Go to Queen’s they said… Kingston is nice they said! Well, they were right. In my slightly biased opinion, I’d say that Kingston is a great place to live and if you find yourself beginning a new chapter of your life at Queen’s I officially welcome you!
In writing this post, I realize how much there is to do in Kingston and listing each activity would be a waste of time. Instead, I’m going to share my #1 piece of advice for getting oriented with Kingston. As well, I’ll share some insight from other grad students about getting acquainted with this city. Finally, I have provided links to important resources that you will serve you well in your first few weeks in Kingston
Explore Downtown Kingston!
My #1 piece of advice to individuals orientating themselves to life in Kingston is: Go downtown! Downtown Kingston is compact, easily accessible, and is rich in culture, historical landmarks, and delicious places to eat.
Check out this Culture Map. Whether you fancy museums, theatres, or you are searching for a place of worship, or maybe you’re into UNESCO World Heritage Sites (but really, who isn’t??), check out the map!
There is always something going on downtown, with Springer Market Square being a major hub for activity. From Blues Fest to Feb Fest, movies in the square to amateur wrestling matches (actually) it’s always worth the walk downtown to see what’s going on. If you have children, these activities are family-friendly and there are a number of activities catered specifically to kids. And the beauty of it all? Most activities are free! For upcoming scheduled events, check out this link.
For fresh, local produce, meat, and baked goods wander to the Public Markets hosted at Springer Market Square, the Memorial Centre, and Queen’s Campus. NOTE: each market has its own operating hours and selection of vendors… check out the website for more info!
Would you rather eat out? One of the first things that you may notice when walking downtown is the surplus of restaurants and pubs. Given that the budget of most grad students keeps us from eating out every night, I suggest checking out FebFest and sample some of downtown’s higher end food and drink for only $10!
Feel like getting some activity in? Kingston has a plethora of outdoor and indoor activity opportunities. There are a number of running / walking trails along the waterfront. If you are a cyclist, take Highway 2 East (towards Gananoque) and you will find a number of excellent roads with wide shoulders and little traffic. Take a break from the books and walk ~5 minutes to City Park (in between Queen’s campus and downtown). In the summer, City Park offers open fields to toss around a ball / disc, big trees for slack-lining that double as excellent sources of shade for hanging out. In the winter, outdoor ice rinks are built and maintained across the city, including City Park, Victoria Park, and Springer Market Square.
To summarize all of the above: Get out and explore downtown Kingston and the areas surrounding Queen’s Campus, you’ll always find something to do.
Insight from Current Grad Students
I asked some friends to answer a few questions about their experiences adjusting to life in Kingston; here’s what they had to say.
Friend A – MSc. Student
Friend B – PhD student / dog owner
Friend C – International MSc. Student
1) Can you recall the biggest barrier/difficulty with transitioning to life in Kingston?
- Moving away from home and being away from friends and family makes for a tough transition at first
- Though many downtown businesses are extremely accepting of dogs, I cannot say the same for landlords in downtown Kingston. This will be less of an obstacle for some people’s dogs than others (i.e. smaller dogs who fall within the accepted size restrictions outlined by certain landlords), but I had difficulty finding an affordable one-bedroom place for my 90lb dog and I. More options became available to me after befriending other graduate students and collectively hitting the housing market as roommates (e.g. multi-bedroom homes).
- I lived in the grad residence during my first year so it wasn’t hard to make friends, but I believe there should be a much larger number of social events for grad students during welcome week(s) to help you getting started with people and life here.
2) What is a hidden gem / cool feature that you have discovered about Kingston?
- Being right by the lake is really cool; go to the pier! Also, Pasta G if you miss momma’s homemade [pasta] sauce
- Ly’s Place I’m not sure how big of a secret it is, but it’s not a “popular” restaurant by any means. Nonetheless, they make the best Pad Thai.
- The fact that you can get an exciting and busy student life while enjoying the peace and serenity of a small city.
3) Any advice for incoming students looking to get acquainted with life in Kingston?
- Make Kingston your second home. There’s a great community of graduate students here. Getting involved in intramural sports or other activities you’re interested is a great opportunity to make friends
- I would recommend being observant of posters when you’re walking in and around downtown. I’ve learned about all sorts of interesting concerts, protests, festivals, demonstrations, public speakers, etc. from posters that are plastered on the windows of a business or the side of a telephone pole.
- If you can afford it, live in a residence for your first year. Definitely get involved in as many events, sports and club as you can. Be curious, active and creative, especially during the winter when weather gets rough.
4) What do you know NOW about life in Kingston that you wish you had known when you first moved here?
- Do not take Kingston winters lightly. What it lacks in snow, it makes up for in wind chill. Adjust wardrobe accordingly.
- You can get very cheap sublets during the summer, so if you don’t mind moving often look for a lease only until May.
Below are links to a few services and resources that may be useful to you as you transition to life in Kingston.
Waste Collection – What day is garbage day? What is the recycling schedule like for my neighbourhood? Do I need to sort my recycling? All these answers and more HERE.
Getting Around Kingston
If you live near campus/downtown, most services and stores are easily accessible by foot or bike. If you find yourself driving downtown, check out the parking options HERE. Also, if you are parking on the road throughout the year, be aware between December 1st – March 31st parking on the street between 1am – 7am is prohibited and could land you a parking ticket.
Your Queen’s student ID includes a free bus pass, so if you will be commuting to campus or need to get out to other parts of Kingston, plan your route HERE or download the app to help plan your route.