The Wonders of Waterloo

School’s out and the summer of Canada 150 is finally here. There are so many ways to celebrate Canada this year and one way is to hit the road and explore. You don’t need to go too far. One hour past Toronto is one of them: the Waterloo-Kitchener region. The area is chock full of adventures just waiting to be experienced by the entire family.

Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Museum
Waterloo Region Museum is the largest community museum in Ontario. Behind the Museum, be sure to visit the Doon Heritage Village. It depicts life in the Waterloo Region in the year 1914. The village comes to life with knowledgeable interpreters dressed in authentic 1914 clothing and features historic buildings, farm animals and activities.

Cambridge Butterfly
Conservatory At least 2000 free-flying tropical butterflies and moths are on exhibit at any given time in the tropical Conservatory. The butterflies and moths originate in either Costa Rica or the Philippines. Most are sent weekly as pupae (also called chrysalides(butterflies) or cocoons(moths)) from butterfly farmers.

There is daily programming for kids that includes bug and scavenger hunts. The gardens are lush and it is an absolutely beautiful oasis.

Much of the region was connected by trains back in the day and a deep respect for trains permeates the area so take a ride on the Waterloo Central Railway. They have regularly-scheduled day diesel trains between the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, the Village of St. Jacobs, and the town of Elmira but try to do the journey on one of their specially-scheduled steam locomotive train runs. You walk right back in time in the old rail cars. Be sure to stop at the St. Jacobs Village Railway Museum and learn how crucial the rail system was in Canada since before the 1900s.

For an absolutely mind-blowing experience stop at the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway. It is large, over 3000 square feet and is a project of love that took years to produce, each piece made by hand. Make sure to ask for the exhibit’s night scene. When the lights go down, the exhibit itself lights up. It is stunning.

Fuel and Fun
St Jacobs Market is a mix of everything. There is produce, baked goods, ice cream, coffee, sausages (local specialty), crafts. The energy is fantastic in the market and what makes it a unique experience is the presence of Mennonite vendors and shoppers. It is such a contrast to think of the Waterloo as a centre of technological excellence (Perimeter Institute, Research in Motion, University of Waterloo etc.) to then be exposed to a culture and lifestyle found in the “off-the-grid” Old Order Mennonites who live in the area.

Water Fun
Bingeman’s Waterpark, indoor playland is a hit and offers hours of entertainment for everyone.  There is Boston Pizza on site, King Pin bowling, simulated rock climbing. Escapeworx offers the experience of trying to get out of tricky situations (recommended 13 years and up).

Like ziplining? Head to Chicopee Tube Park. There is a 50 metre waterless tubing sysem, ziplining and a eurobungy trampoline that allows you to propel yourself 25 feet in the air. All three experiences are exhilarating.

As the parent of a special needs child, I was particularly impressed with their understanding of our special circumstances and they were very accommodating, ensuring a memo-rable experience for everyone in the family.

Radisson Kitchener. Perfect place to hang your hat, swim, work out and sleep.

Canada 150
And given it is Canada 150, there are special exhibits peppering the region.  The history of Canadian fashion from 1867 is on display at the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge. Follow the Prime Ministers’ Path. Found at historic Kilbride Castle in Wilmot Township, the Prime Minister Statue Project will commemorate all 22 of Canada’s leaders since Confederation.

This is just a snapshot of what the area holds. There is history, outdoor thrills, indoor adventures and endless summer fun.

Bring it on.