Did you know that there are tons of fun things to do in Brantford, Ontario? You might know Brantford for a couple of reasons. First, it’s called the “Telephone City” because Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone here. Next, Wayne Gretzky, arguably the most famous hockey player in the world, was born and raised in Brantford.
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It only makes sense that the home of “The Great One” is a great place to visit. With the picturesque Grand River as a backdrop, there are many amazing outdoor activities and adventures in Brantford. There are also lots of engaging attractions and museums, including national historic sites. And Brantford has an incredible vegan food scene.
I’m going to show you exactly how to plan an exciting weekend getaway to Brantford. These are all of the attractions in Brantford that Justin and I experienced. Plus, I’ve listed a few at the end of the blog post to highlight even more things to do in Brantford for next time.
Where to Stay in Brantford
To get the full experience, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days in Brantford. We highly recommend that you stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Brantford Conference Centre. You’ll love these luxurious suites, trust me!
First, these suites are huge! Our room felt more like an apartment than a hotel room. There’s a massive king sized bed (which was extremely comfortable), a large desk, a living space, and a kitchenette. The bathroom is split into two spaces: the sink and mirror is separate from the shower and toilet, making it easy for one person to use the restroom while the other gets ready in the morning.
Other amenities at the hotel include a fitness room, an indoor swimming pool, and a complimentary breakfast. The location is just on the outskirts of town, but we didn’t mind because we were driving all over the city anyway. It’s not far from the city centre or any other places to visit in Brantford. You can read more reviews of the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Brantford to learn more.
More Places to Stay in Brantford
Looking for more places to stay in Brantford? Here’s a convenient map of all Brantford hotels and vacation rentals. Browse using the map to compare the various properties to choose one that’s right for you.
Best Things to Do in Brantford: Tubing on the Grand River
One of the most fun things to do in Brantford is to go tubing on the Grand River. We loved this unique Brantford attraction and highly recommend that you float down the Grand. Justin and I took the Turbo Tubing excursion with Grand River Rafting.
Booking Your Trip With Grand River Rafting
First, select your boat type. There are 9 different kinds of rafts and watercrafts to choose from: kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards, tubes, and larger boats to accommodate groups. There’s tandem kayaks, an eight person stand up paddle board, and a 12 person raft! The two of us went turbo tubing, which meant that we each had our own floatie.
Next, you’ll want to choose the length of your trip. There’s a 5km, 11.5km and 13km tubing trip. We opted for the 5km trip from Five Oaks to Brant Park, which takes approximately two hours. You’ll meet the Grand River Rafting crew at Brant Park. They’ll transport you to Five Oaks where you’ll board your tube. Then, you’ll float your way back down to Brant Park where you can conveniently hop in your car and depart.
Turbo tubing on the Grand River is an absolute blast. The Grand River acts as a natural lazy river. There aren’t any intense rapids, and you can simply float down the river as you please. There are a few shallow spots. But, for the most part, you’ll gently drift and let the river carry you. You’ll also have a paddle in case you feel like picking up the pace.
How to Prepare for Tubing on the Grand River
All you’ll need for the trip is sunscreen, sunglasses, footwear that you don’t mind getting wet, and a bottle of water. Grand River Rafting supplies ziplock bags for your phone and belongings (keys, wallet), just in case you want to bring them onto the raft.
The Five Oaks to Brant Park journey is great for children of all ages, adults, families, and couples like us! If you have small children, you can tie all of your tubes together so you don’t get separated as you float down the river.
More About the Grand River
The Grand River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 1994. This means that the river must have outstanding recreational opportunities and heritage values. It’s also southern Ontario’s largest watershed.
In terms of human heritage, the Grand River valley has been home to Indigenous Peoples for more than 10,000 years, including Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. The Mohawk name for the Grand River, O:se Kenhionhata:tie means “Willow River,” because there are many willow trees growing along the river.
This watershed also has many historic sites, like mills, canals, bridges, dams, archaeological sites, and historic homes. There are so many activities that people can experience on the Grand River. You can enjoy boating, wildlife viewing, water sports, and winter activities in the region. The Grand River flows through many communities, such as Elora, Paris, Cambridge, and more.
It’s a great birding destination, too. The Grand River is one of the largest inland wetlands in southern Ontario. You might spot bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and green herons. You’ll be able to see even more birds during migration seasons. When Justin and I were tubing, I saw a Great Blue Heron!
What to Do in Brantford: Visiting Woodland Cultural Centre
When you visit Brantford, you must plan a trip to the Woodland Cultural Centre. It’s one of the best things to do in Brantford. The Woodland Cultural Centre is a museum, art gallery, cultural centre and library that preserves and promotes Indigenous history, language, art and culture.
Woodland Cultural Centre and the Mohawk Institute Residential School
The Woodland Cultural Centre was established in 1972, just two years following the closure of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. The Mohawk Institute Residential School operated in Brantford for 142 years. During this time, First Nations children were taken from their families and forced to attend a boarding school that was designed to assimilate them into a European Christian society, thus eliminating their culture and heritage.
The site of the former residential school is currently undergoing a massive restoration, as part of the Save the Evidence campaign. The building will become a national historic site and interpretive centre about the history of residential schools, the experiences of Survivors, and the overall lasting impact of residential schools. It’s important to fully excavate this site, as well as repair and repurpose this building to ensure that this dark chapter of Canadian history is never forgotten.
Currently, you are able to walk up to the front of the Mohawk Institute Residential School building. The front of the building and its front steps are covered with tiny children’s shoes, stuffed animals, and signs reading “Every Child Matters” and “Never Forget”. I thought about all of the traumatic experiences and atrocities that occurred here. It’s a very emotional experience to visit.
Museum Exhibits at the Woodland Cultural Centre
The Woodland Cultural Centre is located inside a separate building near the old residential school. You can take a self-guided tour of the Woodland Cultural Centre simply by following the arrows on the floor. The museum begins with a portrait collection of prominent First Nations figures in Canada. Then, you’ll move through rooms that showcase a history of Canada’s First Nations and the impact of European settlers.
There’s a collection of over 35,000 artifacts in the museum, making it one of the largest facilities in Canada managed by First Nations. There’s historic materials, archaeological artifacts, sculptures, paintings, drawings, crafts, documents, and contemporary installations. You’ll walk through the storyline of the prehistoric past right up to the 21st century.
There’s a display featuring historic artifacts found at the Mohawk Institute Residential School. I imagine that even more items will be uncovered during the renovations. There’s also an image on the wall demonstrating the staggering amount of residential schools in Canada.
In the section devoted to the 20th and 21st centuries, there’s a display that details how Indigenous Peoples have been stereotyped by the rest of society. Then, there are celebrations of important public figures that are First Nations.
Art Gallery at the Woodland Cultural Centre
At the end of the tour, you’ll be able to wander through the art gallery. When Justin and I visited, the gallery was devoted to the works of Thomas V Hill. While Hill is most known as the first Indigenous art curator in Canada, visitors have a unique opportunity to view his own personal collection of paintings.
The next art gallery will display works as part of the annual Indigenous Art 2021 Juried Exhibition. This was established in 1975 and it’s a long running multimedia exhibition where artists have the opportunity to display and sell their art. This exhibition is open to all emerging and established artists of Indigenous ancestry.
Visiting the Woodland Cultural Centre was an enlightening experience. I definitely learned a lot, and it helped me gain a better understanding of the past and present experiences of southern Ontario’s First Nations. This museum and gallery is impactful and thought-provoking. When you plan your trip, you need to check out the Woodland Cultural Centre as it’s one of the top things to do in Brantford.
Must See: Brantford Farmers Market
Don’t miss the Brantford Farmers Market! A trip to the market is one of my favorite things to do in Brantford. It’s open every Friday (9:00am – 2:00pm) and Saturday (7:00am to 2:00pm), and it’s open year round. Plus, this is a historic market that opened way back in 1848!
You’ll find all sorts of goodies at the Brantford Farmers Market. There’s fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, homemade crafts, candy, treats, flowers, freshly prepared meals, and so much more. In addition to all of the locally grown produce, I loved the Catering by Chris stand, an Indigenous owned stall specializing in vegan and gluten-free desserts. I also couldn’t resist the Original Kettlecorn & Gourmet Popcorn stand as most of their delicious flavored popcorn is vegan.
Fun Things to Do in Brantford: Exploring Brantford’s Trails
Why not explore some of Brantford’s hiking trails and walking paths? Brantford is known as the Hub of Ontario Trails because three sections of the Trans Canada Trail intersect in Brantford. With lots of great paths along the Grand River and scenic forest trails, you’ll need to plan your hiking trip to Brantford, stat. Here’s one of my favorite places to go hiking in Brantford.
S.C. Johnson Trail
The SC Johnson Rail Trail is a 14km path connecting Paris and Brantford. A section of the trail follows the LE & N Railway (now the LE & N Rail Trail) and another portion comprises the Gordon Glaves Pathway.
I suggest starting your trek at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant. Park your car at Glenhyrst and walk down to the Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway. You’ll walk on a paved path that follows the banks of the Grand River. Keep walking and you’ll be able to admire the beautiful scenery at Wilkes Dam. You can continue walking (or cycling!) on the Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway for one large 19km loop.
Brantford Distillery: Manns Botanical Spirits
Brantford has a brand new craft distillery! Manns Botanical Spirits is a micro distillery serving up unique varieties of gin, vodka, rum, whisky and brandy. The distillery has a tasting room, a cocktail lounge, and there’s live music every Friday night.
When you visit Manns Distillery, you can order unique cocktails from their menu or try a sampling flight of their spirits. We tried three kinds of vodka and three kinds of gin. Our very favorite one was the strawberry rhubarb gin, but the watermelon vodka and the guava rose vodka were close contenders.
Manns Botanical Spirits will have new rotating varieties of gin and vodka depending on what’s in season. For instance, they recently added new haskap products using haskap berries from a farm just 5km away. They also sell a variety of bitters and other things that will help you to become an amazing bartender at home.
Where to Eat in Brantford
Brantford has a thriving vegan scene, and we were overjoyed to try so many amazing plant-based options when visiting Brantford. From mostly vegan menus to delectable vegan and vegetarian options, you should run, not walk, to Brantford as soon as possible. Here are some of the best vegan-friendly establishments in Brantford.
The Healthy Rabbit serves whole foods, plant-based meals using the highest quality ingredients that are local where possible. The menu is actually 96% plant-based with only a few animal products. The dressings and desserts are all made in house, too. It’s a great place for gluten-free meals, too!
It was a difficult decision to decide what to order as every meal sounded delicious. We chose the vegan nachos, a bean burrito, and a hulk bowl without the animal products. We paired our meals with two smoothies: the orange creamsicle and the chocolate monkey.
There’s a really spacious and pretty patio at the Healthy Rabbit. You can dine right out front or there’s a secluded section of patio at the side of the building. Justin and I savored our healthy vegan dishes in the bright sunshine. Talk about a perfect lunch spot!
Sociable Kitchen and Tavern
Trust me, you will LOVE the Sociable Kitchen and Tavern. It’s a popular spot, so make sure that you book a reservation ahead of time. The Sociable Kitchen and Tavern has an expansive separate plant-based menu with lots of comforting favorites. There’s a vegan pad Thai, burgers, faux fish tacos, and so much more.
There’s always unique local beers on tap, so make sure to order some pints if you love beer like we do. Justin and I decided to share an order of their truffle Parmesan fries. Then, I got the Carolina chik’n sandwich (a must if you love mustard and pickles!) and Justin got the hot Nashville chik’n sandwich. We both paired our burgers with vegan Caesar salads.
When you come to Brantford, this is my number one choice for dinner. If you have omnivore friends, there are lots of options on the menu for them. Basically, it’s a great restaurant for everyone in your crew. There’s a big patio, the servers are really friendly and helpful, and you’ll have a great time.
After visiting Brantford with Justin, I actually ended up coming back to Sociable with my sister. We were taking a little road trip, and she brought along her adorable Corgi named Dizi. The staff at the Sociable Kitchen and Tavern allowed Dizi to hang out with us on the patio (just on the other side of the glass), and they even brought out a dog bed and a bowl of water for her. I was super impressed!
Lettuce Live is a new vegan and “plant forward” establishment in town and they describe themselves as a conscious eatery. The majority of their menu is vegan and plant-based with only a few items containing honey or dairy. Lettuce Live is currently operating as a “ghost kitchen” takeaway where you can order their dishes for takeout. They’ll be opening their own restaurant later this year, stay tuned!
You will love to order meals from Lettuce Live as a healthy and delicious lunch option. They’ve got toasties, smoothie bowls, salads, bowls, soups, juices, smoothies, snacks, and sweet teas. Lettuce Live set up a beautiful display at a local park with a community garden so Justin and I could have a little picnic. It was so thoughtful and the floral arrangement was so pretty.
We also chatted with a few locals who were stopping by the community garden because they were really curious about our delicious eats! Justin and I devoured a sweet & spicy yammy toastie, a tropical vacation smoothie bowl, a smokin’ mexi bowl, a rhubarb crumble bar, and some sweet tea.
Bistro Seven is a hidden gem of a restaurant in Brantford. While they do offer some omni meals, the majority of the menu is vegan or can be prepared vegan. Plus, almost everything is gluten-free! They have an all day breakfast and I highly recommend that you try some of their breakfast and brunch dishes.
Justin and I ordered the vegan French toast plate (comes with veggie bacon and hash browns) and the Simply Vegan bowl (vegan omelet, bacon, sausage, potato, and cheese in a bowl), as well as some of the most delicious coffee.
This is my top pick for breakfast or brunch in Brantford. You can order their meals for delivery online or stop by the restaurant to dine in. We had the pleasure of chatting with the passionate owner and chef of Bistro Seven who prioritizes creating an amazing vegan breakfast and brunch menu as one didn’t exist in Brantford previously.
You can’t visit Brantford without making a stop at Dairee Delight. It’s practically an institution in Brantford! Dairee Delight is a 50s style ice cream stand that’s simply iconic. The ice cream stand was actually won in a poker game decades ago! Visiting Dairee Delight is one of the best things to do in Brantford.
While the majority of the menu is not vegan, Dairee Delight proudly carries one vegan soft serve ice cream that rotates each week. They also state the vegan toppings on their website. They’ll typically have a vegan vanilla soft serve or Dole whip. When I visited, they had the vanilla soft serve. I asked them to make an Oreo Flurry and it was incredibly good.
More Things to Do in Brantford, Ontario
Looking for even more fun things to do in Brantford? Here are even more great ideas that I’d love to check out the next time I’m in Brantford.
Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant
Glenhyrst has an art gallery, public gardens, and a tea room. You can admire the permanent collection or temporary exhibits at the gallery. It’s possible to stroll around the gardens at your leisure to view pretty flowers and floral displays. The Golden Teapot at Glenhyrst has English high tea and low tea if you’re looking for a treat.
Grand Wellness Centre
Speaking of treating yourself, pamper yourself at Brantford’s day spa, the Grand Wellness Centre. They have an assortment of spa treatments, massages, a healing salt cave, and a yoga studio. There’s also a beer spa where you can enjoy a pint of local beer while soaking in a cedar tub (of water and beer).
Bell Homestead National Historic Site
The Bell Homestead National Historic Site is a beautiful historic home that was once where the Bell family lived. This was where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1874. The home is now a museum where you can learn about the history of the telephone and how the telephone has dramatically changed over the years.
Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks
Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks was the first Protestant church in Upper Canada, and it’s now the oldest surviving church in the province. The Mohawk Chapel is operated by Six Nations Tourism, and you can take a tour or attend an event. There are also educational programs for local children through their schools.
Canadian Military Heritage Museum
For the war history buffs in the crowd, a trip to the Canadian Military Heritage Museum is one of the top things to do in Brantford. There are exhibitions about Canada’s involvement in World War I, World War II, the War of 1812, and more. There are also restored military vehicles and full size replicas of WWI airplanes.
More Ontario Travel Guides
Want to visit more Ontario cities and towns? Why not make a road trip out of it! Here are some more southern Ontario travel guides that you might find helpful.