Kingston Pen Tours

Kingston Pen Tours offers a unique opportunity to explore behind the fortified walls and inside the cell doors of the most notorious prison in Canada. The walking tour takes you through the grounds of Kingston Penitentiary, the infamous maximum-security prison that was declared a National Historic Site in 1990. Open 1835 to 2013, Kingston Pen housed a substantial number of high profile Canadian inmates. Now is your chance to experience this part of national history!

The tour is lead by summer students who work hard for weeks to learn about and memorize the Penitentiary’s history and intriguing stories. The tour covers the private family visiting area, cellblocks where the inmates slept, highly secure private cellblocks, the shop dome where inmates worked, and recreational grounds.

  • The main dome of Kingston Penitentiary.
  • Cell block after the 1971 riot.

You explore the Main Dome, the central hub of activity where inmates would have to pass through to get anywhere within the building. The building is architecturally constructed as a centrally planned cruciform. This signifies closeness to the divine and emphasizes spiritual healing. When you stand in the Main Dome and look up at the industrial design of the spiralling stairs and circular floors, you will be in awe!

Pictures from when the penitentiary was still open line the walls. These help you imagine what the Main Dome looked like when people still inhabited the cells.

Former Employees Share Kingston Pen Stories

Tours feature former wardens and Correctional Services Canada (CSC) employees, placed at significant spots throughout the Penitentiary. This provides an opportunity for former employees to share personal stories that are within the realm of their script. Confidentiality is still important under these circumstances. The tour guides do an exceptional job of respecting people’s privacy while keeping the history rich with exciting anecdotes.

Former CSC employees are excited to see this historical monument transform into an attraction and contribute positively to Kingston’s economic prosperity and cultural community. Thousands of people from Kingston and far beyond are incredibly eager about this opportunity and the tour does not disappoint!

  • Kingston Pen's shop wing.
  • A staged cell showing how inmates lived.

Make sure to listen for the stories about famous escapes from Kingston Pen! Undeniably, the inmates were incredibly resourceful in their planned escapes and the last one occurred in 1999.

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum

The transformation of Kingston Pen into a national attraction is a wonderful continuation of its story in Kingston’s history. Further insight into Canada’s penitentiary history can be found across the street at Canada’s Penitentiary Museum. The Museum is housed in Cedarhedge, which was built between 1870 and 1873 and once housed the wardens of the Penitentiary. The Museum illustrates the Canadian penitentiary environment beyond crime and punishment by emphasizing art and educational programs set in place for inmate rehabilitation. To learn more about this Museum, read the Kingston & Area Museums Blog post, “Canada’s Penitentiary Museum.”

Visit Kingston Pen Tours today

The Kingston Pen Tour is like nothing you have ever seen before and truly an experience you will never forget. From the Penitentiary’s historical significance and unforgettable past to a current tourist landmark and filming location, this site is a must see for everyone. Do your time today and book tickets online!

Tours include the Standard (1.5 hours), Extended (2.5 hours), and Express (45 minutes) to choose from.

Stay connect with Kingston Pen Tours on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Check out Canada’s Penitentiary Museum, also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

If you would like to learn more about the Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Sites of Kingston and the Area start by exploring the spaces around you!

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