How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Cambridge, Ontario
Think you’ve done all the road trips there are in Southern Ontario? For the ardent theatre lover and road-tripper, the next challenge might be to play-hop between Drayton Entertainment’s six different theatres: from the original venue, the Drayton Festival Theatre, to the two intimate spaces in St. Jacob’s, to the scenic King’s Wharf Theatre in the gorgeous Georgian Bay harbour, to the iconic Huron Country Playhouse. But when planning out a Drayton-themed experience, make your home base Cambridge, Ontario, the home of Drayton’s newest venue, the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge. Not only can you see productions like “Glory,” “Rocky The Musical,” “Grease,” and “12 Angry Men,” but Cambridge itself is an undiscovered gem for day or weekend trips, steeped in history but with plenty of modern attractions.
Here’s how to make the most of your time in Cambridge.
Where to Stay
Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre
You can find typical hotel chains like Best Western, Hilton, and Sheraton in Cambridge, but for an independently owned and run experience with the reliability of a franchise try the Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre. Its restaurant, The Bruce Craft House, is known for its menu of locally crafted beers and its fresh breads, bagels, and pizzas baked daily in its stone fired oven. It’s so popular, it inspired a food truck appropriately titled The Bruce Caboose.
The Walper Hotel
Cambridge is one of three municipalities that make up the Tri-City region of Ontario, along with Kitchener and Waterloo. Expand your experience with a stay in Kitchener’s historic Walper Hotel, originally constructed in 1893 and suffered a fire, it is now newly renovated and a popular wedding venue.
No visit to Cambridge is complete without a trip to Langdon Hall, a gorgeous full-service retreat built in a former summer estate from 1902. Even a weekend stay wouldn’t be long enough to do everything that Langdon Hall offers — including wine tastings, cooking and cocktail demonstrations, archery, historical tours of the property and gardens, croquet, an outdoor pool, nearby trails, and one of the top 25 spas in Canada ranked by the Spa Industry Association of Canada.
Where to Eat
Cambridge has a long history of manufacturing and industry, and the Cambridge Mill brings this history into the current moment. Located in a restored five-story 19th -century mill sitting beside the Grand River, the restaurant has one of the best views in Cambridge along with a mouth-watering, farm-to-table menu for dinner, lunch, and brunch.
Little Louie’s Burger Joint and Soupery
For a local favourite greasy spoon, look no further than Little Louie’s Burger Joint and Soupery. This diner takes burgers seriously, with a rotating daily burger special — if you’re lucky, you’ll nab a lobster burger before they sell out, or the Buffalo Wing burger, topped with an actual chicken wing — and a weekly selection of soups and milkshakes.
The Old Marina Restaurant
The Old Marina Restaurant and Gift House is the definition of small-town charm. Its cozy, unpretentious décor matches the handcrafted artwork and crafts that it offers on sale, along with its food and drink menu, which is known for the Puslinch Burger (a mess of beef, bacon, and cheese). But best of all, it looks out onto the picturesque Puslinch Lake, a favourite for water skiers in the summer and snow mobiles in the winter. A meal at the Old Marina feels like a visit to your favourite cottage.
Where to Shop
Get lost in Canada’s biggest “antique mall.” Southworks Antiques began over 25 years ago, and now every inch of its 30,000-square-foot space by the Grand River is filled with vintage furniture, textiles, artworks and posters, housewares, clothes, collectables, and more. Check out its Instagram feed for a sample of its selection.
Forch’s Record Store
Any music lover will find what they’re looking for at Forch’s, which specializes in vinyl records (it has over 1,200 new pieces and 4,000 used records in stock) but sells music old and new in any format. It also has new and vintage record players and accessories for sale, as well as a comfy listening area to test out a new artist or decades-old record. Check out the store’s event page for upcoming in-store concerts.
Cambridge Farmer’s Market
What’s a summer weekend without a farmer’s market? And luckily, Cambridge is home to one that has been in operation since the 1830s. Its indoor and outdoor markets are open year-round on Saturdays from 7AM to 1PM, with a seasonal summer market open on Wednesdays from 8AM to 1PM. It’s the perfect place to grab some locally made baked goods, preserves, gifts, or edibles to fuel your trip.
What to Do
Hike the area’s trails
There’s no shortage of outdoor activities to try in Cambridge and its surrounding areas, regardless of the season. You can find over 50 kilometers of trails that can take you along the Grand or Speed Rivers, into the city centre, or even to neighbouring towns like Paris, Ontario, following the former pathway of the railway. Some pass through wetlands or along historic buildings and artefacts, to weave in some educational opportunities for families along with some exercise. More activities, like fishing and canoeing, can be found in Cambridge’s conservation areas.
Cambridge Centre for the Arts
Make some time for visual art amid your theatre plans, and pay a visit to the Cambridge Centre for the Arts. Its gallery hosts exhibitions by artists from the Tri-City area, as well as a pottery studio and classes for adults and children. If your artistic appetite lingers afterwards, make a stop at more of the area’s visual art galleries: Queen’s Square, the Preston gallery, and Design at Riverside.
Grand River Brewing
Located in a former knife factory, Grand River Brewing is a local craft brewery that takes its name from Cambridge’s iconic river. Beer lovers shouldn’t miss a tour of Grand River’s award-winning brewing process and sample their selection, and maybe even catch a live concert.
Fashion History Museum
Take a stroll through over 10,000 pieces of fashion history, beginning in the 1660s all the way to the present. This summer, you can also check out three special exhibitions: BES BEN: The Mad Hatter of Chicago, Victoria 200 to mark Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday (don’t miss the celebratory high tea either) and MADE IN FRANCE: Haute Couture and the French Fashion Industry 1870-1970.
Cambridge Sculpture Garden
Combine a love of the outdoors with the beauty of contemporary art at the Cambridge Sculpture Garden located on the Grand River. Its four permanent installations are from a mix of Canadian and European artists, and sit among other temporary works and a 134-year-old oak tree — one of only eleven trees with the “Heritage” designation in Ontario.