Hamilton is Canada's 9th largest city -- third biggest in Ontario after Toronto and Ottawa. This port city, at one time most famous for its steel production, is located between Toronto and Niagara Falls in Southern Ontario and thus makes a convenient pit stop if traveling between these two popular locations. However, Hamilton is a destination in its own right, whether you're interested in culture, history, good food or the great outdoors.
The Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) is a longstanding museum that despite having an inconspicuous entrance (I used to work there and the number one complaint people had was that they couldn't find the front door) is a wonderful, manageable visit. The AGH has an impressive permanent collection that highlights Canadian and international art and includes the Bruegel-Bosch Bus by Kim Adams (pictured) that kids love.
Located just next door to the Hamilton International Airport, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum features aircraft used by Canadians or Canada's Military from the beginning of World War II to the present. The museum offers many opportunities for visitors to interact with the exhibits, including flight combat simulators.
James St. North
Not so long ago, James Street North was an undefined Hamilton neighborhood with untapped historic and cultural appeal. Today, this downtown strip is a vibrant, edgy community especially known for its monthly Art Crawl and annual Supercrawl festival that showcases the area's shops, restaurants and galleries.
An outstanding, intact example of a mid-19th century urban estate, Whitehern has a rich history of ownership by the eclectic and wealthy McQuesten family who had a great influence on the growth of Hamilton. The interior has fine examples -- both domestic and intellectual - that give insight to the life and times of not only Whitehern but the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian time periods in general. Fascinating.
Dundas - a westerly part of greater Hamilton - is located in a valley keeping this sleepy town's main drag looking very much like it did a century ago. With limited access in and out of the town and malls and urban sprawl a 15 minute drive away in any direction, King Street in Dundas is still a thriving commercial centre with a distinct heritage appeal. Many shops, such as Mickey McGuire's cheese shop and Piccone's are popular for their friendly owners; others, like the Collins, have been around for more than 150 years.
This historic home showcases the domestic life of a wealthy Hamiltonian -- Sir Allan Napier MacNab, one of Canada's first premiers. When construction was complete on Dundurn Castle in 1835, it was one of the finest estates in Ontario. Today, the more than 40 rooms, upstairs and downstairs, have been furnished to compare the life of the prosperous Victorian homeowners to that of their servants. Staff in period costumes guide visitors through the home describing daily life from the 1850s.
A bit counter-intuitive for a city known primarily for steel production and industry, but Hamilton has an enormous amount of green space, including an astonishing 126 waterfalls. The city's location within the Niagara Escarpment is the reason for all these waterfalls, many of which are easily accessible.
Locke Street -- between Main and Aberdeen -- has for decades been one of Hamilton's most appealing streets. Long and straight, with a centre dip, Locke Street is easy to take in at a glance but you'll want to linger in this relaxed but stylish hood. Two church spires loom above low-rise shops and restaurants housed in heritage buildings and the natural mountain brow makes a nice backdrop. Have a meal at Chuck's Burger, Naroma for casual yummy pizza or Earth to Table for tasty food made with local ingredients.
The HCMS is Tribal Class destroyer that was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1943, served in the Second World War, Korean War and Cold War. Now it's permanent fixture in the Hamilton Harbour and open to visitors May to October.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the largest botanical garden in Canada that brings together people, plants and nature. Technically in Burlington, Ontario, the RBG main centre -- which has indoor exhibitions -- is close to the Hamilton border with various conservation projects scattered about the city. The RBG display gardens and trails are maintained all year round.