We live for summer weekends. Every Friday through Sunday is an opportunity to explore new things or revisit ones we’re fond of.
The anatomy of a stellar summer, in our opinion, is like a tapestry of novel experiences that, woven together, form the perfect season. That’s why — now that the world is opening up — we’re vowing to dedicate more weekends towards exploring local wonders.
Next up on our list: Hamilton. Sometimes referred to as “Toronto’s Brooklyn,” the city is burgeoning with art, a shimmering waterfront, and a booming local dining scene.
The emergence of boutique hotels and B&Bs has also made it easier than ever to escape there for the weekend, while GO Transit’s new $15 Weekend Pass has made leaving the car at home a no-brainer. For those looking to make a day trip, there’s a $10 Weekend Day Pass for that, too.
From nature-soaked walks to patio paradise, here’s a look at some of the top things to do in Hamilton. Plus, with the recent launch of hourly, all-day GO service between Union Station and downtown Hamilton, these activities are more accessible than ever.
At the edge of Harbourfront Drive near Hamilton’s downtown core, Bayfront Park is the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll or a bike ride. Picnic tables and benches are aplenty, making it an ideal go-to for a sunset picnic. You can also count on easy access to the park via West Harbour GO station.
Hamilton Waterfront Trail
Another nature-abundant place to discover just a short distance from West Harbour GO station is the Hamilton Waterfront Trail. It’s a little off the beaten path — which is what makes it so fun — and gives way to stunning views of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. And since GO Transit always allows leashed dogs on its trains, you can bring your pooch along for the ride.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Summer is in full bloom at the Royal Botanical Gardens, where the rainy downpours have yielded a kaleidoscope of colourful flora and fauna. From Aldershot GO station, you can make your way to this historical site to take in its many gardens, pathways, natural spaces, and delightful cafe and teahouse. Check out their calendar before you go to take part in ongoing special events and workshops.
Cootes Paradise Sanctuary
Situated within the Royal Botanical Gardens, but worthy of its own mention, this 600-hectare wildlife sanctuary boasts some of the country’s most potent biodiversity of plants. The sanctuary, which is also recognized as a Nationally Important Bird, Reptile, and Amphibian Area, is a prime site for observing unusual wildlife.
Chedoke Radial Trail
Hamilton has no shortage of natural beauty, and the Chedoke Radial Trail, which is accessible from the Hamilton GO Centre station, is no exception. Here, you can take in Hamilton’s west end and the spectacular views of Dundas Valley. The trail has also been endowed with many different hiking trails and sparkling waterfalls.
Dundas Valley Conservation Area
If you take the rails to Hamilton GO Centre, you’ll happen upon the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. It’s another lush conservation area that includes Carolinian forests, vibrant meadows, cold-water streams, geological anomalies, and a collection of rare plants, birds, and wildlife. Once an expansive glacial valley, it’s considered a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
If all of that wildlife exploration has made you hungry, you can head to nearby downtown Hamilton to chow down at the mass of fabulous restaurants that have taken hold of the city’s core. Notable mentions include the elevated pub fare at The Burnt Tongue, the tacos at The Mule, the rotating taps of craft beer at Merit Brewing, and the artful cocktails at the New Orleans-inspired Bar Sazerac. The city centre’s stylized historic building- and art-filled streets also make it a joy to explore the area on foot.
James Street North
From the same stop, as well as from Hamilton Centre GO station, you can saunter down one of the oldest streets in Canada. Dating back to the early 1800s, the street was home to the city’s first department store and skyscraper. Today, it houses a huge mall, art galleries, and lots of local restaurants and boutiques fit for urban exploring.
Built in the 1830s and once the home of a railway magnate, Dundurn Castle is a lavish 40-room estate with an Italian flare. Within reach of West Harbour GO Station, this hidden gem will charm history buffs who are interested in learning more about the area and the affluent family who once called the castle home.
Plus, since kids ride free on GO Transit, you can make it a family affair.
To learn more about travelling with GO Transit or purchase a Weekend Pass, you can visit gotransit.com/hamilton.