Dundas Ontario, the historic valley town, has much to offer daytrippers in search of the small town Ontario experience.
Ever wondered what life was like in a small Ontario town 50 or even 100 years ago? Wished you had a time machine so you could go back and see? Well, stop wishing, and just take a drive to Dundas. That's what I do when the nostalgia bug hits me.
Dundas is only a few minutes away from Hamilton Ontario, or just 70 km southwest of Toronto. That makes it an easy daytrip from pretty much anywhere in Southern Ontario.
Dundas' population is roughly 25,000 and its "downtown" consists of about ten blocks of King Street and a couple of side streets here and there. You could walk the whole area in about 10 minutes and even take in some of the surrounding residential district with its gorgeous old Victorian mansions. But you'll want to spend much more time here to enjoy your journey. Plan at least half a day to explore the neat boutiques, great old architecture, gourmet food stores, the old town museum, the art gallery and, if you still have time, the great natural surroundings on the borders of what is still called The Valley Town.
On the town's main drag, King Street, you'll find an elegant row of brick buildings, many dating back to the 1840s. In some cases there are awful gaps where new (unfortunate) additions have been made, but if you turn your head as you pass these ghastly modernizations, you'll soon come back to handsome old brick structures with painted wood gingerbread ornamentation around the windows, doors and rooflines.
The heritage landmarks include:
-an historic town hall
-one of Ontario’s oldest hotels (The Collins)
-an old factory that has been converted into an art school
-a handsome former post office with its iconic clock tower
If you like history, don't miss the Dundas Museum. The complex was renovated in 2014 and now includes the main building which consists of three structures joined together. This picture shows one structure and the new adjoining lobby:
There is also a separate building, a former Doctor's office with its scary antique surgical equipment (although it's only open on special events days):
Although it's a history museum, it also hosts art exhibits in two spaces so check it out for temporary shows.
And speaking of art, if you like art and quality fine craft, make sure you visit the
Carnegie Gallery, which is housed in the historic 1910 Carnegie library.
The Gallery is the starting point for the annual Studio Tour featuring
local artisans. Downstairs you'll find McMaster Gallery, a framing shop that also sells fine art prints.
Dundas is full of creative people, especially potters, and part of this artistic buzz is due to the presence of the Dundas Valley School of Art, which has nurtured local artists for more than 40 years. Even day-trippers can take a three-hour class in drawing or glass work if they're interested!
Forget big box shops when you're in this time capsule of a town. You'll find none of those here in Dundas. Instead you can spend your time exploring The Keeping Room (a popular cookware shop), jewellery shops, an adventure gear place, a garden shop, a store for spoiled rotten dogs, and many home and fashion boutiques.
Love antiques and vintage? Valley Antiques at 64 Hatt Street is a multi-vendor shop with about 6,000 square feet of booths.
Foodies love Dundas Ontario. Whether it's Mickey McGuires Cheese Shop, Picone's Food Market, The Horn of Plenty (natural foods), or the Coco Tea Co., it's hard to leave the town without lugging away a bag of gourmet goodies.
There are a few great places to eat too. My favourite spot for a "wee rest" after shopping is the very British "Taylor’s Tea Room" with its hot scones with butter and jam (about $15 for scones and tea for two). I love the cozy tea pots, the porcelain tea cups, the antique framed prints of the Queen, and the local artwork on the walls. It's like visiting your grandmother again.
For coffee, Detour is the place to go.
I also like the Bangkok Spoon Deluxe. They're a budget-friendly Thai restaurant on the main street with a little patio tucked away in the back. The decor inside is subdued and relaxing and the service is attentive.
Old-timers may remember this as the former greasy spoon, The Deluxe, which stayed empty for decades as a sort of silent homage to the former owner. The new owners have honoured the past by placing a series of billboards with the restaurant's history along the side of the building; just go down the laneway and you'll see it. In nice weather you can have your meal on their cozy patio.
Quatrefoil is a popular gourmet restaurant just off the main drag.
Dundas is only about a 15 minute drive west of Hamilton or an
hour from Toronto. That's if you're coming by car. However, if you are
taking the city bus from Hamilton (the HSR, the local bus service), plan
on spending a LOT more time than that. There is no direct service from
Toronto. You will need to go to Hamilton first (which takes an hour).
From downtown Hamilton, it takes half an hour by bus.
Hamilton Ontario is just fifteen minutes by car from Dundas. Check out one of Southern Ontario's biggest cities. Visit art galleries, museums and discover great shopping.
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Ontario Shopping - More great places to shop for unique gifts and souvenirs.
Ontario History - For a list of great living history museums.