Itineraries for a Classic Hamilton Summer
Talking to a friend a few days ago, we were remarking on how it feels recently like there is something cool to do every weekend in Hamilton. Whether it was the epic Arkells Rally, of June 23rd, the Collective Arts Liquid Arts Fest the weekend before, Soul Saturday on King William the week before that, or all the festivals, concerts and street fests that make up the weekends to come.
But what to do on that rare day when there isn’t something hype going on? Or any other day of the week that you may happen to have off because, you know, stay-cation. Luckily, outside of all the awesome events and festivals in the city, new and old, we’re spoiled with a pretty sweet selection of things to do on any given day during the summer, whether Steeltown classics or modern #HamOnt happenings.
First thing’s first, the morning…
Breakfast, Brunch, Brinner
Hit up greasy spoons like West Town Bar and Grill, Steve’s Open Kitchen, upscale options like Aberdeen Tavern, the French, or Mattson and Co, alternative locales like Radius or Harbour Diner, or cool stops like Jack and Lois, Saint James Eatery, Cannon Coffee Co. or Nique. Of course, that’s to say nothing of the multitude of others, whether Papa Leo’s, the Mule, classic Bedrock Bistro, newcomer Caro, or so much more. Basically, you’re good here.
I feel like calling it a recent explosion of “hip coffee shops” would be demeaning to the many that already existed. Nevertheless, there are a lot of new spots, and if you want to be absolutely wired by noon check out Locke for Democracy or Brown Dog, move east for Durand Coffee, Ark and Anchor, or Red Crow Coffee. Then move north down James St. for Mezza, Saint James, Smalls, Mulberry Café, or Steel Town Garage. For further adventures check out Relay on the mountain (or their location in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market), Detour in Dundas, Vintage Coffee Roasters in mid-town, or Cannon Coffee on Ottawa street.
Easterbrook’s and Hutch’s: Classic Hamilton All Day Eats and Experiences
If you’re not a morning person but getting pangs for something distinctly summery delicious, two classic stops at opposite ends of the city-limits, Easterbrook’s Hot Dog Stand and Hutch’s on the Beach (like, we’re talking OG Hutch’s, not Bayfront), offer the most retro-Hamilton feel with the most amazingly guilty-pleasure fare. And these aren’t simply stops, but rather storied locations, venerated icons, experiences in and unto themselves and pilgrimages must be made to them regularly. Although they are all-year round, my most cherished memories of them are summertime, whether having a footlong for dinner on the last day of school at Easterbrook’s or being sunburnt from Confederation Park but having ice cream on the beachfront behind Hutch’s.
Day-Trips: Adventures In-Town
If you’re going to make it out to Hutch’s, make a day out of it by hitting up Burlington Beach, Confederation Park, go wave-pooling and water-sliding at Wild Water Works, hit up the mini-golf or batting cages at Adventure Village, enjoy the scenic lakeshore trail, or drinks or volley-ball at Barangas. Back to the Easterbrook’s side of things, check out the Royal Botanical Gardens, hike Cootes Paradise or make your way down to Valley-Inn, or walk, ride, run the Bay Trail, then get your skate on at Pier 4 Park’s roller rink.
Sticking more central? Just take a stroll up and down James Street, Locke Street, through Dundas, along Concession, getting lost in the antiques of Ottawa, or really, when was the last time you really explored old, downtown Waterdown or Stoney Creek? Or go more rustic and start checking our waterfalls off your hiking list, with stops at cool, nearby country markets like Dyment’s Farm above Dundas, or the Punch Bowl Market.
Day-Trip: Out of Town
I mean, the sky’s the limit here. But I guess to keep it more Hamilton-focused (i.e. leaving the city-limits but giving love to smaller communities and not making it explicitly about Niagara or Toronto) let’s talk beach trips. Whether Ontario or Erie there are so many beaches within an easy drive of Hamilton, whether Turkey Point, Long Point, Long Beach, or Ports Dover, Stanley, or Colborne, these are all great, single day road-trips. Among my favourite with its own little, traditional, near and dear to my heart itinerary is heading out to Port Dover, stopping at Hewitt’s Dairy Bar in Hagersville for ice cream on the way, and stopping for fish and chips (or an absurdly affordable steak) at the lovely D&D’s in Jarvis on the way back.
Libations and Stay-cations
Getting thirsty? I mean, you went coffee crawling, why not go harder now that it’s later in the day. The bevy of new breweries in the city offer an awesome itinerary for beer crawls. Whether Shawn and Ed in Dundas, Grain & Grit and Fairweather in Ainslie-Wood, West Ave Cidery out in Flamborough, Clifford Brewing Company in the east, or Collective Arts and Merit in the middle of it all. And why stop at beer? Forty Creek and Dillon’s distilleries are mostly within the reaches of the city, and as long as you’re headed out that way, you may as well sample Hamilton’s three wineries, part of the Niagara wine route, Ridge Road Estates, Leaning Post, and Puddicombe Estate Winery.
Dinner, Drinks, Patios, Nightlife etc.
Really. I mean what can I say here that hasn’t already been said a million times by many other, better people? We know the awesome restaurants, patios and pub districts in Hamilton, but maybe for a reminder, check out Melissa’s list in last month’s Urbanicity or go to local food influencer, @TasteHamont – Jen’s new Hamilton patio site! tastehamont.com/patio-life/
I will, however, drop a personal favourite. Ventura’s on James North, particularly getting the street side spot with the garage door window rolled up, people watching with grilled seafood and super-chilled Portuguese Vinho Verde.
Blockbuster Season Under Stars or in Comfy Seats
I love going to the movies, and summer is the blockbuster season. So, the most essential thing to me, to make any summer complete, is a trip to the Star-Lite Drive-In on Stoney Creek mountain. Since first seeing the original Jurassic Park there in 1993, it doesn’t feel like a real summer without heading up there at least once. And mad points to those who take-in the full “dusk ‘til dawn” shows on the holiday weekends.
Of course, if you want to stay inside, the new seats at the classic Jackson Square multiplex put any other cinema in the city to shame and gives my inner-chubby-kid-Ryan a reason to want to theatre-hop again once the show I paid for is done.
So there you have it, a multitude of full-days of things to see, do, experience, taste and feel during the hot time, summer in the city. And be sure to mix and match, as any of them can be combined with the other to make sure you’re out by the time your head hits the pillow.