10+ Things to do in Paris Ontario: Canada's Prettiest Small Town (2023)

Paris has been named one of the prettiest little towns in Canada. It’s home to waterfalls, delectable desserts, and historic buildings. You’ll be swept away by its charm, lovely people, and scenic spot in the heart of Ontario. And while it may be one of Ontario’s small towns, there are plenty of perfect things to do in Paris Ontario.

If you’re looking for somewhere to go for a weekend getawayin Ontario then Paris is the perfect place. And I’ve got your Paris tripplanning covered. From things to do in Paris Ontario to how to get there, aswell as where to stay and where to eat.

10+ Things to do in Paris Ontario: Canada's Prettiest Small Town (1)

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How to Get to Paris

Paris is located in Southern Ontario’s Brant County, just outside Brantford. Paris is only a half hour drive west of Hamilton or an hour and half from Toronto. Close enough for the perfect weekend getaway Ontario, road trip, or even a perfect day trip.

Depending on where you travel from here is one route idea. For route suggestions, I recommend taking Highway 401 and getting off at 24, heading towards Cambridge. Then get off on 14 going west for a scenic drive into Paris. You can find downtown Paris located along Grand River Street.

5 Top Things to do in Paris Ontario

If you’re looking for the perfect small town getaway in Ontario then Paris is where you should go! This charming small town is set between the Grand River and Nith River and is full of fantastic restaurants, shops, and plenty of awesome outdoor adventures.

10+ Things to do in Paris Ontario: Canada's Prettiest Small Town (2)

Visit Penman’s Dam

A great first stop in Paris is the historic Penman’s Dam. It was built over 100 years ago by the Penman clothing company to provide waterpower to run their mills. But it now provides a perfect spot to rest and relax with a picnic and take in the faux waterfall. Don’t forget to visit it at night too! Every evening at dusk the Penman’s Dam is lit by spectacular colours. Known as “Lighting of the Paris Falls”, you can best view it from the William Street Bridge.

There is also a parking lot along ? Here you can walk up and view the Dam up close and access the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail. You can also see the train bridge going over the Grand River perfectly from here. You may recognize it from many Hallmark movies.

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Take a Cobblestone Tour

Whether you’re a history buff or fan of incrediblearchitecture then you’ll love Paris. Known as the Cobblestone Capital of Canada,Paris is home to a dozen pristine cobblestone buildings and even a few gardenwalls. Doing a tour around town to see the cobblestone buildings was one of myfavourite things to do in Paris.

There are 12 homes and 2 cobblestone churches left in Paris.These Paris cobblestone buildings were all built around the mid-1800’s. Thisartful masonry work was brought here by the famous New York architect LeviBoughton. He chose rounded, lake washed, cobblestones to create these works ofart.

Some of the buildings are made of over 14,000 cobblestones, all drawn from the Nith and Grand Rivers. And nowhere else in Canada will you see this many cobblestone structures in one place. If you’re looking for more history in Paris you can download a self-guided historic walking tour of Paris here.

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Go for a Hike or Bike

If you know me, you’ll know I’m always on the hunt for hiking trails wherever I go. And Paris is no different. It’s a beautiful place for many reasons, incredible architecture, a picturesque downtown, and also because it’s surrounded by stunning natural scenery. So, I couldn’t leave out hiking as one of the top things to do in Paris Ontario.

There are over 100 kilometres of trails in Paris and area. The forests around Paris are significant as they are home to stretches of Carolinian Forests that are only found in certain places in Canada.

Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail

One great trail in Paris to check out is the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail. This 18 kilometre trail runs along an old rail bed. It’s one of the many incredible Grand River trails that follow the river. Plus, it offers various overlooks to stop and soak in the scenery. The trail is ideal for hiking and cycling.

SC Johnston Trail

The SC Johnson Trail is great for hiking or cycling! This 14-kilometre trail runs between Paris and Brantford. The SC Johnson Trail travels along the abandoned railway bed of the Northern Railway. Plus, it will reward you with scenic views over Paris! This is another great trail that is fit for foot or bike!

Nith River Trail & Distillery Lane Trail

In one of the best parks in Paris Ontario visitors will find another trail! The Nith River and Distillery Lane Trails run through Lions Park and Pete Lavole Ball Park, taking you along the Nith River. Plus, this lovely trail is also home to many sensory displays that provide an inclusive outdoor experience for many!

Other trails to check out in or near Paris are the Barker’s Bush Trail Loop, Penman’s Pass Trail, Grand Valley Trail, and the Gordon Glaves Grand River Loop. For more trails near Paris visit here.

Raft the Grand River

One of the top things to do in Paris Ontario for adventure buffs is to raft the Grand River. The Grand River is a designated Heritage River and has stretches of slow and fast currents. You can canoe, kayak, or enjoy a whitewater rafting experience on this majestic river. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to get a new view of Paris. And even if it’s your first time, don’t be shy, you can join one of the great guided tours with Grand River Rafting.

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Learn about Telephone History

Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Brant County? Not only did this historic event happen here in Ontario, but there’s even a Paris connection. On August 10, 1876, Bell’s first long-distance phone call was received at what was then Robert White Shoe Store in Paris, Ontario. It might not have been the long-distance we think of today, as it was received from Brantford, Ontario, only around 10 kilometres. But this was huge and history-making at the time!

If you’re looking for cool places in Paris then be sure to check out this historic site. And you can see the plaque in downtown Paris noting where it occurred. Be sure to swing by the Dominion Telegraph Event Centre at the corner of Grand River Street North and William Street. And if you want to learn more consider a visit to the Bell Homestead National Historic Site, a 20 minute drive from Paris.

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Where to Stay inParis

Paris is home to beautiful Bed & Breakfasts, some in historic homes. There are also plenty of vacation rental options in the area, even a couple of motels. But in my opinion, the best place to stay in Paris is The Arlington Hotel. It’s perfectly located in downtown Paris. Built in the early 1850‘s it was constructed in a chateau-style and is now an Ontario Heritage Site. To book your stay at the Arlington click here now!

The Arlington is a boutique hotel that combines historic charm with an imaginative literary theme. Each of their 24 rooms are decorated with iconic authors or creative minds in mind. There’s a Jane Austen suite, an enchanted J.R.R. Tolkien room, and my favourite – the Ernest Hemingway suite.

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Where to Eat in Paris

Paris, Ontario is a foodie’s paradise. There is everything from fine dining to pub fare. So there is something for everyone’s palate. The best part is many of the restaurants along Grand River Street offer patios overlooking the Grand River. The best place to start is with a good cup of coffee and you’ll find that at Dog-Eared Cafe. This adorable cafe and bookstore offers a range of drinks, treats and sandwiches.

A few great restaurants to eat in Paris are; 2 Rivers, Juniper Dining, and edit Restaurant, which is located in the Arlington Hotel. For the best patio in Paris head to Stillwaters. Their awesome menu offers everything from international to Canadian cuisine and their roof top patio offers awesome views of Paris.

Are you looking for a pub? Try Cobblestone Public House. And if you’re visiting in the summer and need a refreshing ice cream then pop over to Paris What’s The Scoop?! Need something to whet your whistle? You’re in luck because Paris has a new brewery, Paris Beer Company, located in Wincey Mills.

Beyond restaurants, there are cafés, bakeries, and a fabulous chocolate shop. You’ll also find a ton of great places to grab something to eat and snacks in The Paris Wincey Mills. Wincey Mills is a historic building that now houses offices and a great market where you can shop and of course grab something to eat.

If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth head to Chocolate Sensations. You find a wide assortment of handmade chocolates and other treats at Chocolate Sensations. Another fabulous stop is the Paris Bakery. Established in 1927, the Paris Bakery is a great place to grab mouth-watering baked goods like donuts, butter tarts, and fun seasonal goodies.

Looking for More Paris Activities?

This small town knows how to pack a lot into the cutest small town in Ontario! For those looking to spend the weekend in Paris I’ve more fun things to do. There are plenty of places to see in Paris and its surrounding county of Brant.

Take a Food Tour in Paris– Are you a foodie? Consider taking a food tour with Tasty Road Trips. Jan from Tasty Road Trips offers a range of food tours, both guided and self-guided for you to check out some of the fun places to eat in Paris. It’s the perfect way to explore the town as it pairs great food and hidden gems. If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Paris Ontario this is a sure place to start.

Shopping in Paris – There are a bunch of incredible local shops in Paris to browse, shop at, and maybe pick up a few souvenirs. A great place to start is in Paris Wincey Mills Market. Here you’ll find everything from treats to vintage goods. My favourite shop is Bird & Bee Vintage. Downtown Paris is home to a diverse variety of shops. A few favourites of mine are Green Heron Books, From The Attic Interiors, Flashback Vintage, and Bohemian Gallery.

More Charming Small Towns – Explore more of Brant County and the rest of the small towns nearby, like Sanit George and Glen Morris. If you’re staying in Paris for more than a day you’ll find a wealth of things to do in Brant County and in nearby towns. Another great stop nearby is Elberta Farms Country Market. Be sure to pop in for some incredible local produce to bring a taste of Paris home with you.

Take in the Best View of Paris – If you’re looking for the best views of Paris there are a few. From the William Street Bridge, you can take in the Grand River and the back of all the shops and patios. But in my opinion the best view of Paris from the Lookout – it’s on Google Maps! It’s located on King Edward Street and offers a near birds-eye view of downtown Paris.

Visit Lion’s Park – You can access Lion’s Park from downtown by a picturesque bridge that crosses the Nith River at the end of Mechanic Street. There is also a parking lot for the park off of Laurel Street. Lion’s Park is a lovely place to stroll, take in the gardens, and it also gives you access to a few trails. The park is also home to a splash pad, playground, and more.

Paris Events – There is a variety of fun and family-friendly events in Paris all year long. In the spring you can attend their Maple Syrup Festival. In September there’s the Paris Fair and nearby there’s St. George’s AppleFest. And in the winter you can check out some of the sweetest Christmas markets in Ontario right in Paris! There are a few going on throughout the holiday season across town.

Other Ontario Small Towns You’ll Also Love

Elora – located in Wellington County (35 mins. north of Kitchener)

Erin – located in Wellington County (1 hour northwest of Toronto)

Creemore – located in Simcoe County (35 mins. west of Barrie)

Goderich – located in Huron County (2.5 hours west of Toronto)

Bayfield – located in Huron County (2.5 hours west of Toronto)

Bracebridge – located in Muskoka (2 hours north of Toronto)

Tobermory – located in Bruce County (3.5 hours north-west of Toronto)

Books to Help Plan Your Next Ontario Adventure

Are you looking for more information to help plan your small town Ontario trip? There are a host of great books that will inspire you to dig deeper into Ontario. But I’ve done the work for you! Here are a few books to check out.

Backroads of Ontario– where you’ll discover incredible places and hidden gems that you’ll find on the backroads of Ontario. Including a few of these small towns as well as the scenic drives to take to get you there.

Top 160 Unusual Things to See in Ontario– if you’re on the hunt for more interesting places to visit and things to see during your Ontario travels then this is a fun book to pick up.

Ontario’s Ghost Town Heritage– is you’re looking for those long-forgotten charming small towns then this is the book for you! Discover some of Ontario’s strange and incredible ghost towns, and their interesting history.

Discover Ontario– in this book you’ll read about stories from the people and places that make up Ontario. There’s everything from unusual places to interesting people and the book shares their history and more.

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10+ Things to do in Paris Ontario: Canada's Prettiest Small Town (10)
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