See Hamilton Ontario through the eyes of a resident. Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, dozens of spectacular waterfalls, and more.
1. Royal Botanical Gardens Ontario. Canada’s largest botanical garden features both outdoor and indoor (greenhouse) plantings, so it’s all-season. The grounds are so big you can’t see it all in a day.
In the summer, there’s a free shuttle to take you from one garden to the next but it only operates on certain days, so call ahead to find out. Favourite feature: Tea House at the Rock Garden (fashioned out of an old quarry). See temporary art shows and music concerts in the summer.
2. Hamilton Canada is the Waterfalls Capital of the World. Explore more than 100 waterfalls in the area. Learn more about them at http://www.cityofwaterfalls.ca.
3. A revitalized waterfront. All the big cities
are doing it these days: “reclaiming” their waterfront. The nice thing
about Hamilton Ontario is our waterfront hasn't gone too commercial or
residential -- yet.
From the foot of James Street all the way out west to McMaster University, it’s a stroller’s and bird lover’s paradise. In the summer you can take a trolley around the water’s edge to get an overview. Take a boat tour of the harbour. Tour the World War II ship, the HMCS Haida.
Have an ice cream at the ice cream shop, or enjoy a sandwich and salad and decadent dessert at Williams’s Fresh Cafe or the upscale Sarcoa (both have indoor and outdoor seating).
Hike the trails (and burn off those calories) at Cootes Paradise which offers wooded walking paths skirting a marsh favoured by great blue heron and other waterfowl.
4. The blossoming arts scene. At the Art Gallery of Hamilton, see fabulous Canadian and international works, take in an independent film or attend a lecture or roundtable discussion on some controversial topic. For art exhibits with political bite, see The Workers Art and Heritage Centre. During the summer, attend outdoor Makers Markets downtown to buy handcrafted items from local creators. Year-round, see the Textures art and craft co-op on Locke Street.
Visit small, independent galleries on James Street North, Locke Street, and Ottawa Street North. Attend the annual GritLit reading festival or one of the frequent big-name author readings sponsored by Bryan Prince Books. In the fall, catch award-winning films at the Hamilton International Film Festival. For events listings, see the free local entertainment weekly View Magazine at http://www.viewmag.com.
Two annual events shut down James Street North in downtown Hamilton and attract thousands of visitors: SuperCrawl and Open Streets.
5. Hamilton Museums: In Hamilton Canada you'll find Dundurn Castle, Whitehern House and Garden, Canadian Football Hall of Fame & Museum, Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Workers Art and Heritage Centre, and the Hamilton Military Museum.
6. Hamilton Entertainment. Enjoy live
professional theatre in Hamilton Ontario at Aquarius Theatre, and
charming and bargain-priced Broadway-style musicals at Hamilton Theatre
Inc (sometimes I think the amateurs are better than the pros!). Catch
top-notch symphony (Hamilton Philharmonic
Orchestra) for a lower cost than Toronto’s. Major headliners (rock
shows, ice capades, etc) appear at Copps Coliseum. Take a walk on the
scary side with Haunted Hamilton Ghost Walks. Attend free live concerts
at several annual festivals including Supercrawl. For club scene and other events, see the
free local entertainment weekly View http://www.viewmag.com.
7. Shopping: Visit James Street North, the most central shopping district. Further west, Locke Street is full of boutiques and trendy eateries, making it a fun Saturday or Sunday afternoon stroll. My favourite spot: an
artists’ co-op called Textures that sells handcrafted pieces from
Hamilton’s growing creative community, including stained glass, cat earrings made
from dough, candles, unique cards, bowls, silk hangings, etc. There are
also gift stores, designer clothing shops, hairdressers, decor stores, a bookstore, a florist, a
natural food market, gourmet shops, a small contemporary art gallery, and several eateries. This used to be Hamilton's "antique district" but most of
the antique shops are on Ottawa Street now (eat of downtown). Also, if you’re into sewing, Ottawa Street is THE spot to shop. People drive here to
the Textile District from Toronto and other cities for bargain-priced
material and notions.
8. Tim Horton’s Shrine. Okay, it’s not quite a shrine, but it is the first Tim Horton’s that ever opened (1964), and it’s right on Ottawa Street (see photos of it on my Ottawa Street page. Handy place to stop while resting your feet from all that shopping. Bet you didn't know that Hamilton Ontario is the birthplace of this great Canadian icon. Practice gratitude by saying “thank you, Hamilton Canada” the next time you’re on a cross-country trip and spot that Timmy’s coming up on the long-awaited roadside stop.
9. Mangia! Mangia! at Hamilton restaurants. My favourite Italian restaurant is The Capri at 25 John Street North. Others swear by La Cantina. Prefer Indian? Thai? Vietnamese? German? Middle Eastern? French? Steak? Hamilton has all that too, as well as great pub grub (comfort food with live musical).
10. Hamilton Neighbourhoods. Beyond the immediate downtown Hamilton commercial core, you'll find some lovely leafy neighbourhoods to explore, like Durand and Westdale. Hamilton is full of great heritage buildings and one way to get a peak inside them is through Doors Open Hamilton.
You’ll find a variety of hotels in Hamilton. Check out Admiral Inn, Best Western C Hotel by Carmen, Comfort Inn Hamilton, Days Inn, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza, Courtyard Hamilton, Homewood Suites, Staybridge, Visitors Inn, to mention just a few. There are also several Bed and Breakfast homes.
For a cheaper option, during the summer, McMaster University rents out a limited number of its dorm room for guests looking for budget accommodation ($25-$55).
Hamilton is served by the Hamilton International Airport and by GO Transit bus service.
Hamilton is a short drive from the big tourist attractions of Toronto and Niagara Falls. Here are some other nearby places that will appeal to visitors:
Dundas Ontario - This historic valley town is part of Greater Hamilton. Great for art-lovers, and connoisseurs of heritage architecture and fine foods.
African Lion Safari - A drive-through zoo with lions and tigers and elephants... oh my!!