Kingston, Ontario: the chill is worth it

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I had never imagined that I would experience what it feels like to walk out in minus 32 degrees Celsius until my trip to Kingston, Ontario, where this very quickly became my reality.

Although that was a rarity to reach such lows, Canada is notorious for its chilly winters and beautiful snowfalls. Many people would therefore associate this with skiing holidays, such as the famous Whistler, however, I would implore you to choose a an alternative destination: the quintessentially Canadian town of Kingston, which instead is located on Lake Ontario.

There are many hotels situated along the water-front, however, only a 5-minute walk back towards the town centre you can discover The Smith Hotel. This unsuspecting hotel is situated in a striking 19th century church and consists of open-floor suites that are flooded with natural light. With many luxury comforts for relaxation, it is the perfect spot for a small-town holiday.

It is the perfect spot for a small-town holiday

As Kingston is located on Lake Ontario it is host to the most spectacular pier. Following a 4km walk along the water front you will soon arrive at the famous Kingston pier. During the winter, the lake freezes over in this area and as shards of ice begin to collide and shatter, the most breath-taking ice barricade forms along the surrounding rocks. This is the most beautiful sight you can see during sunrise or sunset.

Fort Henry is the other must-visit place in Kingston. By crossing over the bridge you will discover the home of Kingston’s Military College and a small hill that is home to Fort Henry. This is a great excursion to learn a lot of Kingston’s military history as well as enjoy many more of the surreal sights that Lake Ontario showcases. The bonus of visiting Fort Henry in winter time is that it is the perfect hill for sledging!

Enjoy many more of the surreal sights that Lake Ontario showcases

The winter markets in Kingston’s Town Centre never disappoint. It is a collection of stalls made up of local merchants where you can buy gifts, flowers and fresh produce. Located by their iconic Christmas tree, you will definitely get into the winter spirit, often helped by having a hot chocolate in hand from the unique selection of local cafes.

Kingston’s Christmas Parade was the highlight of my trip. It was made up by local schools, charities and groups who put on an extravaganza all through the town. I could really feel the community spirit and there was also a guest appearance from the town mayor and Santa Claus himself, who very kindly turned on the Christmas tree lights for everyone!

Kingston’s Christmas Parade was the highlight of my trip

What to eat: poutine. It is about as stereotypical as you can go when visiting Canada and there is a good reason for it. What may seem like a questionable take on the good old-fashioned British chips and gravy, Poutine hits the spot on a cold Canadian evening. I would recommend enjoying it sat by the pier or while watching one of the high-speed ice-hockey games at the local rink.

As Kingston is a small community town, and home to a popular Canadian university it has developed many of its own quirks during the winter seasons. My two favourite are both ice orientated!

Firstly, in the town centre, throughout the winter months, there is a little ice rink for the public to use whenever they please. What resulted in quite the wet bum also made many of my favourite memories from that trip, especially in the evening under the Christmas lights.

Secondly, igloos. Courtesy of the university students, wherever you walk you will often find a small igloo built on someone’s front lawn. This is a simple pleasure to enjoy, and the igloos often come equipped with a light and sign-post outside!

It has developed many of its own quirks during the winter seasons

Kingston is also in the perfect location in Ontario if you want to make some other day trips. Toronto and Montreal are both just a couple hours away by train or bus and offer two completely different aesthetics, cultures and pace compared to Kingston. During my trip I managed to visit both, with a special affection for Montreal, which offered a uniquely European feel in its lifestyle and architecture.

Here concludes my whistle stop tour of Kingston! I found it a relaxing and warming winter break and loved the amount of activities and trips that were available. It was a true representation of the friendly Canadian community and the picture perfect chilly winters that they experience.

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