How to Spend an Afternoon in Downtown Kitchener
On the day I wrote this post, I’d been back in Kitchener-Waterloo just one day shy of 11 months since I moved from Hong Kong! Time. Flies. We’re in our last month of classes now, and I was chatting with a friend this week about all the mixed feelings. Even when it was October, and we were just one month down, we were already feeling a little nostalgic that things were moving too quickly. It’s truly been a very special, life changing, unforgettable year.
When I moved from Hong Kong, I knew life would be different. Less glamour and fewer media events, but I was ready for change. I was craving it. I wanted family, fresh air, and the chance to focus on what really mattered to me in life. An MBET reflection post will come another day — this one is all about showcasing a little glimpse of life where I am.
Most of my hangouts this year have been either at house parties or bars and restaurants in Uptown Waterloo. But a few weeks ago, since the weather was nice and I wanted to do something different, I planned an impromptu Kitchener hang the day of, grabbed an adventure buddy, jumped on the Ion, and just explored.
In my opinion, there are still a lot of misconceptions about Kitchener. Yes it’s home to so much tech — massive Google offices, Communitech, and the new Velocity Innovation Arena. But many people I know barely explore Kitchener thinking that it’s too far or even that it’s unsafe. This adventure was on a Saturday afternoon where there were so many people out enjoying the city and all it has to offer — and it offers a lot. Whether you live in the area, are thinking about making a day trip, or living in Asia and just curious about what life is like here, enjoy this mini guide on how to spend an afternoon in Downtown Kitchener (or DTK as it’s referred to locally).
How to Get There
We took the Ion! Getting off at Central Station will have you right near Communitech, and what I consider to be the edge of DTK. If I had endless time to explore, I’d get off here and start exploring. Or if you want to be more structured, see below for the stops closest to the sites.
Enjoy the Downtown Kitchener Art Walk (Perfect for a Day Trip!)
Whenever I travel, I love doing a street art tour. Sham Sui Po in Hong Kong and Mural Mile in Philadelphia are two of my favourites. In DTK, some of the street art has been around for awhile but the DTK Art Walk was launched during the pandemic by The Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Association and the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery with the goal of bringing a new activity to the community and also shining light on local artists. There are over 40 pieces to check out — download the official Field Guild (108 pages!) and get exploring.
My favourite piece is probably House Fire by interdisciplinary artist and illustrator Tee Kundu, whose piece is described as “Living under an unsustainable system hurts … heartbreak takes time, and love and patience. We can give each other that. And these stories, they feel they can give to you.” Find it at 157 Halls Lane (behind Bobby O’Brien’s).
Join the Crowd at Victoria Park
After the Art Walk, we continued walking to Victoria Park but if you’re taking the Ion you can get off at Victoria Park station. As soon as we saw the Clock Tower, I realized I’d been to Victoria Park many times as a child for the KW Multicultural Festival. Oh how I miss the pupusa stand! We walked past picnic-ers, dog walkers, families playing in the water park, and lots of people like us just out for a stroll.
I walk around Waterloo Park all the time and absolutely love the newly renovated boardwalk and waterfront area. While Victoria Park is a little older, it makes up for it in size! You could easily spend an hour walking around. Next time, I’d love to bring a picnic and a book, and really enjoy a summer day hanging out there.
Support a Local Restaurant
In the fall, my friends J and E introduced me to Pho Vietnam K&W (get off at Kitchener Market station if you’re going directly). It’s a family run restaurant and you can smell the pho broth brewing as soon as you step in. This was my second time there and both times the restaurant was bustling — to the point where we waited nearly 30 minutes for our pho! Nourishing and lovely after a long afternoon in the sun. Next time, I’d love to try one of their vermicelli bowls — the grilled meats looked incredible and the portion sizes look generous.
So just a few ideas for those who haven’t explored DTK yet. I’m constantly following new restaurants on Instagram and there are so many places to try, e.g. Odd Duck, Lokal at The Walper Hotel, The Grand Surf Lounge, Pupuseria Latinos, Crafty Ramen, and more. Until next time, Kitchener! Definitely seeing more and more what a special place Kitchener-Waterloo is. What a privilege to spend some time here again.