When the calendar is between seasons or the weather isn’t cooperating, it’s great to have awesome day trip ideas in your pocket. We found the perfect Waterloo Region day trip for just these types of occasions. Some of the top things to do in Waterloo Region are open year-round and are not at all weather-dependent. This means you can confidently plan a fun road trip to Waterloo Region all year long!
Waterloo Region includes the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge and the surrounding townships of Wilmot, Wellesley, Woolwich and North Dumfries. This destination is within an easy hour’s drive of west end of the Greater Toronto Area. Our itinerary starts in Woolwich, just north of the city of Waterloo, and concludes in the city of Cambridge. Here’s our road trip guide to spending a fun and family-friendly afternoon exploring Waterloo Region.
2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Road Tripper
One of our inspirations for this day trip is the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Road Tripper. We were offered a chance to spend some time in this plug-in hybrid minivan. How could we say no? It says Road Tripper right on the side! This is a new package that adds 18-inch wheels, a roof rack, all-weather floor mats (which weren’t installed in our tester), fun graphics and a few more things to the entry-level Touring L trim.
To put it to the test, we loaded in six occupants as we headed off to Waterloo Region. We maintain that minivans are the best vehicle you can buy for moving a crowd. Got kids who tend to come flying out of car doors? Sliding side doors mean no risk of parking lot dings. Have family members who don’t get around as easily as they used to? A minivan’s low floor and high seating positions make getting in and out a snap.
Because it’s a PHEV, the Pacifica Hybrid offers up to 51 kilometres of electric-only driving when fully charged. It’s also fuel-efficient when it’s not charged: we averaged 8.3 L/100 km on our road trip. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid qualifies for hefty EV rebates that can bring the price down substantially. Most of our crew stayed comfortable for the entire ride. Only our 6-foot-4 friend requested a move from the second row to the front passenger seat after about an hour. Though it’s not available with all-wheel drive or second-row Stow-n-Go seats due to the hybrid battery, we find this to be a comfortable and efficient people mover.
Waterloo Region day trip stop 1: St. Jacobs Farmers Market
St. Jacobs Farmers Market is the largest farmers market in Canada. It’s also open year-round, which means you can make this essential stop part of a day trip to Waterloo Region in every season!
Inside the three large buildings and among the many stalls that line up between them, this market is a symphony for the senses. You’ll find colourful seasonal produce, fresh meats and cheeses, baked goods, ready-to-eat meals, local products like honeys and jams, handmade artisan creations, local beer and wine, and much more. You’ll want to set aside at least two hours to give yourself plenty of time to explore, especially if this is your first visit. Bring a cooler so you can transport your treats!
St. Jacobs Farmers Market is open on Thursdays from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM and Saturdays from 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM. During the summer, the market is also open on Tuesdays.
Waterloo Region day trip stop 2: Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
Prepare to feel like you’ve landed in a fairy tale! Inside the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, hundreds of exotic butterflies flit through a curated jungle scape. Some blend into their surroundings like the leaves on the trees, and others create pops of blue, orange, yellow and green as they fly past. Add in basking turtles, a chorus of songbirds, and friendly chatter from Cheecho the green-cheeked conure parrot, and you’ll notice something new with every turn.
At the back of the conservatory, rows upon rows of chrysalis hang in the emergence window. As butterflies emerge, they stretch and dry their wings before taking their first flight. Here, staff members are on hand to answer questions. They can even bring out some of the conservatory’s many interesting insects for you to hold and see up close!
Two insect galleries are located outside the main conservatory, along with an on-site café and a beautiful gift shop. The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is open from Tuesday to Sunday between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Note that timed tickets are required for entry and must be purchased in advance from the conservatory’s website. The butterfly conservatory itself is kept quite warm and humid to provide the best environment for the butterflies. This isn’t a favourite climate for all humans, so be sure to dress in layers so you can make use of the free coat check.
Waterloo Region day trip stop 3: Beertown Public House
When it’s time to grab some dinner, head to Beertown Public House. This is now a well-known chain of restaurants across Southern Ontario, but the Cambridge location is the original!
Beertown has become famous for its well-executed classic pub fare and fantastic beer selection. But did you know it’s also popular for its plant-based and gluten-friendly menus? The kitchen is familiar with conditions such as celiac disease and takes care when preparing meals for people with dietary restrictions. There’s even a separate deep fryer for gluten-free items, and the entire dessert menu is gluten friendly! If you’ve got varying dietary needs within your group, Beertown Cambridge is a fantastic choice.
Our group started the meal with a massive plate of nachos. For mains, we went with a selection of burgers, wings, and macaroni and cheese. Our diners with celiac disease found the sticky toffee pudding to die for! This is a fantastic place for anyone to grab a casual dinner, and the service is top notch. Beertown Cambridge is absolutely worth checking out when you’re in Waterloo Region.
Bonus stops for Waterloo Region day trips in late fall and early winter
If you’ll be taking a Waterloo Region day trip during the autumn or winter, there are a couple more stops you may wish to add to your itinerary.
See inside the Victorian mansion at Woodside National Historic Site
Woodside National Historic Site is a beautifully preserved Victorian-era mansion. This was the boyhood home of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. The wooded grounds and trails at this Parks Canada managed site are open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM year-round. But if you’ll be in Waterloo Region between early October and mid-December, you can access the interior of the home daily Wednesday through Sunday between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, Woodside National Historic Site is decorated for the holidays in traditional Victorian style. Be sure to check out the special events that run while the house is open such as holiday celebrations and murder mystery nights. Plus, Woodside National Historic Site participates in Parks Canada’s Xplorers program for kids, and it’s only accessible when the home is open to the public. If you’ve got a young explorer in your midst, this is your chance to let them add Woodside’s medallion to their collection!
Cap off your Waterloo Region day trip with a digital light show at the Old Post Office
From summer through to the holiday season, the City of Cambridge hosts a digital light show after dark on Thursday through Sunday evenings. These shows are projected onto the side of the Old Post Office in downtown Cambridge, and the content changes seasonally. These all-ages shows can be viewed on their own, or you can park in the public lot across the street and tune your car’s radio to 92.5 FM to watch with choreographed music. Each show runs for 15 minutes and repeats every half hour. For more information and show times, visit the City of Cambridge website.