TOP-10 things to do while visiting Hamilton
Hamilton is in full swing! Throughout the city, great improvement projects promise to add to the pleasure of living or visiting “The Hammer”. Rest assured, new developments will not affect the running of FrancoFEST Hamilton 2022.
Here are ten suggestions for making the most of your visit, during FrancoFEST Hamilton (held June 17 and 18, 2022) or throughout the summer.
Text by Nathalie Prézeau. Photo credits: Nathalie Prézeau.
01 - Gage Park
Since 2010, FrancoFEST Hamilton has taken place in the beautiful Gage Park (1000 Main St E), on the side of Gage Avenue. This section of the park is remarkable for its turquoise bandshell (Gage Park Bandshell) built in 1947, and its island of century-old trees.
In 1918, the City bought the huge park from the estate of lawyer Robert Gage, in 1922, it added the large central greenhouses (completely rebuilt in 2019). They can be visited every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In 1926, Eugenia, Gage's daughter, made a donation to erect the superb fountain in the park. Architect John Lyle, to whom Toronto owes its Union Station and the Alexandra Theatre, is responsible for the design of this beautiful fountain, adorned with sculptures in the round and surrounded by bronze turtles.
In the Gage family home, the City eventually installed the Hamilton Children's Museum. It is currently closed in 2022, and is in the process of benefiting from major renovations, as are the paths that criss-cross Gage Park. Families can, however, take advantage of the large playground and its refreshing splash pad near Gage Avenue. Bring your bathing suits!
02 - Cafe Baffico
Although only 260 yards from the North East entrance to Gage Park (and 10 minutes from the FrancoFEST action), the tiny Cafe Baffico (1375 King St E) is easy to miss. But what a good place to remember in Hamilton!
Well hidden in its quiet little corner, it has excellent bakery. They serve excellent coffee and offer a variety of delectable donuts (including perfectly cooked “fritters”), which can be enjoyed on their terrace. Note that Cafe Baffico is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
03 - Escarpment stairs
For a real workout, rewarded with a breathtaking view of the whole city, take one or other of the long metal stairs that connect the bottom of the escarpment to the top of the cliff.
You can reach the Wentworth Stairs (498 steps, separated by the Sherman Access), by walking 1.8 km on Cumberland Avenue west of Gage Avenue (almost up to the turquoise bandshell) . The Kenilworth Stairs (387 steps, separated by the trail, including a bike ramp) are 2.2 km east of the park. To get there, take Lawrence Road, south of Gage Park, then head east to Huxley Ave S, which you will climb to King St E, where you will turn right. Go over the overpass, then walk down Kenilworth Ave S, keeping your left on Kimberly Drive. The stairs will be visible a little further east.
These two metal stairs are 3.5 km apart on the Escarpment Rail Trail. The former CN rail line was converted into a trail in 1993. It is lined with trees providing welcome shade areas in summer.
Note that there are three other stairs to the west of Wentworth Stairs: James St Stairs (227 steps), Dundurn Stairs (326 steps), and Chedoke Stairs (289 steps, including a bike ramp).
04 - Uli stairs
When walking on the Escarpment Rail Trail, south of the Kenilworth Stairs, in a few places you come across rustic stone stairs called Uli Stairs. This way of exploring the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton is so original that it has been listed on the Atlas Obscura site. Quite an honor!
It is the Herculean retirement project of one man, Ulrich, Austrian by origin. Built mainly with cut stones lined with branches, these stairs are reminiscent of Mexican ruins or even old paths that one would find in Provence. Yet they are relatively recent, completed in 2007.
Take them with caution from the escarpment trail (three of them go down and one goes up to Fennell Ave E). The City of Hamilton has posted signs advising people to borrow them at their own risk. But it's worth a look!
05 - James St North
Most of the interesting restaurants and cafes in Hamilton are spread out over a kilometer of James Street North, between Gore Park and Immigration Square, and a few side streets, including King William Street and Cannon St E.
It's worth reading the reviews on Google Map for each of these to discover the eclectic offer! Among our favorites, from north to south: the Italian classic Castelli Cucina with its beautiful street terrace, the tongue-in-cheek Martello with its large rear terrace and its weekend brunch, the bohemian wine bar Synonym with its tray of charcuterie, the friendly Portuguese Dunas Verdes, the elegant Mexican with “new age” looks Mesa, the very funky neighbors Brain Bar and Mulberry Coffeehouse, the industrial chic of the café Saint James, the “burger joint” The Burnt Tongue, the handsome Bread Bar with its irresistible pizzas, the very urban Mexican The Mule, the very decadent Hambrgr, and the Redchurch Café, in one of Hamilton's prettiest buildings, not far from Gore Park on King St E… to name only a few!
06 - Victorian beauties
Speaking of beautiful buildings, Victorian beauties can be seen in a row around the Macnab Terrace Guest House (256 Macnab St N), in the historic section north of Barton St W.
200 yards away, on the southwest corner of Barton and Park St N, is the stunning Italianate Victorian Bellwether House from 1870, listed on Airbnb. Don't miss the Instagrammable Wish you were here mural on its sides.
07 - Hutch's Harbour Front
Served in a greasy brown paper bag, the fries at Hutch's Harbor Front (325 Bay St N) take us back to the 1950s. childhood add to the illusion. Note that they only accept cash.
Hutch's Harbor Front is at the entrance to Bayfront Park, featuring a large parking lot and a 1.5 km loop trail facing the bay. You could also follow the Waterfront Trail south of Bayfront Park and reach the stairs leading to the top of the McQuesten Bridge in 30 minutes to admire the panoramic view.
08 - Hamilton Waterfront
Things are happening around the Williams Fresh Cafe at the Hamilton Waterfront!
The Bayside Cafe (housed at 47 Discovery Drive, accessible at the end of James St N) is open daily from 8am to 10pm (they serve breakfast until 11:30am). But life really resumes at the end of May, during the weekends, then every day during the summer. See the Hamilton Waterfront website for full details on its many activities.
You can rent four-wheel skates to frolic on their outdoor track (with DJ sessions). There are also Music on the Waterfront's free jazz concerts on Thursdays.
You can rent tandem, side-by-side or quad bikes (the funniest way to explore the waterfront!). The Waterfront Trolley's trackless train offers a 12 km guided tour (to Princess Point), to learn more about the surrounding area.
09 - Promenade Park
The new boardwalk officially opened in April 2022. All new, all beautiful (very beautiful)!
Located not far from the warship HMCS Haida (which will be open for summer 2022), Promenade Park is part of the first phase of a massive new development that plans to erect 1,500 residential units, including a 45-storey tower. A story to follow...
This map shows all of the new public facilities that run 500 meters from the water's edge. The Corden metal structures (pre-rusted) echo the industrial district that extends to the east. These include the Hammer Harbor (for farmers markets, concerts, movie nights, etc), The Landing (in between, with), and the boardwalk, complete with Swedish lounge chairs and a nice playground.
10 - Collective Arts Brewing
As soon as you leave Pier 8 and head east, you are right in the heart of Canada's steel industry! The panorama is strange to city dwellers accustomed to residential areas.
Factory chimneys belch white smoke above buildings with mysterious structures. Huge tanks and warehouses follow one another along Burlington St E, which becomes Nikola Tesla Blvd before joining the QEW highway.
The Industrial Estate and Collective Art Brewing (207 Burlington St E) really do well together in this last stop before leaving Hamilton.
The quirky brewer has gotten us used to associating its beers, ciders and beverages (including refreshing fruity sparkling 5% alcohol teas) with street art. Every four months, they rotate the art that features on their products to showcase new work by emerging artists from around the world. They regularly invite artists to tender on their site.
In their Hamilton brewery, they went a step further by dressing their large walls with huge colorful murals by world-class artists: Ola Yolo, Bruno Smoky, Vidam, Shalak Attack, Mosher, Peru143, Chris Dyer, Cone the Weird is his accomplice Rookie the Weird. This gives a superb open-air art gallery contrasting with the surrounding greyness.
Inside their shop, they have a small room with tables, the walls lined with shelves displaying hundreds of bottles and cans of different designs. What a look!
During the summer season, they open a vast outdoor “beergarden” (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.). A perfect complement to a beautiful summer day.
BONUS ! Are you looking for a place to stay while visiting Hamilton? Book a room at Stoney Creek's Comfort Inn in FrancoFEST Hamilton's name, and benefit from a unique rate!