Road trips should be on everyone’s summer bucket list… but where to go first? If you’re looking for a nearby getaway full of culture, nature and heritage with loads of character, head to Hamilton.
We’ve pulled together a three-day itinerary packed with some of our best attractions, restaurants, and unbelievable natural surroundings – perfect to enjoy with your other half or a group of friends.
Load your playlist with Hamilton’s own Arkells, grab your sunglasses, and hit the road.
1. Friday: Immerse yourself in Hamilton’s cultural downtown
You’ve no doubt been hearing the buzz about Hamilton, now it’s time to experience it for yourself. Check into your hotel and kick off your weekend adventure. See our hotel listings for options.
Head to the charming Locke Street neighbourhood for lunch where the options are plentiful. Opt for something casual like The Beverly on Locke, NaRoma Pizzeria or Earth to Table: Bread Bar. Or fancy it up at Mattson and Co., Brux House, or CIMA Enoteca.
Creative minds will appreciate a visit to the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Its impressive permanent collection features works by the Group of Seven and Emily Carr as well as the Instagram-worthy Bruegel-Bosch Bus by Canadian artist Kim Adams, offering the perfect inspiration for your road-tripping adventure.
Summer exhibits like Vivian Maier’s Street Photographer, James Street North: Vintage Photographs by Cees and Annerie van Gemerden, and The Living Room: STREETWATCH, all celebrate street photography. There’s also a lot of programming that goes on so check the AGH website to see “What’s On.”
Steps away from the gallery, is the popular James Street North neighbourhood, known for its grassroots arts offerings and packed with art galleries, eateries, and local shops. Browse the neighbourhood for unique finds like The Hamilton Store for locally made souvenirs, Mulberry Coffee House for a homemade treat on a killer patio, Blackbird Studios for one-of-a-kind fashions, and so much more.
James Street is where Art Crawl takes place the second Friday of each month. If you happen to be in town for one, be sure to crawl with the locals into the evening for a quintessential Hamilton experience. Shops and restaurants stay open late and street vendors and live music pack the sidewalks.
On the east side of James Street is a side street called King William, also known as “Restaurant Row.” The small street packs big flavour. It’s home to a number of restaurants like Berkeley North, Sagarmatha Curry Palace, The French, The Diplomat, HAMBRGR, Fsh & Chp, and The Mule.
Ready to work off that amazing dinner? Head north on James Street to the city’s beautiful West Harbour for an outdoor roller skate at Pier 8 or a waterfront stroll along the peaceful trails of Bayfront Park (and yes, go ahead and get yourself that ice cream cone…you’re on vacation!).
2. Saturday: Put on your walking shoes and head outdoors!
Take your pick from loads of satisfying options to fuel your day of outdoor fun in Hamilton. For a slightly upscale experience, Aberdeen Tavern is a local favourite. On James Street North, Jack and Lois, Saint James Espresso Bar and Eatery, and The French all offer delicious breakfast menus. See our Brunch round-up for details.
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is one of Hamilton’s most cherished attractions. Featuring colourful gardens and nature sanctuaries, you’ll be in awe of the beauty here. Visit the new rose garden with over 2,500 rose bushes or pack a picnic and hit the trails — there’s 27 kilometres to explore!
The Greenhouse Cafe in the RBG Centre is open for lunch seven days a week. Their menu features salads, soups, sandwiches, wraps, and mains like fish and chips, a daily frittata, and balsamic glazed chicken, all made with locally sourced ingredients. RBG’s other delicious restaurants, the Rock Garden Cafe and Turner Pavilion Tea House are open seasonally.
Waterfall chasing is a must on any Hamilton itinerary — and you won’t have to travel far from downtown to get from city to scenery. Known as the Waterfall Capital of the World, there are over 100 to choose from. Among the most popular are Webster Falls and Albion Falls.
Hiking fans will love Hamilton’s endless trails – courtesy of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that cuts through the city. Explore some of our hottest hiking trails.
After you work up an appetite on the trails, head to Dundas for dinner.
Freshen up and visit the award-winning restaurant, Quatrefoil, for fine dining in a restored heritage home you won’t soon forget. People drive from far and wide to dine at this top-ranked local treasure.
Other more casual options in this historic small-town downtown include Collin’s Brewhouse, The Winchester Arms, Thirsty Cactus, and Bangkok Spoon Deluxe. For coffee, pastries and a seasonal food menu, Detour Cafe is cozy and stylish (but closes early).
3. Sunday: Get to know Hamilton’s Fascinating Heritage
Located on the Hamilton Mountain, Papa Leo’s Restaurant offers farm-fresh breakfast options. Order the traditional options or amp it up with their crab cake benny, huevos rancheros, or fresh baked biscuit egg sandwich.
Or, stick with the heritage theme of the day and go for an upscale brunch at the Ancaster Mill, an iconic Hamilton restaurant built on the site of a historic flour mill. The Mill’s impressive breakfast buffet (with views of a waterfall) is an experience usually reserved for special occasions.
Check out more great brunch options with our guide to 12 brunch spots worth visiting Hamilton for.
Next, visit the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to see their collection of Canadian military aircraft dating back to World War ll. The largest flying museum in Canada offers many flights on vintage aircraft, from affordable rides to mega-splurges (like a ride on one of the only airworthy Lancasters in the world, the Avro Lancaster).
Finish off your Hamilton adventure with another well-known attraction. Dundurn National Historic Site is Hamilton’s own Downton Abbey, with a beautiful exterior and storied interior. The 40-room castle was once home to Sir Allan MacNab.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a guided tour of Whitehern Historic House and Garden, where three generations of the McQuesten family lived from 1852-1968 or Hamilton Museum of Team & Technology to learn about landmarks in civil and power engineering.