Experience, explore, and learn with the family at many of the historic sites and cultural exhibits in St. Jacobs, Ontario in the first part of this staycation series. This family-friendly community is full of beautiful shops, skilled artisans, outdoor adventures, and historical tours that are perfect for day or overnight trips throughout the year.
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Staycation Salvation in charming St. Jacobs, Ontario
Staycation St. Jacobs—Kid Approved
“This is awesome!!” Those are the exact three words that my DS-toting, Wii-playing, and Star Wars-obsessed middle child exclaimed while touring though the quaint and timeless village of St. Jacobs, located in the region of Waterloo, Ontario. If you’ve never been to St. Jacob’s or have heard of it but thought that it was more a place for antiquing and strolling, you’re missing out—actually, apparently your kids are missing out too!
Finding great staycation locations within a three hour drive of the GTA isn’t that hard, but finding ones that can be different, educational and not based on an attraction or rides, can be more difficult. Especially when trying to convince said family that going back in time and revisiting some of our area’s history and heritage would be fun. Well let me state here and now—old school can definitely be cool!
Educational Museums and Exhibits
That’s right, the kids were mesmerized by all the cool exhibits and museums within a five minute walk of each other—at least a dozen of them. Each one unique, interactive and unassuming. They were fascinatingly educational, some quaintly rustic, some featuring old-world charm, and dare I say the favorite: the home hardware exhibit featuring a lot of pre-technological innovations of the last century.
The kids were amused by the old rotary phones, calculating machines and cash registers, hand-churn washing machines, and just about anything that you can imagine being a fixture in someone’s home at the turn of the century. And they could play with them too. Boy, did we show our age as my hubby and I reminisced about having actually used some (no, not the washing machine!!). Not entirely Mennonite-focused, there were a lot of great historic insights and achievements credited to this small village, including the creation of Hydro Ontario.
The best parts were really the surprising reaction and receptivity of our kids to all these exhibits and artists nooks in every cranny. Every exhibit was interactive, and relaxed, kid-centred and FREE. A few exhibits had a place where you could make a small donation, often suggesting a donation of $5 per family. We could have spent two days among the various exhibits and the kids would not have complained a bit.
St. Jacobs Highlights, Family Tours and Activities
Some of the best parts for us as parents were the architectural liberties the village took with housing some of these exhibits and shops. In the spirit of the practical founders of this village, most museums, exhibits or special buildings were housed in existing structures that were refurbished or reclaimed to accommodate their patrons. From Grain Silos, old railway cars (really!!) and old barns, the buildings themselves added to the allure of our tours.
With so much to do, we could have toured around for two days—so we did! Thankfully our patient and hospitable tour guide, Jenny Shantz, showed us around and despite my many previous visits to St. Jacobs, she showed us a different side to the village—the family-centric side they’ve worked so hard to preserve and make available to tourists that want to take the time to learn, explore and experience.
Overnight Family Trip
We decided to turn our day trip into an overnighter, and thanks to the very-large-family accommodating Destination Inn & Suites in Waterloo, we made our trip a fairly inexpensive overnight getaway. But more about that in part two of my St. Jacobs staycation.
Here are the Walker Family’s Top 12 family-friendly and kid-awesome activities to do at St. Jacobs, as declared by our kids, in no particular order:
- Broom Factory
- Glass & Metal Studio
- School House Theatre
- Maple Syrup Museum
- Model Railway Panorama
- History of Electricity Exhibit
- “Home Hardware Story” Memorabilia Exhibit
- Joseph Schneider Haus
- St. Jacobs Quilt Factory
- “The Mennonite Story” Multi-Media Exhibit
- Artefacts Salvage and Restoration
- St. Jacobs Farmers Market —Open Thursdays and Saturdays, Tuesdays during summer months
For more information on things to do, what to eat, and where to stay you can go to the St. Jacob’s Tourism site at http://www.stjacobs.com/
For more Tips and Ideas from WEplusTHREE…or more, go to: http://www.rwspeakboutique.com/blog/
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Have you taken a day trip or family staycation to St. Jacobs? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.