deck paddle wheeler during the famous three-hour Heart of the Islands Cruise. There's also a two-hour Sunset Discovery Cruise for those more in the mood for a scenic evening adventure. Many of the cruises also offer dining options for the full 1000 Islands experience.
Another option is to join award-winning journalist Arthur Milnes for an exciting 60-minute Sir John A. Macdonald-themed walking tour of Canada's first and founding prime minister's downtown Kingston. As featured on CBC Radio, the Toronto Star and other media, this walking tour, suitable for all ages, is an exciting way to experience the rich history of Kingston and Canada during your trip to the Limestone City. Regular scheduled tours are led by costumed guides.
The city's prime historical site, Fort Henry, was built from 1832 to 1837 to replace an existing fortification from the War of 1812 era. Situated atop Point Henry, the fort protected the navel dockyard at Point Frederick, the entrance of the Rideau Canal and the town of Kingston, which was the major transshipment point along the supply route between Montreal or Ottawa and all points west.
The British army garrisoned Fort Henry until 1879 when Queen Victoria's troops were pulled out of Canada. Soon after, batteries of the local School of Gunnery took up residence in the fort and remained there until 1891. During World War I, Fort Henry was superficially repaired and used as an internment camp for political prisoners. Following the war, it fell into complete disrepair.
Fort Henry was restored from 1936 to 1938 as a joint federal and provincial "make work" project costing over $1 million. The fort was opened as a museum and historic site "in the name of all British soldiers who served there" by Prime Minister Mackenzie King in August 1938.
During World War II, Fort Henry became Camp 31, a prisoner-of-war camp for enemy merchant seamen, soldiers and airmen. Reopened in 1948, Fort Henry has seen millions of visitors pass through its gates.
Once inside the wooden gates, visitors enter the realm of 19th-century military life, experience guided tours, scenic views, heart-pounding musical performances and precision military demonstrations by the Fort Henry Guard—a highly disciplined group of university student recruits trained as British soldiers from 1867. You will also see people representing the civilian population of the fort as schoolteachers and soldiers' wives. The fort also plays host to special ceremonies and events, including the famous Fort Henry Guard Sunset Ceremonies. Each fall it is transformed into one of the best scary attractions in Ontario for the Halloween-themed Fort Fright.
In 2013, Fort Henry introduced Kingston's newest shopping district: the Trade Square. Located inside the fort's historic limestone walls, the area offers a unique blend of artists, craftspeople, retailers, museums, organizations, food and beverage providers and performers. There are seven interior spaces and up to 20 outdoor vendor spaces. Special weekend arts and crafts workshops present other opportunities for artisans to demonstrate their skills.
Special holiday markets are scheduled for Mother's Day in May, Canada Day in June, the Civic Holiday in August, and a Thanksgiving Market in October. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays from June 29 to September 2 and then throughout Fort Fright in October.
Complementing the Trade Square, Fort Henry plans the construction of Kingston's largest waterfront patio—the Battery Bistro—overlooking Kingston Harbor. Guests will enjoy a breathtaking view of the city while they dine, sip a beverage and relax.
When the summer sun shines, Kingston features a regular schedule of Music in the Park and Movies in the Square and the farmer's market resumes its regular operating schedule of Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in Springer Market Square. Spring also features First Capital celebrations marking Kingston's history as first capital city of a united Canada.
Entertainers from around the world call Kingston home for a week in July as visitors and residents alike are wowed by the annual Kingston Buskers Rendezvous.
Artfest brings the best artists and craftspeople from Ontario and Quebec to City Park where you'll find unique items in pottery, weaving, glass, jewelry, wood and paintings.
In August, Kingston hosts the 1000 Islands Poker Run and the Canadian Olympic Regatta Kingston (CORK), showcasing Kingston's premier position as a recreational hotspot and freshwater sailing capital of the world. The Kingston Sheep Dog Trials and Wolfe Island Music Festival are everyone's favorites. The Limestone City Blues Festival takes to the streets, patios and nightclubs of the city to bring the best of the blues to Kingston.
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