A Local’s Guide to Downtown Elora Ontario

So what makes a small town in Ontario so great to visit? Is it historic architecture? Perhaps it’s set in a beautiful natural setting close to water. Or maybe, it has a thriving art and cultural community.

And, when a small town offers all three, like Elora, Ontario, it goes straight to the top of my list of the best small towns in Ontario to visit.

Fortunately for me, Elora is in my backyard and that means I get to visit this charming town on a whim.

In this article, I will cover what to do in Elora Ontario.
From the best Elora shops to what to do at Elora Gorge.
The Elora village is chock-full of amazing restaurants and creative art displays.
So, get ready for a fun-filled Elora day trip!

Visit Elora Ontario

old mill limestone building on water in elora ontario

When one of the famous Group of Seven painters, A.J. Casson, called the Elora town “Ontario’s Most Beautiful Village” you know it has to be pretty special.

Elora lies along the scenic Grand River in Wellington County. This area is known for its incredible rural setting and year-round festivals.

The closest major metropolitan city is my hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, which is a short 30-minute drive.

While Toronto to Elora is a 75-minute drive, making it a popular day trip or weekend getaway for many southern Ontarians.

I know many of you are hoping to combine another pretty Ontario town, but unfortunately, they are not close to one another. Paris Ontario to Elora is an hour’s drive away.

old doors in white, yellow, green and red in elora shops

Despite being such a small town of only 7800 residents, it sure does offer an endless amount of Elora things to do that suit a wide variety of interests.

Instead of creating a listicle, because that could easily reach 50 things to do in Elora, Ontario, I’ve decided to break it all down into four easy categories:

  1. Elora Downtown Shops
  2. Best Places to Eat in Elora
  3. Outdoor Attractions and Activities
  4. Arts and Culture

1. Things to Do in Elora: Elora Shopping

black stained building on Elora Ontario main street

There is nothing I love more than strolling a historic downtown filled with boutiques that are independently owned by passionate people. Elora Ontario downtown is such a place.

The striking 19th-century limestone buildings that line the downtown Elora streets offer a wide array of things new and old that you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Everything from home décor to art, fashion, books, and much more. Each of the stores in Elora offers the perfect solution for finding a gift for that ‘hard to buy for’ kind of person.

stone wall with red ladder in elora downtown

When you are shopping in Elora Ontario don’t miss exploring the main strips of Mill and Metcalfe streets, and watch for tiny side streets too.

Here are a few of my favourite shops in Elora: 

  • Mermaid – an eclectic mix of unique items that you won’t find anywhere else specializing in paperweight clocks, door knockers, maps, and jewellery. The attractive building was built in 1869 and was once the home of the Elora Observer newspaper and later a tinsmith shop. Walk around the side of the building where you will see the prettiest instagrammable photo op! 📍106 Metcalfe St
  • Hanscomb Glass Studio – full of pretty glass creations by a husband and wife team located in a historic house painted a sunny yellow with turquoise trim – you can’t miss it! 📍40 Church St
  • Noinkees – a gorgeous lifestyle boutique offering fashion, jewelry, and décor. This is the second store for Noinkees, the other location can be found in the village of Caledon 📍22A Mill St W
modern building with three stories in elora ontario
Karger, store in Elora
  • Karger – exceptional one-of-a-kind quality pieces for your home, as well as, fine art, jewellery, and fashion located in an ultra-modern architectural gem that features a luxe Airbnb on the upper level 📍14 Mill St
  • Epiphany Apparel – a mix of women’s fashion and accessories with a sister shop called Jammed Lovely, offering cute home décor items. Both of these Elora stores always have such pretty window displays 📍22 and 36 Mill St
  • Elora Mews Shops – are tucked behind the iconic limestone wall left standing after a devastating fire destroyed a furniture factory in 1950. Now, it’s a quiet courtyard with tiny shops and eateries, like ReFIND Salvage and Chanticleer 📍45 Mill Street West
elora stores showing window display and flowers in elora ontario downtown

The Elora downtown has it all! A strong sense of community, beautiful architecture and endless shopping for those one-of-a-kind treasures.

2. Best Restaurants in Elora: for Foodies

view of downtown with shops and restaurants in elora on canada

Elora is teeming with delicious eateries making it near impossible to try them all, but a great reason to return again and again.

No day trip to Elora is complete until you’ve tried at least one of their delicious food offerings.

The best part is there’s not a fast-food chain in sight. Here are some of my favourites that I’ve tried and highly recommend.

Breakfast and lunch in Elora

teal banquet with table setting in elora village
  • Café Creperie – sweet or savoury, take your pick, both are delicious at this popular spot 📍40 Mill St
  • Lost and Found Café – is the perfect coffee shop that has some great laid-back vibes. Give in to your temptation and try their fresh baked goods or a delicious bagel sandwich 📍Elora Mews
  • Elora Bread Trading Co – the only bakery in town that draws people here for their bread alone. Tip, get here early as they often sell out fast, especially on Saturdays 📍73 Metcalf
  • The Wild Tart – all it takes is one bite, and you’ll instantly fall in love with this European-style patisserie. Creations are created by Michelin-starred pastry chef Marc Collyer. Enjoy their high tea in the patio garden and you’ll think you are on the set of Bridgerton, hands down it gets my vote for best restaurants Elora for lunch 📍61 Metcalf

Best dinner in Elora

outdoor dining with couple in things to do in elora ontario
  • The Evelyn – French-inspired menu, delicious food, cozy vibes no wonder this is a local’s favourite, yes, and mine too! 📍130 Metcalfe
  • La Fontana – is known for its wood-burning pizzas, but it’s their delicious homemade pasta made fresh daily that won me over 📍15 Mill
  • The Cellar Pub – has one of the best patios in Elora overlooking the lazy Grand River for that casual lunch or dinner 📍13 Mill
  • Elora Mill Restaurant – enjoy a refined fine dining experience in their two-story restaurant where Chef Jonathan Gushue, formally of Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, creates magic. Nothing is more romantic than dining river-side with views of the Grand River, this gets my vote for the best Elora restaurants on the water! 📍77 Mill

Best specialty shops

ice cream shop with red door in elora ontario
  • Sweet Distractions – for those that have a sweet tooth, this is an old-fashioned candy shop that is a must stop, also offers ice cream 📍16 Mill St
  • Scoop Ice Cream – made on the premises, this is my go-to ice cream shop in Elora offering both the classics and seasonal flavours. My favourite combination is Strawberry Buttermilk and Vanilla Bean – so good! 📍58 Mill St
  • Sugar Skulls Ice Cream – this fun, Mexican-themed ice cream shop is open from spring to fall only. 70 flavours with unlimited sweet-tooth toppings, or try something new like churros & dip or nachos & ice cream – the menu is just as fun and playful as the vibes of this shop 📍22 Metcalfe
  • Elora Mercantile – offers a delicious offering of homemade food, local products, and all the cheese and charcuterie needed for fab grazing 📍58 Geddes

Best pubs and drinks

stone building with outdoor patio in things to do in elora ontario
  • Elora Distilling Company – giving a nod to the classic cocktail lounge – every elegant detail has been carefully selected. For the undecided, I recommend going with the cocktail flight so you can sip on 3 to discover your favourite. Join a tour or cocktail-making class will be a top fun thing to do in Elora 📍102 Metcalf
  • The Friendly Society – Elora’s favourite casual spot serving up all-day pub food 📍102 Mill
  • Elora Brewing Company – Elora’s very own local craft microbrewery where you can purchase, sample a flight, or enjoy a meal 📍107 Geddes
  • The Porch Light – slowly graze over a charcuterie board while sipping on a delicious cocktail, this is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner gathering, even better Sunday night is live music  📍82 Metcalf

3. Best Outdoor Elora Attractions: for Adventurists

tall bridge over water and rocks in elora

Elora Gorge Ontario Conservation Area – you can’t go to Elora without visiting the Elora Gorge Falls. It is easily one of the most incredible things to see in Elora! The Elora Gorge address is 7400 Wellington County Road 21.

The fast-moving Grand River rushes past 22-metre-high cliffs. The entire loop is a little over 5km in length.

If you’d like to do a shorter hike, follow the riverside trail along the southern edge of the Grand River, from the Hole in the Rock to the bridge and back.

This is the most scenic and interesting part of the trail. Bonus, this is a dog-friendly hiking trail. There’s one scenic lookout point down a flight of stairs. This is also the best spot for Elora Gorge photos.

From the river’s edge, you will be able to watch the kayakers and tubers make their way down through the rapids. 

river with boulders and trees in elora ontario

Here are more places to visit in Elora for outdoor adventures:

  • Elora Gorge Tubing – what is more fun than floating down the Grand River on a raft? Reserve your spot with Grand Rapids where they will supply you with the equipment you’ll need (Located in the Grand River Raceway Parking Lot)
  • Elora Quarry Conservation area – as one of the best Elora attractions in the summertime it’s easy to see why. This two-acre limestone quarry is surrounded by sheer cliffs up to 12 metres high that will make you forget you’re still in Ontario. You have to plan your visit here, reservations are required, and unfortunately, no dogs are allowed.
brown dog on rock in elora village
  • Zipline and Repelling – the best way to see the Elora Gorge is by ziplining over 61 metres and rappeling down 24 metres to the Grand River. The best thing to do in Elora in the winter is ice climbing.  
  • Bissell Park – a short walk from Downtown Elora, Bissell Park features a boardwalk that runs alongside the Grand River. This family-friendly park is now the location for the Elora Farmers Market on Saturday mornings held from mid-May to mid-October. Walk the new pedestrian bridge crossing the Grand River offering some pretty views.
  • Victoria Park – a public park in the middle of downtown Elora. Walk along a path until you reach the first lookout point. Next, continue walking until you reach a big staircase heading down to the gorge. From there you can walk along the river After admiring the scenery from the lookout, continue walking and you’ll reach a big staircase heading down into the gorge itself. It’s worth it!
rocks, hiking path and dog in elora things to do
  • Elora Cataract Trail – formerly a railway line, now a 47-km trail perfect for hiking and biking, even cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The Elora Cataract Trailway is dog-friendly, family-friendly, and just an overall easy trail to enjoy. Bonus, it’s among the top free things to do in Elora!

4. Elora Things to Do: for Art & Culture Lovers

You don’t have to look very hard to find all of the amazing public art in Elora.

Simply stroll downtown and you’ll find so much creativity all done by local artists.

Summertime is the most popular time to visit Elora. But, the other two other times I enjoy going to Elora are in October and December. October is Monster Month – where local artists transform the town with spooky creatures of ghosts and goblins; along with a monster walk parade.

And, in December is Starlight – where the downtown shops stay open late into the evening for holiday shopping. The town of Elora is decorated for the season, stores serve apple cider or mulled wine, and even carolers roam the streets.

This is one of the best Christmas festivals in Ontario not to be missed.

tall metal clock in elora ontario
What to see in Elora! Look for the Elora Clock Tower that stands tall between Mermaid and Hanscomb Glass Studio. It’s a joint Elora art installation and just so happens to be one of the coolest things you’ll find in Elora.  

Looking for more to add to your Elora itinerary? Check out these festivals and activities that support the local arts & culture community in the town of Elora Ontario.  

  1. Riverfest Elora – is a popular three-day music, arts, and culture festival held in August (August 19-21, 2022) in Bissell Park. Amazing past lines have included City and Colour, Blue Rodeo, MGMT, The Trews, and many more. 
  2. Blown Away Glass Studio – either watch or try your hand at glass-blowing by signing up for one of their classes 
  3. ReFIND Salvage Workshops – join a DIY Arts & Crafts workshop held in their studio available for kids and adults. 
  4. Elora Centre for the Arts – features a gallery with rotating art exhibits throughout the year and an artisan shop spotlighting hand-made pieces. Join a workshop to bring out the inner artist in us all. 
  5. Wellington County Museum – as a National Historic Site this museum is worth visiting for the building alone! Built in 1877 it has served the county as a place for the poor and aged, today, it holds all of the historical and educational interests of the county. Nine curated galleries, a writer’s festival, and access to historical and ancestry records are just some of the things you will find here.  
outdoor kitchen with stone oven in elora ontario
Hidden gems in Elora alert! Kitchen in the Park Elora, or known as KIPPELORA is a way to bring the community together through food. Through its outdoor oven and shelter, this not-for-profit project plays host to many community events. Visit on a Saturday and enjoy their featured events like Cinnamon buns, Bagels, Pizza, and even a bake your own. (Located in Bissell Park)

FAQ About Elora, Ontario

What is Elora known for?

Elora is known as Ontario’s Most Beautiful Village because of its stunning 19th-century limestone architecture and the backdrop of the Elora Gorge.

What are things to do in Elora in Spring?

Things to do in Elora in Spring include the start of the outdoor farmers market held in Bissell Park on Saturday mornings in early May, the annual 3-day Elora Book Sale (May 5-7) and the Elora en Plein Air art festival (May 18-21).

What are things to do in Elora in Summer?

Things to do in Elora in Summer include the Elora Gorge hiking and rafting, plus the Elora Festival (July 7-19) jazz and classical concerts and Riverfest (August 18-20) the best outdoor music festival in Ontario.

What are things to do in Elora in Fall?

Things to do in Elora in the Fall include the scenic foliage on the hiking trails, plus attending nearby Fall Harvest festivals, Studio Tours featuring local artists and the month-long Monster Month in October.

What are things to do in Elora in Winter?

Things to do in Elora in winter include annual Christmas celebrations including parades, tree-lighting ceremonies, and Christmas markets. Once the Elora Gorge freezes, ice climbing becomes a popular attraction.

What are free things to do in Elora?

Many of the things to do in Elora are free. From strolling downtown and window shopping, admiring all the amazing public art to visiting the parks and trails. Even the month-long Halloween festival is free!

Where is the best place to stay in Elora?

The place to stay would be the Elora Mill Hotel and Spa. A restored and renovated 175-year-old mill has been turned into the ultimate luxury stay and dining destination. Whether it be the rooftop pool, the spa, or the restaurant – each offers a prime viewing spot overlooking the gorge.

As a Holidaymaker

Have I convinced you why you need to go to Elora?

It’s the ideal small town. It’s scenic and charming, and there are endless Elora Ontario things to do. If you were ever to move to a small town – the town of Elora would be it! The vibe is just different here. 

Did I share enough to help with your Elora day trip itinerary? If yes, and you think visiting Elora is just your sort of town, I have a couple of other suggestions for nearby places to go:

Visit my Canada Travel page for a full list of my Ontario small towns and experiences that I think that you’ll love.

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