Sometimes it’s nice to try out a different speed and get away from the city for a day. Hamilton is just over an hour outside of Toronto, and there’s more to do there than you probably knew about.
From stunning nature trails to a vibrant, lived-in art scene, a day trip to Hamilton may be just the antidote to a busy week so you can come back on Monday feeling refreshed.
Whether you’re a bonafide weekend warrior or just looking for a nice soft reset, here are 5 things to do on a day trip to Hamilton and what to do when you’re there.
Hike to the waterfalls
Hamilton is home to a plethora of trails, views, and scenic waterfalls. It’s a great place for a hike – especially when all the leaves start changing colour. Get your autumnal Instagram pics while you explore the most popular waterfalls like Tiffany Falls, Devil’s Punchbowl, Albion Falls, and Webster Falls (reservation required). If you’re looking to escape the crush of urbanity, a day trip to Hamilton is a great way to do it!
Getting there: Take the GO train and bus from there to your destination! If you want to bring your pup along for the hike, leashed dogs ride free outside of rush hour. Bicycles are also welcome aboard GO trains and buses.
Downtown Hamilton is packed with things to do but at a more relaxed pace than downtown Toronto. Just steps from the West Harbour GO Station, you’ll find the beginning of the Hamilton Art Crawl. This beloved event takes place on the second Friday of every month in the James Street North neighbourhood. Shops, galleries, and restaurants stay open late as you wander, explore, and take in the local culture.
If you plan to visit around mid-November, don’t miss the Built in the Hammer Grey Cup Music Festival along James Street North from Thursday, November 16th to Sunday the 19th. There will be over 40 artists performing from across the country. If you plan to attend the big CFL football championship game on Sunday, November 19th Green Day will be headlining the halftime show!
Getting there: Take the GO train to West Harbour GO Station, right in downtown Hamilton, and explore the city on foot or by bus. You can also rent e-scooters or bikes if you’re feeling speedy.
Sample the food scene
If you’re going to take a day trip to Hamilton, you’re obviously going to need food at some point. Good thing you can eat your heart out thanks to Hamilton’s delicious foodie scene. Stop for a visit at Restaurant Row, where you’ll have your pick of the city’s favourite spots. Try the reputed “best burger in the city” at Hambrgr, or get your fill of tacos at The Mule.
If your day takes you in that direction, you can also find lots of fantastic food options along James Street North and in Hess Village. The Hamilton Farmers Market is another spot downtown that’s a must-visit for foodies – especially if you want to bring some of the magic home.
Getting there: Take the GO train to the West Harbour GO Station and walk through the downtown from there.
Visit Royal Botanical Gardens
Royal Botanical Gardens is Canada’s largest, with over 2,400 acres of gardens and a nature sanctuary. It’s a beautiful place to visit, any time of the year – but especially during the fall season when they have events like the Garden Pumpkin Trail! Follow the path lined with hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns leading to a mini midway, where you’ll live entertainment and fall-inspired treats.
If the event sells out before you get the chance, then make some time to explore RBG’s Rock Garden, a National Historic Site, that’s packed with year-round perennial displays, thousands of plants, historic limestone steps, water features, and a delicious bistro for when you get hungry.
Getting there: Take the GO train to Hamilton GO Centre and then take a short bus ride to the gardens.
Spend a day at the art gallery
If you thought Art Crawl was good, then you have to try visiting the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Admission is free on Thursdays all day from 11 AM to 9 PM. Check out new temporary exhibits like “WONDER: the real, the surreal, and the fantastic” and the works by RBC Indigenous Artist in Residence Melissa General. While you’re there, enjoy the ever-popular Bruegel-Bosch Bus by Kim Adams.
Getting there: Take the GO train to Hamilton GO Centre, and then it’s only a short walk to the gallery.
Who’s ready for a day trip?