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Centuries-old history and cutting-edge culture meet on the shore

Sitting on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, the culturally unique and historically rich city of Kingston prides itself on being a place “where history and innovation thrive.” Although this phrase applies to the city’s present state, the sentiment also applies to the origin of Kingston’s nickname, “the Limestone City.”

In an aftermath of an 1840 fire that destroyed the Canadian port city, Kingston was rebuilt using limestone and brick. A stroll through the town center will showcase a variety of these limestone and brick buildings, many of which were recreated to resemble their original layouts.

City of Forts

Kingston gained prominence as a strategic location during the War of 1812. British troops stationed in Fort Henry guarded the town against attacks by seaborne Americans. This wartime past comes alive every day, when soldiers in period clothing perform rifle and cannon drills amid the fort’s high walls and distinctive, round turrets.

There are more than 20 National Historic Sites located within the city’s boundaries, ranging from diver-accessible shipwrecks dating back to the War of 1812 to historic inns. Most prominent are the six Martello Towers built around Kingston Harbor. Constructed to ward off attack, these round, squat brick fortifications have become synonymous with the city.

One of the most prominent Martello buildings is the Murney Tower National Historic Site, which houses a museum that exhibits military hardware from the War of 1812 and other conflicts. Displays include heavy cannon, strategic maps and period uniforms, making it a compelling window into the past. Another military-related attraction is the majestic MacKenzie building, home to Royal Military College of Canada.


Street Spectacles

The city’s pedestrian-friendly streets and alleys help make downtown Kingston a treasure trove of surprises with a focus on the local, artistic and unique. Take a detour down Martello Alley to discover a world of photography, stained glass, jewelry and several other varieties of creative contributions from the community of local artists and artisans.

Much of the 19th-century limestone-based buildings in Kingston’s central district house the performing arts, ranging from theater to music. Whether enjoying live cooking demos by local chefs, outdoor concerts featuring blues acts, movies in the Springer Market Square, or a nighttime Santa parade that takes place during mid-November, visitors to Kingston can choose from a buffet of family-friendly activities, each of which is located within a short walk of the town center.

After basking in the coziness of downtown Kingston’s European-style cityscape, take a stroll to nearby Confederation Park, situated along Kingston’s waterfront. Open your picnic basket and enjoy a sprawling panorama.


Cultured Kingston

Kingston embraces cosmopolitan expression in all its forms. WritersFest, Artfest, Reelout Film Festival and Kingston Jazz Festival are just a few of the urbane events that delve deep into the arts.

Modern music fans will undoubtedly want to check out national touring acts at the Rogers K-Rock Centre, while those with an ear for the classical sounds can enjoy the Kingston Symphony at the restored historic Grand Theatre. When not on stage, local celebrities such as Bryan Adams and Dan Aykroyd are known to pop into local watering holes and neighborhood cafes.

No, Not the Dressing

A short drive to the east of Kingston, the Thousand Islands region is an archipelago of 1,864 islands that sit in the St. Lawrence River as the waterway emerges from Lake Ontario. Stretching for roughly 50 miles, the islands range in size from a few dozen square miles of inhabited land to just big enough to provide home to migrating wildlife. In order to qualify as the one of the “thousand” islands, each must have at least one square foot of land above water and provide a home to at least two trees. Boat tours through the islands are available from eastern Kingston, with options ranging from lunch cruises to early evening voyages.

For More Information

Kingston Tourist Information Office




Ontario Travel