Top 5 Parks in Guelph
In this edition of the WRX Top 5, we are going to have a look at the best parks in Guelph. Let’s begin!
5. South End Community Park (Dragonfly Park)
From splash pads to sports facilities (baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and more); from open spaces to trails perfect for walking (with or without dogs); and from beautiful natural vistas to an inexplicable triceratops statue, the South End Community Park is fantastic.
The dragonfly theme of the park is amusing, and the baseball diamonds sort of make the area look like a butterfly from above (hopefully that doesn’t bug you). South End Community Park, along with the massive, forthcoming South End Community Centre (which will feature ice rinks, an aquatics centre, and more) together mean it’s a good time to live in the south end of Guelph.
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4. Royal City Park
Royal City Park offers trails, wildlife, playground equipment, and serene views of the Speed River. Perhaps most excitingly, you can cross over the Speed River by way of a famous attraction that WRX Property Group previously honoured in our Top 5 Historical Sites in Guelph article: the Guelph Town Lattice Covered Bridge.
This ornate bridge lies just northeast of the park itself (beside the Guelph Lawn Bowling Club), and it serves as the end of the Eramosa River Trail, a lovely, urban trail that offers fine views of Guelph and both the Speed and Eramosa Rivers.
Royal City Park is walking distance from Downtown Guelph, and as such there’s always plenty to see and do nearby. The Boathouse Tea Room, for example, stands right on the threshold of Royal City Park, and offers pleasant teas and treats with a lovely view of the Speed River.
Guelph locals know and love Royal City Park, and for good reason: it’s a perfect place to rest after strolling through the bustling downtown core.
3. Exhibition Park
As Guelph parks go, Exhibition Park is distinctly well-designed, and its playground equipment is especially impressive. The playground is quite unique visually, and by all accounts quite fun, too. Exhibition Park has great examples of everything people love about parks: trails, green areas, areas with plenty of shade-providing trees, sports facilities, and more.
Indeed, within and beside Exhibition Park are tennis courts, baseball diamonds, open fields, and the popular Exhibition Park Arena, which has its own slew of facilities inside. Exhibition Park is, without question, one of Guelph’s greatest parks.
It is, in fact, a multi-award winning park. Exhibition Park’s playground (which was designed by Earthscape, an Elmira-based company) won an award from Landscape Ontario (for ‘Commercial Construction’) and in 2016 it even won an Excellence in Design Award from Parks and Recreation Ontario.
So treat yoself, and treat your family to this diverse, wonderful, multi-award winning park. You can find out much more about Exhibition Park on Earthscape’s website here. Exhibition Park is fairly centrally located in Guelph, just northwest of downtown and off of London Road West.
2. Guelph Lake Conservation Area
If you’re looking for an escape from the city, you need look no further than Guelph Lake Conservation Area. Here, you’ll find beautiful beaches (great for swimming or lounging around with a book), wooded trails (for hikes, bikes, or leisurely strolls), and numerous campsites with full camping facilities.
Guelph Lake itself is quite large, and an impressive achievement (it was created in 1974); the Conservation Area’s overall territory is just shy of 4000 acres. Indeed, Guelph Lake is not just large enough to feature its very own island (named, quite creatively, Guelph Lake Island): Guelph Lake is large enough to feature an island, which is in turn large enough to host one of the region’s most popular festivals (there’s a land bridge connecting Guelph Lake Island to the mainland)!
Hillside Festival, a popular three-day event with a rather impressive list of past performers (including Canadian super group Broken Social Scene and one of Canada’s most famous singer-songwriters of the 1960s [we have quite a few], Buffy Sainte-Marie), is alone worth the trip to Guelph Lake.
But there’s so much to see and do here that you really owe it to yourself to come at least once, whatever the season (and whatever the reason). You can visit the Nature Centre to learn more about the local area, you can go canoeing (or even join the Guelph Rowing Club, which is based on the lake), or you can simply wander through the dense swathes of forest to your heart’s content – it’s up to you.
Guelph Lake Conservation Area is located northeast of the city proper.
Hanlon Creek Park is a large, centrally-located park found just south of Stone Road Mall, Guelph’s largest mall. So when you’re finished shopping at the mall, you can quickly and easily reconvene with nature.
1. Riverside Park
Perhaps you’ve already read our list on the Top 5 Parks in Cambridge, and you’re wondering to yourself, ‘Do my eyes deceive me?’ But there’s no deception at play: the best park in Cambridge, and the best park in Guelph, both happen to be named Riverside Park (and they both happen to be beside the Speed River!).
We promise we’re not biased in favour of parks near rivers; Guelph’s Riverside Park is a very worthy winner indeed, as we’ll soon see. Riverside Park has much to offer, with enjoyable sights and attractions for all age groups; it’s been the Royal City’s crown jewel for over a century now.
Riverside Park’s long history stretches back to 1905, when it was opened along the shore of the Speed River. Since then, it’s expanded to its current size of approximately 80 acres. In the 1950s, Riverside Park acquired one of its most famous attractions: the floral clock (apparently the only patented floral clock in all of Canada, which is, if not life-changing, then certainly something to tick talk about).
This beautiful floral clock can be found in the centre of Riverside’s Park groomed gardens and forested area; it’s fully functional and is redesigned every year to celebrate a different theme or person. You could spend hours immersed in Riverside Park’s lovely gardens (and you’d be able to tell exactly how many hours thanks to the clock), but Riverside Park has much more to offer.
You just can’t beat the views here; Guelph is a pretty city, but there’s something distinctly special about Riverside Park. Whether crossing the Speed River via the old, wooden bridge in the middle of the park, or floating around in one of the paddle boats available for rent in the summer, it’s hard not to feel at peace when you’re in Riverside Park.
During the warmer months, Riverside Park has two quirky, popular attractions: a historic carousel and a tiny train (not too tiny to ride, though). The carousel features a few sleds, and a range of brightly-painted, galloping creatures (mostly horses, but if you’re lucky, you might be able to ride the pig).
The train ride, preciously named ‘the Riverside Express,’ travels on a circuit through the park, providing an enjoyable little journey for young and old alike. Tickets for enjoying these rides used to be $2.50, but they now appear to cost $2.54 (you have a right to expect 4 cents’ worth of extra enjoyment) – the best deal by far, though, is to get the season pass for $20 (particularly if you live in Guelph and plan to take advantage of the park).
Beyond what’s already been mentioned, Riverside Park also has picnic areas, playground equipment, a concession stand, sports facilities, and large grounds for public events. Indeed, Riverside Park hosts thousands and thousands of delighted attendees on popular events like Canada Day and Ribfest, as well as a variety of musical performances.
As you can see, there’s always something to see and do at Riverside Park. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight one, final feature: Riverside Park has a miniature, scale-model of the first home built in Guelph by John Galt, that Scottish writer who, along with his spunky sidekick William ‘Tiger’ Dunlop, founded the city in the early nineteenth-century (you can read more about John Galt, and Guelph itself, here).
All in all, Riverside Park, located in the north end of Guelph, is as perfect as a park can be.
Written by Will Kummer