St Jacobs is in the heart of North Waterloo's well-known Mennonite and Amish country. Driving in the area likely as not you will share the road with their horse-drawn buggies, particularly Sundays which is a day of church-going and visiting, and on Market Days when they are on the way to and from Market. Many offer home-grown produce, and home-made baking and preserves from home or road-side stands, but the 'No Sunday Sales' signs mean just that!
There are two main tourist destinations in the area. The market is immediately north of the Waterloo city limits. The historic village is 3 km to the north.
St. Jacobs features dozens of artisans in historic buildings, such as the Country Mill, Village Silos, Mill Shed, and the Old Factory. Visitors may watch artisans make pottery, quilts, designer clothes, jewellery, glass vases, woven wall hangings tiffany lamps, stained glass doors, miniature doll houses and more. There are also two blacksmith shops.
St Jacobs is home base to the network of Home Hardware, Home Furniture, and Home Building Supplies stores across Canada.
The first two settlements near St. Jacobs in the 1830s were Conestoga and Winterbourne. The latter was settled primarily by English and Scots, while St. Jacobs, like Conestoga, was primarily Germanic. In the early 1850s, there was an influx of Mennonites from Pennsylvania, so-called Pennsylvania Dutch. The word "Dutch" does not refer to the Netherlands but is a misnomer for Deitsch or Deutsch (German). They became known as "Old Order" Mennonites due to their conservative lifestyle.
Jacob C. Snider, of Swiss German descent, built a sawmill, a flour-mill and a woollen-mill by 1852, after having built a dam. These features helped to attract others to the small community, which became a village named Jakobstettel (Jacob's Village) in honour of Snider.
St. Jacobs is about 1 hour west of Toronto and 1 hour northeast of London. From Highway 401, exit 278/278A north, take Highway 8 to Highway 85 North, exit "King Street" (Regional Road 15). There are two King Street interchanges; you want the second one. Travel north, following the signs to St. Jacobs Country.
- Waterloo Central Railway, 50 Isabella St, ☏ . The WCR offers a seasonal tourist service running a train of historic passenger cars, and a historic steam or diesel locomotive servicing 4 stops between Waterloo and Elmira. The WCR head office and museum is in St. Jacobs. Trains run Tuesdays from mid-June to the end of August, and Thursdays and Saturdays from mid-May to the end of October. There is also service during the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. There is no train service from downtown Waterloo; in summer 2019, trains will depart from opposite Ion Northfield station in Waterloo. The 5 stops are:
- 1 Northfield stop, 90 Northfield Dr W, Waterloo (across the street from Ion Northfield station). No parking available.
- 2 Farmers' Market Road stop, 330 Farmer’s Market Rd.
- 3 St. Jacobs stop, 50 Isabella St. Railway Museum, The Train Store, Train Restoration Shop.
- 4 Elmira stop. Stop is 1.5KM from Village of Elmira; wagon ride into town available
- 1 The Mennonite Story Visitor Centre, 1406 King Street, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Apr-Dec: M-Sa 11AM-5PM, Su 1:30-5PM; Jan–Mar: Sa 11AM-4:30PM, Su 2-4:30PM. Here you can learn about the history, culture and Faith of the Mennonite people of this area of Ontario. Take a journey and look at Mennonite life and history, the clothing and homes, beginning with a short DVD presentation. Donation of $5 per person requested.
- 2 St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway, 1440 King Street North, Building 3, ☏ . May to mid-Dec: Sa and holiday Mondays 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM; Jul Aug also on Th noon-5PM; last admission sold at 4:30PM. Adults $8, seniors/students $7, children $5 (age 3 & under are free).
- 3 The Mill (Exhibits) (St. Jacobs Silo Shops & Exhibits), 1441 King St N (at Front St). Besides shops, the Mill also has a few small museums and non-commercial exhibits as listed below.
- Quilt Gallery (3rd floor). 10AM-6PM daily. Features the work of individual artists, and of quilting groups. Admission by donation.
- The Maple Syrup Museum (3rd Floor). History of maple syrup production with artifacts and photographs. Admission by donation.
- Model Train Panorama (Basement level). A model railway diorama depicting the Village of St. Jacobs in 1940.
- Home Hardware's historic exhibit (Basement level). Artifacts from the retail chain Home Hardware which began in St. Jacobs.
- History of Electricity (Basement level). History of electricity over 200 years until light produced in the laboratory, plus the development of hydro-electricity in St. Jacobs.
- The Waterloo County and Area Quilt Festival, annually through the month of May, is headquartered here, the premier event of its kind in Canada.
- Trans-Canada Trail (park in parking lot near Albert & Young Sts.). A portion of the Trans-Canada Trail runs through St. Jacobs, including the Health Valley trail, which runs between the village and the market, and the Mill Race Trail, which runs alongside the Conestogo River west of the village.
- 1 St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, 878 Weber St N, Woolwich. Tuesday during summer and Thursday and Saturday year round, 7 AM–3:30PM. The market offers fresh produce, baked goods, ethnic foods, furniture, clothing, etc. There are approximately 600 vendors. On Thursdays, there are livestock auctions at the Ontario Stockyards. The Waterloo County Farmers Market (Saturdays year round, 7AM–2PM, Sundays April to December, 10AM–4PM) is on the opposite side of the road. They are just outside of the City of Waterloo 2.5 km south of the town of St Jacobs.
- 2 St. Jacobs Outlet Mall, 25 Benjamin Rd. E. (in the market district), ☏ . M-F 9:30AM-9PM, Sa 8:30AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. A mall with around 25 shops, most of which are brand-name factory outlets, including Corningware, Reebok, Royal Doulton, Lego, Levi's, around five shoe outlets, a food court, and more.
- 3 The Mill (Shops) (St. Jacobs Silo Shops & Exhibits), 1441 King St N (at Front St). A lot of small shops nestled in the nooks and crannies of an old feed mill.
- 4 Market Road Antiques, 845 Weber St. N. (in the market district). 10AM-6PM. This former stockyards building offers around 20,000 square feet of antiques.
- 5 Picard's Peanuts, 3011 Sawmill Rd (at Highway 85), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-5PM; Su 11AM-5PM.
- 6 A Touch of Scotland, 1429 King St N (at Front St). Scottish, Irish and UK products including food and clothing.
- 7 La Crème Decor. Women's clothing and jewelry specializing in prom and event dresses.
- 8 St. Jacobs Mennonite Quilts, 1389 King St N. Quilt shop
- 9 Artefacts Salvage & Design, 46 Isabella St. Antique hardware including doors, stained glass, floor grates, gates, etc.
- 10 Angel Treasures, 1389 King St N. 10AM-5PM. Gift shop.
Area restaurants offer international cuisine, and authentic Waterloo County 'food that schmecks' home-cooked fare.
- 1 Stone Crock Restaurant, 1396 King St, ☏ . M Tu 7AM-3PM, W-Sa 7AM-8PM, Su 11AM-8PM. Homespun country cooking taken to a large scale, but the pancakes are still fluffy and the pies still irresistible. At lunch, the star attraction is a buffet, salad bar, and two kinds of soup, but there is also a menu from which to order. Mains $15-26.
- 2 Jack's Family Restaurant, 20 Benjamin Rd, ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-9PM, Su 7AM-8PM. Pizza, Greek, smoked meat, ribs. Breakfasts $8-13, mains $8-24.
- 3 Jacob's Grill, 1398 King St N, ☏ . M-W 11:30AM-9PM, Th-Sa 11:30AM-9PM, Su 11:30AM-7PM. Burgers, sandwiches, pizzas ~$15; mains $15-29.
- 1 Block Three Brewing Co, 1430 Unit 2 King Street North, ☏ . Bottle shop: Su-W 11AM-6PM, Th-Sa 11AM-9PM. A microbrewery focused on artisanal small-batch beers. Visit the bottling shop and tasting room to try a wide-range of styles and see the production area, learn about th brewing techniques, and guide you through a tasting of the beer.
Many travellers visiting St. Jacobs stay in Waterloo or in other nearby cities. There are also accommodations in St. Jacobs: