ION rail: Meet me in the mid (town)

David Yin

This installment of our ION stop adventures will finally cross  into the “K” of “KW”. The twin cities’ bigger, grittier half, Kitchener offers an exciting urban landscape with lots to explore. 

 Grand River Hospital Station

As the only ION stop in Midtown, there’s a lot to highlight here. Before arriving at this station, you’ll notice the iconic Waterloo sign just south of Union St. — the official boundary between Kitchener and Waterloo. 

With the hospital taking up a lot of the real estate surrounding the station, it may seem like there’s nothing to do here besides a trip to the ER, but if you walk behind the hospital on any nearby street, you’ll find arguably Midtown’s best feature: Belmont Village. 

This charming strip feels like a town of its own.

There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars, and the strip is a great place to explore on foot.

You can start with Arabella Park, a bar with a huge variety of beers from breweries near and far, and a great patio.

Across the street is a real greasy spoon: Checkerboard Restaurant. At this hole in the wall you can get a full breakfast spread with a coffee for well under $10, with plenty of money leftover to spend elsewhere on the strip.

This is a place you’ll have to explore on your own but trust me — it’s well worth the trip from the station.

Central Station 

One  of ION’s most iconic stops, Central Station is near the middle of the ION network and will one day be part of the Regional Transit Hub where GRT’s ION and buses, VIA, and GO trains will all come together.

It already feels like the ceremonial gateway to Downtown Kitchener, surrounded by the crystalline Google Headquarters, UW’s School of Pharmacy with its stunning botanical artwork, Kaufmann Lofts — the footwear factory turned condominium — and the towering One Victoria building.

Walk south along Victoria St. to the Tannery building, home to Communitech and a number of other tech and entrepreneurial spaces including the Velocity spaces.

Also in this building is the spacious and elegant Balzac’s Coffee and Abe Erb’s second location. 

If you go north instead, you can see even more adaptive reuse of old buildings, including the building at 283 Duke St. West which contains the exciting Adventure Rooms Canada — an affordable and fun escape room experience!

Near here you can connect to the GO train to travel towards Guelph or Toronto. 

Victoria Park Station

At Victoria Park station, you can walk towards the old Berlin Clocktower and continue until you hit Victoria Park Lake.

Serving as Downtown Kitchener’s backyard, the park is filled with people enjoying the calm waters, shadowed by the graceful branches of great old trees.

The bridges and isles can make you feel like you’ve been transported into a Monet painting. Back at the station, Charles St. has plenty to offer as well.

Across the old Charles St. Terminal — a  land now in limbo — is a row of shops, such as DNA, where you can buy KW-themed threads, and Café Pyrus, a vegan-friendly café with some of the best lunch in town. 

Sometimes you need to look beyond the platform to find the gems each stop has to offer.


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