How to Spend A Weekend in Guelph

This past weekend, I spent a couple of nights in Guelph, a city about an hour and a half directly west of Toronto. One of my best friends from high school, Ellen, did her master's here. She's since graduated, found a job, found an apartment, and welcomed me over for a visit.

I've been to Guelph a few times before, but something about this last visit really made me fall in love with it. The cute cafes and vintage stores, the artistic/hippie vibe of the city, the stunning river that runs through its centre, its proximity to nature — all of these things tugged at my heartstrings and made me wonder if I could ever live here myself. Not sure if I'm ready to abandon TO just yet, but it did get me thinking.

Here are some ideas on how to spend a few days in Guelph and fall in love with the city yourself.

Explore Downtown

Guelph's downtown isn't huge, but streets like Wyndham, Norfolk, and MacDonnell have tons of stores that are fun to poke your head into. My favourites were The Bookshelf, On the Verge, Wild Rose, and The Patch

Legitimately coming back to Guelph in the fall to do all of my winter wardrobe shopping and buy some unique and cool Christmas gifts in advance. 

Spend Time in Nature

Visiting Elora Gorge was at the top of my bucket list this summer, but as luck would have it, the weekend I was in Guelph, thousands of other people were there too for Elora Riverfest. Ellen and I decided to meet up with one of her friends from undergrad instead, so we drove to Christie Lake, a (somewhat) halfway point between Guelph and Niagara.

After paying a $15 entrance fee to get into the park, both of us were surprised at how peaceful it was and the lack of crowds. There were free picnic tables! Space on the beach for us to set up!  

Such a stunning drive there and back, too. The farmland is green, rolling, picturesque, and looks straight out of a postcard. We (travelers? people in general?) are so excited about going outside our country that we often forget to look at the beauty right where we are too.

Eat Delicious Food Made From Fresh, Local Ingredients

Before moving to Toronto, I spent 9 years of my life growing up in Barrie, a city similar to Guelph in population. Chain restaurants outnumber unique and interesting restaurants 9 to 1. Food options are limited to Kelsey's, The Keg, Montana's, Boston Pizza, Jack Astor's, etc, etc. So I've always looked down on small cities, assuming their food scene was just as bad as Barrie's. 

Thank you, Guelph! Thank you for being nothing like that horrid place I spent my tween and teen years in! 

Ellen suggested we go to Baker Street Station for dinner after our day on the beach, and my goodness, I want to go back and try every single thing on their menu. For an appetizer, Ellen and I shared the beer-battered brie, served with a raspberry compote. I could eat these like candy!

Ellen got the Salmon Poke Bowl (I had a bite and it was deeeelish) while I went with the Donair because I'm all about that naan bread. They also have a very long list of craft beers here, so I would highly, highly recommend you make a reservation if you know you're going to be in Guelph. Or, you know, just make a day out of it and drive out here for those Brie bites. 

Guelph is a lovely, lovely city with a unique pulse of its own. Add it to your bucket list and let it pleasantly surprise you, as it did me.