The Top 10 Things to See and Do in Hamilton, Ontario
Less than an hour’s drive away from Ontario’s provincial capital, Hamilton is a great place to visit for a short weekend getaway. Its natural location on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment creates a beautiful environment with a range of trails, and its rich cultural history means there are many notable attractions that celebrate Canada‘s past.
The Bruce Trail
Taking full advantage of Hamilton’s beautiful natural location, the Bruce Trail runs for almost 900km along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. Originally created in 1959, it remains popular to this day with walkers looking to explore the beautiful UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The trail can be accessed from several points in Hamilton and the Bruce Trail website offers many different maps of recommended hikes of varying length and difficulty.
Bruce Trail, Hamilton, ON, Canada, +1 905 529 6821
Spencer Gorge Conservation Area
After visiting the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area it is clear to see why Hamilton is often nicknamed ‘The City of Waterfalls’ Although less well-known compared to Ontario’s famous landmark, Tew’s Falls are just a few metres shorter than Niagara Falls, making them the tallest waterfall in Hamilton at 41m. Due to the humid Canadian climate, the falls are best viewed during the springtime as they often dry up during the warmer months.
Spencer Gorge Conservation Area, Dundas, Hamilton, ON, Canada, +1 905 525 2181
Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
For those looking to learn about Canada’s military and aviation history, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is a great introduction. The museum’s total collection includes over 40 aircraft, many of which have been lovingly restored and are now on display as part of their ongoing exhibitions. The star of the show is the Avro Lancaster, which was used in WWII efforts and is painted in dedication of Victoria Cross recipient Andrew Mynarski. The staff are friendly and attentive, and are mountains of information for any questions you may have.
Opening Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Dundurn Castle is an impressive Italian-style villa built in the 1830s as the home of Sir Allan Napier MacNab, former Premier of the Province of Canada. Alongside the 40 ornately decorated rooms within the castle, there is also a fully stocked produce garden, which has been preserved in its 19th century condition and continues to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. The daily guided tours provide extensive insight into Canada’s past and the reality of life at Dundurn in its early years.
Opening Hours: 12-4pm, Tuesday to Sunday
Dundurn Castle, 610 York Boulevard, Hamilton, ON, Canada, +1 905 546 2872
African Lion Safari
One of Hamilton’s most surprising attractions is its African Lion Safari, a family-owned safari park home to the beasts of Africa including giraffes, cheetahs, rhino and, of course, lions. Set over approximately 740km, the park is divided into seven different game reserves in which the animals are free to roam. To view the animals, guests can choose to travel in their own vehicles or the tour buses provided, as well as visiting the walking areas which house smaller animals such as parrots, toucans and alpacas.
Opening Hours: 9am-5pm daily, May to September
African Lion Safari, 1386 Cooper Road, Hamilton, ON, Canada, +1 519 623 2620
Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail
Running for a total of 32km, the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a completely off-road hiking and biking trail that has been established on a resurfaced section of railway roadbed. Beginning on Hamilton’s west side, near the McMaster University campus, the trail stretches along the Dundas Valley up towards Jerseyville in a scenic route which is a perfect for cyclists, walkers and also permits horseback riding. On a sunny day, this is a picturesque place to escape the city and enjoy some exercise in the natural environment.
Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail, ON, Canada, +1 519 621 2761
Royal Botanical Gardens
Hamilton is also home to Canada’s Royal Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical gardens in the country featuring a rock garden, arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. The real gem here, however, is the Centennial Rose Garden, where you can marvel at thousands of different rose species annually from June until October. Although immaculately kept, the gardens are very child-friendly and hold various events aimed at families throughout the year, including the August’s ever-popular Teddy Bear Picnic.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm daily, May to October
HCMS Haida is a former Canadian naval battleship that was used from 1943 until 1963 and is now docked in Hamilton and open to the public as a national historic site. Part of the recently regenerated Catherine Street North waterfront, the boat is a hugely impressive landmark within the Hamilton Harbour. Visitors are free to explore the decks and listen to stories from the many naval veterans who serve as volunteer guides.
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm, Thursday to Sunday in May – June, seven days a week in July – September, weekends only September – October
Canadian Football Hall of Fame & Museum
For Canadian Football enthusiasts, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame & Museum is a must-visit. Since 1972, the not-for-profit company behind the attraction has acquired an impressive collection of over 30,000 different football related items dating back to the early 20th century. Also on-site is the Hall of Fame room, which houses a bust and biography to reflects the achievements of notable players who have achieved outstanding success in the sport.
Opening Hours: 9.30am-4.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday
Workers Arts and Heritage Centre
Located in Hamilton’s downtown area, the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre was created in the late 1980s to ‘preserve, honour and promote the culture and history of all working people’ in Ontario. From its impressive home in the historic Customs House, the center aims to recognize the contributions of working people throughout Canadian history through art and performance. It therefore runs both permanent and rotating exhibitions in its galleries that focus on varying aspects of working life, from a history of office-work to 19th century factories.
Opening Hours: 10am-4pm, Wednesday to Saturday