Visiting Ontario? Don't Sleep On The Creative Hub Of Kingston

Located between the metropolises of Toronto and Montreal (about a three-hour drive from both), Kingston may be Ontario's most overlooked destination. But if you're a traveler who appreciates hip and innovative dining options, storied live music venues, eclectic art galleries, and boutique-to-bohemian shopping, you'll want to look much closer at the historic city. 

Kingston blends its historical charms and surrounding natural beauty with the vibrancy typically associated with college towns. The city is home to several colleges, including Queen's University and St. Lawrence College, making it a city buoyed by the arts and a creative hub of Ontario. In fact, one of the city's most popular music venues is located on Queen University's campus.

But to truly experience Kingston, you'll need to explore its bustling and walkable downtown area. Featuring historical limestone buildings, hiding alleyways, and welcoming community plazas, downtown Kingston is the ideal place for uncovering the town's many cultural charms.

Jam out to Kingston's rocking music scene

It's impossible to describe Kingston culture without mentioning live music. Many famous musicians and indie rockers, such as Bryan Adams and The Tragically Hip, got their start in Kingston's vibrant and eclectic music scene. And the city's musical heritage continues to draw crowds to the historic downtown area.

For those who appreciate harder rock, The Toucan is a downtown musical mainstay, while The Grad Club on Queen University's campus has welcomed all forms of musicianship since 1963. There's also plenty of dive bars, breweries, lounges, and hip cafés that regularly host bands and DJs.

If visiting Kingston primarily for the music, consider attending one of Kingston's music festivals held throughout the year, such as the Limestone City Blues Festival and Artfest, Kingston Buskers' Rendezvous, and Kingston Jazz Festival. While these festivals primarily showcase music, art-lovers will appreciate the art installations and pop-up galleries that typically accompany these festivals, a reflection of Kingston's thriving art scene.

Taste your way through Kingston

After a raucous night of rock 'n' roll, Kingston offers plenty of ways to recharge your mind and body. Outdoor restaurant patios line the streets and alleyways of downtown Kingston, tempting hungry patrons with diverse cuisines — from innovative international entrees to classic Canadian fare.

Per capita, Kingston boasts more restaurants than most all other Canadian cities, making it a must-visit destination for serious foodies. For something a bit different, consider exploring the Kingston Public Market during the warmer months. (It's closed during the winter). Founded in 1801, the Kingston Public Market is the oldest market in Ontario, a testament to the city's culinary heritage. Today, the market offers fresh produce and prepared meals, and during the summer months, local chefs give cooking demonstrations to the public.

A recurring theme of Kingston, you'll also find plenty of artisans and art vendors at the Kingston Public Market. Similarly, walking through downtown, you'll pass a number of glass and pottery studios, as well as eclectic art galleries to peruse. While Kingston may be a bit overlooked, when compared to Toronto and Montreal, there's plenty of interesting things to see — and hear and taste — when you finally discover this historic lakeside city.