Looking for things to do in Hamilton? Hamilton is a popular day trip in Ontario from the city of Toronto and is fast becoming one of Ontario’s favorite outdoor destinations. With a growing art scene, independent galleries, and historic architecture and museums, “The Hammer” is a truly thriving city.
Hamilton, Ontario offers easy access to recreation trails, watersports, and conservation areas providing a natural playground for hikers, boaters, and cyclists. Nestled amongst the southern shores of Lake Ontario and the landscape of the Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton will surprise you.
Things to do in Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton was once known only as an industrial city thanks to the steelmakers of Stelco and Dofasco but now “Steeltown” has blossomed into a cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer. With more people moving to the area and others looking to escape the city of Toronto, we have narrowed down the top things to do while in Hamilton, Ontario.
1. Dundurn Castle
One of the top attractions in Hamilton is Dundurn Castle. Take a tour of this 1830s villa that was once home to Sir Allan Napier MacNab who was the Premier of the United Canadas. This national historic site was fully restored in the 1960s and is open to the public to tour its grounds and rooms.
Visitors will follow costumed interpreters through the home illustrating life from the nineteenth century in Ontario. Admission to Dundurn Castles includes a 1 hour guided tour plus admission to the Hamilton Military Museum. The military museum displays artifacts from the War of 1812, and World War I and the second World War.
Tickets cost $14 for adults and $8 for children, with children under 5 allowed in for free.
2. Royal Botanical Gardens
Of all the attractions in Hamilton, a visit to Canada’s largest Botanical Garden is a must. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada is a must. Boasting over 77 kilometers of nature trails, across 300 acres of land, the Royal Botanical Gardens includes 5 cultivated gardens and over 312,000 individual plants – it is no surprise why. It provides an unforgettable experience where you can witness over 2400 plant species flourish and bloom.
Nestled into the slopes of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve the Royal Botanical Gardens has many outdoor plant collections as well as an indoor Mediterranean Garden. It is also home to the world’s largest lilac collection with 100,000 spring bulbs and 3000 rose bushes.
A designated National Historic Site, the gardens feature five different garden areas, Hendrie Park, RBG Centre, The Arboretum, Laking Garden, and the David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden. The Rock Garden was restored and reopened in 2016 and showcases a variety of plants beautifully arranged around large rock formations.
One of the highlights of the Rock Garden is the 18-metre-long Centennial Lilac Walk, which features over 200 varieties of lilacs. Visitors can walk through the garden and enjoy the beautiful scents and colours of the flowers.
As the largest cultivated garden area, Hendrie Park is often the most popular with visitors – with something for everyone. It illustrates the diversity in both plants and garden design, covering over 22 acres of land.
General admission tickets for entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens cost $19.50 for adults, with children under 4 admitted for free. There are youth, senior and family tickets available at a discounted price.
3. Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
Located directly beside the Hamilton International Airport in Mount Hope, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1972. It displays a collection of Canadian military aircraft flown since the beginning of World War II.
Take a walk through history and witness the more than forty aircraft on display including the Avro Lancaster, one of only two airworthy Lancaster bombers left in the world! For a burst of adrenaline, hop into the Air Combat Zone jet fighter simulation center to feel what it’s like to fly in a fighter jet.
Admission to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is around $16 per adult, with children under 5 able to visit for free. Flight simulation experiences are available at an extra cost. Check out the website for more details.
4. Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology
Another interesting museum to visit in Hamilton is The Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology. This national historic site is dedicated to the history of steam power and the role it played in the industrialization of Canada.
The museum is housed in the restored 1859 waterworks building that originally supplied water to the city of Hamilton. It features a collection of working steam engines, pumps, and other machinery, as well as exhibits on the history of steam power and its impact on Canadian industry.
Admission is free to The Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology and it is open year-round.
5. Waterfront Trail
Hamilton Harbour, which was formerly Burlington Bay, has undergone a huge change over the past few decades. It is now a popular outdoor gathering place for families and friends connecting Pier 4 Park, Bayfront Park with the Waterfront Trail. The 12 km waterfront trail is great for an afternoon stroll where you can pick up an ice cream cone at Scoops to take in the views.
There are bike rentals and cafés, people fishing on the pier and the Harbour West Trolley winds along the trail telling details of the history of the area.
6. Bayfront Park
Bayfront Park park covers an area of over 16 hectares along Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario with plenty of recreational activities along its extensive trail system, which includes both paved and unpaved paths for walking, running, and cycling.
Another popular feature of Bayfront Park is the large playground, which is a great destination for families with young children. The playground includes climbing structures, slides, swings, and other equipment designed for children of all ages.
For those interested in water activities, the park offers a boat launch for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Bayfront Park hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and community gatherings. The park is also home to several public art installations, including sculptures and murals.
7. Hamilton Harbour
Take the cruise with Hamilton Waterfront Trust on a 50-minute tour around the harbour while listening to the captain regale you with the history of the area. Or book a longer dinner cruise on the Habour Queen. You can book private events on it as well, and when it isn’t out on the water, it acts as a harbourfront cafe.
8. Battle of Stoney Creek
If you venture a little farther along the Waterfront Trail, you’ll come to the community of Stoney Creek. The community is its own destination unto itself with plenty of attractions from the Fifty Point Conservation Area, to the King’s Forest Golf Course.
The Battlefield House Museum is located on the site of the historic Battle of Stoney Creek at Stoney Creek Battlefield Park. This is a beautiful park with the Battlefield Monument standing high on a hill overlooking the grounds. You can go inside the House Museum which was Gage House dating back to 1899. And the Nash-Jackson House is another historic building on the property.
The Erland Lee Museum
If you are looking for another National Historic Site, The Erland Lee Museum is located just 10 minutes down the road. This 19th-century farmhouse has huge historical significance. It was the birthplace of Women’s Institutes and has exhibits and programs dedicated to the history of the Women’s Institute.
The Devil’s Punchbowl located in Stoney Creek and it even has its own Farmer’s Market.
9. Gage Park
Another park to visit in East Hamilton, Ontario is Gage Park. It’s just a few minutes from Tim Hortons Feiled and it a huge city park. One of the main features of Gage Park is its beautiful themed gardens, including a rose garden, a rock garden, and a medicinal herb garden. But the star attraction is the Tropical Greenhouse.
Within the park is the Hamilton Children’s Museum which has hands-on galleries and interactive displays. The museum is undergoing renovations at the moment, but there is still a play area and large green space.
With walking trails, playgrounds, sports fields, and a wading pool, this is an excellent day outdoors for the whole family. There is also a bandshell that hosts concerts throughout the summer. There is also a large greenhouse on the property that houses a variety of exotic plants and flowers.
During the winter months, Gage Park is transformed into a winter wonderland with its skating rink, which is open for free public skating. There are also several winter festivals held in the park, including a Christmas market and a winter lights festival. And the popular Spring Bulb Festival takes place once the snow melts.
10. HMCS Haida National Historic Site
While you are at the waterfront, head over to the HMCS Haida. This floating museum highlights Canada’s wartime naval history and is a national historic site being the only surviving Tribal-class destroyer. The HMCS Haida was launched in August 1942 and served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War.
Known as “Canada’s most fightingest ship”, guests can explore its historic decks, complete with displays showcasing the HMCS Haida’s valiant battles. Put yourself in the shoes of a crew member of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Admission is just $3.90 per adult, with those under 17 years of age entering free.
11. Fish and Chips at Hutch’s
While at the waterfront, there are a few stops to grab a bite to eat with a range of food available to suit all tastes and budgets. From the Waterfront Grill and ice cream at Scoops, a top pick includes Fishers Pier 4 Pub and Grub, which is famed for its pub fare and cold pints as well as its friendly staff. Another top recommendation and my personal favourite since I was a kid is Hutch’s for fish and chips.
12. Hamilton Farmers Market
Established in 1837, the Hamilton Farmers Market is a year-round market that is one of the oldest landmarks in the city. With more than fifty vendors selling everything from fresh meat and fish to local artisan products and handmade goods from across Canada. It is located beside Jackson Square and the Public Library, right in the heart of downtown at the corner of York Boulevard and James Street.
13. Hiking Trails
There are so many hiking trails in and around Hamilton, it is an outdoor lovers’ dream. Boasting over 6000 acres of forests, the Dundas Valley Conservation Area is massive with more than 40 km of hiking trails. The main hiking trails are the famous Bruce Trail, the Main Loop Trail, and the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail. Read more: Top 15 Ontario Hiking Trails
14. Main Loop Trail
The Dundas Valley Trail Centre is the start of the loop trail and an easy place to start your hiking. At just 3.4 km there is a lot to see with ruins, an orchard, and great views of the valley. There’s a replica of the old train station and the Trans Canada Trail runs right through it. You’ll see a lot of cyclists and there are mountain bike trails here too. There is also a place to pick up snacks or ice cream for a cool treat after your hike.
11. Bruce Trail
It’s a bucket list goal for many an Ontario hiker to hike Canada’s longest footpath. Stretching from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail passes right through the Dundas Valley.
12. Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail
This trail leads to the Hubs of Ontario and is an excellent path for hiking and cycling along the old railway lines. We ridden this path from Brantford to Ancaster and it is awesome.
13. Hamilton Waterfalls
Hamilton is often referred to as the ‘Waterfall Capital of the World’ with more than 100 waterfalls right at its doorstep of the city limits. Chasing waterfalls has become one of the top Hamilton experiences.
The waterfalls are part of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve where waterfalls flow over steep rock faces making for spectacular sightseeing that is especially impressive after a heavy rainfall or during the spring thaw.
A visit to see the waterfalls in Hamilton would not be complete without a trek to see Webster’s Falls. Standing at 22 meters tall, it has a classic plunge pool-style waterfall. While there, don’t forget to walk across the stunning restored cobblestone bridge.
Perhaps one of the most incredible waterfalls in Hamilton is Albion Falls. With a width of 18 meters and standing 20 meters high, Albion Falls is a beautiful cascade tumbling over steps and shelves.
interesting fact, Albion Falls became known as Lover’s Leap after Jane Riley leaped to her death in 1915.
Visitors to Albion Falls should be aware that the area can be dangerous, especially when the rocks are wet or slippery. Also, swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall is strictly prohibited, as the water can be deep and the current can be strong. And these are popular waterfalls so try to visit during off-peak times either early in the morning or weekdays.
14. Spencer Gorge Conservation Area
Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is definitely the star attraction. Housing two of its most famous waterfalls, Tews Falls and Webster Falls, this is a popular hike that also houses Dundas Peak showcasing the beauty of the Dundas Valley
Tews Falls is possibly the most famous located in the conservation area. Hamilton’s answer to Niagara Falls it stands 41 meters (134 feet) high making it only a few meters shorter than Niagara Falls. Another popular route is Devil’s Punchbowl Lookout or you can head to the Chedoke Waterfalls and Creek that runs through the west side of Hamilton.
15. Art Gallery of Hamilton
The Art Gallery of Hamilton was founded in 1914 and is the oldest and largest Art Museum in southern Ontario. Its permanent collection is recognized as one of the finest in Canada, with a mix of Canadian historical, international and contemporary art. It boasts a collection of over 10,000 works of art include pieces by Alex Colville, Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and Tyler Tekatch.
Entrance to the Art Gallery of Hamilton is free for Gallery Level 2 and the Jean and Ross Fischer Gallery courtesy of Orlick Industries. To access the special exhibitions on Gallery Level 1 admission is $15 per adult and $10 for children, kids under 5 are admitted for free.
Yes, Canada has its own football league and you can learn all about the Canadian Football League here. Located at Tim Hortons Field which is home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football team, the museum celebrates everything Canadian football. It’s a must-visit for football lovers.
The Hall of Fame was founded in 1963, and its first inductees were announced in 1963. Since then, more than 300 players, coaches, builders, and media members have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. You’ll learn about all aspects of Canadian football through interactive displays, artifacts and photographs. Admission is Free and entry to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame is free.
17. Catch a Hamilton Tiger Cats Game
Hamilton, Ontario is often referred to as the “birthplace of Canadian football” and the game is taken seriously here. If you want to see what it’s all about, grab some tickets to see the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Play at Time Horton’s Field. The season lasts from May to October, and you can check out their home game schedule here.
Nighttime Activities in Hamilton
17. Hess Village
If you are looking for something to do at night, head down to Hess Village. Hess Village is a pedestrian area filled with patios, live music, restaurants, and bars. It is the place to hang out. It runs from Main Street to to King Street West and is a lively area day or night.
18. Theatre Aquarius
I have been to productions at Theatre Aquarius and the talent is top-notch. It is a professional theatre located downtown Hamilton in the Dofasco Centre for the Arts. If you want to check out live theatre without breaking the bank like on Broadway or Toronto, check out what shows are going on here.
And these are our favourite Hamilton things to do. Do you live near Hamilton? Have you hiked the Bruce Trail? Let us know if the comments about some other top attractions.