About Waterloo, ON

Introduction to Waterloo

The city of Waterloo sits north west of its sister city, Kitchener, and along with the smaller city of Cambridge they make up the Tri City Area in the Waterloo Region. Located in the heart of Ontario's Saint Lawrence Lowlands only just over an hour's drive from Ontario's capital city of Toronto, Waterloo is easily accessible via the Conestoga Parkway and Highway 8. Both Pearson International and the Hamilton International airports are within an hour's drive of the city.

Waterloo has a permanent population of 98,000 residents, and, because the city has two major universities within its limits, the population swells during school semesters to include over 27,000 students, which brings the overall combined population of permanent and temporary residents to 125,000 people.

There are an estimated 43,000 homes in the city, and the Waterloo real estate market offers a mix of suburban single family homes as well as a variety of condominiums and townhouses. The Waterloo lifestyle is a unique blend of both urban and small-town atmospheres: in addition to ample parks and greenspace, the city features internationally recognized recreational and arts facilities. Those who enjoy living active, community-focused lives will flourish in Waterloo.

  • Waterloo City Hall
  • University of Waterloo at Night
  • Uptown Waterloo

History of Waterloo

In 1806, Abraham Erb journeyed from Pennsylvania and purchased two lots of land from Richard Beasley and settled in the area that would eventually become the city of Waterloo. By 1808 Erb had constructed a sawmill powered by the Laurel Creek, and a road system was cut to link this new mill to the surrounding farms. Eight years later he built a grist mill, and this same year (1816) this new township was named after Waterloo, Belgium, and over the next few years land was made available for a school house, meeting house and graveyard.

Along with Kitchener and Cambridge, Waterloo became a popular settlement for German immigrants. In 1857 Waterloo was incorporated as a village, then became the Town of Waterloo in 1876. Finally, in 1948, Waterloo was officially designated as a city.

Over the years, Waterloo has reinvented itself, evolving from a rural farming community to an industrial city, and more recently into a hub for telecommunications and technology. Currently, Waterloo is home to think-tank organizations, two major world-recognized Universities, Research in Motion, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Our city has also become a popular place for other technology giants to set up research facilities and offices, including Google, Oracle, Intel, and the Institute for Quantum Computing.

Local Government

The Waterloo City GovernmentWaterloo city government is composed of one Mayor and seven City Councillors, each representing a ward or district in Waterloo. The local City government is responsible for services including parks and recreation, secondary streets, the Waterloo Public Library, and fire protection serves.

Interdependence between the cities and townships in the Waterloo Region has lead to the creation of a regional government to manage many of the shared services, including waste management, public transit, as well as emergency and police services. The regional government consists of a 16 member council: in addition to the mayors of the three cities, the mayors of the four townships, the council also has a Regional Chair, four additional Councillors representing Kitchener, two additional Councillors from Waterloo, and two additional Councillors from Cambridge.

Parks and Recreation

With over 1,700 hectares of natural parkland and 150 kilometres of paved trails within the city, Waterloo has plenty of space for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. A 78 kilometre stretch of trail follows the watershed of the Grand River, connecting Waterloo to the nearby cities of Kitchener and Cambridge.

Iron Horse Trail is one of Kitchener-Waterloo's most popular multi-use pathways, which links Waterloo Park with Kitchener's popular Victoria Park. Formerly a railway corridor, the trail has become a favoured activity centre for biking, jogging, walking and roller blading.

Waterloo Park is located in Uptown Waterloo and features over 110 acres of urban parkland and has become the Jewel of Waterloo. Combining natural greenspace and award winning gardens with historic landmarks such as Waterloo's first school house and a replica of Abraham Erb's Grist Mill, Waterloo Park has become the central hub of activity within the city. A long list of popular festivals and concerts are hosted in the park every year, including the Christmas light festival Wonders of Winter.

The city's premier sport and recreational facility is RIM Park, a 500 acre facility on the northeast side of the city visited by over one million people every year. Featuring a vast park and kilometres of multi-use trails, RIM Park also contains a first class recreational facility, multiple sports fields, and a golf course. Public artwork can be found interspersed throughout the park, and the it provides public access to a large section of the Grand River shoreline where residents can hike, fish and canoe.

  • Waterloo Park Pathway
  • RIM Park
  • Erb Grist Mill in Waterloo Park

Schools and Education

The Waterloo Regional District School Board is the one of the largest school boards in the province, serving approximately 60,000 students in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Students are equipped with the skills, knowledge and positive attitude needed to promote lifelong learning. The District School Board Centre-South-West provides public, French language based education for the south central area of Ontario. The board currently operates 29 elementary schools and 11 secondary schools.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board is the eighth largest Catholic school system in Ontario, and promotes educational excellence in an inclusive, faith-based environment. The Catholic District School Board Centre South provides Roman Catholic, faith-based French language school for students K through grade 12. Over 13,000 students receive educations through one of this board's 40 elementary schools and 8 secondary schools.

Waterloo is the home to two excellent, world-class universities. The University of Waterloo's 990 acre campus is located adjacent to Waterloo Park in Uptown Waterloo, and is a member of the U15, a group of prestigious research-intensive Universities in Canada. Home to over 26,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 post graduates annually, UW alumni can be found throughout the world.

Wilfrid Laurier University is one of the fastest growing universities in Canada, and in the last fifteen years enrolment has more than doubled. While it's main campus is located right here in Waterloo, it also has campuses in Brantford, Kitchener, and Toronto. Though comparatively smaller than many other top universities in Canada with 12,000 undergraduate students and 800 graduate students, Wilfrid Laurier University is consistently ranked among Canada's top post-secondary institutions.

Waterloo Culture

The people of Waterloo are known for their enthusiasm and love of collaboration, which has created a unique blend of new and old, modern and traditional values blended together. Entertainment, the arts, and recreational opportunities often overlap with historical curiosity and pride, higher learning, and technology.

Waterloo is home to beloved local festivals, adored by residents and visitors alike. In addition to regional festivals such as the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest and the annual two-day K-W Multicultural Festival hosted nearby in Kitchener's Victoria Park, Waterloo has several festivals all its own. Wonder of Winter lights up Waterloo Park every December, while in September the park hosts the Royal Medieval Faire. Every summer the popular Music and Movies In The Park series runs family films, and in August the Waterloo Busker Festival takes over King Street in Uptown.

The core area of Uptown Waterloo is the heart of the city, and contains many of the cultural, heritage and arts sites in the city. In addition to the University of Waterloo main campus and Waterloo Park, the area features the walkable King Street with its many charming shops and unique restaurants. Every Thursday evening in from May to October, residents visit the Thursday Night Farmers' Market to purchase local agricultural food and hand-crafted products.

  • Royal Medieval Faire
  • Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival
  • Performance at the Busker Carnival