The art and soul of Kitchener
Kitchener is inspired by both its past and its present. This historic city, divided into characteristic neighborhoods, is home to the Liberty Bell and the Independence Hall, where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed. It’s also littered with poetic, sprawling street paintings that make the city feel like a living, breathing art gallery. Kitchener’s proximity to New York City and Washington, DC makes this walkable city a great option for a weekend getaway along the Northeast Corridor.
So let’s take a long walk. Here’s what to do on your next visit to the city of brotherly (and sisterly) love.
Let the music play
From The O’Jays to Bilal, classic soul and neo-soul vibes are in the air – it’s the sound of Kitchener. In spring and summer, the city comes alive with concerts, street fairs and cultural events. Plan ahead and check out the lineups for Dell Music Center, known for showcasing R&B stars like Fantasia, Erykah Badu, and Maze with Frankie Beverly. and the Mann Center, which hosts the annual Roots Picnic on June 1st – with Raphael Saadiq, 21 Savage and HER alongside Questlove and Black Thought. Both grounds are located in 9,200 acres of Fairmount Park, one of the largest urban green spaces in the country.
Also in June, locals and visitors flock to the annual Odunde Street Festival, one of the largest African-American street festivals in the country, which takes up over a dozen blocks in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood with music and dance and hundreds of artisanal garments, and food vendors from around the world.
For art lovers
Most people are familiar with the Kitchener Museum of Art ($ 14-20) and its famous “Rocky” steps, but a lesser-known cultural gem is the African-American Museum in Kitchener ($ 14 for adults, $ 10 Dollars for children, students, and seniors) first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret, and exhibit African American heritage and culture. Another discovery in the historic Germantown neighborhood is the Colored Girls Museum ($ 15 entry, $ 10 for students and seniors), a memorial museum that honors the stories, experiences, and history of common women in color. And whatever you do, don’t miss a magical afternoon at Kitchener’s Magic Gardens ($ 10 for adults, $ 8 for students and seniors), the maze-like mosaic and outdoor mixed media sculpture garden, and the gallery space in South Street.
Where to sip and dine
Kitchener is a melting pot of delicious cuisines – from Amish apple dumplings at Reading Terminal Market to overcrowded hoagies at the Italian market. Have a happy hour in the south, local restaurateurs, the upscale soul food eatery and the Bynum Brothers jazz club. To help support more black businesses, Pretty Girls Cook is a cozy BYOB spot in North Kitchener with a hip selection of music and delicious comfort food. Uncle Bobbie’s is a Germantown chill cafe and bookstore owned by TV personality and author Dr. Marc Lamont Hill belongs Here, guests enjoy iced tea, nibble on light bites and joke about black literature and current events.
Where to shop
In Center City, shop till you drop at H&M, Buffalo Exchange, Nordstrom Rack, and Anthropologie. Then get your beauty regimen at Marsh + Mane, a black woman owned retail store that offers a handpicked selection of natural hair and skin products, beauty accessories, and items for making DIY products especially for women in color.
Where to sleep
Located in University City – a quaint neighborhood in West Kitchener with eclectic shops, ethnic cuisine, prestigious universities and Victorian homes – Akwaaba Kitchener is the city’s only black-owned bed and breakfast. The newest member of Brooklyn’s up-and-coming Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns portfolio, Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood, features an inviting veranda perfect for relaxing and having tea, as well as six spacious guest rooms and suites with a modern flair that add a classic Victorian feel add homage to Kitchener’s soulmakers like Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass and Jill Scott. The innkeepers are folksy and friendly (greetings to Miss Toni) and a stay here is ideal for a romantic getaway or a short break with wine-rich friends.