FALLING FOR KINGSTON: Spooky themes, history and delicious eats await – Toronto Sun

Author of the article:

Laura Nelles

Go inside the walls during a tour of historic Kingston Penitentiary.
Go inside the walls during a tour of historic Kingston Penitentiary. Photo by Laura Shantora Nelles /Toronto Sun

While summer may be behind us, there’s still time to sneak in a road trip before the cold weather comes.

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Kingston makes a fresh destination for fall, whether you prefer to eat, drink or be scary. A short drive from Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal, this historic hub has plenty of activities to fill a long weekend.

With Halloween coming up, our visit was filled with haunting tales and hearty fall fare. For those who are too cute to spook, there’s plenty of other places to visit on a weekend stay, and lots of great eats and beers.

My dad and I checked into the Delta Hotel ( marriott.com/hotels/travel/ygkdk-delta-hotels-kingston-waterfront ), located on the picturesque waterfront, on a cloudy Friday afternoon. We were treated to a stunning view of Confederation Harbour, with one of the city’s Martello towers, the Shoal Tower, right outside our window.

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A FEW LOCAL HAUNTS

After picking up tickets for the night’s activities at the Waterfront store (248 Ontario St.), we waited to hop aboard our trolley, and an impromptu rock concert sprung up in front of the KINGSTON sign (where the letter ‘I’ is missing, providing a perfect place to stand for a photo to remember your stay). Our driver Bill welcomed us aboard after we filled in our contact tracing info and we set out on the Kingston Trolley “Ghost and Mystery Tour” ( kingstontrolley.ca ).

The atmosphere was a perfect setting for ghost stories as the sun quickly went down, leaving us in the dark as the trolley stopped at a defunct asylum on the outskirts of town. Along the way, we visited the site of the old gallows — where criminals were once hanged behind the courthouse — haunted churches, mansions and a couple downtown B&Bs. We were regaled with stories of grave robbers, spirits lurking in the shadows, and the dark history of a local green space, officially known as McBurney Park but colloquially dubbed Skeleton Park, as it was once a makeshift graveyard where 10,000 bodies were buried in the 19th century.

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A pair of dragons delight at the Pumpkinferno exhibit at Kingston’s Fort Henry. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)
A pair of dragons delight at the Pumpkinferno exhibit at Kingston’s Fort Henry. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)

Following the trolley tour, we embarked on a family-friendly excursion to Kingston’s famed Fort Henry, where the grounds were bedazzled with thousands of carved pumpkins for the first-ever Pumpkinferno ( forthenry.com/events/pumpkinferno ). Stunning displays are set up along a walkway, complete with music to match: Themes included retro ’60s — check out the funky VW bus — and a winter scene complete with animals and snowflake-embellished trees.

On Saturday, we walked along the Waterfront Trail and popped in at the farmers’ market, located behind City Hall. Later, we visited some local shops when the rain caught up with us. A perfect way to spend a drizzly fall afternoon was exploring shop Antique Emporium, brimming with whimsy, old and new, located inside an old hardware store at 77 Princess St.

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Spend a cozy afternoon inside Berry & Peterson Book Sellers, brimming with a treasure trove of used books. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)
Spend a cozy afternoon inside Berry & Peterson Book Sellers, brimming with a treasure trove of used books. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)

Another alluring and cozy spot was the charming Berry & Peterson Booksellers (348 King St. E.), packed with used books of all genres and charming reading nooks.

That evening, we were back for another ghostly gander around downtown, taking in the Kingston Haunted Walk ( hauntedwalk.com ). Our guide, India, detailed plenty of spooky spots known to be haunted by ghosts and ghouls. We also learned more details about the local grave robbers — Queen’s University medical students needing cadavers for their studies.

Haunted Walk Kingston guide India starts off the tour behind Kingston City Hall. The walking tour takes visitors into the realm of spooks and spirits downtown. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)
Haunted Walk Kingston guide India starts off the tour behind Kingston City Hall. The walking tour takes visitors into the realm of spooks and spirits downtown. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)

Our excursion on Sunday was a tour of the Kingston Penitentiary ( kingstonpentour.com ). Originally opened in 1835, the facilities for the prison were preserved from the time it closed in 2013, including remaining signage and some err, colourful, graffiti. Our tour was the standard hour and a half, but there is also an extended option available. Guides who provide details about various areas of the prison are all former staff.

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THE DEETS ON EATS

For a small city, Kingston’s restaurant scene is vibrant and varied. Our dining adventures began Friday evening, enjoying a fresh take on Italian at Olivea ( olivea.ca ), where the food paired perfectly with the extensive wine list and swoon-worthy focaccia — served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar from a local shop, Kingston Olive Oil (62 Brock St.) We started with a fried seafood app, as well. Our knowledgeable server helped me choose the perfect wine (La Tunella Pinot Grigio) to complement the chicken and fig salad. Dad enjoyed a local brew in keeping with our spooky theme, Skeleton Park Amber Ale.

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Saturday morning started at the hotel restaurant, AquaTerra ( aquaterrakingston.com ), which overlooks the same view of the harbour as our room. Delicious food and strong coffee served in intriguing double-walled cups were a perfect start to the day.

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For lunch, we stopped in at a local brew pub ( kingstonbrewing.ca ), where we sampled some of the in-house creations (in keeping with the fall theme, I went for the Cranberry Apple Cider but I’m definitely trying the Cider Sangria next time). This place is packed to the gills with beer paraphernalia, and the cozy ambiance was perfect for lunch.

Dinner at Kingston institution Chez Piggy ( chezpiggy.com ) more than lived up to its hype. The eclectic menu (try the balsamic vinegar mushroom soup!) and friendly staff complemented the atmosphere. Plexiglas separated our table from the people next to us, but didn’t block the view of the ambling courtyard that meanders through the belly of a few downtown buildings.

Delicious breakfast from Pan Chancho. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)
Delicious breakfast from Pan Chancho. (Laura Shantora Nelles/Toronto Sun)

Sunday morning, we strolled on over to Pan Chancho ( pan-chancho-bakery.myshopify.com ), a popular breakfast spot, and ate in the upper part of the building. On the main floor, we checked out their selection of prepared meals, frozen dinners and baked goods.

The last meal we had before heading home was lunch at the Black Dog Tavern ( bdtavern.com ), located across the courtyard from Chez Piggy. We sampled some apps, including an eggplant dip with pomegranate seeds.

lnelles@postmedia.com

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