About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”
Paris is always a good idea. But you need not travel all the way to France. A day trip to Paris, Ont., will appeal to everyone from history buffs to adventure lovers. While it is not named after the City of Love, the Paris that’s a 90-minute drive from Toronto is named for its gypsum deposits, a key ingredient in plaster of Paris.
This community certainly holds its own when it comes to charm. Once dubbed the province’s prettiest town, Paris is located where the Nith River empties into the Grand River. Whatever your passion, the abundance of shopping, dining spots, historical buildings and outdoor fun will leave everyone happy during a day trip.
In the morning:
From Toronto, head west on Highway 403 and make your first stop in Brantford at the Bell Homestead National Historic Site, where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1874. On your tour of the property, you’ll discover how the Bell family lived in Melville House, which was owned by Bell’s father, Alexander Melville Bell, and learn how the younger Bell first began working on the creation of the telephone and how his invention changed over the years.
Next, take King George Road to Elberta Farms Country Market in Paris to pick up some pantry staples and foodie delights. Offering seasonal fruit and vegetavles, it also carries products such as loafs of Beatrix Boulanger’s apple sourdough bread and homemade carrot cake jam from The Jelly Girls.
From there, you’re less than a 10-minute drive to the centre of Paris. Make you first stop the Paris Wincey Mills Co., a late-1800s building that now houses a market hall featuring local vendors and office spaces on its upper floors. Among the retailers are the award-winning The Udder Way Artisan Cheese Company, Bird & Bee Vintage, a boutique full of unique finds, and The Paris Apothecary, a wellness store carrying naturally made products.
By now, you’re probably feeling hungry, so head to Arepa Love – also located in the building – for delectable sandwiches. Its meaty Pepito Rumbero features fresh arepas (a cornmeal cake) filled with seasoned sirloin, onions, peppers, feta, and microgreens with irresistible Iberian ham-flavoured potato chips served on the side.
In the afternoon:
Paris is the cobblestone capital of Canada and following the walking tour available online from the Paris Museum will give you a good snapshot of the town. The tour includes historical treasures, from the beautiful Arlington Hotel, built circa 1888, to the striking masonry of the Norman Hamilton home.
While you’re on the tour, be sure to take a few minutes and pop through the doors of the different local retailers you pass along the way. Interior design lovers will want to check out Pursuit of Home for a fantastic selection of vintage and mid-century furniture mixed in with modern accessories. Also, be sure to stop at Paris Bakery, located on Grand River Street North. The shop has been around since 1927 and serves up classics such strudels and homemade Twix candy bar-like treats.
Drop your purchases in the trunk of your car and drive the short distance – you can also walk – to Penmans Dam Park to enjoy the view of the Grand River, which was designated a Canadian Heritage River in 1994 thanks in part to its industrial heritage and its popularity for watersports. That heritage can still be seen, as the dam that crosses the river was built in 1918 to power the Penmans clothing company’s mill.
After enjoying a few photo opportunities by the water, drive back through Paris to Lion’s Park, located on the Nith River. Here you can explore the 270-metre Sensory Trail, an accessible, interactive walk that features a guided rope, braille signs, musical instruments and a sensory garden.
In the evening:
For a small town, there’s plenty of dining options in Paris. Restaurants Capeesh Craft Kitchen & Cellar and Stillwaters Plate & Pour both have varied menus where even the pickiest eaters will find something delicious to eat (although the Prince Edward Island crab cakes at Stllwaters, which is helmed by a “Top Chef Canada” alum William Thompson, may have a slight edge). Both restaurants also offer views of the Grand River.
For something more casual, the Cobblestone Public House – a sister restaurant to the Capeesh and Stillwaters – serves classic pub favourites you can enjoy will taking in the waterfront views from its patio. If you are celebrating a milestone or special event, consider the Juniper Dining Co., which features an impressive cocktail menu and elevated fare such as bone marrow and steak tartare and Muscovy duck breast with heirloom beets.
TIMELINE: Drive guide
Drive west on Highway 403.
Take Exit 41
Note: times are suggestions only
COVID-19 need to know
- 10 a.m. Bell Homestead National Historic Site
- 11:30 a.m. Elberta Farms Country Market
- 12:30 p.m. Paris Wincey Mills Co.
- 2:30 p.m. Self-guided walking tour
- 4 p.m. Penmans Dam Park
- 5 p.m. Lion’s Park
- 6:30 p.m. Dinner
Paris is following Ontario’s provincial COVID-19 guidelines. Contact individual businesses ahead of your trip to find out how they’re currently operating.
For the drive
Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance phone call from a shop in Paris to the Bell Homestead in Brantford. Learn more about the inventor by listening to “Unsound: The Legacy of Alexander Graham Bell” episode of the CBC Radio podcast “Ideas.”