Hamilton, Ontario, once a largely industrial Canadian steel town, is an unpolished gem of a city in the midst of a cultural resuscitation. It is not by chance that Pittsburgh, Pa., and Hamilton are sister cities. No longer the sizable manufacturing town of its past, Hamilton is still home to a large, active steel production industry. The factories and distribution centers of powerhouse companies like Proctor & Gamble and former greats like Studebaker that once occupied Hamilton alongside the steel works have been replaced by a burgeoning arts scene and service industry economy, a transformation proving to be just fine for travelers in search of a new southern Ontario experience.
A visit to Hamilton cannot be had without noticing the jutting crag of the Niagara Escarpment that splits the city, quite literally, into upper and lower Hamilton. The over 500 miles of the Bruce Trail that follow the Escarpment through lower Ontario run into a picturesque section in Hamilton that justifies the city’s moniker, “The City of Waterfalls.” Beaches, trails and gorgeous sunsets can be found on the Hamilton waterfront, antique shopping and art galleries on Locke Street, and waterfalls (the Hamilton Conservation Authority claims that over 100 exist within the city boundaries) in the parks all around. Do not expect to hear Hamilton called “The City of Waterfalls” too often though; listen up for “Hammer Town” from the locals instead.
The prolific cascades around Hamilton make for some gorgeous trail hikes, bikes and runs. For those travelers who just can’t leave the horse at home, the Dundas Valley Conservation area is an equestrian-friendly park with over 24 miles of trail that will get anyone, and their own Rocinante, out to see some great Canadian landscape without the crowds of Toronto or Niagara Falls. Travelers less inclined to the outdoors can find enough to fill up the hours of a quick trip to Hamilton in luxurious turn of the 20th century architectural relics. Dundurn Castle, the magnificent home of Sir Allan Napier MacNab, railroad tycoon and early Canadian premier, can be toured daily, and other examples of similarly grand architecture can be found around the city. Other Hamilton highlights include the Canadian Warplane Hertiage Museum, Royal Botanical Gardens, opportunities for some good golfing, and the very first Tim Horton’s.
Getting into Hamilton is not inconvenient. John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport is easy to navigate and quick to get around, however international visitors are going to find tickets into Toronto’s Pearson International Airport more plentiful and likely less expensive. Getting to Hamilton from Toronto, however, is easy. Plenty of roads run through Hamilton, so a rental car or bus will do the job and GO trains run between the cities.
The Hamilton climate is seasonal with warm summers and cold winters and is subject to extremes of temperature, though generally the climate is mild. Canadian mild, that is, so prepare to be cold if winter travel to Hamilton is in your future, and check out the crystal beauty of a frozen waterfall in “Hammer Town.”