This blog on things to do in Guelph is a list of all things we believe a visitor would enjoy. However, even if you are a Guelph resident, you could also do a little bit of local exploration.
This post is designed to give those in Guelph, as well as outside Guelph an idea of what to expect in town. This is our main post that will branch out into other specific blog posts to attractions and other small businesses.
Where is Guelph?
Also known as “The Royal City”, Guelph is a charming and quaint rural city in Southwestern Ontario just an hour’s drive west of Toronto.
What is Guelph’s political party?
Guelph has a unique distinction of electing one of the only Green Party officials in Canada! MPP Mike Schreiner was elected here in 2018.
Guelph’s Top 6 Tourist attractions
Guelph has a wide variety of attractions that clients consider when moving here. Some are arts, some are restaurants and some are locations.
This is by no means any sort of official list, but it’s based on our clients specific questions or desires when working with a Guelph Realtor from out of town.
1. Downtown Guelph
Since downtown Guelph is not very large, you are able to explore it all by taking a stroll. By doing so, you will discover some of the best cafes, restaurants, and shops Guelph has to offer. There are also many famous and iconic places located downtown.
Downtown Guelph features some stunning older homes. Some of these are heritage homes. The historic 6167 locomotive (built in 1940 and was used during World War II) was just moved in the summer of 2021 at a controversial expense.
As well, you can find the incredible Art Gallery of Guelph, and the Civic Museum.
It’s also worth checking out the Petrie Building on Wyndham St. This building was in disrepair for many many years and recently received a complete overhaul. Formerly the Apollo Diner, it’s now home to a bunch of businesses including Brothers Brewing.
In addition, you will find the Guelph Farmers Market downtown on Saturday mornings, one of the oldest community pillars of Guelph. The vendors at the market offer a wide variety of fresh produce and food.
2. Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate
Located downtown, the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate is a Gothic Revival style building built between 1876 and 1888. This recently restored building is a parish church and a Roman Catholic minor basilica. It is also a National Historic Site of Canada. The building is made of local limestone and features beautiful stained glass. Additionally, you can attend a traditional catholic service and mass. The church also offers a stunning view of the city. Be sure to visit the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate to experience the traditional catholic values and marvelous architecture.
3. Parks in Guelph: Riverside Park, Royal City and Exhibition Park
There are many wonderful parks in Guelph, so we’re going to suggest you visit the 3 most popular from our clients perspective. A full list of best parks in Guelph is here
located on Woolwich St is a perfect location to host seasonable events. The Park offers a Floral Clock and Rock Gardens. It also has a fully accessible children’s playground, an outdoor concert shell; an antique carousel; miniature train; horseshoe pits; a sand beach area. There are trails along the river front; 3 baseball diamonds; a scaled model of the first house built in Guelph by John Galt; and a large and small picnic shelter.
Royal City Park
is just south of downtown, two major rivers of Guelph meet: the Speed River and the Eramosa River. There are many parks along these rivers with one of the main ones being Royal City Park.
This is also where you will find The Boathouse. Offering a variety of locally sourced tea and ice cream right along the Speed River they also have canoe rentals where you can paddle your way along the Speed River.
In addition, just behind The Boathouse you will find a 144 foot lattice-covered walking bridge that spans the convergence of the Eramosa and Speed Rivers. Built in 1992, the covered bridge by 4000 volunteers from the Timber Framers’ Guild and was raised by hand.
is likely Guelph’s oldest and best known park. Initially a public market in the late 1800’s, Exhibition Park offers public tennis courts, a wading pool, a playground as well as multiple baseball diamonds. Guelph’s own Guelph Royals baseball team plays at the enclosed diamond on the north end of the park at Hastings Stadium. As well, there is a ice rink at the north end (Exhibition Arena)
4. Guelph Lake
Guelph Lake Conservation Area offers a variety of different outdoor activities such as camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, paddling, sailing, picnicking, and many more.
The conservation site even has a venue for concerts along with 2 beaches. The Guelph Lake Conservation Area is perfect for you to chill, relax, and enjoy nature with your loved ones.
5. University of Guelph/ Guelph Arboretum
In 1964, after the amalgamation of Ontario Agricultural College, the MacDonald Institute, and the Ontario Veterinary College. The university has since grown to an institution of more than 32,000 students and is a major employer for those working in Guelph.
U of G is known for its beauty, safe and welcoming campuses and supportive culture. Additionally, U of G blends historical and modern architecture with cutting-edge technology. Taking a stroll along the red clay brick walkways around the campus of the University of Guelph is a must. This allows you to appreciate the stunning architecture and historic buildings of the campus.
Furthermore, near the University Centre you will find an antique British naval gun, “Old Jeremiah”. A Tradition at the university is for students to paint the cannon with messages. Things about events, causes, clubs and even marriage proposals. This tradition dictates you can only paint it between sunset and sunrise.
is on university land, established in 1970 is home to more than 2000 different taxa of woody plants. In thematic collections such as a synoptic World of Trees, Native Trees of Ontario. and noteworthy collections of Oaks, Beeches, Maples, and Conifers.
Furthermore, with the Arboretum encompasses 400 acres next to the University of Guelph Campus. It offers many features and activities for people to take advantage of. Some of these features are, plant collections, gardens, walking trails, natural woodlands, wetlands, disc golf course, etc.
Beth and Ryan were married at the Arboretum in the fall of 2004
6. Birthplace of John McCrae
Built in 1858, McCrae House is a small limestone cottage. It is the birthplace of the doctor, soldier, and author of the famous John McCrae. McCrae is the writer of the famous First World War poem “In Flanders Fields”. This National Historic Site of Canada gives an insightful overview of McCrae’s life.
This museum hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions and has an award-winning garden. The McCrae House is a must-visit if you love Canada and its history.
Rec centres in Guelph/ City run centres
West End Rec Centre/ Victoria Rd Rec Centre
If you have children or play sports as an adult, you likely already know about these two popular destinations.
The West End Rec Centre is in West Guelph, right near the super popular Costco Guelph. It features a huge swimming area, two ice rinks, a gym and even a branch of the Guelph Public Library. Beth and Ryan have spent many weekend mornings at the West End Rec Centre for swimming lessons!
The Victoria Rd Rec Centre (still sometimes referred to as the Victor Davis Pool) recently had a full renovation. When it opened in the mid 1970’s, it was a state of the art facility.
It has an ice rink, olympic sized pool and many meeting rooms. Like the West End Rec Centre, most parents spend many hours at this facility.
The Sleeman Centre is located in the heart of downtown Guelph. It is home to our city’s OHL hockey team, the Guelph Storm (OHL Champions 2019!).
Outside of the Guelph Storm, other uses include numerous minor league games and events. The Sleeman Centre also gets use trade shows and much more.
The Sleeman Centre is located at the back of the former Guelph Eaton’s Centre. Guelphites refer to this as Old Quebec St Mall.
Malls in Guelph and shopping in Guelph
The main mall in Guelph is Stone Road Mall. Locals, or those that have lived in Guelph for a while simply refer to Stone Road Mall as “the mall”. It’s because it was really the only mall in town after the Eaton Centre renovation and the fall of popularity in Willow West Mall.
The next large development is at the intersection of Clair and Gordon. Long time Guelphites remember this intersection as the Pergola Restaurant. It included a mini golf, driving range and restaurant of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
Now it’s a massive development with movie theatres, grocery stores, drug stores, LBCO and more. It’s a large contributor to the popularity of homes in Guelph south end.
Big box shopping in Guelph
Guelph has a wide range of big box shopping, from Best Buy to Costco Guelph to H&M Canada. In recent years Guelph had other larger stores arrive. This includes such as Sport Chek Canada, Old Navy Canada. In prior years, many Guelphites had to leave town to access these amenities, but most are in town. Those looking for a Lululemon, Gap, Ikea or other more niche stores may need to leave town still.
Small independent business
Downtown Guelph has excellent variety and shopping with a number of Guelph’s small businesses. As a result, shopping in downtown Guelph is like shopping of days gone by. Individual independent stores offering a wide variety of goods and services.
Some of our favourites include Sunday General, Sweet Violets, the Bookshelf, Grey Rock, Rug n Weave and Art of Denim. However, there are so many that it’s impossible to list them all.
Outside of town, there are many small businesses in Guelph offering a variety of products and services.
Restaurants in Guelph
Guelph is lucky to have a wide range of Guelph restaurants catering to most people. You’re likely to find any major chain restaurant in South Guelph. This includes Milestones, Beertown, Shoeless Joes, The Keg, Subway and more. You will typically only find these in South Guelph where newer development exists.
We put together a very popular blog of what we believe are the best restaurants in Guelph. We do update it! As a result, if you think we’re missing something, we’re open to adding it!
Smaller independents offering a wide range of foods. This includes Warka Tree (Ethiopian), Bombay Cafe (Indian), Eat Thai (Thai), The Wooly Pub, Mijiida, Diana Downtown, Piatto Pizzeria and many many more. Here’s a link to our blog post on pubs in Guelph
Downtown Guelph patios
downtown Guelph patios are a favourite of many. It’s been a way for people to try a variety of new restaurants including La Reina (mexican), NV and more.
Guelph coffee shops are also prevelant around town including Red Brick (downtown), The Common (downtown), Planet Bean (downtown) and more.
For baked goods, there is Cobs in South Guelph along Polestar (downtown), With the Grain (downtown) and a hidden gem in Eric the Baker on Carden St, located downtown across from City Hall.
Slightly outside of Guelph
Although not quite things to do in Guelph, these gems exist just outside of Guelph. In fact it’s so close, they probably shop at Costco Guelph as well!
Although not located directly in Guelph, the Elora Quarry has been a go-to destination for Guelphites for generations. Additionally, Elora is located about 15 minutes north of downtown Guelph.
The centre of attraction at the Elora Quarry Conservation Area is the “old swimming hole”. This is a 0.8 hectare (two acre) former limestone quarry encircled by sheer cliffs up to 12m metres (40′) high. Elora Quarry did not become a conservation area until 1976, but it was a popular swimming area long before that. This 79 acre (32 hectare) day-use conservation area has a lot of tree cover.
Note: The Conservation Area manages the quarry so there are visitor fees with the Elora Quarry.
According to their website, The Elora Mill has been the jewel of Wellington County for over 175 years. Once a thriving hub of commerce and industry; today a charming centre for community and social gatherings.
After six years of intensive modern-day planning and design, the Elora Mill began its next transformation. It’s built upon its century-and-a-half-old foundation and stone walls. Applying original craftsmanship and raw materials, the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa re-opened in 2018. This provided new life to this iconic building once again.
The Rockwood Conservation Area, also known as Rockwood Park, is a moderate size conservation area. Public operations run between May 1 and the first Sunday following Thanksgiving. A small admittance fee is a requirement to access the park. However, individuals or groups may purchase a membership. This allows access to the eleven parks operated by the Grand River Conservation Authority. It is a popular destination for many local residents, with over 65,000 visitors per year. There is also camping here.
Located just east of Guelph, Chudleighs Farm is a local favourite of Guelphites. Many fall afternoons are spent on Chudleighs farm. Picking apples, enjoying the petting zoo, taking hayrides, play areas and much more.
Today, they are a much bigger operation than just the farm. They also have a state of the art commercial bakery and supply to larger retailers such as Fortinos and Metro.
In conclusion, there are many different things to do in Guelph. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Beth and Ryan’s team, Guelph real estate agents ! They will help you find the perfect home. You’ll be able to experience all of which Guelph has to offer.