Waterloo, Ontario, is one of three neighbouring cities, together with Kitchener, and Cambridge, forming a tightly-integrated metro area within the larger Region of Waterloo in Southwestern Ontario. Waterloo (population 15,000 in 2016) is known internationally for its two universities: Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.
Waterloo is part of Canada's Technology Triangle, and many companies such as PTC, Sandvine Inc, BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion (RIM)), Maplesoft, Open Text, Google and Sybase are either based or have branch offices here. Technology companies thrive due to the convenience of the University of Waterloo, which boasts the largest math and computer science undergraduate program in the world. The university is also very famous for its psychology program. Waterloo pioneered the concept of university co-op where students alternate terms of study with terms of paid work experience. Today it boasts the largest co-op undergraduate enrolment in the world.
Waterloo was once known as the "Hartford of Canada" due to the large number of insurance companies that once had their headquarters here. Insurance is still a major industry in Waterloo due to the presence of Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial.
Farmland is quite close outside the city limits, and many Mennonites live close by. St. Jacobs is a small village immediately to the north of the city, with markets and stores that have come to be very popular.
The city of Kitchener is immediately to the south of Waterloo. These two cities, often referred together as "Kitchener-Waterloo" (abbreviated to "K-W"), are separate municipalities, but share a long, seamless border. If visiting Waterloo, take Kitchener's attractions into consideration as well. Waterloo's central business district is referred to as "Uptown", in contrast to Kitchener's, which is referred to as "Downtown". Note, however, that Uptown Waterloo is not particularly large compared to neighbouring cities' downtowns; Waterloo is essentially a suburban city. The distributed nature of the city does mean that Uptown Waterloo has maintained a small-town atmosphere (for now; plans to intensify the Uptown are afoot).
Waterloo began on land that was part of a parcel of 675,000 acres (2,730 km²) assigned in 1784 to the Iroquois alliance that made up the League of Six Nations. The rare gift of land from Britain to indigenous people took place to compensate for wartime alliance during the American Revolution. Almost immediately—and with much controversy—the First Nations groups began to sell some of the land. Between 1796 and 1798, 93,000 acres (380 km²) were sold to Richard Beasley, with the Six Nations Indians continuing to hold the mortgage on the lands.
The first wave of immigrants to the area comprised Mennonites from Pennsylvania. They bought the land from Beasley and began moving into the area in 1804. Abraham Erb, often called the founder of Waterloo, had come to the area in 1806 from Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He bought 900 acres of bush land in 1806 from the German Company and founded a sawmill (1808) and grist mill (1816); these the focal point of the area. The grist mill operated continuously for 111 years.
In 1816 the new township was named after Waterloo, Belgium, the site of the Battle of Waterloo (1815), which had ended the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. After that war, the new township became a popular destination for German immigrants. By the 1840s, German settlers had overtaken the Mennonites as the dominant segment of the population. Many Germans settled in the small hamlet to the southeast of Waterloo. In their honour, the village was named Berlin in 1833 (renamed Kitchener in 1916).
From Highway 401, take exit 278 (if coming from the west) or 278A (if coming from the east). Take Highway 8 North to Highway 85 North (the Conestoga Parkway). There are four exits in Waterloo:
- For Uptown Waterloo, exit Bridgeport Rd.
- For universities, exit University Ave. E.
- For destinations in north Waterloo, exit King St. N.
- For destinations in north-west Waterloo, exit Northfield Dr. W.
By intercity bus
Some GO Transit buses run from Mississauga and Vaughan to Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, after making a stop at the Charles Street Transit Terminal. On Fridays and Sundays, GO route 25F runs from Highway 407 Station (on Toronto subway Line 1 Yonge–University) in Vaughan. On Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, GO routes 25B and 25C run from Mississauga Square One. These GO routes have few intermediate stops.
- 1 Region of Waterloo International Airport (YKF IATA). is serviced by a limited number of airlines. WestJet has regular domestic service to Calgary, AB.
For travellers coming from afar, Airways Transit offers shuttle bus service between Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ IATA and Kitchener/Waterloo. Pearson Airport provides flights to and from a large number of destinations, and is located approximately 1 hour away from Waterloo by car in good traffic conditions. Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF IATA) just outside Buffalo is an alternative to Toronto. It is about 2 hours away and requires a border crossing, but flights are often much cheaper, particularly if travelling to/from the US or Caribbean.
Kitchener Railway Station, near Downtown Kitchener, hosts VIA Rail and GO Transit trains. The railway station lies 650 metres east of ION Central Station, where one can take an ION light rail train into Waterloo.
The Waterloo Central Railway operates a summer tourist train service with vintage equipment to St. Jacobs and Elmira. The Waterloo stop is on the north side of Northfield Drive across the street from ION Northfield station; the WCR stop has a small shelter.
Unlike a metropolis such as Toronto, it is relatively quick and easy to get from one point to another by car because the distances aren't far, and the traffic isn't too busy. Looking at a map of Kitchener-Waterloo, one of the first things visitors from other parts of Ontario will notice is that, far from forming a grid pattern, the streets are not straight, curving and wiggling in surprising patterns. For example, there are two streets, King and Weber, which are parallel for most of their length, but cross each other 3 times in K-W. The irregular road pattern dates to the earliest settlement in K-W; unlike most Ontario townships, whose roads were laid out in a grid pattern, Waterloo Township was laid out without road allowances, allowing settlers to build roads where they were needed.
King Street is the main street that travels roughly North-South through the downtown of Kitchener and Waterloo. In Waterloo, it is labelled King St. North and South, with the transition at Erb Street (in Kitchener, it is labelled King St. East and West).
By public transportation
- Main article: Region of Waterloo (Ontario)#Public transportation
Grand River Transit provides all public transit within the Region of Waterloo, which allows access to most centrally located sights in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo.
ION light rail (route 301) connects Kitchener to Waterloo; in Waterloo it serves the following major destinations from north to south:
|Northfield||Waterloo Corporate Campus|
|Research & Technology||David Johnston Research & Technology Park|
|University of Waterloo||University of Waterloo|
|Laurier-Waterloo Park||Wilfrid Laurier University|
|Waterloo Public Square (northbound only)||Waterloo Public Square|
|Willis Way (southbound only)|
The following bus routes serve some areas away from the ION light rail line:
- 7 King runs along King Street south from Conestoga Mall through Uptown Waterloo into Kitchener.
- 12 Westmount runs along University Avenue, Westmount Road, Fischer-Hallman Road and Beams Road.
There are three taxi companies that serve Waterloo and the surrounding area:
- Waterloo Taxi (519-886-1200)
- United Taxi (519-888-9999)
- City Cabs (519-747-7777)
By bicycle and by foot
Waterloo is reasonably bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, so travelling by bicycle or on foot is reasonable for shorter trips. Uptown Waterloo and the two universities are within walking distance of each other.
- 1 Waterloo Park, Young St W. a Victorian garden, a beautiful lake adjacent to a replica grist mill, several sports fields, picnic areas, trails, and more.
- 2 Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, 31 Caroline Street North. Started by a $100-million donation by local entrepreneur, Mike Lazaridis, founder and co-CEO of Research in Motion (RIM). The institute presents several free lectures that are open to the public (usually held at Waterloo Collegiate Institute on Hazel Street) and also hosts the occasional concert (admission usually around $20). The ticket office is at the Old Post Office.
- 3 Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, 25 Caroline Street North, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM. The collection is small enough to be seen in an hour. Free admission.
- 4 Old Post Office, 35 King St N (at Dupont St W). This three-storey heritage building was built in 1912, and is a landmark due to its tower. Constructed in the Romanesque style of Canadian Federal Post Offices, the building has sandstone cladding on the ground floor and red-brick cladding for the upper two floors.
- 5 City of Waterloo Museum, 550 King St N (Conestoga Mall, beside the food court), ☏ . Tu-F 9:30AM to 4PM. Artifacts from local history.
- 6 Waterloo Train Station, 20 Regina St S. The station was built for the Grand Truck Railway in 1910 and was closed to passengers in 1934. This one-storey, buff-brick building is in the Romanesque style with cut stone around windows, doors and the outside corners. The railway track beside the station is still active and used for overnight freight trains. The station building has been used as a retail shop.
- 7 Visitor & Heritage Information Centre (former Waterloo Central Railway station), 10 Father David Bauer Dr & Erb St W (south side of the Ion light rail tracks), ☏ . Open May to October. Waterloo's tourist information center is in a quaint railway station that was once used by the Waterloo Central Railway, a tourist operation that runs from the Ion Northfield station to St. Jacobs and Elmira. The WCR had to abandon running to this station to make way for the Ion light rail line.
- Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest. Together with Kitchener, Waterloo hosts this Bavarian festival, held annually in October. It is the largest in the world outside of Munich, Germany. The following two Festhalle are located in Waterloo: Heidelberg Haus (at the Moses Springer Community Centre), and Ruedesheimer Garten (at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, 101 Father David Bauer Dr.). As well, there is a free Oktoberfest Luncheon at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex the day before Oktoberfest starts, family-friendly activities on King Street in Uptown Waterloo on the first Saturday of Oktoberfest, and the Oktoberfest parade (which occurs on the Thanksgiving Monday) passes through Waterloo. The 2020 edition was online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 1 Laurel Creek Conservation Area, 625 Westmount Rd. N.. This conservation area, centred around a reservoir, offers camping, as well as a beach and other water activities. Trails are available for hiking as well as cross country skiing during the winter.
- 2 RIM Park, 2001 University Ave. Waterloo ON, ☏ . Waterloo's largest and most modern community centre and sports complex is host to many recreational youth and adult sports leagues and contains: 4 olympic size ice pads used for organized team activities as well as public free skates, 1 large indoor turf field which can be divided into 3 fields for recreational soccer, 2 NBA size Gymnasiums, 700 person banquet hall, several meeting rooms and a food services facility. Most of the above facilities can be divided to serve a larger number of teams or groups. Several organizations use the facilities for trade shows and special events such as career fairs. The property is on 500 acres of land which includes the Grey Silo golf course and several trails and outdoor sports fields.
- Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival. Held every year in July, Waterloo funds a free jazz concert showing various styles and talent throughout jazz.
- Waterloo Buskers' Carnival. Held annually in late August. "Canada's premier busking carnival" brings acrobats, comedians, magicians and fire breathers to Uptown Waterloo for four days. Feee entry, contributions to the performers are expected.
- 3 Waterloo Public Square. An open-air event and gathering space at the corner of King Street N. and Willis Way in the heart of Uptown. Year round programs include festivals, markets, concerts, activities such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Ballroom dancing.
- Swing Dancing, 42 Erb St. East. Beginner lessons start at 8:30PM & live music goes on until 11PM. $8.
- University of Waterloo. Established in the 1950s, UW is one of Canada's youngest universities. It is well known for its co-operative education program and for fostering innovation. Several spinoff companies are well-known, such as Research in Motion and Open Text. It was also the starting point of Engineers Without Borders. Visitors might be interested in the Earth Sciences Museum in the CEIT building, and the Optometry Museum in the Optometry building.
- Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Ave W (corner of King and University). WLU is best known for its School of Business and Economics; its Music, History, and Kinesiology programs are also well-known. The School of Music hosts at least one concert per week, admission to which is often free.
- Conestoga College was founded in 1967 as the Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology, one of many such institutions established in that time by the Ontario government to grant diplomas and certificates in career-related, skills-oriented programs.
Being mainly a suburban city, you'll find strip malls and the like at just about every major intersection. If you're looking for somewhere more inspiring to shop, there is:
- 1 The Atrium, 33 Erb St. W. (Uptown Waterloo). This mall is a small but quaint house-like building close to both Waterloo Town Square and King Street, with various restaurants and stores to enjoy.
- Cobblestone Gallery (The Atrium). Sells unique arts and crafts from over 200 Canadian artists and artisans.
- 2 Conestoga Mall, 550 King St. N. (just north of King St. interchange). Waterloo's largest shopping mall. At the northern terminus of the ION LRT (ION Conestoga Station).
- 3 King Street in Uptown Waterloo, King St S (between Erb St & William St). Waterloo's city centre contains a large number of unique shops.
- 4 Waterloo Town Square, 75 King Street South (Uptown Waterloo). Consists primarily of upscale stores.
- 5 The Boardwalk, Ira Needles Blvd (at University Ave W). A commercial development over one kilometre along the western edge of Waterloo. Contains many of the larger big-box stores. Free Parking, accessible via GRT routes 4 and 29.
Going Uptown (the King/Erb area) will provide traditional and cultural foods for many price ranges.
- 1 Kismet Restaurant, 160 University Ave W, ☏ . Indian food. The naan is very good there, they prepare it on the side of their clay oven. The butter chicken is amazing. The decor is bland, but the food is good. Around $10 for the curry dishes, and it comes with either naan or basmati rice.
- 2 Mr. Paninos's Beijing House, 106 University Ave W, ☏ . Quick place to grab Chinese eats near University of Waterloo. Under 10$.
- 3 Mongolian Grill, 170 University Ave W (University Shops Plaza, east side of Ion rail line), ☏ . Grab a bowl and fill it with your choice of meats, veggies, sauces and spices. Then, give it to the grillers, who will chop, fry, and thrash your meal into shape right before your eyes on a huge round grill (3 m/9 ft across, temp 300°C/600°F). $17 for all you can eat, including rice and tortillas to go with your stir-fry. Be forewarned: there's often a wait in the evenings, especially on weekends.
- 4 Jane Bond, 5 Princess St. A wonderful vegetarian restaurant with great atmosphere. They make wonderful martinis and have a great selection of wines and beer as well. They also have live entertainment some nights. Right across the street from Princess Cinema.
- 5 Ennio's Pasta House, 384 King St N. 893-0543. At Ennio's you will find authentic Italian cooking at its best. The love of fine cuisine!
- 6 Ye's Sushi, 583 King Street North (at Northfield Dr W), ☏ . All-you-can-eat sushi.
- 7 Solé Restaurant & Wine Bar, 83 Erb St W, Building Two (in Uptown Waterloo), ☏ . Offers updated versions of classic Italian and Canadian cuisine.
- 8 Janet Lynn's Bistro, 677 Belmont Ave W, Kitchener (close to Uptown Waterloo), ☏ .
- 9 King Street Trio Uptown, 40 King St S, ☏ . Upscale dining with live jazz every Wednesday through Saturday night.
- 1 Ethel's Lounge, 114 King Street North (just south of WLU), ☏ . "No live entertainment; one TV." Ethel's serves up Mexican and roadhouse fare in a cool retro-chrome-diner atmosphere. Don't be intimidated by the surly-sounding menu; the staff and patrons here tend to be a personable, if outlandish, bunch. Entrees $5-10.
- 2 Huether Hotel. Uptown restaurant rebuilt from an old hotel. The restaurant boasts great food and serves locally brewed beer from the Lion's Brewery. Divided into sections including a cafe, restaurant, bar and 'The Jazz Room' so there's always something for everyone. All are worth checking out, but especially The Jazz Room, a not for profit organization showcasing local and not-so-local musicians.
- 3 Morty's Pub. Boasts best wings in Waterloo since 1982.
- 4 Starlight Night Club. A great venue for a plethora of bands. Past performances include: The Sadies, Hawksley Workman, Cowboy Junkies, Hollerado and Snow Patrol. DJ Charless is a must see. Affordable and great atmosphere.
- 1 Best Western Plus Waterloo (former Destination Inn), 547 King St N, ☏ .
- 2 Comfort Inn, 190 Weber St N, ☏ .
- 3 The Inn of Waterloo, 475 King St N (on service road just south of Highway 85 interchange), ☏ .
- 4 Hotel Laurier, 200 King St N, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Wilfrid Laurier University rents out empty residence rooms in the summer under the name "Hotel Laurier". Single rooms come in as low as $40 per night; there are reduced rates for weekly or monthly stays, and further discounts for seniors, groups, and WLU staff and students. The address is for reception; lodging may be elsewhere in the area. Accommodations are available May to August only.
- 5 [formerly dead link] Waterloo Hotel, 2 King St N, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. An 1890 hotel with modern amenities, this hotel is in the centre of Uptown Waterloo, on the corner of King and Erb Sts. Each of the 14 rooms has its own name and style. $170/night.
The Village of St. Jacobs is in Mennonite country, and has many shopping opportunities including St. Jacobs Farmers' Market in the Market District south of the village along with many shops and vendors within the village. There are also a few attractions in the village.
Waterloo Central Railway, ☏ . The Waterloo Central Railway offers a seasonal tourist service running a train of historic passenger cars, and a historic steam or diesel locomotive servicing 4 stops between Waterloo and Elmira including St. Jacobs. The WCR has one stop in Waterloo:
- 1 Northfield stop, 90 Northfield Dr W (across the street from Ion Northfield station). No parking available.
The Elora Gorge is also a worthwhile getaway, being roughly 30km from Waterloo. Aside from exploring the cliffs carved by glacial meltwaters, you can go tubing, swimming, camping and canoeing.
Waterloo is within short driving distance of many southern Ontario locations, such as London, Guelph, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Stratford. Towns on the shore of Lake Huron, such as Kincardine or Goderich, are great places to enjoy the beach in the summer.
|Routes through Waterloo|
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