As many of you know, I grew up out in the country, a 20 minute drive east of Peterborough, which we always referred to as “town”. Then when I started teaching, I lived right in the heart of the city (Charlotte Towers to be exact) for three years, before building a house out in the country in the other direction, 30 minutes west of Peterborough.

Whether hanging out in this city is a staycation for you, as it is for us, or whether you’re planning on visiting from afar (it’s worth the trip!), today I’m sharing tons of ideas for things to do in the beautiful city of Peterborough. Some are from my own personal experience, while others come from a social media roundup where locals and frequent visitors shared their suggestions with me for this post.

Where To Eat

My personal faves:

  • Gerti’s (another great downtown pub, one of many on Hunter Street – most have patios and many have kids’ menus)
  • Rare Grill House (for special occasions)

Recommended by others:

* These three received a special recommendation for vegan families

Peterborough also offers a huge variety of the chain restaurants and fast-food joints that you know and love (heavily concentrated on Lansdowne Street and Chemong Road), and what may very well be the highest ratio of Tim Hortons per capita in the country.

Where To Shop

Growing up, we would often head out of town to shop for holidays or special occasions. With Peterborough’s growth, it’s now rarely necessary to venture elsewhere. (I’m not a Costco gal myself, but this addition to the city was monumental for many shoppers!)

When it comes to “the mall”, Lansdowne Place offers a large array of stores and services, with enough to please most discerning teenagers (which is the real test).

Downtown shopping is a different story entirely, and you can find many independent and unique shops while strolling the city streets.

Several locals on Twitter recommended farmers’ markets like the Peterborough Farmers’ Market, which is open year round and offers local, fresh produce, meats, dairy, cooking and crafts. This is a must-see for an authentic Peterborough experience.

What To Do With Kids:

There is no shortage of family fun in Peterborough, and much of it is free!

  • Riverview Park and Zoo: A favourite destination for families (and class trips), this zoo is FREE to visit (though you really should spring for the $2 miniature train ride). It’s not just about animals: kids can spend hours on the splashpad and huge playground as well.
  • Canadian Canoe Museum (reasonable admission, children under 5 are free and there’s no charge on Thursday nights)
  • Peterborough Museum and Archives
  • Play Street Indoor Playground (there’s a fee, but may be worth it on a rainy day. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed the birthday party she attended here)  (Now closed)
  • Galaxy Cinemas (we’re a real movie-loving household and we visit this Cineplex theatre often, with kids and without. For those who enjoy the big-screen experience – even for an old movie – they offer “Family Favourites” presentations on Saturday mornings for $2.50)
  • Peterborough Musicfest (free outdoor concerts in a range of genres on Wednesday and Saturday nights all summer at Del Crary Park)
  • Wild Water and Wheels (go-karts, mini-golf, batting cages, etc. Every time we drive by the girls ask when they can go. “Someday!”)
More free, outdoor adventures recommended by the locals: 
  • Jackson Park  (walks, bike rides, popular wedding photo spot)
  • Beavermead Park (with beach and camping available)
  • For winter fun: Skating at the Lift Locks or tobogganing on Armour Hill. (In high school, the purpose of driving up Armour Hill with your sweetheart was not for tobogganing. Or so I was told.)  
  • Rogers Cove in the East City area of Peterborough (one local remarks “beautiful with playground, lake and splashpad all in one spot!”

Since I live in the area, I don’t have much expertise when it comes to accommodations, though I know the Holiday Inn downtown is in a very central spot, and backs right onto the lake. On our wedding night, we had a beautiful suite at the Best Western Otonabee Inn, but I really have no relevant details from that stay that I wish to share with you here today.

So…for all of those familiar with Peterborough, what have I missed that you would recommend? Leave a comment below to share your expertise!

If you’re planning a visit, please feel free to contact me with any questions, and be sure to check out the Peterborough and Kawarthas tourism site for more info!

6 comments on “Vacation (or Staycation) In Beautiful Peterborough, Ontario”

  1. This summer I plan on being a "tourist" in Peterborough with my kids (hotel and all) so thanks for the reminders about all of the great places to visit!
    I would have to say the Peterborough Zoo is one of my favourites!
    If you're willing to venture to the outskirts Lang Pioneer Village in Keene and the Indian River Reptile Zoo are also great places to add to the list.

  2. Those are great ideas too! I don't think my girls have done the Reptile Zoo (not with me anyway!) or Lang (though I've gone there for several class trips. Very fun!)

    Both are a short drive east of the city, for those who may not be familiar.

    Thanks for sharing, Mary!

  3. Kate,

    We've tweeted back and forth a couple times and I often read your posts and tweets. I find that our opinions, thoughts and likes are often similar. Now I know why! We're both Peterborough area girls! I'm from the North End. It's a great little city.

    Definitely not a fancy restaurant by any means but Jeff Purvey's Fish and Chips is nostalgia for me. All the family loved the deep fried goodness.

    Highly recommend the Best Western Otonabee also! They have family suites that were a great size for us and the price was very reasonable.

    The zoo is just the best! Great family day for practically nothing.

    I also would reccomend a trip in one of the boats through the locks and over the Liftlocks. My grandfather used to take me every summer and we have taken our little one. You learn so much about the building of the Trent canal and some of the engineering involved is fascinating for the time it was built.

  4. Yes – fish and chips at Jeff Purvey's for sure! And I had meant to include a Liftlock Cruise on the list and forgot. We did it once for a staff party, but have never taken the kids. I may add that to my summer wish list! Thanks for the comment!

  5. Kate,

    You are so thoughtful to take the time to give us a tour and input on some of your favorite places in beautiful Peterborough! This California gal can tell you we may have fantastic weather but not the warmth shown by you!! Your family, friends and students are a lucky group.

    Enjoy your summer!

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