The Best Places to Write in Waterloo Region

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Two months ago I wrote a blog post about the best places one could sit and write — whether it was at a table with a laptop or a notebook and pen, whether it had good coffee, or Tim Horton’s coffee or whathaveyou. The places that I talked about were mostly in Toronto, because I had the practice of going into the city to make a day of my writing, but since I live in Waterloo Region, and since travelling to Toronto is expensive, it only seems fair that I talk about the best places to write here in Waterloo. And, fortunately, there’s no shortage of good candidates.

In my earlier post, I said that a good writing spot needed four things: coffee, free wi-fi, a good ambience and plugs (for your laptop). Starbucks has made considerable inroads into Waterloo Region, so there are plenty of outlets for a writer to sit, grab a coffee and plug your laptop in. If you have a registered Starbucks card, you’re also granted two hours of free wireless Internet. But you don’t need to confine yourself to Starbucks’ offerings. There are other chains and independent shops throughout the region where the coffee is good, the seats are soft, and power is available for your computer.

Here are just some that come to mind. If you have others, please feel free to write up your recommendations in the comments.

  • Coffee Culture just opened an outlet at 31 King Street North (the southwest corner of King and Dupont) in Uptown Waterloo. Erin introduced me to this wonderful coffee shop earlier today. The place has large windows which fill the place with light and allow you to watch the pedestrians walking up and down King Street. The coffee is excellent and the treats are delectable and not too expensive. Best of all, the wi-fi is free (and only occasionally flaky) and the booths come with plugs. I’d definitely go again. Parking is an issue, though you can pay to park at the nearby library, but it’s Uptown Waterloo, which means transit connections are among the best in the region. Another outlet can be found in downtown Kitchener at the corner of King and Queen.

  • Second Cup — specifically, the Second Cup outlet at 150 University Avenue West, near Phillip Street, just east of the University of Waterloo. Although a chain, Second Cup offers a good cup of coffee, and this particular outlet has plenty of seats and free wireless. The ambiance is good for writing and people-watching, although it can get a little crowded here when the Universities are in session.

  • Williams — another chain that’s not Starbucks, although these can be hit and miss. The best outlet is the one at Kitchener City Hall, with plenty of space, Most importantly, it’s not too loud. The same cannot be said with any of the other outlets I’ve seen, which have brick interiors which amplify rather than reduce sound. This is especially annoying at the University Plaza outlet by UW.

  • Melville Café. Located in the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture in downtown Galt with an excellent view of the Grand River, this location has all of the others beat in terms of ambiance. Wifi is available, the seats aren’t limited to the students, and the food and drink are great.

  • The Bookshelf - Although it’s lost some of its writing-friendliness by going upscale, I still have a soft spot for this independent bookstore/restaurant/theatre combination in downtown Guelph. A cultural institution in its own right, it was also the place where a friend and I collaborated on the first manuscript that I ever submitted to a publisher in a professional capacity. We weren’t published (at least, not professionally), but I still have fond memories of the creative energies J. Keeping and I poured into our story, helped along by a basket of the Bookshelf’s fries.

  • The Libraries - These are places which encourage lingering, and many offer free wireless Internet. These may also be the only such outlets available to people living in the rural areas of the region. It’s rather hit or miss whether coffee or snacks are available, but you are surrounded by books, and that can only help to get you into a writing mood. Also the Kitchener Public Library’s main branch has a café in its basement. And let’s not forget the university libraries, if they’re available. I’ve written a number of stories and blog entries in the main level of the Dana Porter library at the University of Waterloo. It’s a quiet place, the tables are huge, and there’s a coffee shop by the main entrance. The architecture is interesting, and the windows are big, and offer plenty of opportunities to people-watch while you’re waiting for writers’ block to clear.

  • Tim Hortons - Don’t knock it unless you try it. Yes, the seats are uncomfortable, but the food and drink are cheap and good, and if you want to people watch and listen into a few conversations, there’s few other places where you’ll get a sampling of your average Canadians than here. And some outlets are a bit more interesting than your average donut shacks. Take the outlet at Frederick and Lancaster, for instance, with architecture made to blend into the local neighbourhood. I also like the one at Fairview at Manitou, with its sunroof. There’s no wi-fi, of course, but sometimes you don’t need it, and surfing the Internet can be a distraction to your writing.

So, there’s a random sample of good places to write here in Waterloo Region. It is by no means a comprehensive list. That’s your job. Where’s a good place that you like to write here in Waterloo Region?

(This post has been crossposted to the Waterloo Wellington Bloggers Association. Click here to comment)

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