Sunset in St. Jacobs

Culture Trek

Western Loop

Milton • Guelph • Region of Waterloo • Burlington • Mississauga

Jump to: Guelph Region of Waterloo Burlington Mississauga Map

You may have been there, but have you done that? The cities and regions in this Trek might seem familiar, yet you’ll be surprised by the variety of things to see and do on the Western Loop. An eclectic mix of urban and rural, this route showcases the cultural gems, loved-by-locals hotspots, and exciting art scenes that are flourishing in Southwestern Ontario.

Hub: Milton Culture Days

FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton • All weekend

Pop in to the FirstOntario Arts Centre’s long-running Culture Days hub in Milton and you’re bound to find something fun going on—there are over 80 programs happening over the weekend! The Centre has become well-known for hosting events and engaging the community with a distinct welcoming spirit and a focus on inclusivity.

Guelph

With an impressive ascension as a cultural hot spot and happening place to be in recent years, The Royal City’s up-and-up is well-deserved, in our humble opinion. A flurry of craft breweries, delicious eateries, and a network of trails and walkable streetscapes support the cultural enthusiast’s tour of the city.

Whether you’re passing through or thinking about staying for the long-haul, click below to see the cultural variety on offer in Guelph. Best of all, this portion of the trek is entirely walkable, so ditch the car and enjoy the sights on foot.

Culture Days Kickoff Party

Guelph Civic Museum • Friday, 5–9 pm

The Sisters of Loretto—a Catholic congregation founded in the 17th century—established a convent on this site in 1856. In recent years, the building has been converted for use by the Museum. What better place for a Culture Days house party?

Explore the Museum’s collections and current exhibitions while you search for scavenger hunt clues, spin some tales with a storyteller, celebrate with a slice of cake, and take home a special loot bag at the end of the night.

Culture Hub and Makers Market

Market Square • Saturday, 9am–noon

Market Square and City Hall—this is a popular community hang-out space to enjoy free special events. Culture Days at Market Square involves creating with your own hands: beeswax wraps, musical instruments, mosaics, and more. Get to the heart of what Culture Days is all about by learning a new skill from local makers and artists.

Artist Talk and Trail Walk with Mallory Tolcher

McCrae House • Sunday, 1–3pm

Join the City of Guelph’s 2019 Artist in Residence for a tour and talk about the #GuelphMovesMe project and the newly installed outdoor art exhibition.

City of Guelph
City of Guelph

A few more must-sees

A stop at the Art Gallery of Guelph is practically required. See what’s on. Be sure to take a leisurely walk through the Donald Forster Sculpture Park while you’re there.

The crowning jewel of downtown Guelph: the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate. If you’re a nerd for Gothic Revival (and I mean, who isn’t?), this Basilica on the hill is worth a tour.

Guelph Farmers’ Market: every Saturday, the city’s original gathering place is chockablock with fresh produce, mouth-watering prepared foods and specialty goods. Pack a cooler to make sure you’re stocked up on snacks for the rest of the Trek!

The Bookshelf. An indie movie theatre, eclectic bookshop, bustling cafe and and relaxing dinner spot—all in one! Check out this community and cultural hub that’s been around since 1973.

Matthew Smith Photography
Matthew Smith Photography

Region of Waterloo

We’re back on the road and heading for the Region of Waterloo. The area is bound to surprise you with its mix of urban and rural—think leading-edge tech steeped in the traditions of community pride and collaborative spirit.

A trip through the area will have you feeling like a time traveller: from winding down old farm roads trod by early Mennonite settlers and walking along a medieval-like canal, to exploring innovative downtown hubs and marvelling at light-meets-tech projections, the Region of Waterloo is a place for exceptional sight-seeing. A back-to-nature feel threads its way through these stops as you celebrate harvests and connect through plants, gardens, and art.

St. Jacobs

West Montrose Covered Bridge
Take a quick detour to visit this walkable trail system and iconic covered bridge, affectionately known as “The Kissing Bridge.” As Ontario’s last remaining covered bridge, we’d say this is the perfect opportunity for an Instagram snap. Don’t forget to tag @onculturedays!

Maple Syrup Museum of Ontario
This sweet pit stop offers an exhibit highlighting the history of maple syrup production, from the earliest methods to modern day techniques.

St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market
Thursdays and Saturdays, 7am-3:30pm
Grab a bite at one of the largest farmers markets in Canada—with hundreds of vendors, a cool farm-to-table vibe, and lots of local artists and makers, it’s well worth a stop.

Matthew Smith Photography
Matthew Smith Photography

Kitchener & Waterloo

Hub: Mary Allen Studio Tour

Various Locations, Waterloo • Running all weekend

Since 1989, the Mary Allen Studio Tour has brought residents and visitors together to discover talented artists living and working in the Avondale, Menno, and Belmont Village neighbourhoods.

From the Garden

Waterloo Public Library, John M. Harper branch • Saturday, 1-3pm

Join the Laurelwood Neighbourhood Association at the library as they bring the garden indoors—create paper flowers while learning about pattern and form.

Lumen Festival

Waterloo • Saturday, 6-11pm

Spend Saturday evening at Lumen, where artists examine the intersections of art, light, and technology at this annual festival. Held at various locations throughout Uptown, the annual fest features light-based new media and projection installations. Light it up!

Culture Days at Schneider Haus National Historic Site

Kitchener • Saturday, 10am-5pm

Step into the past at this 1816 historic house—Kitchener’s oldest dwelling—where costumed interpreters and intriguing artifacts animate the life of a 19th century household.

For Culture Days, enjoy free outdoor activities, games, music, and a garden tour. Meet Artist-in-Residence Sophie Drouin and hear more about her medium of choice, mosaics.

While you’re here, stroll through the adjacent Victoria Park and enjoy a picnic with some lovely vistas.

Creativity, Colour, and Maker Culture

THEMUSEUM, Kitchener • Saturday, 1-3pm

Presented by The Underground Studio MarkerSpace, use 3D pens to create your very own take-home trinket or program an Ozobot to play a song. Plus, snap a pic of light-up art made from squishy circuits, create hidden messages with colour filters, and test your knowledge of tints, shades, and hues.

PHOTOPHAGIA: A Secret Life of Plants will be shown without the picture and described by gardeners

Princess Twin Cinema, Kitchener • Saturday, 2-4pm

Artist Aislinn Thomas has invited community members who have relationships with plants to each describe a short section of the 1979 documentary The Secret Life of Plants. These descriptions have been sprinkled like seeds over the existing soundtrack of the film, which will be presented at the Princess Twin Cinema.

Planting One Another: Curated by Lisa Myers, partnership with the Woodland Cultural Centre

Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery • Sunday

A project with care and coexistence at its core, Planting One Another documents the twin re-planting of a Medicine and Butterfly garden by late Mi’kmaq artist Mike MacDonald (1941-2006). For Family Sunday, attend an Artist-in-Residence discussion with Barbara Coal, featuring Indigenous musical performances.

ION Public Art Celebration

Kitchener Market Station • Sunday September 29

Attend the opening reception for the nine recently installed public artworks along the ION public transit corridor. There, you’ll get your free ION day pass and can join a tour where you’ll meet the artists and learn more about each artwork!

Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum
Explore the collections, costumes, objects, and heritage village that together tell the story of the Waterloo Region. Admire the colourful tiles that make the Museum’s facade a local landmark. See what’s on here.

Matthew Smith Photography
Matthew Smith Photography

Wellesley

Wellesley Apple Butter & Cheese Festival
This annual festival celebrates all things delicious! A carnival atmosphere, tasty treats, and free cider mill tours are just some of the things you’ll find as the festivities take over the town.

Cambridge & Galt

Hub: Idea Exchange and Old Post Office

Various locations • Running all weekend

The Idea Exchange supports and inspires the exploration of reading, arts, innovation, and learning—transforming the way people experience their public library and gallery spaces with art and new technologies.

McDougall Cottage Historic Site: A Taste of Scotland

Various locations • Running all weekend

Indulge in a wee taste tour through Scotland with free samples of Scottish staples like shortbread, cloutie dumpling, and haggis. Take-home recipes and kids activities make a perfect pairing.

Other sightseeing

The Cambridge sculpture Garden and Grand River
There’s no better way to end a day in the Region of Waterloo than by taking a wander down the idyllic Grand River promenade and the nearby sculpture garden. Admire the old-world architecture and add Galt to your must-revisit hidden gems of Ontario list. Background seem familiar? You might recognize the setting from HBO’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Praise be!

Fashion History Museum
Sashay your way into a museum known for its stellar collection, with fashion items dating back to the 17th century.

Matthew Smith Photography
Matthew Smith Photography

Rounding out your journey on the Western Loop are two stops in Burlington and Mississauga. Both feature projects that are part of Ontario Culture Days’ special exhibition, DO BLUE BUTTERFLIES EAT PARTS OF THE SKY?

DO BLUE BUTTERFLIES EAT PARTS OF THE SKY? is a province-wide exhibition of playful and accessible artworks that invite participation, while simultaneously exploring what it means to solicit this form of collaboration.

Elise Conlin for Ontario Culture Days, 2019.
Elise Conlin for Ontario Culture Days, 2019.
Elise Conlin for Ontario Culture Days, 2019.
Elise Conlin for Ontario Culture Days, 2019.

Burlington

Haircuts by Children, presented by Mammalian Diving Reflex

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre • Saturday and Sunday, noon-4pm

A simple premise with deep implications—kids are given the tools to become working hairdressers, and the public is invited to have their hair cut by them. This event tests our trust in the next generation and measures how far we’re willing to go to empower youth. If we trust them to shape our future, will we trust them to shape our hairstyles?

Mississauga

YOU ARE A GOOD APPLE by Diane Borsato

Small Arms Inspection Building • Sunday, 1-4pm

YOU ARE A GOOD APPLE is a free public event that invites participants to taste unusual and historic apple varietals—including apples with black skin, beet-red flesh, or apples that taste like roses or butterscotch. The event is rooted in ORCHARD: a living sculpture at the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga that combines ecological, aesthetic, and gastronomical interests—while challenging traditions of public art and contributing to urban life.

Events, hubs, & attractions Eat & sleep

Photos by Matthew Smith Photography.

Culture Trek is presented by OLG. It is produced by Ontario Culture Days with the support of national Culture Days. Our partners for this guide include the City of Guelph and the Region of Waterloo.