A Family Guide to a Weekend in Kingston

When we got a chance to stay in Kingston, my husband was quite excited about it because a) no flying, no airports b) a road trip! c) We would be going somewhere close to home. I was a bit skeptical as the first thing that went through my brain was: “What do you do with kids in Kingston?” Well, I sure found out that there were not only places to see but also lots of great things to do for a weekend trip away with kids.

Trunk space for a staycation as seen in our Chevrolet Canada Equinox

I plan to come back with our cousins when they visit from Pittsburgh because I know the kids will love it.

So many great family friendly restaurants, the city is very easy to navigate by car and by foot and I also found some great indoor places when the weather may not cooperate. That’s key for parents, as we don’t always want to be stuck outside if it’s raining. The scenic drives and walks also made it feel relaxing and there are lots of options for day trips like any number of islands. The history was also a great part of our take-home conversations that we had in the car, something we don’t often do as much these days.

Here’s a look at what we loved most:

Where to Stay

Residence Inn by Marriott’s Edge 

I can sum up the benefits of this hotel in two words: location and space. For the value, the space really allowed our family to spread out and enjoy the comforts of home. With a kitchenette with dishwasher, sink and stove plus living area and two separate bedrooms, our two-bedroom suite really made it easy to relax. My son and husband were on one room while my daughter and I were in another.

Each room had really comfortable King/Queen beds and with two full bathrooms, no one was on top of one another. Having two bedrooms separated by a living area also made it easier to sleep in quiet without hearing anything that was going on across the hall during our stay. There were a number of prom parties and university events happening and I was worried the noise might keep my son up but the bedrooms were insulated quite well from the rest of the room and we slept really well.

Complimentary breakfast buffet helped us get our day started during our two-day staycation and views were really pretty both during the day when we woke up and at night when the lights near the water were on. First thing in the morning you notice the water and blue skies surrounding most of the hotel.

With restaurants and shops anywhere from 2 minutes to 15 minutes away, this hotel is really ideal for families looking for an effortless getaway.

 

Where to Eat

We had the opportunity to experience a few different restaurants while we were in Kingston, but there also so many to choose from that no one will go hungry. Whether you have a picky eater, a vegetarian or someone who likes breakfast for dinner in your family, Kingston has a tonne of options.

 

Here are some of our favourites:

Harper’s Burger Bar:

We got to Kingston a bit later in the day so the kids were hungry! Harper’s casual atmosphere kept us on track and helped us relax. At the end of an almost four hour drive in from the GTA, the last thing you want is slow service and a complicated menu. We ordered burgers for the whole family but it also has healthier options like its kale salad, gluten free options and it uses Canadian grown ingredients. If you’re a vegetarian the Shroom Burger is your best bet. It’s Panko crusted, 3-cheese stuffed portabello mushroom burger. Lastly, Harper’s has a poutine and sides menu that will pair nicely with any burger on the menu.

Battery Bistro (at Fort Henry)

The Battery Bistro is a great choice if you’re spending the afternoon at Fort Henry and boasts Kingston’s largest waterfront patio. We ordered the breaded fish and chips and the kids had chicken fingers and fries. The salads are very fresh and my favourite was the caprese salad. On a bright summer’s day, eating on the patio is a must-do as the water view is quite breath taking overlooking Lake Ontario.

Wolf Island Cafe

On our short jaunt to Wolf Island via ferry, this café was a godsend. After a long day of walking and then ferrying…all we wanted to do is get a few apps and a dessert. The back of the restaurant has a great patio as well and has boat slips for those of you who love to be on the water. My kids loved the view overlooking the harbour to Kingston and walking on the bridge after their ice cream. It’s probably a place we as family would spend a lot of time at if we lived in Kingston.

Chez Piggy

We ended up eating lunch here but I really wanted to have brunch. Chez Piggy’s brunch options are fantastic. The blueberry pancakes with crème freche looked so tempting! The restaurant is quite central and has lovely courtyard. We had lunch and were in the centre of it all, with several stories close by.

 

Atomic Pizza

Can’t go wrong with pizza when it comes to kids. Despite this restaurant being a wine bar, the place is really family friendly thanks to a pizza centric menu of course. Our kids had margarita pizzas but the menu also offers, paninis, deep dish Chicago style pizzas and various pastas. Specialties include thin-crust Neapolitan style pizza, a build your own antipasto board plus an array of fresh salads, appetizers, panini, pasta and entrees. Local products are featured throughout the menu and on a daily card.

What to Do?

For the lazy afternoon

  • Walk by Water’s Edge near the Residence Inn

    Memorial Arch, Kingston

  • Walk Downtown near the water
  • Visit the Pump House Museum: is located in one of Canada’s oldest original water works – where steam-powered pumps provided the first running water to Kingston residents from 1850. Only six similar preserved water-pumping plants remain in North America. The museum is where the original pumps are animated and visitors can discover exactly how they worked. You can take a guided or self-guided tour and learn how steam power was an essential element of the industrial development of Canada and pumped water played a key role in Kingston’s history. 
  • Or take a Kingston Trolly Tour: you’ll see everything from Kingston Trolley Kingston’s historic downtown and waterfront, stopping at all of the city’s most well-known visitor destinations including Fort Henry, the Penitentiary Museum, and Queen’s University.

 

Looking for a change of scenery? Try one of these options!

Ferry Wolf Island

When you’ve got young kids and or grandparents, a boat ride can be a great way to avoid long walks and fussy kids…The ferry ride is less than 30 minutes and the ferry allows you to bring your car on board! So convenient especially if you don’t want to park then hop on then get stuck walking long distances to find places to see if you’re with a multigenerational family. The ferry runs every 30minutes and once at the island, the views by the water are fantastic.

Head over the Wolf Island Grill for a great lunch and as for a table outside by the dock- you won’t regret it!

 

Improbable Escapes:

Improbable Escapes is Kingston’s first live escape room experience! Improbable Escapes provides a live action adventure, where teams are locked in a room and have to use creativity, teamwork, and lateral thinking to progress through the puzzle and escape within an hour. This may sound daunting, but this was one our favourite places to see. It not only forced us to work together as a team, (and tested our patience with Liam!) but it made for a great conversation on the way home and while were there on the little tricks we may have missed or hints and clues and how to use them. The experience made us laugh, work together and in the end made for a great family bonding experience.

The Boiler Room: Have a rock climber in your midst? Or maybe you just need an indoor/rain stop. Another great family activity to do one afternoon to get in a little adventure.

 

For the history buffs

Haunted Walk Kingston Tour

We were worried this might be something spooky for kids but it turned out to be a great walk sharing history and the great diverse neighbourhoods of Kingston. The Haunted Walk of Kingston shares ghost stories of historic Kingston on a 90 minute walking tour.  The walk spans Market Square and heads to St. George’s Cathedral to other neighbourhoods too.

Glen Shackleton the company’s founder, created these tours after he went to England and attended similar tours there.  The Kingston tours were so popular they have expanded this business to Ottawa and Toronto, as well as add a tour at Fort Henry. The Fort Henry tour is filled with lots of history as well. The kids enjoyed it, though for my son who is 7, 90 minutes was a tad long to walk. But we made it through! Be sure to get kids to take a trip to the bathroom before getting started!

 

Fort Henry

Scenic panoramic views round Fort Henry

If you didn’t grow up in Kingston, Fort Henry is a very worthwhile, fun, and educational way to spend a day. The tour was informational for us and my 10-year-old daughter who likes learning history of places.

Short Drive to Fort Henry

The school room was a favourite as the kids got to see where other kids learned in classes generations ago. The fort is quite expansive with soldiers marching and music and the architecture obviously is unique. The area has really nice scenic walks where you can see the city and the water. If you get hungry, the Battery Bistro has a stunning patio with great bites for kids.

Check out our video on our highlights from our staycation as a family in Kingston below!

This post was sponsored by Visit Kingston but all opinions are my own.

More travel and vacation ideas here.


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