Calling all fun seekers and puzzle sleuths… The Uptown Waterloo BIA is celebrating summer with a scavenger hunt and there’s a huge $1,000 prize up for grabs! What are you waiting for? It’s time to check out the Uptown Waterloo Hidden Gems this summer!
How to Play
Explore Uptown Waterloo’s 8 Hidden Gems locations on your quest to win the grand prize of $1,000 Uptown Dollars! There are 3 easy steps to complete. Follow these and you’ll automatically be entered to win the best prize they’ve given away yet.
- Watch the reel for clues to the posters’ locations around Uptown Waterloo. You’ll find the locations revealed down below if you’re short on time or to help if you have little ones in tow.
- Collect 3 unique (FREE!) posters designed by local artists from any of the 8 hidden gem locations (revealed below for you). There are lots of delicious food and drink spots to fuel up at during your mission, as well as businesses with great gift ideas for summer parties. Why not slay 2 tasks at once?
- After you find each of the 3 posters, email a picture of them to email@example.com by August 24th for a chance to win the grand prize! The winner be revealed by the Uptown Waterloo BIA on August 25th.
Where are the Uptown Waterloo Hidden Gems?
Midnight Run Café
Midnight Run Café is the coolest coffee shop in Waterloo. The atmosphere is spot on with a massive book wall, varied indoor seating and a cozy outdoor patio, and even a plant-covered piano that patrons are welcome to play. The friendly staff know their customers by name, which is remarkable considering how many people frequent the cafe. As a non-coffee drinker, I can personally vouch for the taste-factor of their hot teas and cold tea concoctions. There’s even a blue tea. They are quite nerdy about their coffee, and I’m sure one of you reading this can attest to their selection of carefully-selected single origin roasts of fair trade coffee beans. In addition to great drinks and atmosphere, Midnight Run Cafe knows how to throw a memorable evening soirée. They host twice-monthly open mic nights that attract an impressive crowd, as well as feature-artist evenings with some of Ontario’s best talent. A few of their own staff have also been known to tickle the ivories, strum a guitar, and serenade the audience!
Did you know that Uptown Waterloo extends farther than King Street? Venture a short walk over to Peppler Street to find Qs Cakes. They are a locally-owned bakery that makes everything from scratch and with love, just for you! In a purely selfless act for the good of you, the reader, I made sure to vet the cupcakes. After said taste test, I can assure you that they are excellent, especially the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavour. In addition to the aforementioned mini mouthfuls of heaven, Qs Cakes offers an assortment of squares, tarts, cookies, muffins, cake pops, and gluten free brownies, along with hot and cold drinks to wash everything down.
Tucked underneath the former Waterloo Hotel in the historic 1800s building, Charmed Flowers is a sensory delight. Their stunning bouquets will brighten the gift giver’s day as much as it will the receiver’s. The local shop also curate beautiful self-care gift boxes, among a plethora of other home, jewelry, kids, and gift options. I may or may not have indulged in a little personal shopping while on assignment, picking up a sustainable pomegranate lip chap and a flower pot for Betty White that I’ve been trying to find for the past year. Make note that the shop is closed for vacation from July 31st until August 15th.
The cleverly named Erban Corner is a designer women’s and men’s clothing store located behind Starbucks at King Street and Willis Way, south of the Waterloo Public Square. With brands like Rails, Mac Dream jeans, and Paris fashion house Zadig and Voltaire, they cover all of your closet needs from casual chic to date night.
Rising Moon Gallery
There’s a tiny doorway to the right of Crumby Cookie Dough on Regina Street in Uptown Waterloo that opens to a very tall staircase. Climb that staircase to find yourself in the zen Rising Moon Gallery and adjacent award-winning Torchlight Tattoo. Andrea Hildebrand is the owner and artist behind the gallery and her husband, Chris Winterson, owns and is the artist of the tattoo studio. This dynamic duo has created a wonderful atmosphere, featuring Chris’ drawings and Andrea’s jewelry and drawings, as well as several local artists in an inclusive and welcoming space. Andrea is an OCAD graduate who majored in ceramics and minored in jewelry and textiles. After graduation she lived in Korea and travelled much of Asia, learning about and revelling in other cultures’ deep ceramic and craft histories. She has brought that love of learning and creativity into this space through her own artistic creations and those of fellow artists like Mennonite woodworker Duane Sauder, First Nations Ojibwe artist Laura Martin, and non-binary queer Métis artist Riley Bee. It is important to note that the gallery is open by appointment only.
For a true summer patio experience, visit Red House from Tuesday to Saturday for lunch or dinner. They also provide takeout from their locally-crafted internationally-inspired menu. Their cocktails are inventive and their mocktails are equally appealing with choices like Guyanese Sorrel Flower Punch and still or sparkling House Lemonade. The chef’s hospitality extends to your home with their market where you can purchase their curry sauce, maple bourbon and vanilla BBQ sauce, spice blends – when they aren’t sold out – along with other merchandise.
Hepcat Swing Studio
Hepcat Swing is a not-for-profit dance studio that welcomes everyone to the dance floor. All that you need to participate is a desire to learn something new as you boogey to great music and a willingness to meet new people. You can attend on your own, with a partner, or bring a group of friends! They offer dance classes for different levels, as well as social dances which are open to everyone. I can say from past experience, taking swing dance lessons in university and again when living in Ireland, that swing dancing genuinely is for everyone and is a fantastic way to spend a few hours! A little bird let it slip that Monday evenings are the best time for you to pop by and snag your poster.
Scoop du Jour
It’s not summer unless you eat ice cream, so get your sweet self over to Scoop du Jour for a cold treat. Their portions are generous and their ice cream is top notch, with different daily flavours from the well-loved Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream. Whether it’s a cup or cone, sandwich or float, or even a cold brew Affogato, your selection will be the right one, because there’s no wrong choice when it comes to ice cream! If you’re stuck for what to choose, Moose Tracks, Campfire S’mores, and Moon Mist are popular crowd pleasers (or at least I like them!).
Introducing the Posters’ Local Artists!
Pamela Rojas is a Waterloo Region artistic and community gem in her own right. She the woman we have to thank for opening the doors to urban street art in downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo. Her vibrant pieces provide you an opportunity to pause in the day, to breathe and take it all in. She often welcomes willing community members to participate in the artistic process as well.
Steven Restagno is an extremely talented 26-year-old multidisciplinary artist based in Waterloo. His portfolio includes figurative painting, photography, installation, and video. His most recent series explores the topics of queerness, masculinity, and belonging. Steven is definitely an artist to watch for, as he will surely create many more stunning pieces in the future.
Della vanDokkumburg, also known as Random Sketches of My Life on Instagram, is one of the most fun artists in Waterloo Region. Her whimsical portraits of local buildings and landmarks are worthy of a giant coffee table book in your home. She can be contacted through Instagram or her website for commisioned originals, popular prints, & art books. She’s one of my favourite local artists so I can’t wait to add her poster to my collection of Waterloo Region art!
Plan Your Visit to Uptown Waterloo
The Uptown Waterloo BIA is a fantastic example of what a locally-led community-driven organization acts like and should be. From the numerous year-round family-friendly festivals, to the delicious food crawls, to delightful placemaking spaces found in lesser-used spaces like alleyways and side streets, to the live music and outdoor community art, Uptown Waterloo is the place to be in Waterloo Region. Regardless of your age, ethnicity, hobbies, and tastebuds, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy and participate in Uptown.
How to Get There
Uptown Waterloo is encircled by Avondale Avenue, Union Boulevard, Laurel Street, and Elgin Street, with King Street South and North passing through the heart of the bustling shopping and community centre. There is a concrete town square on King Street where many festivals and events take place. If you’re in north Waterloo, head south on King to reach Uptown, and if you’re in Kitchener head north.
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Disclaimer: This is a partnered blog post with the Uptown Waterloo BIA, however all experiences and opinions expressed here are my own.