Visit a Natural Playground in Guelph

I love a good day trip, and this summer we’ve been doing many! A few weekends ago we grabbed the kids and hopped in the car to visit Guelph – and here’s why! 

Guelph is about 45 minutes – just under 60km – from Burlington, and our main inspiration for the trip was to check out Exhibition Park, Guelph’s natural playground. A natural playground is essentially a park made almost entirely of wood. Limited plastic and metal, with loads of opportunity for exploration.


Exhibition Park

Exhibition Park was the first official natural playground we’ve visited. When we arrived, my kids were floored! These girls love climbing and jumping and exploring (don’t most kids?) so when they were set loose at Exhibition Park they were in their glory.

The Park is home to a few different play areas, each one more impressive than the last. There’s a huge section that can best be described as a “spider web of logs”. Immediate the shoes were off and the kids were scaling the logs and making their way from one end to the other. The heights range from about 2 feet at the lowest point to 7 or 8 feet at the highest. My girls are 8 and 10, and it was a challenging apparatus for them, something they don’t get to experience much at conventional parks.

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My 8-year-old has yet to meet monkey bars she didn’t love, so she was in her glory with all of the climbing bars at Exhibition Park. The various log climbers, ramps, and log walls put balance to the test, and really make kids focus on their footwork. At the same time, their imaginations are running wild.

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La Piece Du Resistance

There was one thing about Exhibition Park that made it stand out from every other park we’ve been to – The Water Pump. Yup, a real, working hand pump that PUMPED. REAL. WATER. Take that in for a minute. I scored a million mom points at that very moment. Shoes and socks were immediately removed and car washes/water deliveries/other fun stuff ensued. (Note, for 2020 the water pump is not operating)

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Dinner at Angel’s Diner

After we put in some serious time playing (and then losing some mom points for making them leave the park), we headed nearby to Angel’s Diner. When I planned to go to Guelph, I consulted the Facebook universe for some restaurant recommendations, and I wasn’t disappointed! Angel’s Diner is a chain spanning all over southern Ontario. We’re not a picky bunch, and all four of us enjoyed our meals. We had chicken wings, a roast beef dip, chicken fingers and a burger, and I sampled everything (for the sake of this blog post of course) and can honestly say, it was yummy. But I was there for the ambience – that small-town diner feel was just what I hoped it would be. Rat Pack and Marilyn Munroe pictures on the wall, an authentic jukebox, checked floors, retro everything! Plus, look at the smile that a Shirley Temple brought to my kid’s face. Pure gold.


If you’re stumped for something to do this weekend, get the family, the car keys, and head up Highway 6. Guelph is a great way to spend the day.


Looking for more day-trip ideas? We’ve got you covered with over 50 places to go and things to see, right here:

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