Just over a half an hour from Toronto, Ontario, lies Hamilton, a city that is flourishing so quickly it is not to be missed. After recent price hikes in the Toronto and greater Toronto market, we find Toronto city ex pats settling in Hamilton. A steel city from its past, Hamilton is in a flux of change of construction and rebuilding. Many chefs, artists and businesses are flourishing here and now Hamilton’s many secrets are being discovered.
Whether you are a local looking for something to do, to a tourist from outside of the city or abroad, Hamilton does not disappoint. The locals are incredibly friendly, proud and knowledgeable about their beautiful city, the architecture is beautiful and there are so many hidden gems in this city that one article will not do it justice. Here are the fun things to do in Hamilton.
Our list is everything we have found to do in Hamilton so far. There will always be more things to do as the city is changing. If something pops up, we will add to this list, but if you have discovered something great and we have missed it, please leave your ideas in the comment section below!
We have included things to see and do both for families and for parents who are looking for a child free time. Everyone can benefit from this list!
This is no secret to the locals but a big surprise to those visiting. Hamilton has over 100 waterfalls in the city that snake along the Bruce Trail into the Niagara Peninsula. Yes, each waterfall is breathtaking and a must see. From Albion Falls to the Devil’s Punch Bowl, this makes a perfect date or family hike! Bring a picnic or just hike to see the falls and go down the mountain to enjoy a nice lunch in the city. Whatever you choose, you will not be disappointed.
It is said that Hamilton is the waterfall capital of the world! This is a major attraction for both tourists and locals alike! Depending on the waterfall, the hiking trails range in difficulty. Not only will you see a breathtaking waterfall but also experience some of Southern Ontario’s beautiful nature walks on the famous Bruce Trail. Hamilton has so much natural beauty and now you and your family can spend days exploring all of its scenic waterfalls!
This castle is breathtaking and overlooks the bay! Whether you want a historical adventure inside this beautiful castle or to walk its grounds with your family, you will not be disappointed, no matter what time of year it is! We recommend seeing Dundurn Castle during every season because it is so beautiful.
This Italian style villa was built in the 1830s, learn more about the family who lived on the upstairs and servants who lived below. The Duchess of Cornwall is the museum’s Patron and also, the great, great, great granddaughter of Sir Allan MacNab, the former home owner.
If you come on a Saturday afternoon in the summer, you will most likely see many wedding photos taking place in and around this beautiful castle. We love going in the morning or in the evening for a nice stroll.
The tours are not to be missed! Regular tours are there to show visitors the grounds. Learn a piece of local and Canadian history! Dundurn Castle is either a perfect family day or a day date with your hubby.
A great family outing! Bayfront Park is to be explored. Right in the heart of the city lies a beautiful park that is easy to walk (bring the little ones who have just started to walk or the elderly) the trails are easy to navigate and the paved walkways are wonderful for walking or bike riding. Find a quiet spot and teach your little one to ride their bike or bring a picnic lunch and find the beautiful gazebo by the bay. Did you find it?
A great spot for family photos, Bayfront Park is not to be missed. Parking is free! What a find considering this is a big city.
HMCS Haida National Historic Site
History buffs and attraction lovers alike, this is your place! The HMCS Haida National Historic Site is located at 658 Catharine Street North, Pier 9, right by the Lakeshore. This WW2 Tribal Class destroyer is now not only a memorial of the war but a floating museum! You can choose a tour or a self-guided tour, which comes with a booklet to show you everything that you will need. The self-guided tour is very easy to follow and is good for families who have children who may want to go a little slower or faster.
Are you a war buff? Interested in something different to see? Check out this HMCS Haida, it is a historical treasure, resting in front of the city.
On Gage Avenue South and Main Street East lies beautiful park lands. This is a fine example of what a city park should look like. This 10th century era park is a gem for generations to enjoy. It has a splash pad for the children in the summer, a beautiful rose garden and a Children’s Museum located on site. The fountains around the park are gorgeous. Absolutely stunning and make for great family photos.
Gage Park is beautiful for a date night walk or a great place to go for a family bike ride or walk. There is so much to see and do this place is not to be missed.
CANADIAN WARPLANE HERITAGE MUSEUM
It’s time to go up the mountain now to the Canadian Warplane and Heritage Museum. Located next to Hamilton airport, this museum is not to be missed! From heritage planes that our Canadian WW2 vets rode in to a flight simulator (we crashed accidentally into the city of Hamilton, we are not meant to be pilots) this is an adventure for the whole family!
Some of the guides are people who lived through World War 2 and sometimes share personal accounts of what it was like. All of the staff are extremely knowledgeable. For an extra fee, you can be a passenger and fly in some of these amazing planes!
Children and adults alike can climb into some of the planes to see what it was like flying these across Europe. There are so many things to look at and so much to be proud of. We took our one year old here and she had a blast! She was amazed at the planes and felt like such a big girl when she climbed into a cock pit. This is truly a great place for the whole family. Go early to avoid the crowds and enjoy! Upper James is just a short drive away for lunch.
THE JAMES STREET NORTH ART CRAWL
It is up to us as parents to inspire our children. The James Street North Art Crawl is the place to do it! We love Hamilton as it is big city with a small town feel.
Every second Friday of each month between King William and Barton Street is the art crawl. All of the galleries in the area open the same night and stores stay open from 7-11pm.
Go in and out of galleries and events and see what is inspiring Hamilton. This is a very relaxed event and you can go with your children or friends to enjoy this amazing night on the town!
WEIR’S LAVENDER AND APIARY
We love this place. Lavender fields in Hamilton! Located in Dundas Ontario (one of the towns that joined Hamilton years ago) is Weird Lavender and Apiary. Take beautiful photos in the lavender fields or speak to the family about beekeeping. Don’t be afraid, these are the friendliest bees we have ever encountered. Walk away knowledgeable about the bee industry and which bees you may encounter that were brought here from Europe.
Learn how we should try to plan indigenous plants to Southern Ontario to keep these mild mannered bees a live.
Weir’s Lavender and Apiary has both French and English lavender which means you have the edible more subtle lavender (English) and the stronger lavender (French). Have your children play in the striking purple lavender fields, take photos and enjoy.
There is also a great gift shop full of keepsakes for the whole family!
VALENS LAKE SKATING TRAIL
We want to include things you can do in Hamilton all year around and just because the winter months are long in Canada does not mean you should not visit and stay inside!
Valens Lake Skating Trail is something out of a dream. Walk, or, ahem, skate through the woods. There is nothing more Canadian than lacing up your skates, the smell of pine and the crisp cold snowy air.
Be surrounded in pine and spruce trees as this old camp ground road is recreated into a 425 meter skating path at Waterdown Rotary Memorial Park.
It’s a great place for the family to skate, to suggest for a photo opportunity (think engagements or engagement photos for family members) and more!
ART GALLERY OF HAMILTON
We are obsessed with the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The second floor is free for all to see with some famous Canadian paintings. There is also a structure of a mini mega city surrounding a car that will make the children fall in love with museums! This is a great place to educate the whole family on paintings, sculpture and more!
The whole museum is free on Fridays and they have so many classes for children. We love the café and their gift shop is not to be missed. From fun little artifacts to buying paintings, this is a fun way to get something for yourself or your family that you will always remember. Go to this museum regularly as you will always learn something new, or better yet, become a member.
The Lakefront is a popular destination for Hamiltonians and visitors alike! Connected with Burlington’s Lake front, park at Spenser Park in Burlington and walk, ride or roller blade down the beautiful lakefront trail. If you feel a little hungry, stop off at Hutch’s, a famous restaurant in Hamilton that has been there for decades. Go inside and see the amazing 50s diner that is so popular and grab some comfort food to go. Stay inside and eat with a beautiful Lakefront view or continue on your adventure and see how far you can go on the trail!
Need to cool off from a hot day in the city? Wild Waterworks is a perfect way to have a great day with your whole family! From the wave pool to the little squirt works for the kids, your whole family will be busy all day long! Make it easier on everyone by booking a cabana and head to the Easy River for some coveted rest and relaxation.
If you’re looking for a discount, simply go after 4pm and enjoy the park at a cheaper rate. For all others, go early so you can have the whole day to get your slide on!
The tall ships are a sight to be seen for the whole family! These majestic ships are at Pier 8, where the 11 vessels follow each other before they dock. They offer free deck tours and harbour cruises, live music on the dock and more. Your children will admire the beautiful ships as they grace the bay.
WHITE HERN HISTORIC HOUSE AND GARDEN
What a hidden gem right downtown! The White Hern House and Garden is filled with all of the original things from the families that lived in their house. If you frequent historic house, you know that this is not always the case. The staff is amazing and they know how to make this tour even more fun!
Hear about some tales and folklore about the locals or admire the fascinating objects of how people once lived in Hamilton. How did this property stay in the hands of the same family for more than a hundred years? You are just going to have to visit!
VALENS CONSERVATION AREA
Going up to Flambourough is an amazing day trip for the family or with friends. Valens Lake has a great camping ground with 225 campsites and 125 of those states have electrical and water hook ups! Spend the night in nature and enjoy without driving for hours from the city!
Check out the beautiful Lookout Tower, Valens Lake and the Fishing Bridge or spend the day at Valens Lake Beach!
DUNDAS VALLEY CONSERVATION AREA
The views, the hiking, the trail center! From winter to summer, this is a place you want to visit again and gain. Check out the lush Carolinian forests, the beautiful meadows or be brave and dip your feet into one of their cold streams. There are so many rare plants to see! Go bird watching, hike as long as you like or go for fantastic photo opportunities. Whatever drives you, you will love the 40 kilometer trail system. A word of the wise, if bringing your precious pooches, keep them on a leash!
You can walk, ride, horseback ride, and ski in the winter! This trail has something for everyone.
HAMILTON FARMERS MARKET
Since 1837 Hamilton’s Farmers Market has been a source for Hamiltonians and their visitors to get their fresh produce and more! With over 60 vendors to check out, you can get local, national and international foods for both you and your family to enjoy!
There are also flowers and other goodies and presents you can pick up. Go in for a bite to eat or stay and roam the vendors for hours. The choice is yours!
Head up to Dundas to enjoy this family farm! From their famous pumpkin patch in the fall to a great market place, pretend this farm is yours for the day as you explore its many facets. You can even have Dymet’s Farm host a birthday party there! This is a must visit place for locals and visitors alike!
ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS
Though headquartered in Burlington, many of its gardens and sites sprawl into Hamilton. From Jazz and Blues Wednesdays to its fascinating gardens and trails, this is the perfect place to spend with your children or on your own! Visitors come from all over the world to walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens and you should not be a stranger.
There are endless things to do for children that you can make multiple visits and attend one of their many events and just scratch the surface of the Royal Botanical Gardens. It’s best to get a membership so you and your family can visit and revisit all year!
BATTLEFIELD HOUSE MUSEUM AND PARK
It’s time to dive into a piece of Canadian history as we head to Stoney Creek for this one. The Battlefield House Museum and Park has a stunning monument as its crown jewel. Children will marvel at its size and this is a great time to educate them on Canadian history. The park and gardens are stunning as well.
The Battle of Stoney Creek took place in 1812 and there are battle re-enactments which is a sight to see! Bring the whole family and watch as you slip through time and watch the Battle of Stoney Creek. This somber moment makes us feel like a part of history and gives your children a new perspective on what happened so many years ago.
The museum is fantastic, with staff dressed for the period time and are full of fascinating information. Your children will get to step into past for a few hours and have experiences that they will never forget!
What makes Hamilton great is that it has endless spots for date days and for the whole family. Hamilton has hidden gems, its staple spots and new must see places every month! We will continue to update this list so that you get the most out of visiting Hamilton, Ontario Canada!