When it comes to a day out in Paris, Ontario, sometimes the journey is almost as enjoyable as the destination. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to recommend this pretty cobblestone town on the banks of the Grand River; however, there are certainly a couple of great ways to get there besides a car.
One option is to bike along the 18-km rail trail – a pleasant and perfectly flat pathway – between Paris and Cambridge. Enjoy the shade provided by the area’s famous Carolinian forest as you take in the river views.
Another option is to rent a canoe from several local outfitters and get dropped upstream and paddle down to Paris. Some outfitters even offer whitewater rafting, which may surprise people familiar with the gentle flow of the Grand in many places.
Once you do arrive in Paris, there is plenty of local history as well as new finds. Locals are proud of the town’s history – a mining town for gypsum used to make plaster of Paris – as a booming and industrious community founded in the mid-nineteenth century. Many landmarks and architectural details are still prominent in the town today.
Paris has sometimes been called Canada’s cobblestone capital, and you can see why in some of its historic buildings. Two particularly good examples are the charming and tiny 1845 Paris Plains Church and the beautiful Norman Hamilton Home.
Another local landmark you can’t miss is the old Arlington Hotel at the main intersection of town. The imposing four-storey yellow brick hotel has been renovated to include first-rate dining experiences, including the charming Library Bar (complete with historic volumes on the walls, rich leather booths, and dark wood) and The Edit – a restaurant specialising in seasonal fare.
For an unparalleled view of the Grand, there’s no better place than Stillwaters specialising in casual Canadian fare – just make sure you get a spot on the patio!
A relatively new addition to Paris’ downtown is Paris Surf, a brick-oven pizza joint with a California cool vibe. The front portion of the shop has a range of branded swag, while a casual bar and restaurant are found in the back. The pizza is what really makes this place worth stopping at. You can taste the quality of the ingredients right away – making it the perfect to-go treat to take to the nearby Lion’s Park. For dessert, stop by Paris Bakery for a mix of old favourites like fritters and squares as well as some fun new flavours of doughnuts and treats.
One of the best old meets new places to visit in Paris is Wincey Mills, a renovated 125-year-old brick industrial building right downtown. The first floor has been renovated into a community marketplace, with an impressively diverse range of vendors. Vintage finds, artists, and food vendors create a great blend every Thursday through Saturday. A few must-visit stalls include Sugar & Spice Bakery, the Tipperary Bog (cheese monger) and KM Design (artist).