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 2023.
Here are ten suggestions for making the most of your visit, during FrancoFEST Hamilton or throughout the summer.
Text by Nathalie Prézeau (May 2022). 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!