Best 20+ Things to Do in Brantford That’ll Get You Talking
Brantford, Ontario has one of those reputations where if you say you’re going there, many people reply with why. Little do they know just how much history and culture are intertwined with the city! By the time you finish this post, you’ll be blown away at how much the city has to offer. Whether you’re in town for a hockey tournament, visiting friends, or just passing through, you won’t want to miss out on these top things to do in Brantford.
What Is Brantford Known For?
There are honestly so many reasons you should plan a trip to Brantford, Ontario. This city is morphing into something truly special. Brantford will take you by surprise! Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick look at a few of the things Brantford is known for.
- Are you a hockey fan? This is where one of the most popular players in NHL history, Wayne Gretzky, was born.
- How about Nutella? If you love the stuff, you can thank Brantford as their Canadian plant is here.
- Are you an art history buff? Lawren Harris, founder of the Group of Seven, called Brantford home.
- Do you love using your phone? You can thank Brantford and Alexander Graham Bell for it.
…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Many important historical events are tied to Brantford in some way, shape or form. Even the name is historical. Brantford is named after Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant, an important leader of the Mohawk People in the late 1700s. Needless to say, there are a number of important Indigenous sites within Brantford that teach both locals and visitors alike about the history of the city, the province, and the country now known as Canada.
Are you looking for more leisure than learning? What if I told you Brantford is home to a beautiful spa, a number of craft breweries, and more local eateries than you can shake a stick at? If this is up you’re alley, then keep reading and you’ll see why you need to visit Brantford!
Where is Brantford Anyway?
Brantford is located in Southwestern Ontario. Situated along the Grand River, it covers approximately 72 km2. Both Highway 403 and Highway 24 lead straight to the city, making Brantford easily accessible from a number of popular Ontario cities.
How to Get to Brantford
To get to Brantford from Toronto by car, you’ll want to hop on the Gardiner Express Way and then take Highway 403 West. Take the Wayne Gretzky Parkway from there and take a right onto Colborne Street which will take you toward the heart of town. The trip from Toronto to Brantford should take approximately an hour and a half depending on traffic. If you’re closer to Richmond Hill or the northern part of Toronto, it might be better to take Highway 401 to Highway 24 instead.
If you’re coming from St Catharines or Niagara Falls by car, take the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. From there hop on Highway 403 and follow it to the Wayne Gretzky Parkway into town. The trip from St Catharines to Brantford should take a little over an hour. From Niagara Falls, you can follow this route and add about 20 minutes or you can take Highway 20 East to Route 65 and then to Highway 6 North. This will meet up with Highway 403.
Brantford is also accessible by bus and train. Greyhound, GO Transit and VIA Rail all service the city if you wish to leave your car at home. Although depending on what you want to see and do in Brantford, the easiest way to get around is by car. I’d personally recommend driving rather than bus or train.
Things to Do in Brantford Ontario
From history and culture to great eats and treats and some outdoorsy fun in between, there are lots of things to do in Brantford. Here are some you won’t want to miss!
Re-Learn History at the Woodland Cultural Centre
If you’re going to go anywhere in Brantford, my vote is for the Woodland Cultural Centre for a number of reasons. What we learn in school about the “history” of what is now Canada is not an in-depth depiction of what actually happened. While the curriculum is slowly catching up, what you’ll find here is a truer depiction of historic events along with how they affected the Indigenous peoples who originally called this land home.
Located on the same site as the first residential school in Canada, the Mohawk Institute, inside you’ll experience exhibit after exhibit teaching you about the pre-history and history of the area as it relates to the Woodland peoples. This includes the traditions of the Six Nations Confederacy (the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora) as well as the Mississauga-Ojibway people. You’ll begin over 600 years ago to the days of the prehistoric Neutral people who tried to live in harmony between the Huron of the north and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of the south.
Two hundred years later, first contact with European settlers occurs in 1626. Here we move into what begins the tragic history of the Indigenous as their world collides with the European settlers who descended upon their land. Disease, manipulation and war greatly affect the original people of this land as the Europeans ignored treaties and took advantage of the Indigenous with the Fur Trade, World War I and II, and the residential school system.
As I said, the Woodland Cultural Centre resides where Canada first established its horrific residential school system. The Mohawk Institute opened in 1828 with the intention of “killing the Indian in the child”. The church and government worked together to rip children from their families in order to assimilate them into their European ideals which they believed to be more advanced.
Indigenous children had their hair cut and names changed. They weren’t allowed to wear their traditional clothes, speak their language, and siblings were separated. Thousands of children were abused with many of them dying from the horrific conditions they were forced to endure. To this day, the residential school system still affects families because of the intergenerational trauma that’s been passed on.
This is a very quick overview as I could write an entire blog post dedicated to the Woodland Cultural Centre and probably still not cover everything. There’s so much to unpack that it’ll take multiple visits to truly understand and appreciate every exhibit. I highly recommend returning, especially once the residential school is open again after renovations are complete. Until then, see how you can help support the Woodland Cultural Centre with their Save the Evidence campaign. You can also take a look at my Instagram story to learn a bit more about the exhibits inside.
Explore the Mohawk Chapel, Ontario’s Oldest Building
Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks is now the only remaining building of the Mohawk Village that once stood here. Formerly known as St Paul’s until 1904, it was built in 1785 and designated as a Royal Chapel to recognize the alliance with the British. The Mohawk Chapel was given to the Mohawk Loyalists, led by Joseph Brant during the American Revolution.
Step inside to find three panels depicting the earliest written recording of the Mohawk Language. As you may or may not know, Indigenous languages were historically verbal and not written. It wasn’t until contact with European settlers that this started happening, which is why it’s very different from the written Mohawk you find today. These panels depict the Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. The two outer panels are said to be from the original Queen Anne Chapel in Fort Hunter, NY dating back to 1712 while the middle panel was destroyed in the 1975 fire and is a recreation.
The tour follows the eight stained glass windows which were installed in the 1960s. Each one depicts an important chapter in the Indigenous history of the area from the story of the Peacemaker who travelled across what is now Lake Ontario in a stone canoe to unite the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Seneca Nations. As a result of his efforts, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed in the 1400s uniting the People of the Longhouse.
The windows go on to discuss their alliance with the British, Joseph Brant and the formation of the Haldimand Treaty, the formation of the original Mohawk village and more. It does not gloss over the horrific history of the residential school system which ripped Indigenous children from their families with the intent of assimilation into European ideals. The effects of this are still being felt to this day as I talked about further in the previous section.
While you have the option to do the tour self-guided, I highly recommend a guided one. What I’ve included is a VERY condensed summary of what I heard. I can’t stress enough just how good the tour is. There is also the option to purchase a self-guided tour pamphlet for $2 which you can take with you. Visit the Mohawk Chapel website to learn more about the history of the area, the chapel itself and to find more information for planning your visit.
Go For a Hike
With the Grand River snaking through the heart of the city, there is no shortage of beautiful trails to enjoy. It’s known as the “hub of Ontario trails” as so many of them intersect here. You can follow these routes to Cambridge, Hamilton, Port Dover and more! There are over 70km of trails in Brantford alone with even more in the surrounding county of Brant. As you can imagine, there is no shortage of hiking adventures to be had!
I personally enjoy the Fordview Trail as it follows the shoreline of the Grand River, offering beautiful views of the city. This is especially the case at sunset! Another one I recommend is the SC Johnson Trail close to Wilkes Dam. Both of these great low-key trails, perfect for some family fun! If you’re super ambitious, you can tackle the entire Grand River Loop. At 18km in length, you’ll get a great taste of the natural wonders Brantford has to offer!
RELATED: For even more fantastic hikes along this beautiful waterway, check out these top Grand River trails!
There’s also the Brant Conservation Area, owned and operated as part of the Grand River Conservation Authority. It’s a popular spot for hiking, biking and fishing. You can also launch a canoe or kayak here and explore the water. I should note that there is an entrance fee to use this park.
Get Caffeinated at the Blue Dog Cafe
I don’t know about you but a good local coffee shop is one of the first things I seek out when on an adventure. Bonus points when it’s a heritage home transformed into a cafe which is exactly what you’ll find at The Blue Dog! They have a number of great items for those looking for a boost of energy or just a delicious tea to slowly sip. Their beans are freshly roasted so you know you’ll be enjoying a delicious cup of joe. I’ve never utilized this myself but Blue Dog also features a board game room that’s free for patrons to utilize!
Grab a Pint
Craft beer is taking Ontario by storm so it’s not surprising to find a few craft breweries in Brantford! The city is home to two breweries, the first being Bell City Brewery. Paying homage to famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell, what started as a couple of friends homebrewing has transformed into what you see now. Grab a pint or try a flight while enjoying some of their bistro’s comfort food like hearty grilled cheese sandwiches.
Mash Paddle Brewing Company is the second brewery in town and is located in the Brantford Artisans’ Village. Channeling the rustic vibes of their century building, this is one lively spot! They offer live music pretty much every Saturday as well as a number of additional events from paint nights to pumpkin carving. While they don’t have food available, you’re welcome to bring your own and settle in for a beer or flight.
I highly recommend trying Dat Funky Monkey, an orange pineapple radler that tastes like liquid summer. And yes, their flights come on paddles! Oh and in case you’ve been wondering this whole time what a mash paddle is… here you go.
While this one is a little outside the city, Steel Wheel Brewery is certainly worth the trip! This Brant County brewery focuses on the farm-to-glass experience. Growing their hops on-site, Steel Wheel emphasizes sourcing local ingredients as well as employing local people.
Hunt for Public Art
There is no shortage of public art within the city limits. Around Brantford, you’ll find a number of statues dedicated to important figures such as Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), Alexander Graham Bell, and Wayne Gretzky. See if you can find all three along with what other statues you’ll find in the city! There are also some beautiful murals that really add gorgeous pops of colour to the city. This is just one of the great things to do in Brantford for free!
Head to Harmony Square
If there’s something going on in Brantford, chances are it’s at Harmony Square. Located in the heart of downtown, it’s surrounded by a number of coffee shops, restaurants, and more. This area is a hotspot for festivals and events in the city. Come wintertime, it’s transformed into a public skating rink so be sure to bring your skates for some winter fun. It’s just one of the great free things to do in Brantford!
Reconnect with Nature
While there are a number of great hikes in the city, sometimes you just want to sit back, relax and embrace the nature around you. Mohawk Park is the perfect place to do this! Right on the shores of Mohawk Lake, there are a number of beautiful lookouts along the shore. There’s also a children’s playground with slides and climbing structures, a large picnic area with tables, a pavilion and more! I can say from experience that picnicking here is awesome, especially when you’re enjoying some delicious eats from Our Kitchen.
Indulge in Some Chocolate
Would you expect to find a top-notch chocolatier in Brantford? I swear it’s not too good to be true! Le Chocolat du Savoie is a French country-style boutique offering some of the most decadent chocolates I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Annette, the owner and chocolatier, has over 30 years of experience creating these handcrafted morsels of delight. Whether you’re looking for a sweet treat or a gift for someone special, you can’t go wrong with Annette.
Relax at the Grand Wellness Spa
This is probably my favourite stop in Brantford mainly because I know I need to take more for myself. A visit to Grand Wellness is the perfect excuse to do just that! You’ll feel the tension melt away as soon as you step through their doors. The first thing you’ll notice is the beautiful historic building, dating back to the 1800s and then reconstructed in 1902. Inside they’ve created various rooms to serve their clients including massage therapy, reflexology and more.
During my visit, I was able to sample a number of their services. First on the docket was their salt block detox treatment where you place your feet on heated salt blocks. This gently draws toxins out of your feet and relaxes the muscles while stimulating blood and energy flow. This treatment helps improve circulation, strengthen weakened kidney function and is said to be very helpful for insomnia.
Keeping with the salt theme, next was a visit to their salt cave for some halotherapy. What is halotherapy you might ask? This alternative form of medicine has been used for millennia with the first mention dating to the 12th century in Poland. Polish salt miners were shown to be in greater health than their counterparts, leading people to believe the salt cave had a hand in this. While many are skeptical of halotherapy, we all can agree that each of us could do our mind and body good with a little more downtime. Plus, you can’t deny how relaxing it is inside Grand River’s salt cave. It’s like being transported to another dimension!
Settle into one of their zero-gravity chairs with a cozy blanket and relax. Let your thoughts wash away while breathing in the perfect mix of salt and humidity. Don’t be surprised if you fall asleep for a wink or two!
Are you a fan of the bathing suit I’m wearing?
See where I got it (and other amazingly Canadian goodies) in my Canadian gift guide!
Next on the docket was a visit to the infrared sauna. This was my second experience with an infrared sauna (the first being during my visit to Lanark County just outside of Ottawa) and it was just as amazing as the first. Nothing like a good sweat to release some tension! Infrared saunas are also known to help with detoxification, ease muscle aches and pains, assist with weight loss as well as purify your skin. Grand River takes it one step further by offering some refreshing drinks to enjoy as you sweat. By this point, I was feeling pretty magical already but there was still one experience to go!
Last but certainly not least (and my personal favourite), a trip to the beer spa. Yes that’s right, you don’t have to go to Poland in order to indulge in a traditional beer soak! Beautiful barrel tubs invite you to settle into a warm bath of hops, barley and yeast. This combination draws out toxins while stimulating your circulatory system. Additionally, the hops exfoliate your skin while the beer yeast contains B vitamins that are vital for skin elasticity, hydration and more.
The best part? You get to enjoy a pint of Ramblin’ Road while you soak! Beer not your thing? That’s okay, you can enjoy a glass of wine from Burning Kiln instead. Doesn’t that sound like absolute heaven? Spoiler alert: it is. Also in case you’re wondering, I promise you won’t smell like a booze hound afterwards.
If you’re looking for some Brantford date ideas, this would easily be my top pick. Whether it’s a girls spa night or a romantic little getaway, you can’t go wrong with the Grand River Spa.
Shop at the Farmers’ Market
Did you know one of Ontario’s longest-running farmers’ markets is right here in Brantford? I kid you not! The Brantford Farmers’ Market has been serving the community since 1848 supplying staples like bread, meat, cheese, vegetables and more. Over the years it has added a number of local artisans, a breakfast and lunch counter, and more. You’ll find 49 stalls inside the market open year-round with an additional 20 stalls outside during their peak season from May until October. Stop by Fridays from 9:00am until 5:00pm or Saturdays from 7:00am until 2:00pm.
Visit the Bell Homestead National Historic Site
If you’re someone like me that can’t leave home without your phone, you have Brantford resident Alexander Graham Bell to thank for that. While he was born in Scotland, he immigrated to the area with his family due to his diagnosis of tuberculosis. Luckily he made a full recovery as they settled into their beautiful Brantford homestead.
Step inside the Bell Homestead as you explore the house while learning about the history of the Bell family as well as the evolution of his iconic invention. He divided his time between a teaching position in Boston and summers in Brantford where he worked away on his plans for the telephone. They officially came to life on July 26th, 1874. Just two years later in August 1876, he made the first long-distance telephone call from Brantford to Paris, Ontario. From there, the rest is history!
I was blown away by the fact that 90% of the artifacts found inside are original to the Bell family. You’ll see test models, photos, furniture and more – all of which are in impeccable condition. Many items have been generously donated back by descendants of the Bell family. Your tour can be as self-guided as you like, however you must have an employee with you at all times. Visit the Bell Homestead website for more information regarding admission fees and hours of operation.
Top Restaurants in Brantford
You’ll quickly realize that there is no shortage of great eats in Brantford. While I haven’t been to every restaurant in town, I can say for certain that those listed below are delicious. Yes, I took one for the team and ate at each of them. Life’s rough eh?
Al Dente Restaurant
Now it’s been a while since I surprised Robin for his birthday a few years back with a visit a beer bath and dinner at Al Dente, but I still dream of their vodka sauce so that’s a testament to how good this restaurant is. Every dish we had was fresh and full of flavour. Don’t quote me but I do believe pretty much everything on the menu is made from scratch. Al Dente also has a number of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options making it easy for groups with a number of dietary restrictions to eat at!
Another thing I love about Al Dente is that they run full-day tours to wineries in the Niagara Region. You arrive to a light breakfast, go for a day of wine tasting and then come back to enjoy a full four-course meal at the restaurant. Sounds like a perfect weekend adventure to me!
Formerly known as Devlin’s Advocate, Hudson Public has just reopened and had a facelift since I visited. While I can’t speak much to the restaurant, I can say for certain their patio is the perfect place to be in the warmer months. Located in the heart of Harmony Square, you can enjoy their eats while feeling like a part of any event or festival happening in this space. For a pub-style restaurant, I was very surprised by the variety of dishes on their menu. From perch tacos to ribeye steaks to the most epic grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had, there’s definitely something for everyone.
What was once a dive bar has been transformed into a gorgeous boutique bistro. Fume Restobar specializes in Greek and Mediterranean dishes that are just as delicious as they look.
Whether it’s a starter or a main, every item is beautifully presented. You’ll be blown away by their octopus appetizer as a huge tendril is presented on a platter. I followed it with their Nero Di Seppia dish which featured cuttlefish ink pasta, rich scallops in a buttery sauce full of flavour. When I saw this dish had black pasta, I knew I had to try it! You’d never expect to find something like this in Brantford. Oh, and did I mention there’s often live music? I can’t think of a better date night spot in the city!
Mercasa Little Italy Eatery & Catering
This is where homemade Italian cuisine meets fast food. Don’t think it can be done? You’ll believe it with just one bite from Mercasa. Everything on their menu is prepared from scratch using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. The first thing you’ll notice is the quality of their handmade breads like their ciabatta as the recipes have been created by one of the best top master bakers in the world. From their CR7 Panini to their Viva la Figa Pizza, you’ll be so full by the end yet still wanting more. Take a look at their menu and I dare you to not drool.
If you have a craving for Thai or Vietnamese cuisine, Nine North has you covered. They look to take the “simplicity and happiness” of rural Vietnam and bring it to the present day. It’s a place where you take a moment to relax from the hustle and bustle to enjoy your meal. Trust me when I saw you’ll be fully enthralled in their dishes. From spring rolls to their cashew nut stir fry, you won’t be disappointed. Plus you know it’s good when a number of people who work in the area say that Nine North is their go-to for lunch!
Our Kitchen Brantford
If there’s anywhere that community meets cooking, it’s Our Kitchen. What started as a desire to have a certified kitchen has transformed into an incubator of sorts where entrepreneurs can utilize the space to develop their ideas at an affordable cost. From Monday to Friday, we can enjoy the fruits of this labour at lunch as members set up and serve their delicious concoctions. I haven’t eaten in the space personally but I enjoyed a picnic courtesy of Our Kitchen and I couldn’t believe the variety of eats and treats. It’s a truly unique spot that you don’t want to miss!
Sociable Kitchen and Tavern
The best way to describe Sociable Kitchen and Tavern is a pub vibe with a hipster twist. It’s one of those places where you instantly feel comfortable and you want to settle right in for a meal and a pint. They are constantly coming out with delicious specials like Socia’ville Hot Chicken Sandwich or their Northern Venison Chili. Sociable is also great for having plant-based options and gluten-free eats to ensure all patrons can enjoy. If you’re a fan of craft beer, I recommend tapping into their growler program so you can save on great local brews!
More Restaurants in Brantford to Eat At
While I try to eat at as many restaurants as I possibly can, there’s only so much room in my belly! If you’re looking for more Brantford restaurants to check out, here are the ones on my list for future visits:
- Dairee Delight – With all the times I’ve been to Brantford, I still can’t believe I haven’t had a taste of Dairee Delight. This 50s style ice cream shop has been a favourite for locals and visitors alike since 1953. From sundaes to frozen yoghurt pies to their ‘delites’, you’ll always want to save room for dessert when out and about in the city!
- Healthy Rabbit – Since late 2015, the Healthy Rabbit has been serving up sustainable eats to the city of Brantford. Everything on the menu (including their dressings and desserts) is made with whole grains, veggies, and herbs. While their menu is mainly vegan, there are locally sourced options for the carnivores out there.
- The Everest Grill – Get a taste of the Himalayas straight from the source. Here you’ll find homestyle cooking with flavours right from Asia on their extensive menu. You’ll find staples like Butter Chicken as well as more unique items like Karahi. Plus you can enjoy a 10% discount if you pay with cash!
- Soulful Kafe – Ever heard of Jamaican, Portuguese, Canadian cuisine? This unique combination is what you’ll find at the Soulful Kafe! Their menu is massive with plenty of handhelds, poutines, pizzas and more. I honestly can’t wait to try their Jamaican Sandwich next time I visit Brantford!
- On The Lam – If you’re looking for gourmet eats in Brantford, On The Lam is the place to be. Said to have some of the best drinks in the city, their menu is forever changing depending on what’s fresh and available. While On The Lam’s eats have a focus on raw items, that’s not all they serve. Just take a look at their Facebook page and I guarantee you’ll be drooling in minutes!
Additional Things to Do in Brantford
Have you checked out all of my suggestions above and are looking for more fun things to do in Brantford? Here are a few more ideas! While I haven’t checked these all out myself, they’re definitely on my list for future trips to the city.
Admire the Masterpieces at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant
Situated on the shores of the Grand River, the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant features contemporary fine art exhibitions that often showcase works from their permanent collection of over 600 artworks. Guided tours, classes and lectures are all available for those looking for a more in-depth artistic experience. Be sure to explore the gorgeous sixteen-acre park that surrounds the gallery!
Check Out a Festival
Brantford is home to a number of festivals that occur all year round! With over 100 festivals on the docket each year from chili cookoffs cultural events, there is no shortage of festivals in Brantford. Here are a few to give you a taste of what Brantford has to offer, but you can check out the full line up on their website.
Brantford International Jazz Festival – This free festival on the second weekend of September has been entertaining locals and visitors alike for over a decade. From New Orleans Jazz and big band swing to urban styles of jazz, it’s the perfect way to spend your weekend. Bring a chair and settle into Harmony Square to enjoy the shows – and don’t forget your dancing shoes!
Onkwehón:we Festival – At the end of June, this free festival celebrates Haudenosaunee artists as well as other Indigenous Peoples from across Turtle Island. You’ll have the opportunity to not only see but experience incredibly beautiful traditions that have existed for centuries. There are also ticketed workshops where you can learn to bead or even make your own drum. Visit the Woodland Cultural Centre’s website for full details.
Brant Museum Crawl – For the month of May, numerous museums and cultural destinations within the city of Brantford offer special events and screenings as a part of Museum Month. This initiative was born to help provide greater awareness of the numerous museums and galleries in the city and surrounding area. Take a look at their Facebook page and it’ll give you an idea as to what’s in store for future years!
Brantford Pride Week – Love is love no matter who you are and what better way to celebrate that than a week-long festival! Promoting anti-racist action, community care, decolonization, disability justice and intersectionality, this grassroots group of 2SLGBTQ+ people come together to celebrate inclusivity with the hopes of working towards a world where everyone can exist in it without judgement.
Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament – As summer starts to ramp up, it’s time to move from the rink to the streets. Grab some friends, make a team and play some games to see who will be crowned champion. Over the years, this June tournament has raised almost $200,000 for the Ontario Lung Association!
Get in the Christmas Spirit – There are seriously so many holiday events in Brantford that it’s impossible not to get in the festive spirit! From the Candlelit Christmas Celebration at the Bell Homestead to a Victorian Christmas at Chiefswood National Historic Site, there’s something happening every weekend in December. Don’t forget the light displays at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant, too!
Explore the Brantford Artisans’ Village
Historically known as the twine factory “Brantford Cordage”, the Brantford Artisan’s Village is breathing new life into the 200,000 square feet of building space. While it’s no longer the British Empire’s largest manufacturer of twine, now you’ll find a number of great local shops, studios and more. Try your hand at pottery making with the Brantford Potters Guild, do some thrifting at The Closet Door, catch a show at the aptly named event venue The Rope Factory and much more!
Test Your Luck at the Casino
Feeling lucky and want to try your hand at a game or two? Stop in at the Elements Casino Brantford. While I don’t advocate for gambling, I’ve done my fair share of visiting casinos since I grew up in Niagara. If anything I’m always fascinated to see all the lights and bobbles and dings as you enter what feels like an alternative universe. When I do visit, I bring $20 with me and try my hand at Blackjack (on the screens, I’m not dealing with people) or the penny slots… if I can find them. They’re hard to come by these days!
If a trip to the casino is on your Brantford itinerary, please be responsible. Go in with a set amount and once that’s gone, leave. There are too many stories of people losing their shirts at casinos and I’d hate for that to happen to you!
Visit the Canadian Military Heritage Museum
I’m the first to admit that I’m no history buff nor am I extremely interested in it, however I know the importance of learning and knowing it. Established by a group of dedicated volunteers comprised of veterans and history enthusiasts, the Canadian Military Heritage Museum seeks to collect, preserve and display artifacts about the military history of Canada for the purpose of education. While their focus is naturally on Brantford, you’ll see and learn about the Canadian military and how it has changed over the years.
Where to Stay in Brantford
While most of my visits to the city have been day trips, there are a number of hotels in Brantford for guests to stay at. I advocate to stay at local establishments when possible, however the majority of Brantford’s options include your usual hotel chains. During my last overnight visit, I stayed at the Best Western Brantford Hotel and Conference Centre and had a wonderful visit. It was busier than usual as I stayed on a Friday the 13th where I found a number of bikers were looking for a place to crash after their event in Port Dover.
Despite being fairly busy, I had peace and solitude in my whirlpool king bedroom. I was thrilled to find an incredibly spacious room with a large seating area, workspace with desk and my favourite part – a jacuzzi tub. The cherry on top was the origami towel swans sitting on the bed who welcomed me as I settled in. Rooms also include a mini-fridge and microwave, perfect for reheating any leftovers you may have from the delicious restaurants in Brantford.
The hotel boasts an indoor pool, whirlpool hot tub and sauna for those looking to relax or get a swim in while visiting Brantford. The Best Western is also pet-friendly (for an additional fee) and your stay includes a free hot breakfast with a number of delicious goodies. From the typical bacon and home fries to an omelette station to lighter, healthier options, if you leave the breakfast buffet hungry – you’re doing it wrong. See what previous guests have to say about their stay or book your getaway now!
INSIDER TIP: Brantford is a popular destination for hockey tournaments because of the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre and as a result, hotels can book up quickly on a tournament weekend. If you’re having difficulty finding a room or noticing the prices are higher than on other weekends, I’d recommend trying another weekend. Here are a few more tips on how to save money when booking accommodation.
A few new accommodation options have appeared since my overnight stay in Brantford including the Mohawk Lodge in the heart of downtown. This would easily be my first choice next time I’m in town for an overnight stay. This adorable one-bedroom apartment in downtown Brantford includes a balcony, modern furnishings and plenty of natural light. While there is no official parking space, it looks like street parking is available!
While there are a number of fantastic Brantford hotels, if you’re unable to find one for your preferred dates, there are plenty of other accommodation options in the area. I recommend heading to Paris where you’ll find some fantastic boutique hotels like The Arlington Hotel. There’s also the Carriage House B&B if you’d like something a little more homey. It’s only a 15 minute drive between the two cities making it easy to explore both on a weekend getaway. Plus there are so many great things to do in Paris Ontario you won’t want to miss visiting it as well!
Ready to Visit the Telephone City?
See what I mean? Brantford may not be the same as it was during the industrial boom but that doesn’t mean it’s a right-off. If anything, it’s far from it! There’s still plenty of life in this city as it continues to grow and transform.
A question that seems to appear frequently is, is Brantford dangerous? Is Brantford safe to explore? Overall I would say yes, Brantford is a safe city however this is speaking from my experience as a white woman. Personally, I would say you’re not more likely to be a victim of a crime any more than you would be in other cities in Canada of the same size. I recommend being aware of your surroundings just as you would in any other city. This is especially the case when travelling solo as I often do.
To recap, these are the best things to see and do in Brantford:
- Learn about the true history of the area at the Woodland Cultural Centre
- Explore Ontario’s oldest building, the Mohawk Chapel
- Enjoy the “hub of Ontario’s Trails” with a hike or two
- Grab a caffeinated beverage at the Blue Dog Cafe
- Indulge in a pint or flight at one of the Brantford craft breweries
- Hunt for statues and murals as you enjoy the public art of Brantford
- Wander around Harmony Square and go for a skate in the wintertime
- Reconnect with nature at one of the parks in Brantford
- Treat yourself to some delicious chocolate from Le Chocolat du Savoie
- Rest your tired body and rejuvenate your soul at the Grand Wellness Spa
- Do a little shopping at the Brantford Farmer’s Market
- Learn about the telephone and its inventor at the Bell Homestead National Historic Site
- Grab a bite to eat at one of the many incredible restaurants in Brantford
- Admire the artistic masterpieces at the Glenhyrst Gallery of Brant
- Plan a visit to the city during one of the many local festivals
- Explore the Brantford Artistans’ Village
- Test your luck at the Elements Casino Brantford
- Visit the Canadian Military Heritage Museum
So there you have it! Brantford truly is a city that so many overlook. Don’t be one of those people and give it a shot – I guarantee it’ll get you talking.
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Very cool as always Lindz. It is really strange when people can’t understand why you’d visit an area, but it sounds like Brantford has tonnes to offer. Is it people that live nearby that were confused? I mean, once they know there is chocolate, tasty food, spa and hikes there might be a stampede to visit! 😉
The residential school history is horrific. I am still learning about it, but the idea to “kill the Indian in the child” is pretty terrifying. I don’t feel like i can criticize as an outsider. I am glad to see how much Canadians are trying to learn and make up for this past. It is much better than we do back home in the UK. Most kids don’t have any ides of the terrors the British inflicted on their empire.
p.s. It cracks me up that you got into a bath to pose with beer!!
I just moved back to Brantford. Thank you for highlighting some of the new establishments for me! Mary D
What a wonderfully detailed description of Brantford! My daughter and family has just moved there, so I will forward it to them
Ryan K Biddulph
That chapel looks amazing Lindsay. What a spot.