10 things you didn’t know about Kingston, Ontario – Ottawa Road Trips

K-Town, the Limestone City, YGK—you probably know that Kingston, Ontario, goes by many nicknames. But did you know the following 10 things about the city located where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River?
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It depends how you define “Canada.” If you define it as the country that came into being on July 1, 1867—then, no. But if you define it as “the United Province of Canada,” the union of Canada East (formerly Lower Canada, now Quebec) and Canada West (formerly Upper Canada, now Ontario) that lasted from 1841 until 1867—then, yes.
Kingston was the capital of that smaller Canada from 1841 until 1843. One legacy of this period is Kingston’s grand city hall, designed to reflect the community’s stature as a national capital. Unfortunately, by the time the building was finished, the capital had already moved to Montreal.
Interestingly, Montreal’s day in the sun ended in 1849, after rioters burned down the legislature there. After that, the capital bounced back and forth between Toronto and Quebec City, until Queen Victoria put her royal foot down and made Bytown (now Ottawa) the permanent capital of the new country of Canada.

For over two decades, the Kingston Symphony Orchestra has organized the Beat Beethoven Run, an 8km race and 4km fun run/walk through downtown streets. The goal is to finish your route before the orchestra finishes playing 50 minutes of Beethoven music. As I write this, the run is still scheduled to take place on June 7, 2020, but please check the event’s website for the latest details on possible rescheduling or cancellation this year.
Officially established in 1801, the Kingston Public Market is still a great place to go for fruits, vegetables, baked goods, honey, maple syrup, flowers and much more. It’s normally open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from April through November, in Springer Market Square right behind city hall.
A few years ago, I rented a bike from Kingston’s Ahoy Rentals, boarded the free Wolfe Island ferry and spent a very enjoyable day cycling across the largely rural island to another ferry dock on the southeastern corner of the island. There, I paid my fare (a whole $3 for cyclists) and boarded Horne’s Ferry, which took me to cute Cape Vincent, New York.
After exploring the small town, I did the whole trip in reverse, arriving back in Kingston in time to return my bike before the shop closed.
A word to the wise, though: Wolfe Island is studded with wind turbines for a reason. Those long stretches of country road can be very breezy, so plan your cycling times accordingly.
If you don’t spot enticing decorations like the gaily decorated bicycles above, it might be easy to stroll right past the entrance to Martello Alley, a small passageway that local gallery owner David Dossett has painted to look like a cobblestoned street in Paris. But don’t walk by—instead, stroll down the alley, which is hung with works for sale by local artists. It leads you to a courtyard painted to look like a French square (complete with a facade reading “Poissonerie”) and the door to Dossett’s gallery, which showcases more pieces by local creators.
Kingston is home to four of the 11 surviving Martello towers built in British North America in the first half of the 1800s (in all, 16 were built). Kingston’s structures were built to protect the Rideau Canal (which starts or ends in Kingston, depending on your perspective), Fort Henry and the Lake Ontario waterfront.
Looking for room to spread out when visiting Kingston? I’ve stayed several times in the Rosemount Inn’s Edwards Suite, which has a kitchenette, fireplace, dining area and living room downstairs, and a big loft bedroom and a bathroom with a whirlpool tub upstairs. If you need room for more than two people, you can book the adjoining Studio with its queen-sized bed. Both are located in the Coach House, which has a separate entrance from the inn. But don’t worry: You’ll still get to enjoy the huge breakfast included with all bookings (it’s served in the main building, a huge Victorian house).
I love browsing for chocolates, sauces, oils and more at Cooke’s Fine Foods & Coffee, housed in a building that has been a food shop since 1865 (yes, the pressed tin ceiling and massive counters are original). In fact, Kingston is a wonderful place for food lovers—don’t miss the fresh breads at Pan Chancho bakery, the amazing tapas at Tango Nuevo restaurant or the craft beers at the Kingston Brewing Company.
For his entire political career, Sir John A. Macdonald represented Kingston in a variety of legislatures. And from 1848 to 1849, Canada’s first prime minister and his family lived in Bellevue House, a grand mansion on Kingston’s west side that is now a national historic site managed by Parks Canada. It is currently closed due to COVID-19 and ongoing restoration work, but in normal times, it is open for tours.
OK, yeah, you probably already knew that the beloved Canadian rockers hail from Kingston. Heck, there’s even a downtown street called Tragically Hip Way.
While you’re in Kingston, you could also take a ghost walk through Fort Henry with the Haunted Walk of Kingston, tour the former Kingston Penitentiary, take a boat tour with Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises and more. And here’s a map you can use to book a Kingston hotel or B&B.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also get a kick out of 10 things you didn’t know about Carleton Place, 10 things you didn’t know about Almonte and 10 things you didn’t know about Brockville.
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Very interesting facts I didn’t know about Kingston
Glad you enjoyed it!
[…] Visit Fort Henry, shop pedestrian-friendly Princess Street, have a great dinner at Chez Piggy, Tango Nuevo or Olivea, or sign up for the wildly popular Kingston Pen tour (that’s just the tip of the iceberg). Think you know K’town? Do you know all of these 10 things you didn’t know about Kingston? […]
[…] For a few fun facts about the city, see “10 things you didn’t know about Kingston.” […]
[…] 10 things you didn’t know about Kingston […]
This was an enjoyable read, well done Laura! If you’re able to edit near the top “…ne City, YKG—you pr…” it’s not YKG, it’s YGK as in the official airport code. I can tell you don’t live here 🙂
Yikes–bad typo on my part! Thanks for catching that, Chris. I’ve fixed it!

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