Vacay.ca has teamed with Choice Hotels Canada to create a series of articles highlighting the best bargain hotel travel experiences in the country this fall and winter. In the first installment of the series, Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles looks at exploring Waterloo Region.
Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
WATERLOO, ONTARIO — For many parents, this is the time of year to pack the kids into the car and ship them off to their college of choice.
For several thousands of those parents, the college of choice is going to be located in Waterloo, one of Canada’s most famous and populated university towns. It’s not easy seeing your pride and joy leave the nest — or maybe it is — but don’t despair. There’s more to this town than books, beakers and computers, and there are many wonderful events and attractions to be discovered in this region by people of all ages.
The newly renovated Comfort Inn, located at Weber Street and University Avenue, is one hotel where parents visiting their children may choose to begin their discovery of Waterloo and its surrounding area.
Comfort Inn, Waterloo
Address: 190 Weber Street North, Waterloo, ON
Amenities: High-speed Internet access, restaurant, free outdoor parking, pet-friendly. All guest rooms feature a 32-inch LCD flat screen television and a refrigerator.
Click here to sign up for Choice Privileges Loyalty program for free nights!
Centre of Attention: Situated near the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University Research and David Johnston Research + Technology Park, Comfort Inn is within easy reach of several outstanding adventures including St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market and historic district, the bustling Huether Hotel bar and jazz club, Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Village, and Bingemans theme park. Other nearby treats include Manulife Financial Sportsplex and Healthy Living Centre, the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex, the Grey Silo Golf Course and Waterloo Town Square.
The Dead Shall Arise: Bingemans is a family favourite and if you’re looking for adventure after you have unpacked your kids consider coming here. You might as well enjoy yourself because it’s a guarantee your child will come here with his or her new college friends at some point during the school year.
Water sliding season is over but don’t think the action stops just because the warm weather does. If you’re a fan of the hit TV show The Walking Dead then you’re going love when Bingemans transforms into Scream Park.
Be warned, Scream Park isn’t for the faint of heart. A Halloween favourite, this attraction boasts a “Chicken Out Count” of 6,000 people. And by chickening out, we mean people bailed out screaming “get me the heck out of here.” Now in its 10th year, Bingemans will open the haunted gates of Scream Park on September 25. Prices range from $15 to $89 for weekend packages.
Waterloo Region Museum & Doon Heritage Village: The Waterloo Region Museum offers guests a chance to learn about area history. The “What Makes Us Who We Are?” exhibit traces 12,000 years of human history in the region, from First Nations peoples, to European settlement at the start of the 1800s, to present. This museum does a great job of not only looking back, but also of taking a good look at where Waterloo Region is today.
For example, if you’re old enough, you may remember a time you had to fetch your “cheaters.” Remember when things were “rad?” If you’re a student at university in 2015 you probably text “OMG” when you’re surprised at something. One part of the museum I loved was an exhibit showing how teenage language has changed over the years. This exhibit is a marvellous way to show your child that you have a lot in common with them and that you are possibly more hip and interesting than they think you are. Possibly.
The museum is the gateway to Doon Heritage Village, which offers guests an opportunity to step back into time. This picturesque 60-acre living history village shows visitors what life was like in Waterloo Region in 1914. This of course was an important year for Canada and the world because it was the beginning of the First World War. Adult admission is $10; seniors and students pay $8.
More history, with a tasty twist: St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market and historic district is another wonderful place to step back in time and enjoy delicious food. Open Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 am-3:30 pm, St. Jacobs houses hundreds of vendors who sell just about everything you would expect — food fresh off the farm, crafts, treats, cheese, paintings, belt buckles, maple syrup, antiques and honey. You name it, it’s probably here. This market also has an auction where livestock are purchased and sold — an interesting place to check out even if you’re not planning to buy a cow or goat. Get here early, bring your wallet and your appetite — this is an outstanding destination to visit and load up on supplies before you head home.
Culinary Greatness: With the children away, this might be a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with your significant other. Waterloo Region has no shortage of wonderful restaurants, but I’m going to highlight two. Langdon Hall (1 Langdon Drive, Cambridge), which is always showing up high on the annual Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada guide.
Cambridge Mill (130 Water Street North Cambridge) is another wonderful restaurant located in Waterloo Region, with a lovely view of the river and equally wonderful dining experience.
Outstanding Festivals: The daddy of all festivals in this region is Oktoberfest, which takes place October 9-17, 2015. Recognized as Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival, this is an event you must try at least once in your lifetime. Obviously, Oktoberfest is a celebration of beer but it’s much more than that. With 18 Festhallen and over 40 family and cultural events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you plan to pay a surprise visit to your child this fall to make sure he or she is studying, this is the time to go.
Another good time to plan a surprise visit to your favourite student is during the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival (April 2, 2016), which recently celebrated 50th anniversary.