It’s been over 50 years since Kingston last hosted the world’s most famous national curling championship, but now the Brier is back and it should be one of the biggest parties in the city in recent memory. Over 100,000 people are expected at the week-long bonspiel, which takes place from February 29th to March 8th. Here’s everything you need to know to get ready.

The Basics

All of the action happens downtown at the Leon’s Centre, where sixteen men’s teams representing every province and territory — and Canada itself — will compete for the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier Tankard trophy. The winner will represent Canada at the world’s men’s championship. Things kick off on Friday, February 28th at 7 pm with the wild card game. This is a free event (first come, first served) that will feature the two highest ranked Canadian teams that didn’t win their province or territory. The winner will be the last team to qualify for the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier. Then, each day until Thursday will have three draws — at 9 am, 2 pm, and 7 pm — where eight teams will compete on four sheets of ice. Saturday, February 29th is the exception, with draws at 2 pm and 7 pm. The playoffs begin on Thursday and a national champion will be crowned after the final on Sunday, March 8th at 7 pm.

Single draw tickets start at $20.20, day packs start at $59, and a full event pack is $550.

The Patch

Ground zero for all of the off-ice good times will happen in the parking lot across the street from Leon’s Centre in the heated fan zone, called The Patch. Open from 11 am to 2 am every day, it will be free for anyone to enter. Leon’s Centre is the caterer, and they’ll have a buffet meal between draws and a concession stand throughout the day featuring sandwiches, hotdogs, pizza, nachos, and more. The area is also licensed, so beer, wine, and liquor will be available. Everything is cashless, though, so bring your cards.

The Patch’s entertainment lineup will include local bands Ambush, 80s Enuff, and Turpin’s Trail, along with non-local acts The Carpet Frogs, Leah Daniels (pictured), Long Range Hustle, Good Bones, and the Toronto Raptors’ bucket drummers The 6ix Stix. There will be games there, too, like inflatable darts, basketball, and football, as well as AGI Cool Shots, which is a tabletop curling game where you’ll be able to win cash money. Plus, some of the curlers will be at The Patch between draws for autographs and up-close-and-personal sessions where you’ll get to ask them how they hurry so hard (or whatever you want).

What Else to Do

Downtown Kingston’s winter celebration, Feb Fest, takes place throughout February and the first week of March. Market Square and its outdoor skating rink will be the hub for the festival, and there you’ll find themed skate nights, hockey games, a figure skating showcase, curling demos, ice sculptures, and more. Elsewhere downtown during Feb Fest, expect special movie screenings, art gallery tours, food tours, restaurant specials, horse-drawn wagon rides, and outdoor games. For the full Feb Fest lineup, visit For skate rentals, head to City Hall or Trailhead Kingston.

Besides Feb Fest, there will be lots more happening during the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier, too. Check out the trails at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, for instance, or a historic site, or Kingston’s booming arts scene. To find out what’s on each day, go to

Where to Eat

With more restaurants and bars per capita than almost any city in Canada, you won’t be lacking for food choices here. Break down your options with Visit Kingston’s guides to the city’s restaurants and eateries, pubs and nightlife, wineries, breweries, and cafés. For something a bit off the beaten path, check out my favourite best-kept secret restaurants in Kingston.

Toast to Tapas is also returning during Feb Fest this year, with a special “Curling Chews” addition during the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier. Each week, downtown restaurants will feature a themed appetizer using local ingredients offered with or without a local beverage. Pricing will be $8.95 per appetizer or $12.95 with a drink pairing.

You might be able to put your Curling Cash to use at one of these restaurants. Offered to every 2020 Tim Hortons Brier ticket holder, Curling Cash is a coupon for $10 off of purchases of $50 or more at a selection of downtown businesses (valid from February 21 – March 15). Check the coupon with your ticket for a full list of participating businesses.

Where to Stay

Take your pick from about 50 hotels, inns, and B&Bs in the Kingston area, or try one of these four options that have special discounts during the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier:

  • Residence Inn by Marriott Kingston’s Water’s Edge
    7 Earl Street, Kingston

  • Courtyard Kingston Highway 401/Division Street
    103 Dalton Avenue, Kingston

  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kingston
    11 Benson Street, Kingston
    (Block code: THB)

  • Ramada by Wyndham Kingston Hotel & Conference Centre
    33 Benson Street, Kingston
    Block code: 022720202

Getting Around

Leon’s Centre is located downtown, so you’ll be within walking distance of Feb Fest activities, restaurants, bars, hotels, and other attractions. Kingston Transit provides frequent and reliable service to downtown Kingston – with the Leon’s Centre and the Brier Patch just a short walk from the downtown transfer point. From Feb. 28 to March 8, all ticket holders and volunteers can ride public transit for free – simply show your ticket or volunteer accreditation when boarding. Kingston Transit will offer extended service on Feb. 29, March 5, 6 and 7 – with the last bus leaving the downtown transfer point at 2:15 a.m.

Driving to Kingston? Free parking is available at designated Park & Ride locations, with the Montreal St. and Kingston Gospel Temple lots conveniently located just off of Highway 401.

Staying in Kingston? Hotels located outside of the downtown will have maps and schedules to help you plan your trip (or use your preferred trip planning app, like Moovit, TransitPlanner or Google Maps).

For parking options, including surface lots, park-and-ride lots, and accessible parking:

For road closures:

Visit for tickets, the full schedule, and more. Good curling!


The remarkable run of the reigning kings at Queen’s.

This is a column about sports. May I present my credentials? Actually, I have only one: a sense of wonder about them, or a passion, at least, for exploring them in a Kingston context – and perhaps coming to understand each sport’s appeal to those (sometimes including yours truly) who are mad keen about them.

I have written – and in some cases, more than once – about hockey, baseball, football, soccer, competitive sailing, coaching, fandom, show jumping, Don Cherry, the horse-human connection, the dog-human connection, sheepdog trials, basketball, fencing, cycling, golf, trekking, tennis, a blind powerlifter, wilderness tripping, competitive cheerleading, skydiving, canoeing, curling, yoga, cricket, ultimate frisbee, running, volleyball, rock climbing and roller derby. To name a few.


There is one glaring omission: the remarkable run of the Queen’s University men’s rugby team. Let’s start with the 2017 season when a new full-time coach, Scottish expat David Butcher, guided the team to an undefeated season that culminated in an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship after a 62-17 drubbing of Guelph at Nixon Field on the Queen’s campus. Through the entire season, the Gaels never once trailed – neither during the eight-game regular season nor during two playoff games. Most of the victories were lopsided, including a 78-0 walloping of the University of Toronto.

Just before that championship game on November 11, 2017, three longtime coaches with the Queen’s team – Peter Huigenbos, Gary Gilks and Luke Follwell – were honoured for their contributions to varsity rugby at the university from 2004 to 2016. In that time, the win-loss record for the Gaels was 103-26-2. They had won five OUA championships, their players had taken home 20 major awards and 72 players had earned all-star accolades.


I was especially interested in Peter Huigenbos. The year 2016 marked his 20th year of involvement in Queen’s men’s rugby – five years as a player and 15 years as a coach, including 10 years as head coach. Four times he was named the OUA coach of the year. Seven players he coached – including, most recently, Liam Underwood, Dan Moor, Lucas Rumball and Kainoa Lloyd – have all gone on to play for the Canadian national rugby team, now captained by Rumball. From 2008 to 2013, Huigenbos served as performance analyst for the national team. Perhaps even more impressive is the program that he developed to get local athletes playing rugby: he helped draw 180 or so Queen’s students into the rugby fold each year, enough to fill eight university teams. And dozens of Queen’s grads over the years have gone on to play for local teams.


I met Peter Huigenbos at a downtown coffee shop not knowing what he looks like. The name is Dutch, I was sure, and Dutch men are on average the tallest on the planet. A tall (six foot two inches), burly (200-plus pounds) man entered the cafe just as I did, and that man was indeed the man I was looking for.


“My father came from Holland in 1949,” Huigenbos told me. “The family name was Van Huigenbos, but we dropped the ‘Van.’ My father decided to become a veterinarian so he could avoid farming, but he eventually bought two farms, which we still have – including the 35-acre farm at Belmont, outside London, where he grew up. As for why the Dutch are tall, the joke in Holland (where all those dikes hold back the sea) is that it’s so we’ll keep our heads above water.”


I had the sense of a fairly shy man who, had the subject been anything other than rugby, might have declined an interview. When it comes to rugby, however, this man can’t say enough. “The beauty of rugby,” he told me, “is that it’s a game for all shapes and sizes.”


I admitted my near-complete ignorance of the game and asked, “I’m five-10, 160 pounds. Could I play?” “Sure,” said Huigenbos, as confident as a missionary speaking to a possible convert. “You’d be a back, but you might have a 260-pound teammate up front.” (I do love rugby jargon: “loosehead prop,” “tighthead prop,” “lock,” “hooker,” “blindside flanker,” “ruck,” “maul” … If you want to know what the words mean, you can ask Mr. Google, as I did.)


To this former coach I posed the same question I had put several years ago to Queen’s Golden Gaels football coach Pat Sheahan: which burns hotter in your memory, the joy of victory or the sting of defeat? The football guy and the rugby guy agreed. Winning championships is sweet, but the pain of a heartbreaking loss endures. For Peter Huigenbos, the defeat that haunts him in a way (and likely not the way you suspect) is the championship game that took place on November 13, 2016: Queen’s versus Guelph, with the Gryphons on home field trying to break the Gaels’ stranglehold on the championship, which they had won four years straight. At the end of regular time (80 minutes), the score was knotted at 17. One extra period led to another and, finally, to two rounds of drop-kick shootouts, one from 22 metres out, another from 30 metres out. This was sudden death, and it did not go Queen’s way.

That was the last game that Huigenbos coached. Without telling anyone, he had made up his mind a week beforehand to call it a day. By then he was an assistant coach, but the demands on his time from his young family (he and his wife, Morgan Huigenbos, have a six-year-old boy, Emmet, and a three-year-old girl, Cordelia), his job (he’s director of real estate and environmental initiatives at City Hall), and the rigours of coaching (he called it a virtual year-round job that worked out to about $3 or $4 an hour) had pushed him over the edge. Besides, Queen’s alumni were putting on the pressure for a full-time coach, and, when funding for that position became available, the die was cast.


“Last year,” Huigenbos said, “was the first time I saw a Queen’s rugby game without being a player or a coach. It was fine and nice to see the players I coached play well. But I saw the whole game as a coach. I could not turn it off.”


At one point during our chat, a former player on the Queen’s rugby team entered the cafe, and coach and player exchanged pleasantries. “I miss the players and the coaches and our time together,” Huigenbos said. “But I’m happy to do other things.” We talked more about rugby, its now-higher profile, the peaks and valleys of the men’s national team, but somehow conversation kept drifting back to that unforgettable defeat.

What haunts Huigenbos is not so much the loss – Guelph, he stressed, worked hard and was worthy of the win – but the lead-up. “I was very particular with game preparation,” he explained, “and we would work all week as a team to prepare for Saturday and make sure our game plan was in order. I learned the process from Kieran Crowley, a former All Black (New Zealand’s famous rugby team) and Canada’s men’s national team coach from 2008 to 2015. I would even make sure the balls were all perfectly inflated before game time. I had had some tough losses early in my career due to lack of preparation, and I swore that would never happen again. As coaches, we got better at being prepared. But the last game we coached, I had not contemplated a triple overtime. Some hockey teams practice shootouts. We never practiced dropkicks.” Left unsaid: “What if we had?”


Huigenbos got started in rugby at Brantford Collegiate Institute, where a coach named Bob Boos (another Dutchman) often led his team to the provincial finals. He was guided by this philosophy: “We will do the common things uncommonly well.”


Huigenbos’s own coaching philosophy was built on several pillars. One was depth at each position. “Every spot is earned,” is how he put it. All players on the team knew that if their skill or courage flagged (and it strikes me that rugby requires a great deal of courage), others would gladly don those sweater numbers. Another pillar was exposure to games (as opposed to practices), and the better the competition, the more the players learned to execute under pressure – which is why Gilks, Follwell et al. often traveled with the non-varsity teams to Syracuse and Montreal, Ottawa and Belleville for exhibition games. Finally, it was understood that each year, each player had to get better.


What Peter Huigenbos loves about rugby is the sense of community the game fosters, how he got to know not just the players but their parents, how the teams that Queen’s played against would share a meal with them either before the game or after the game and sometimes both. What other sport does that? “It’s about respect for your opponent and learning from your opponent,” says Huigenbos. “You go buy your opposing number a beer and you chat with him. When he was captain of the Queen’s team last year, Michael Douros would talk to other captains – or the referee. It’s not like hockey.”


Even tighter is the bond felt by all current players on the Queen’s squad and indeed everyone who has ever played for that team. “The sense of pride,” says Michael Douros, a five-year veteran, “is amazing. Alumni offer endless support, help finding summer jobs. Once you’ve been a Queen’s rugby player, you have joined a big brotherhood.” Michael’s father, Paul Douros, a longtime teacher, coach and former rugby player (who happens to be a friend of mine and who gave me the idea for this column), suggests that rugby truly is a special sport.

“What is unique about rugby,” he points out, “is that students often jump in late. In hockey or basketball, if you fall behind in developing a skill set, you will never catch up. Athletes who realize at 16 that they aren’t going to make it in hockey or who are cut from a basketball team in high school give rugby a try and they take to it. So many skills are transferable. Rugby offers a second life for athletes. It’s also a sport where someone who never really played sports but who always wanted to is given a chance. Rugby almost always has a no-cut policy. If you can’t make the first team, you can play on the second team. Queen’s carried up to eight teams – quite an undertaking and Peter’s most understated contribution.”

To watch the Queen’s men’s rugby team in action this fall, visit:

This article was generously provided by Kingston Life. For more captivating local content, visit

Kingston Life



When I first started climbing I didn’t really “get” it. So you go up until you can’t go up anymore? Sounds a little scary. It wasn’t until I realized that every climb is like a solving a puzzle, that I started to get the climbing bug.

Boiler Room member Ardyn tries out a bouldering route in the recently improved “cave”.

The Boiler Room is located in the historic Woollen Mill at 4 Cataraqui Street and boasts Canada’s highest indoor climb via the chimney. The Boiler Room has both top rope (climbing while secured by a rope and harness) and bouldering (climbing at a low height without a rope) options.

The Boiler Room features Canada’s tallest indoor climb through the historic chimney.

Kingston has recently gained another gym – The Kingston Bouldering Cooperative (KBC) — dedicated purely to bouldering. The operating hours of the KBC vary so check the schedule before heading over. The KBC is located a short stroll from the Woollen Mill at 12 Cataraqui Street — look for the garage door. Bouldering routes are rated from V0 (easy) to V16 (extremely difficult) and are marked at the beginning of the route. All the routes are marked with coloured tape — ask one of the members for what the different tape means.

The Kingston Bouldering Cooperative (KBC) at 12 Cataraqui Street.

Top rope climbing routes are graded by difficulty from 5.0 (easy) to 5.15 (extremely difficult). All the climbing routes at the Boiler Room have the gradings posted so someone new to climbing can find easier climbs and work their way up. The Boiler Room has a variety of easy and difficult climbs to ensure there’s something for everyone.

For new climbers, the Boiler Room offers rental equipment and requires that you complete a belay lesson to ensure everyone is climbing and belaying in a safe manner. (Tip: Shoes should fit snug, like socks). The Boiler Room also offers lessons and an eight-week course called Rock Solid — a hands-on course aimed to take your climbing to the next level. Parents of adventurous kids can nurture their child’s athletic side by trying out climbing or hosting a birthday party at the gym. The Boiler Room offers family memberships and a kid’s camp in the summer.

Boiler Room member Raelyn tackles a route.

If you’re looking to improve your physical endurance the Boiler Room has added a section dedicated to working on technique and fitness. The owner’s background as a mechanical engineer means the gym is constantly being improved. The recently renovated workout area has sample workouts posted so you can tackle them solo or join in on the member workouts every Wednesday night. Members also benefit from discounts on equipment and members-only hours.

Avid Climber Serra (11 years old) tries a new route for the first time.

The recently renovated workout area at the Boiler Room.

I’ve been climbing for over a year and it hasn’t lost its draw. Now that I understand the attraction to climbing I find the combination of the mental and physical challenge unmatched in any other activity; it’s engaging and relaxing at the same time. Kingston is the perfect place to try the sport because the community is encouraging and supportive.  Even the experienced climbers at the gym started as a beginner at some point! The staff and members are friendly and will gladly answer your climbing questions or give you “beta” (advice on a route) because they all have something in common – they all love climbing! As a beginner or seasoned climber, you’ll find a fun and challenging climb in Kingston.



I grew up in Toronto. Nowhere near the water. But lucky for me, someone introduced me to canoeing at a young age, and my love for being on and near the water was born.
I live on a road with three lakes. I work less than 1km from Kingston’s shores of Lake Ontario. And my job requires me to sometimes be on the water, and to help others experience water activities. Being a waterfront town, we are so fortunate to be able to get out onto the water from our lovely downtown! So, apply some sunblock, slip into some quick dry clothing and come and check out all the fun you can have exploring our waterfront!

Explore by Paddle: Kayaking

Downtown Kingston is situated at the confluence of three great waters: Lake Ontario, The St. Lawrence River, and the Cataraqui River (which is the south end of the the Rideau Canal). You can walk the shoreline via the Waterfront Trail, but why not take in the views from the seat of a kayak instead?
At the inner harbour, at the mouth of the Cataraqui River, you will find Douglas Fluhrer Park – you can slip your kayak into the water here, or at the dock at the Kingston Marina. From here you can paddle up the Cataraqui River on the Rideau Canal towards Ottawa, or slip out under the causeway and paddle the shore of Point Frederick, the peninsula that RMC is housed on. Check out the view of Fort Henry from the water, and paddle up the St. Lawrence a bit and circumnavigate Cedar Island.
Need a kayak? Ahoy Rentals offers hourly kayak rentals, and Trailhead offers daily rentals!
Not ready to venture out on your own? Trailhead offers a 3 hour Discover Kayaking clinic, designed for the beginner, as well as their Paddle & Pint, a two hour evening tour of Kingston’s waterfront, followed by a pint at one of our many local pubs.

Explore by Paddle: Stand Up Paddling

A relatively new paddling sport, Stand Up Paddling (SUP) has taken Kingston by storm.

You will see SUP’ers at beaches, in cottage country, as well as paddling out in the waves of Lake Ontario. SUP boards are light, easily transported and give you a completely different experience on the water than any other paddle sport. And the learning cure is pretty quick!

Ahoy Rentals rents y the hour, and offers SUP yoga classes and early morning social paddles. At Trailhead you can rent by the day and take a board to explore the waters north of town or take their 90 minutes intro clinic.

Explore by Wind: Sailing

We’re a sailing town. We have a number of sailing schools, we host an international sailing regatta (CORK), and we are a destination for sailboats from around the world.
I am not a sailor. But, I did have the opportunity to go out for an hour long sail with Andrew from Ahoy Rentals earlier this summer, and it was pretty great! If you have experience, you can rent your own sailboat, but if you are like me and have no experience you can also book a charter. Offering anywhere from a one-hour to full-day charter (ranging from $110–$450 for up to 5 people), a 2-hour sunset tour, or a 3-hour picnic tour (catered by Pan Chancho) – you can design your own sailing experience!
My boys and I hopped aboard his 24 foot sailing sloop, the Cygnet,  and followed the shore towards Cedar Island. The conditions were perfect that day, with other boats out and enjoying the wind. As we returned back to the dock, the kids camp at the Yacht Club were just heading out for their daily lessons.
This has been a hot summer! Take to the water to cool down…and see our magnificent waterfront from a different angle, by the power of wind, or by your own muscle. However you do it, you won’t be disappointed!



Ever had one of those moments where you pass an entrance that beckons to an unexplored but enticing dimension? For me, this summer, that was the Kick ‘n Push Trail.

Officially known as the Kingston and Pembroke Trail, the Kick ‘n Push—its local nickname—is a groomed recreational trail that runs along an abandoned Canadian Pacific Railway railway bed, now owned by the City of Kingston and the County of Frontenac. 

Starting in Kingston, the trail runs north for nearly forty kilometres, through farmland and wooded areas to Verona, intersecting with the Rideau Trail and the Cataraqui Trail.  

My plan one overcast morning was to cycle the twenty-two kilometres to Harrowsmith. I’d then travel four kilometres into Sydenham for a quick lunch before returning to Kingston.
To prepare for the trip, I followed an old adage: take a light bike and a heavy wallet. In these cases, there’s no substitute for a solid pocket and a bike basket.
Road traffic near the entrance at the Binnington Court Trailhead (located at the end of Dalton Avenue, off Sir John A Macdonald Boulevard) is not bike friendly, so take precautions.
The trail is crushed gravel. It’s a heavenly, flat terrain that discourages speed while encouraging multi-use. On either side are vigorous trees and native wildflowers, abundant small creatures, insects and birds. The only aspect of the trail that gives pause is the detours around the access point fences, but they really are wide enough for your bike.
Under the trail’s canopy cover, you’re protected from the elements and the environment is peaceful. It’s a thoroughly different ride from the city experience: not hot, not windy, uncomplicated.

In thirty minutes, you can ride through several access points—Sydenham Road at the 401, McIvor Road, Jackson Mills Road at Burbrook Road, Unity Road, and finally, Orser Road. The path runs through wetlands, farmland and forested escarpment. Reassuringly, there are runners, dog walkers, other cyclists, even a woman with a baby carriage, suggesting that the distance between access points is not intimidating. Foot traffic within the city limits makes the trail feel both safe and beloved.
At Jackson Mills Road, I had to stop to consider direction. Stepping forward slightly, I found clear signage at the intersection of Jackson Mills and Burbrook Road. Assume that others have your best interests at heart!
As I travelled north, I rode meditatively. A flying grasshopper kept enchanting pace with me.
North of Merton Road, the trail is less manicured but absolutely travel-worthy. The rock-cuts are spectacular and it’s got that durable Canadian Shield vibe going.
Once I relaxed in knowing that I wasn’t going to get lost or dehydrated, eaten by bears or waylaid by robbers, I began to hail other cyclists. They love this trail and genuinely want others to join them.
Just south of Harrowsmith, the trail again ends abruptly. To your right is the intersection of the K&P trail with the Cataraqui Trail.
When I entered the trailhead, I expected to stop in Sydenham: I’ve proven that plan to be absolutely feasible. However, the trail had other plans for me: it enticed me with its beauty, its good signage and even terrain, its visitors—friendly companions of all species—who accompanied me. I continued through Harrowsmith, cycling forty kilometres to Verona. Eventually, this multi-use trail will connect users from Kingston to Sharbot Lake.

 Franklin D. Roosevelt once advised, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Go get your bike tuned up and without further consideration, head into that beckoning trail. The Kick ‘n Push is a marvellous adventure.