Best Christmas Locations and Events in Kitchener-Waterloo - WRX Top 5
Greetings, happy holidays, and good cheer to one and all! As the winds of winter begin to gust and bluster, the time has come for us to muster all our stores of merriment and mirth.
And in this list, for what it’s worth, we’ll seek out the finest events in all the lands – well, all the lands of Kitchener-Waterloo – and find the ones that sparkle and shine with finest lustre.
A list of five fine events will do for now, but keep two things in mind: there are many more things to see and do in this wintery season than those listed here; and if you specifically pursue parades, there is another article just for you. Now, without further ado, let’s start our list and see it through!
5. Gift of Lights, in Kitchener
Gift of Lights is the first of two light-centric events on this festive list. That’s not to say that each of these lights doesn’t involve light (or lights) in some way – indeed, it would be difficult to enjoy some of these in the dark – but the Gift of Lights really takes it to another level.
Spread out along a 2 kilometre path in the sprawling Bingemans resort area in northeast Kitchener, the Gift of Lights is a fun way to enjoy the season without having to worry about the cold.
You pick a day, purchase one ticket per vehicle (it’s cheaper to purchase online than in person), and then drive through the grounds at your own pace, marvelling at the incredible displays. There are even tunnels of lights.
So, to summarize: the Gift of Lights is a lovely Christmas journey you and your family and friends can enjoy from the comfort of your vehicle; so bright are the lights that you need not alight to ignite your delight. Alright! Check out the Bingemans Gift of Lights website for further details here.
4. Wonders of Winter, in Waterloo
“Wonders of Winter: A Festival of Lights in Waterloo Park” – that’s the full name of this lovely event. It’s truly delightful: Waterloo Park is illuminated with tens of thousands of light bulbs throughout December, and there are numerous special displays to discover and enjoy.
Waterloo Park is a great place to visit year-round, but Wonders of Winter really makes it feel special.
You can come whenever you want, and as many times as you want (it’s free, but donations are accepted), but it’s worth it to check out the Opening Night ceremonies, and the day-specific opportunities like horse-drawn trolley rides, schoolhouse plays, visits with Santa, and hot drinks.
3. Historic Christmases, in Kitchener
Technically, this is less of a single event or location, and more of a two-way tie for third place. These options are unique, educational, fun, family-friendly, festive… in short, they are fabulous.
The Doon Heritage Village, a life-size, immersive village (part of the Waterloo Region Museum), hosts winter and Christmas special events in November and December.
One replicates what Christmas was like in the village for homeschool students in 1914; another, closer to December 25th, is a festivity-filled day of “Christmas in the Country in the 1900’s.”
The Doon Heritage Village is a great place to visit in the summer, and it’s just as great to visit during special events like these in the winter. See more here.
Next up is Woodside National Historic Site, a big, beautiful, Victorian house that just so happens to be where Canada’s tenth (and longest-serving) Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, grew up.
Every year, come the Christmas season, Woodside is decked out in the traditional Victorian yuletide style; it’s both pretty and pretty interesting! See the website here.
2. Waterloo Central Railway Winter Train Rides, on Waterloo’s northern border
There are actually two specific journeys we’d like to draw your attention to: the Polar Express™ Train Ride, and the Waterloo Central Railway’s Annual Santa Trains.
That’s right: Santa Trains. If the titles of these events alone weren’t enough to pique your interest, let’s look a little more closely.
The Polar Express™ Train Ride departs from the St. Jacobs Market and takes passengers all the way to the North Pole! The train itself is beautifully decorated, and the hour-long ride includes the Polar Express™ soundtrack, hot chocolate, treats, and a read-along session with the eponymous book.
Rumour has it Santa and his helpers will even greet passengers at the North Pole, with a special gift… Details available here.
As for the Santa Train Rides, there’s no waiting to get to the North Pole on this journey. No – this time, the Claus is along for the ride! There will be singing, there will be colouring, and there will be many, many happy children.
This journey departs from the St. Jacobs’ Village station, north of the Farmers’ Market, and it also takes place in a historic train. It’s quite popular, so if you’re interested, find out more here (reservations are accepted).
Christmas in Kitchener-Waterloo
We already noted that these are but a small sampling of the Christmas and winter events in Kitchener-Waterloo – and there are even more things to see and do in the Townships, Cambridge, and Guelph! Some of the best events are ones that only run for one day – things like the Christmas Fantasy opening in Victoria Park – or smaller-scale events like choir performances.
Nevertheless, these listed events are certainly among the best things to see and do in Kitchener-Waterloo. And now, it’s time for #1…
1. Christkindl Market
The Christkindl Market in Downtown Kitchener is absolutely wonderful. There’s something here for everyone, young and old alike. Perhaps it was an obvious choice for the top slot, but it really does deserve it. It’s a very popular event, and it’s popular for a reason!
Well, quite a few reasons, really.
Kitchener-Waterloo’s early history is quite Germanic in flavour: the earliest settlers to the area, in the early nineteenth-century, were German Mennonites from Pennsylvania.
It’s from this strong German heritage that Kitchener-Waterloo has ended up host to the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich, for example. And the Christkindl Market, too, is (as its German name implies) steeped in German tradition.
Christkindl Market has been running in Downtown Kitchener for over twenty years, and now over 35,000 visitors come from all around to enjoy the festivities.
There’s live music, delicious food and drink, special attractions like blacksmiths and an organ grinder, and a wide variety of vendors (it’s a great place to find Christmas gifts, or perhaps a little something for yourself).
If you’re keen to learn more about the Christkindl Market, be sure to check out our feature article specifically on it here. And check out the official Christkindl Market website for vendor info, videos, and more.
Written by Will Kummer