Life in a smaller city can be just as sophisticated and entertaining as a metropolitan area. You just have to choose the right small city. Waterloo, Ontario has the amenities of a bigger city but none of the hassle. The Tri-Cities area of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge has quite a bit to offer!
Waterloo, Ontario is studded with parks, bordered by the beautiful Grand River and anchored by the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. Living in Waterloo gives its residents the advantages of an active lifestyle and an interesting, diverse community. It has the cultural flair of a much larger area with an energetic city center fueled by students and educators. This is complemented by plenty of quiet neighborhoods and an interesting history. In case you need more convincing, the climate is considered moderate compared to the rest of the country (sweet!).
Residents of Waterloo get to experience the beauty of all four seasons. Our climate is officially called “humid continental of the warm summer subtype.” This basically means we get a distinct difference between each season. Winters are cold but not as severe as some parts of the country (Waterloo averages 140 frost-free days a year) and summers are gloriously warm.
Waterloo’s Wonderful History
The pleasant environs are just one of the factors that originally drew settlers to the lands we now call Waterloo. The land was given to the people of the Six Nations as a gift and a reward for their assistance to the British during the American Revolution. Almost immediately (and somewhat controversially), the Six Nations people began to sell off parcels of the gifted lands. A man by the name of Richard Beasley purchased many of the plots through a Crown Grant while the Six Nations held the mortgage.
Settlers from Pennsylvania, USA slowly began to purchase land from Beasley in the first year. The following year, a deluge of 26 families combined their resources and bought the remainder of Beasley’s “inventory.” With these land sales he was able to completely clear his mortgage!
The families that flocked to Waterloo were almost entirely Mennonite farmers. The rich soil and moist climate was and still is, perfect for farming. They hoped to be able to practice their religion without fear of persecution in their new home. The area later became a popular destination for German immigrants (immigrants continue to arrive in this welcoming haven even today). They named their new home Waterloo after the battle that ended the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.
At that time, , the central core of Waterloo was comprised of two lots owned by a man named Abraham Erb. His grist mill and saw mill were the hotspots of Waterloo. These days, the city’s center is on the street named after him. The intersection of Erb and King Streets houses the Waterloo Town Square shopping center that is widely considered the heart of Uptown Waterloo.
“Uptown Waterloo” is the term typically used by residents to describe this revitalized section of the city (locals refer to the city center of nearby Kitchener as “downtown Kitchener”). In 2006, a shopping mall was torn down and street-facing storefront businesses sprouted up to take its place, creating a more interesting and engaging city-center feeling.
The Great Outdoors Living in Waterloo
One of the ways we can engage in life in Waterloo is by getting active outdoors in the nice climate. The township is dotted with parks making it easy to spend time outside. There are five major parks located within city limits or within a short drive of the city center.
- RIM Park. With 200 hectares, RIM Park has no shortage of green space. It is home to the heritage Martin Farm House and an 18-hole golf course as well as a variety of indoor and outdoor sporting facilities.
- Laurel Creek Conservation Area. Another 300 hectares is devoted to this green space northwest of the city. Swimming, bird watching, hiking and windsurfing top the list of favorite summer activities in this open space. It features a beach and picnic areas for more relaxing endeavors. In the winter, cross-country skiing and show-shoeing make for seasonal fun.
- Waterloo Park. At 45 hectares, it may seem small in comparison to the big guys above but it’s still a huge green space in the town. It houses a bandshell for outdoor concerts, a waterpark called Lions’ Lagoon, historical displays for educational opportunities and animal displays. During the holiday season, the Wonders of Winter light display draws locals and tourists alike to its twinkling glory.
- Betchel Park. Occupying 44 hectares, Betchel Park features fun for your four-legged friends. An off-leash dog park neighbors two well-lit baseball diamonds, wetlands, a hardwood forest with a groomed trail, and a city-operated cemetery.
- Lexington Park. If ball games are your thing, Lexington Park holds a soccer pitch and baseball diamond on the site of a former municipal airport.
- The Grand River. If these parks aren’t enough to get you outside, the Grand River is one of the world’s best-managed waterways. And it runs right through Waterloo!
Outdoor activities aren’t the only fun to be had in Waterloo. Residents can enjoy good food, plenty of festivals and fairs, plus some quieter endeavors too. The city has plenty of options for housing in neighborhoods from lively urban to subdued suburban. With a wide variety of ages and architectural styles, the homes are varied and affordable.
Living in this smaller city sure doesn’t seem small. The roads are uncongested and easy to navigate due to the expressways; it feels as big and wide as the many parks that surround it. Life in Waterloo promises the great outdoors and so much more!
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