Road trip Ontario: Exploring the Guelph region

The view of downtown Guelph as seen from the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate at Norfolk and Macdonell streets.
The view of downtown Guelph as seen from the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate at Norfolk and Macdonell streets. Nick Westoll / Global News

With the arrival of summer on Thursday, it’s time to start thinking about quick getaways and vacations. But you don’t have to travel far to have an enjoyable experience away from home.

In fact, the head of one of Ontario’s tourism organizations said an increasing amount of people have been travelling more within the province in recent years.

READ MORE: Staycation, sustainable tourism among top travels trends for 2017

“When the emphasis on the dollar shifted so it made it more affordable for people to stay in Ontario and explore… we have certainly seen our [businesses and tourism organizations] have really been putting a big emphasis in local, so I think we have seen people really intrigued by that,” Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, told Global News, adding regional food and drink tours as well as cycling trips have been particularly popular.
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In the first of a multi-part online series that examines well-rounded communities to visit for the day, the weekend, or longer, Global News went to the city of Guelph.

Also known as the ‘Royal City,’ Guelph was founded in 1827 and is now home to more than 130,000 residents.

Mayor Cam Guthrie described his community as one that is friendly and geared toward the environment and culture.

“We’re very welcoming to the people who are here but welcoming to newcomers as well,” he told Global News.

“We’re this mid-size city, but we have all the amenities that people are looking for – not just commercial or job opportunities, but we also really embrace parks, recreation, our trail system.”

Getting there

Guelph is located east of Kitchener and approximately 15 kilometres north of Highway 401. If you’re coming along the highway, the quickest way to get to the city is by taking Highway 6 north.

Another way to get to downtown Guelph is to take the Highway 6 south / Brock Road exit from Highway 401. This is also a continuation of Highway 6 from Hamilton. It will take you through the community of Aberfoyle and offers a scenic alternative. Brock Road eventually turns into Gordon Street, which will take you by the University of Guelph and into downtown.

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If you don’t drive, don’t worry because Guelph is accessible by transit.

GO Transit’s Kitchener-Guelph-Brampton-Toronto train and bus services, as well as the 29 Guelph-Mississauga bus, stop at Guelph Central station on Carden Street in the city’s downtown.

VIA Rail also services Guelph Central station, which has connections to cities such as Toronto, Kitchener, Stratford, London and Sarnia.

Greyhound provides bus connections from Toronto, Kitchener and London.

Guelph Transit has a terminal at Guelph Central station and it is serviced by 13 local routes.

Where to stop on the way

If you or someone you know is a lover of history and trains, then the Halton County Radial Railway museum in Milton is a must-visit destination on the way to Guelph.

The museum is located at 13629 Guelph Line, south of Rockwood and approximately 15 minutes east of Guelph.

WATCH: Exploring the Halton County Radial Railway museum

Exploring the Halton County Radial Railway museum
Exploring the Halton County Radial Railway museum

Volunteers run, maintain and restore streetcars and other rail vehicles originally built and used decades ago.

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There are many vehicles on display and open for people to get on and explore. Visitors can also board vehicles that run on tracks through the museum’s forested property.

The museum is also used in film and television shoots.

Where’d you get that? A look at a few well-known shops in Guelph

Bookshelf: This long-standing business is a book store, an independent cinema and a bar.

The Handmade Den: This business sells handcrafted items geared toward children and parents, which are made by local artisans.

Royal Cat Records: This business is a popular spot for new and vintage vinyl records. You can also buy the music of local artists here.

OUR TOWN: Exploring the Village of Elora (July 8, 2016)

Our Town: Exploring the Village of Elora
Our Town: Exploring the Village of Elora

Points of interest

Covered Bridge: Guelph Tourism officials say this is one of two covered bridges in Ontario. It crosses the Speed River and is near Royal City Park.

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Guelph Farmers’ Market: This market has been operating since the city was founded in 1827. It’s open to the public on Saturdays throughout the year between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Guelph Lake Park: This 1,600-hectare park has two beaches, spots to have a picnic, and offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking opportunities.

McCrae House: The home, which is operated by Guelph Museums, is the birthplace of doctor and soldier John McCrae, who is known for writing the poem “In Flanders Fields.”

The Arboretum at the University of Guelph: The Arboretum is located just east of the university’s campus and offers 400 acres of trails, gardens and plant collections.

For the kids (and the young at heart)

Riverside Park: There’s an antique carousel and a miniature train available to ride on in addition to all the green space available for sporting activities.

Royal City Park: This is one of the major green spaces in downtown Guelph. You can rent canoes and kayaks and paddle the river, or have tea or ice cream at The Boathouse.

Market Square: Located in front of Guelph City Hall is a wading pool that takes up most of the forecourt and offers a place for people looking to beat the heat.

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Children’s Art Factory: This organization is a drop-in art studio for young children.

Selfies and social posts — great spots to snap a picture

Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate: Perched on a hill overlooking the city’s downtown, the church is a stunning building that offers an expansive view of Guelph. It’s located at 28 Norfolk St.

Art Gallery of Guelph: This art gallery near the University of Guelph is home to a sculpture park with more than three dozen pieces. The most popular sculpture is the Begging Bear, which is outside of the front entrance. Students from the university and others frequently dress the bear up in different costumes. It’s located at 358 Gordon St.

Spots to eat and drink

Here are the top five user-ranked Guelph restaurants on the TripAdvisor Canada website:

1) Manhattans pizza bistro and music club
2) Na-Ha-Thai’s Kitchen
3) Miijidaa Cafe+Bistro
4) Bin23
5) Buon Gusto

Make a night of it

According to TripAdvisor Canada, these are the top five user-ranked hotels in Guelph:

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1) Staybridge Suites Guelph
2) Delta Hotels by Marriott Guelph Conference Centre
3) Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton – Guelph
4) Holiday Inn Guelph Hotel and Conference Centre
5) Royal Brock Hotel

The final pitch: Why you should visit Guelph

“Guelph absolutely has this unique DNA: Our culture, our vibe, the amount of community engagement – that neighbourly type of feel where people are saying, ‘Hi,’ or waving from the porch.” — Cam Guthrie, Mayor of Guelph