Just around the river bend: Riverside Park & the Speed River Trail

Featured image: @julieattack on Instagram

Listen to the laughs and squeals of glee on a vintage carousel, take in the delicious smells and tastes of culinary delights from around the world, watch the sun set over a rushing river, feel the beats in the ground from music pumping at a festival. Guelph’s Riverside Park is a feast for the senses, making it one of the city’s most activated parks. With so much to experience in one space, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start first! So, let us help you find the Riverside Park experience that best suits you.

Generations of family fun

The century-old park is looking sprightly for its age, merging classic past-times with modern play areas.

Step on to the vintage carousel and feel like Mary Poppins on a “Jolly Holiday” (carousel horse racing not guaranteed), or hop on the Riverside Express for a miniature train ride around the park. Many Guelphites and visitors alike share fond childhood memories of Riverside Park’s iconic amusement rides that have stood the test of time. Both the carousel and miniature train are operational in the summer, click here for hours of operation and ticket information.

Two children playing a xylophone in the play area at Riverside Park. Photo by @jenncubby on Instagram.
Photo: @jenncubby on Instagram

The new and improved playground will draw in children of all ages with unique structures and obstacles to climb on. Let the kids run free on the playground and bring the grandparents down for a family picnic. Enjoy one of the three picnic shelters or lay out a blanket and serve up lunch on the grass.

Festivals and Events

With a wide berth of green space and a concert shell, Riverside Park is an ideal spot for culture and community to come together for a variety of festivals and events. The park has become a home to many long-standing festivals including the Guelph Multicultural Festival which just celebrated its 31st year in June!

Rotary Guelph’s Canada Day in the Park celebration is expanding to a two day event this year. June 30 and July 1 at Riverside Park is going to be full of activities for the whole family, plus a VIP concert experience with Tragically Hip tribute cover band Practically Hip, and (of course) fireworks.

Next up, the ever popular, Guelph Ribfest. August 23-25 the smoky aroma of some of the best ribs in the region will draw you in and make your mouth water. Hosted by The Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium, the event also features great music and a classic car show.

Row of smokehouse vendors lighting up Riverside park at night during Guelph Ribfest. Photo by @jessmass__ on Instagram
Guelph Ribfest. Photo: @jessmass___ on Instagram

The Speed River Trail

As much as the park can be a hustle and bustle of community events, it also offers a beautiful spot of serenity with the Speed River Trail running alongside the river. This trail is perfect for a family stroll, a midsummer’s night run, or a way to briefly escape the city life.

The Speed River Trail covers 3.4 km, crossing over on both sides of the Speed River from Speedvale to Woodlawn and continues north to the Guelph Off-Road Bicycling Association (GORBA) trails. The paved pathway through Riverside Park is accessible for those with strollers, wheelchairs and walkers. For a more rustic walk, cross over the bridge for a natural mulch-filled path. Experience the full tree canopy on the trail extending north of Woodlawn, perfect for biking and hiking on the compact gravel path. Cyclists can take side-quests down the off road bike trails that run along the main trail, through the pine trees and geared for different levels of experience.  

Graphic map of Riverside Park trails from the 2019 Spring/Summer Visit Guelph Guide
See full Speed River Trail Map in the 2019 Visit Guelph Guide

While the Speed River Trail ends at Victoria Road, the Guelph Off Road Biking Association (GOBRA) trails extend onwards. GOBRA has leased land from the Grand River Conservation Authority, creating trails that have minimal impact to the environment and offer hours of biking fun. These trails are open to the public, but they do ask that dogs remain on leashes and walkers please be aware of those biking the trails.

I spy landmarks

Dutch Windmill at sunset in Riverside Park. Photo by @thelifeofbap on Instagram.
Photo: @thelifeofbap on Instagram

Riverside Park offers a lot of great spots for the gram. Make your own photo scavenger hunt as you make your way through the park with a series of notable landmarks for some great photo opportunities. See if you can find the floral clock, the Dutch windmill, the walking bridge, the vintage carousel mural and other hidden gems along the way.

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