Kingston and the 1000 Islands – Labour Day 2014

We are great at planning longer, “proper” holidays but we are aren’t so good at are long weekends and government holidays. This past Labour Day weekend, on the Thursday night, we found ourselves with an extra long weekend (we both took the Friday off as well) and no plans. After considering our options, Cristina suggested the 1000 Islands. Perfect – we had the beginning of a plan!

The weather forecast was predicting good weather on the Friday and Saturday so we figured on coming home on late on the Saturday to avoid the approaching bad weather.

After a little research, we discovered that the best places to visit the 1000 Islands from the Canadian side are either Kingston or Gananoque, Ontario. We looked at places to stay in Ganaonque and quickly realized that the quaint bed and breakfasts were not going to be easy to book at 10 PM on a Thursday night. So, we booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott in Kingston. We know this chain and the rooms are always clean and comfortable.

With our room booked, we looked into 1000 Island boat tours and found that there was also a Kingston city tour trolley. Our trip was pretty much planned! We saw that we could book the Kingston Trolley Tour here and the 1000 Island cruise here. They could be booked together as a package. There are also Ghost and Mystery tours to… More planning resources…

The Internet is so helpful, we had addresses for the hotel and tour ticket booth plugged into the GPS and the next morning, we were on our way to Kingston. It took less than two hours to reach Kingston. The Courtyard Marriott is located right at the intersection of Division street and the 401 highway it was very convenient. [Street view] An added bonus is that the hotel shares a parking lot with a small group of outlet stores so a little shopping was quickly added to our agenda.

Even though we were early, the front desk checked us in to our room right away and we were off for an early lunch at the Swiss Chalet also near to the hotel. (ahem, someone has the occasional craving for Swiss Chalet)

After lunch we headed right downtown to the ticket kiosk in Confederation Park. [Street view] There is plenty of parking a block away but it is not cheap. We paid $15 for the day and there is no free parking in downtown Kingston. We found out later that during the summer, there is a free trolly service that runs from the hotels near the 401 to the downtown area. Next time we go (in the summer), we’ll definitely make use of the shuttle trolley!

With tickets in hand, we walked across the park to where the trolley parks. This is when we came upon the Spirit of Sir John A locomotive. Milling around the train were a group of performers who were gathering people to go on a historic walking tour of downtown Kingston. (Sir John A. Footsteps Walking Tour) We had our hearts set on the city tour so we declined to join them but it was a tough decision! We would love to see this next year!

 

 

On board the bright red trolley car, we set out for our tour of Kingston. It is a very old city and the first capital of Canada. The tour took us to the Royal Military College, the old outskirts of the city, Queens University and the Prison. The trolley was almost empty.  It was a great way to see Kingston (and with an audio guide).

 

 

After the tour, we walked up Princess Street and had a coffee at five-bucks. Our parking time was due to expire so we headed back to the hotel and managed to fit in a little shopping at the outlet stores. I actually bought some shoes and a few shirts. We still had not picked a place for dinner and it was getting late. We were a little worried that, this being the first weekend that all the Queens students were back in town, that downtown would be a zoo and driving and parking would be a problem. Our worries were unfounded. We found ample parking and what looked to be regular volume of people coming and going. Earlier in the day, we had walked by a tapas restaurant and we opted to try it out. Boy, were we ever glad that we did!

Tango Nuevo Tapas
We have found a new favourite restaurant. Tango Nuevo [Street view] was a magical experience. From the moment that we arrived to the moment that we left, everything was perfect. We were greeted by a very friendly hostess and shown to a seat on the patio out front. You could tell that everyone who worked in this restaurant was passionate about the place and its food.

Picking up on how much the staff loved the food, we simply asked them what their favourite items were on the menu and we chose those dishes. They all had very good taste! We enjoyed six plates and they were all spectacular.  The owner is originally from Turkey so there are some very exotic dishes on the menu. We will be going back here as often as possible – even if it is a 2 hour drive.

 

 

1000 Island Boat Tour
The next morning, we had a light breakfast at the hotel and drove down to Crawford Wharf (next to Confederation park) to catch the Island Queen – our tour boat for the 1000 Island tour. The Island Queen is a decked-out to look like a Mississippi paddle wheeler (without the paddle wheel). To save money, we had purchased our trolley tour and 1000 Island cruise together at the ticket kiosk.

The cruise lasted three hours. There are food and drinks available for purchase on board and there is an audio guide that points out the highlights of the cruise. We were greeted by live music as we boarded the boat. It was fun.

 

 

After the boat cruise, we got in the car, picked up our luggage at the hotel and headed home.

We had a really great time in Kingston and the 1000 Islands. A few years ago, we went there on a similar short visit and had a very different time. It appears that Kingston has been rejuvenated. There are many more businesses and restaurants. Walking along and window shopping on Princess street was great fun.

With the city tour, 1000 Islands cruise and that amazing diner at Tango Nuevo, we packed a lot into two days and we can’t wait to do it again!