The Kawarthas are packed with excitement. Across the county, you’ll find breathtaking provincial parks, sparkling lakes, cascading waterfalls, and plenty of adorable small towns to explore.
At the center of all of this wonder lies the city of Peterborough. And if you’re looking for a weekend of family fun, you won’t even need to leave the cities borders for it. In fact, there are more than enough attractions in the city to keep a family busy for a lot longer than a couple of days, but hey, I’m just here to show you how to spend one weekend in the city. If you’ve got more time to spare, you’ll need to explore this website a little deeper!
Over the past 10-years, I’ve made a habit of traveling the world with my family. I’ve explored over 45 countries across five continents with my wife and children. I’ve chronicled these travels on my website, Wandering Wagars – Adventure Family Travel. However, my attention has been focused on a local trip with the past few years’ events.
Along with my business partner, Chris, I began sharing of the top experiences in my home province on Ultimate Ontario. The result has been awe-inspiring. With so many Ontarians looking at their province in an entirely new light and understanding what an incredible place we live in.
This itinerary will be perfect if you love a mix of excitement, great food, and family fun. In fact, after spending 20 years living in Peterborough and another 25 coming back to visit friends and family, this might be the most entertaining and fun-filled weekend I’ve ever spent in the city.
The Hotel: Hampton Inn Peterborough
Coming from Toronto on a Friday night, our first step was to get ourselves booked into a great hotel. Picking the perfect hotel in the city can be tough. There are so many amazing hotels in the town and resorts nearby. But I love things that are shiny and new, and the brand new Hampton Inn Peterborough fit that bill to a tee.
The hotel opened its doors in June 2020, offering accommodations in the city’s south end near the brand new Shorelines Casino. The hotel has large rooms that make an ideal home base for my family of four. We also knew that we could take advantage of the indoor swimming pool, fitness center and included hot breakfasts for fueling up for a long day exploring the city.
Meals and Boardgames
Fridays are typically a family night for us. We usually spend some time bonding after a busy week by playing board games or watching movies together. However, we had worked up quite an appetite from our drive from the Greater Toronto Area and wanted to find a place in the city that could fill our stomachs with great food while enjoying a little casual fun together.
Brothers Connor and Dylan Reinhart run the Boardwalk Lounge on George Street. This board game cafe in Peterborough has over 400 unique board games. And don’t worry about learning the rules. Dylan is a verified board game nerd who can walk you through the game of your choice in just a few short minutes.
The menu at the Boardwalk Lounge is loaded with kid-friendly food that includes scrumptious sandwiches and Connor’s signature mac and cheese (think KD but made entirely of locally-sourced natural ingredients).
You won’t want to leave without enjoying one of Connor’s signature chocolate chip cookies. These shareable treats come with a side of local Kawartha Dairy ice cream.
After a few hours of board game fun (we chose some cooperative games so that our competitive nature wouldn’t lead to a full-on family feud), we headed back to the Hampton Inn for a good night’s rest.
A History Of Paddling
During the warmer months in the Kawarthas, there are few better ways to enjoy the outdoors than by paddling one of the countless lakes in the region. From the historic Petroglyphs to the serene Silent Lake Provincial Park, Peterborough is packed with some of the most pristine lakes in Canada.
The Canadian Canoe Museum offers the chance to explore the rich history of paddling both across Canada and around the World. Not only does the museum contain the most extensive collection of paddled watercraft in the world, but there are also hands-on demonstrations from the master craftsmen who design and build many of these boats.
The Canadian Canoe Museum also runs paddle tours along the Otonabee River, including journeys up and down the famous Peterborough Lift Lock. Families can also sign up for sleepover events and scavenger hunts.
East City Ales
There are few restaurants in Peterborough that I visit more frequently than Ashburnham Ale House in East City with lunchtime at hand. This family-friendly pub combines excellent food and a great local vibe with its unique rusty veneer and comfortable and inviting interior.
The walls of Ashburnham Ale House are lined with artwork created by local painters and photographers, and they’re all for sale if you find one that you love.
Families will have no trouble finding mouthwatering for even the pickiest eater by serving a wide range of dishes, from spanakopita pie to pork belly ribs.
Axe-throwing is one of the most popular things to do in the city. While this activity might be more associated with a wild night out than with a weekend of family fun, but in truth, our time at the Peterborough Axe Club was one of the most exciting and entertaining family-bonding experiences of our weekend in Peterborough.
Contrary to my kids’ expectations, the club wasn’t packed with bearded lumberjacks screaming in French while launching axes dead-to-rights into the bullseye of a target. Instead, it was like visiting a super cool bowling alley with a more relaxed atmosphere and better ambiance.
The patient and skilled staff gave us a great demonstration of getting started safely. Soon, we were burying blades into the softwood of our little axe alley. It was, quite honestly, a complete riot.
The lounge has a lovely little fireside sitting area and a bar serving local craft beer and snacks. So even when you’re not tossing axes, there is still plenty to do.
Situated in a 170-year-old mansion at the corner of Rubidge and Charlotte St., The Publican House Brewery and Restaurant is as much a piece of Peterborough heritage as it is one of the best restaurants in the city.
Initially opened as a brewery in 2008, The Publican House quickly expanded to a brewpub when it took over the storied building next door.
While adults may love the wide selection of craft beer on tap, the whole family should take the time to walk by the open-concept kitchen to view the beautiful Stefano Ferrara pizza oven that the couple had shipped over from Naples, Italy.
The restaurant serves up a wide selection of dishes that take family-friendly classics and give them an artisan twist. My kids were huge fans of their “KFC” or Kentucky Fried Cauliflower. These deep-fried delights are served with a tasty dipping sauce and make for a healthy and delicious appetizer.
Escape If You Can
On the final day of our weekend of family fun in Peterborough, we woke bright and early, enjoyed a swim at the Hampton Inn, and then made our way to the city’s edge for an epic twist on a fun and exciting escape rooms.
Escape Maze, which the Preddy family runs on their rural farm, has three indoor escape rooms and several outdoor escape mazes. These problem-solving experiences can take between one and four hours to complete, making for an excellent way to spend a day together.
We took part in their “Young Warrior” escape maze, specifically designed for those on the younger side. But don’t think this is an easy journey. Some of the challenges had our entire family scrambling for answers as we tried to beat the two-hour clock.
Take A Deeper Look
The beautiful Peterborough Lift Lock was the last stop on our fun-filled family weekend in Peterborough. The Lift Lock is one of the most iconic structures in the entire city. It also made for a pretty gorgeous spot to take a stroll along the banks of the Trent Canal.
The Lift Lock is also a short stroll away from the Peterborough Museum and Archives. Now, I’ll be honest. I hadn’t visited the Peterborough Museum since I was in grade school. And I had no idea what to expect when I brought my kids in to check it out. But, it turns out that this small museum packs a pretty big punch and is a great place to visit with kids.
The museum is packed with 10,000 years of Kawarthas history. It follows the route of the Indigenous people who were caretakers of the land to the arrival of Irish immigrants and the eventual development of the city itself.
There is a range of great engaging and interactive exhibits that my kids had a blast participating in. There’s also a rotating circuit of featured shows. Our visit was a fascinating look at the Lew and Clark expedition from the eyes of Inuit peoples who encountered them on their journey through the northern passage.
There’s always more fun to be had in Peterborough
We’ve had a lot of great weekends in the city, but this one stood out for the fantastic range of family fun and the incredible memories that we built together. If you’d like to go along for the ride with us, you can have a read of our entire Peterborough itinerary here or check out our video of the weekend on YouTube.
We’ve spent many weekends in Peterborough, and I know we’ll spend many more in the future. And I look forward to discovering something new in the city each time I visit.