Known as one of the prettiest towns in Canada and rich in adventures and outdoor activities, there are so many fun things to do in Paris, Ontario.
This southern Ontario town is often lost in the shadow of its overly-famous French namesake, but we can assure you that it’s worth discovering. Nestled in a beautiful river valley at the joining of the Grand and Nith Rivers, Paris is so small that you can easily soak up all the best sights in just a couple of days!
Historic buildings, tumbling waterfalls, scenic spots, and delicious eats all come together to create a classic, small-town charm that’ll win over even the fussiest of travellers. There’s something for just about everyone there, but we think that fans of the great outdoors will be won over by the sheer abundance of nature activities that await.
So without further ado, let’s check out 21 of the best things to do in Paris, Ontario!
Satisfy your Sweet Tooth at Chocolate Sensations
If there’s one thing you can’t miss while visiting Paris, it’s Chocolate Sensations – especially if you have a sweet tooth like us!
And if you’re wondering why this spot made the list of best things to do in Paris, Ontario, wait until you visit this place for yourself. Chocolate Sensations initially started as a family-owned, home-based business but has since become a popular attraction on Grand River Street.
A quick heads-up though: because it’s one of the most popular places in town, it’s not uncommon to see a line snaking out of the door so we recommend that you avoid going there during popular times.
In addition to a wide variety of gourmet chocolate treats, this place is also known for its amazing ice cream. They even have chocolate souvenirs. Some of their bestselling products include their Chocolate Sponge Toffee, Tortoises, Peanut Butter Cups and their Mayan Chocolate Pyramids (my favourite). For something typically local, you can always opt for their maple fudge concoctions rolled in chocolate and dusted with maple sugar. Sounds scrumptious, right?
Kayak Down the Grand River
As the largest river in Southern Ontario, the Grand River is quite a sight to behold!
It won’t take you long to realize that this is among the most popular attractions in Paris, especially in spring and summer. It’s also one of the best kayaking destinations in Ontario, so fans of the great outdoors are definitely in for a treat!
While you can start your kayaking experience from town, many like to start from Glen Morris (found just over 10 km away) and then kayak back into Paris.
The only hitch with this journey is that you’ll need to find a vehicle large enough to accommodate your kayak while you drive to the start-off point. If you’re an experienced kayaker, you can bypass that by planning a round-trip kayaking expedition but bear in mind that this involves some upstream paddling.
Don’t have a kayak? Well, the good news is that you’ll find several companies offering kayaking trips and rentals, including Grand River Rafting Company and Grand Experiences. These companies also specialize in rafting and tubing.
Take in Some Culture in the Downtown Area
If you’re only in town for a few days and want to cover more ground in less time, we recommend that you sign up for a walking tour of the downtown area.
Some of the best things to do in Paris Ontario await, including a tour of The Paris Wincey Mills Co., an upscale micro-market that houses plenty of local businesses. The tour also features a stop by the historic Penman’s Dam, a charming little spot where you can relax over a picnic while enjoying views of the manmade waterfall- but more on that later!
Best of all, your guide will let you in on plenty of fun titbits about Paris. Oh, and did we mention that you’ll be treated to a scrumptious crème brulée?
Stock up on Fresh Canadian Goodies at Elberta Farm
In our opinion, there’s no better way to soak up Paris’ ridiculously charming atmosphere than by visiting the Elberta Farms Country Market.
Located just on the outskirts of Paris, this farm is quite popular among the locals since it offers various types of produce and other goodies that you don’t usually find in urban centres. Dating back to 1966, the farm is especially known for its baked goods, maple syrup, cheese, jams, and pies.
And if you’re travelling with the kids, they’ll no doubt enjoy meeting the farm’s resident goats and ducks.
Visit the Bell Homestead National Historic Site
No list of best things to do in Paris Ontario would be complete without a stop by the Bell Homestead National Historic Site. After all, Brant County is known for being the place where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone!
While this historic site is not exactly in Paris, it’s just a 20-minute drive away and well worth the trip. Not only will you see where Alexander Graham Bell worked and lived, but you’ll also learn more about how he invented the telephone.
There are heaps of year-round events and activities, including educational trips and tours, and you’ll also find a wonderful museum store if you’re looking for souvenirs.
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you: did you know that the very first long-distance phone call that Alexander Graham Bell made was to a shoe store in Paris, Ontario?
Check out Penman’s Dam at Night
Previously, we mentioned Penman’s Dam as part of a walking tour. If you do have some extra time to spare though, we strongly suggest that you set aside a good couple of hours to properly visit the Dam and soak up its natural beauty.
Built in 1918 to provide waterpower to the mills, this dam now offers an idyllic setting where you can put up your feet and relax after a full day of sightseeing. While it’s no doubt beautiful during the day, it’s especially beautiful to visit it at night. Each evening, the dam is lit up in bright hues known as the ‘Lights of the Paris Falls’.
The lit-up waterfall looks spectacular from any angle, but the best vantage point is from the William Street Bridge.
Hike the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail
Just a short distance from Penman’s Dam takes you to the Cambridge-Paris Rail Trail, another attraction that’s said to be among the best things to do in Paris Ontario.
This 18-kilometre-long trail can be pretty challenging, so make sure you’re in good physical condition if you’re planning on covering the entire route. You’ll need more than five hours to hike from point to point, unless you choose to cycle it instead.
Rest assured that the trail is speckled by plenty of scenic spots for those who’d rather enjoy a leisurely stroll instead of an arduous hike. In fact, makes for a relaxing halfway stop that’s well-equipped with washrooms.
It’s not uncommon to see locals walking, cycling, or jogging part of the trail early in the afternoon. The trail is also dog-friendly but make sure that your pooch is leashed.
The Cambridge to Paris Rail trail offers an excellent viewpoint for seeing the train bridge crossing over the Grand River. And if this sight seems familiar to you, that’s because it was featured in several Hallmark movies!
Take a Day Trip to Niagara Falls
We know, we know. Niagara Falls isn’t in Paris. But if you feel like taking a scenic road trip, rest assured that the iconic falls are just over an hour’s drive away.
To really elevate your experience, you can always consider signing up for a scenic helicopter flight above Niagara Falls.
Perfect for thrill-seekers, this 12-minute activity promises the ride of a lifetime aboard an Airbus H130 that can accommodate up to 7 guests. The cabin is fitted with large windows, allowing you to take in those mesmerizing sights from virtually all angles!
The helicopter tour takes you from the Whirlpool to the Rainbow Bridge. Along the way, you’ll pass by spots like the Bridal Veil Falls, the American Falls, Skylon Tower, and Queen Victoria Park. You’ll also see the famous Canadian Horseshoe Falls bathed in rainbows.
On a clear day, you might even see Toronto’s city skyline on your way back. Onboard narration is also available in various languages.
Treat Yourself to a Meal at Juniper
Next up on our list of top things to do in Paris Ontario is a restaurant that’s practically an institution in town! This fine dining restaurant is always jam-packed though, so it’s a good idea to make your reservations well in advance.
What makes Juniper special is that despite its fine dining menu, the restaurant still has a relaxed and comfortable vibe. This French bistro is fun by Chef Andrea Legacey who specializes in Lyonnaise Bouchon cuisine.
Everything is gloriously fresh and made from scratch- even their Crostinis which we highly recommend! They also have an extensive wine list, but we especially love their inventive range of aromatic cocktails. By the way, it’s good to know that each weekday, the restaurant offers $5 house wines paired with half-priced oysters between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
By the way, the bar has over 14 different types of gin, most made by Dillons Distillers – so if you like gin, you definitely are in the right place!
Catch an Event at the Paris Fairgrounds
It’s a well-known fact that Ontario is one of the most diverse and populated provinces in Canada. This includes plenty of fun events, one of which takes place in Paris!
That’s right – each year, the Paris Fairgrounds plays host to a wide assortment of events, including the Holiday Makers, the Fall Craft and Vendor Show, the Butter Tart Festival, and the Maple Syrup Festival.
December is particularly animated at the Fairgrounds, with festivals like the Paris Christmas Poutine Fest and the Old Tim Country Christmas Concert. By far the most popular event is the Paris Fair, which is normally held on Labor Day weekend. You can expect plenty of interactive exhibits, thrilling rides, and (of course) delicious eats!
Be sure to check the official event calendar to see if there’s anything you’d like to catch while you’re in town.
Sample Local Brews at the Paris Beer Company
Of all the indoor activities available in town, visiting the Paris Beer Company is one of the best!
Located at the back of Wincey Mills Market, the Paris Beer Company is the very first taproom brewery in town. It’s a relatively new place, having recently opened in 2020.
Beer aficionados have it made since the brewery only uses high-quality ingredients- not surprising since they’ve been farmers for seven whole generations! They use their hops grown on their farm. Everything is brewed, tapped, bottled, and labelled in the Wincey Mills building.
As such, an elevated beer experience awaits at the brewery, complete with individual attention from their experienced beer connoisseurs who will take you through the brewing process and help you find the best food pairings.
After sampling their best brews, you can always grab a bite to eat at the Biergarten, which is an outdoor extension of the brewery’s restaurant and taproom.
Wander the Nith River Sensory Trail
It wouldn’t be a list of top things to do in Paris Ontario without mentioning the Nith River Sensory Trail!
This 270-metre trail was designed to accommodate people of all abilities, so you don’t need to be a great hiker to stroll this route. The interactive trail features a host of features, including an accessible picnic table, a paved path, braille signs, and a guided rope for the visually impaired. The Nith River Sensory Trail is also stroller and wheelchair friendly. You can also take advantage of the outdoor musical instruments, sensory gardens, and the birdhouses made and decorated by the locals.
As you wander the beautiful, tree-lined setting, keep your eyes peeled for flyfishermen who often go fishing there. This makes for a great photograph!
Take a Cobblestone Tour
Did you know that Paris is said to be the Cobblestone Capital of Canada?
As it turns out, Paris is home to no less than twelve cobblestone houses, two cobblestone churches, and a few garden walls as well. In the mid-1800s, these small, circular stones were actually sourced from the Grand River and stacked with cement to construct various types of buildings.
If you’re a history buff, we do not doubt that you’ll enjoy a self-guided cobblestone tour of the town! A few good places to start would be the St. James Anglican Church at 8 Burwell St.
Another great example of cobblestone architecture in Paris is Hamilton Place which, ironically enough, was built by a New Yorker. Later on, Hamilton Place housed local artist Paul Wickson who completed some of his best works in the Belvedere.
If this is your first time visiting Paris, you can always consider signing up for a guided tour to see the cobblestone buildings. We can recommend Tasty Road Trips which offers both pre-planned and tailor-made experiences in Paris.
Embark on a Self-Guided Driving Adventure
In our opinion, there’s no better way to uncover all the best things to do in Paris Ontario than to simply take a walk around town. When the weather’s cold though, a self-guided driving tour is an excellent alternative!
Also offered by Tasty Road Trips, this five-hour, all-inclusive activity is well-suited to travellers who want to take in the best sights in just one day. Best of all, you’ll visit both Paris and Brantford!
Your first stop will be a Farmer’s Market, where you can embark on a market culinary experience, complete with three tastings. You’ll also visit Colborne Street, which houses plenty of quirky hidden gems, including a really cool vintage shop. If you’re feeling peckish, you can always check out the oldest pizzeria in town, which is also found on Colborne Street.
Another highlight of this tour is the Wilkes Dam, a place considered by many to be the most Instagrammable spot in Paris.
Take the Kids to Lions Park
Travelling with the kids and looking for ways to keep them entertained during your stay in Paris? Then you can always head to Lions Park. This is a pretty popular place since it offers direct access to various trails, including the Trans Canada and the Nith River Sensory routes. You can also cut through the park on your way to Downtown Paris.
Oodles of fun beckon at Lions Park, complete with a children’s playground and jungle gyms. There’s also an amphitheatre that hosts seasonal events like the Outdoor Movie Nights and Music in the Park Concerts.
Don’t hesitate to pack some snacks since the park also has some lovely picnic areas!
Visit the Paris Museum and Historical Society
Perfect for history buffs, the Paris Museum and Historical Society is an absolute gem of a place that showcases various artifacts and displays centred around the local community. Operated by volunteers, this establishment also boasts exhibits about the invention of the telephone and giant quilts featuring Paris’ cobblestone homes.
The exhibits are constantly rotating, allowing visitors to see something new with each visit. Right now, they currently have an exhibit about vintage Paris kitchens, complete with old-school screens and retro pictures of refrigerator production.
The local research team often fulfils research requests from the community as well as from neighbouring cities like Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, and Toronto. Visitors can submit their research request for a $20-hour research fee. Alternatively, you can also riffle through the museum’s archives for a $20 fee per visit.
Keep an eye on the museum’s calendar to see if any event tickles your fancy during your stay in Paris. Popular events include the Cobblestone Quilt Raffle and the Indoor Yard Sale.
FYI, the museum is closed Sunday through Tuesday, but you can always visit between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.
Stop By the Dog-Eared Café
Here’s one that takes the cake (literally and figuratively) as far as the best things to do in Paris Ontario are concerned!
Combining two of our favourite things – good books and coffee – the Dog-Eared Café is modelled after old-fashioned European coffeehouses.
With gorgeous Grand River views, comfy couches and carefully curated coffee, this place is no doubt a bookworm’s dream come true since it also doubles as a second-hand bookstore. Best of all, all the proceeds from the bookstore go to charity, giving you the chance to support the local economy.
Oh, and it’s not just coffee and cakes either: this place also offers wine and beer that you can enjoy during their theme nights and gatherings. We’ve heard great things about their Maple Oat Lattes.
Pitch a Tent Along the Grand River
Okay, we’ve covered rafting, tubing, and kayaking down the Grand River, but if you’d like to prolong the fun, why not plan an overnight camping trip right by the river?
Just a 10-minute drive from Paris takes you to the Brant Conservation Area, a lush park with some of the best camping facilities in the area. There are heaps of amenities onsite, including showers, washrooms, firepits, picnic tables, and running water.
Alternatively, you can also consider the Pinehurst Conservation Area Campsites which lie just a short distance from the Cambridge-Glen Morris-Paris route. This particular campsite is located just 5 km from Paris.
For something closer to town, be sure to check out Birley Gates Camping, located a mere 3 minutes from Paris. While you can opt for traditional camping experiences, Birley Gates also offers the option of renting a trailer set up. This is also a great option for visitors who’d like to go fly fishing.
Cycle to Port Dover
We’re sure by now you’ve realized Paris is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true!
In fact, one of the absolute top things to do in Paris Ontario is to explore its many cycling trails. For a truly epic adventure, we recommend cycling the off-road rail trail from Paris to Port Dover.
Various route options are available, so you can always pick one based on your level of fitness. Experienced cyclers can even kick off their journey from Hamilton, cycle through Paris, and end their trip by the shores of Lake Erie in Port Dover.
Ontario By Bike (partnered with the Canadian Automobile Association) has plenty of great resources, including the different routes, GPS, and maps, so check the website before you hit the trail.
Wander Paris Main Street
Nothing embodies the old-town charm that Paris is known for better than the Main Street!
Not only does this area offer easy access to shopping and dining at the Wincey Mills Market, but you’ll also find benches overlooking the Grand River.
If you visit in summer, you can always head to the Pavilion found on Grand River Street (next to the 2 Rivers Restaurant) to enjoy live music every Thursday evening. During the festive season, Main Street is filled with carol singers from various local groups.
Get your Art Game on at the Paris Bohemian Gallery
For art lovers, there’s no better destination in town than the Paris Bohemian Gallery, located on William Street in the downtown area.
You’ll find numerous artworks from local artists, including sculptures, paintings, and even souvenirs that you can take back home with you. In addition, the gallery regularly holds curated exhibitions and thought-provoking events.
If you’re feeling creative, you can always consider signing up for a workshop like Fused Glass Dish or Needle Felting.
Getting to Paris, Ontario
First things first though: how do you get to Paris?
Well, the good news is that it’s quite easy to reach the town. For starters, Paris is just minutes from Highway 403, not to mention a short drive from Brantford, Hamilton, and Cambridge. It’s also only two hours from the big city of Toronto.
Here are some practical ways to get there:
- Train and Bus: While there’s no actual station in town, you can always hop on a train to the Brantford Train Station and catch a bus into Paris. Buses are also available from Cambridge and Toronto.
- Car: If you’re driving from Toronto, we recommend that you take Highway 403 to Highway 2 in Brant County since this is the quickest route. Visitors driving from Waterloo Regional Municipality can always take the Kitchener-Trussler Road route, known for its scenic views. There’s also the Ontario 24 South-Regional Road 14 for those driving into town from Cambridge.
There are plenty of parking spots in town. Most of them are found in front of the stores or on the street. There’s also a spacious Municipal Parking Lot which offers free parking for three hours.
To familiarize yourself with the different parking lots, you can always check out the official map of Downtown Paris here.
How to Get Around Paris Ontario
Paris is a small town and it’s quite easy to walk from one point to the next- so don’t forget to pack your best walking shoes!
As we mentioned above, there are plenty of buses to take you out of the city. To head to nearby airports, you also take advantage of shuttle transfers like MyAirLink or use a carpool service. Depending on where you’re going, you can download the Brant Transit App through Google Play or the iPhone App Store.
Best Time to Visit Paris, Ontario
In our opinion, Paris is the kind of destination that’s got something to offer virtually all year round! Fall is filled with beautiful sights, spring and summer lend themselves well to outdoorsy adventures, while winter sees the entire town decked out in festive lights.
However, there’s no denying that Paris’ has plenty (and we do mean plenty!) of open-air activities on offer. To take advantage of warm-weather activities, we recommend visiting from June to September.
Where to Stay in Paris
Paris has some lovely places where you can crash after an exciting day of sightseeing. Don’t forget that the town is quite small though and hotels do get filled up quickly during peak season. As such, you may wish to make your reservations well in advance.
Here are a few spots that look great to us:
Located just over 30 km from Waterloo International Airport, the Arlington Hotel – BW Signature Collection offers various room configurations starting from $132 to $193 per night.
Guests can take advantage of various onsite facilities, including luggage storage, a 24-hour front desk, room service, an onsite bar, and daily breakfast. There’s also an on-site restaurant specializing in local dishes.
Located just a 16-minute drive from Downtown Paris, this hotel offers spacious suites and studios ranging from $104 to $134. Some units are also designed to accommodate pets.
With a stay at this hotel, you’ll be just 30 minutes from Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. Onsite amenities include an indoor pool, fitness centre, and daily complimentary breakfast.
Where to Eat in Paris Ontario
Here are some of our favourite places to eat in Paris:
- Edit Restaurant: Found in the Arlington Hotel, Edit Restaurant is known for its creative dishes. Their menu is constantly changing since Chef Matt Kershaw only uses seasonal ingredients.
- Stillwaters Plate and Pour: With amazing views of the Grand River, this restaurant offers a delectable, Canadian-inspired menu. It’s located on Grand River Street North.
- Detour Coffee: Perfect for fuelling up with a quick bite and some coffee after a day of exploring Paris, Detour Coffee is a relatively new addition to the town’s culinary scene. It’s found in the lively Wincey Mills on Mechanic Street.
Looking for more things to do in Ontario and beyond?
As great as Paris is, there’s so much more to this massive Canadian province. For more ideas on what to do, check out these guides below: