Hamilton has been gaining a lot of traction in the past few years as a local tourist destination in Ontario, but also a place people are relocating to. Ridiculous housing prices in the Greater Toronto Area have forced many young first-time buyers to look towards Hamilton’s more affordable housing market, especially in the downtown core – often dubbed the “lower city”. Many people are asking themselves, why do so many people not only want to visit Hamilton, but also move there? Everyone loves a good underdog story, and Hamilton is a true underdog. It was a city that is intrinsically linked to steel and manufacturing. As the steel and manufacturing industry shifted out of North America due to automation and overseas due to globalization, the city was overcome with staggering job loses, crime, and drug use. Many people simply left, while others chose to stay. The city is geographically, but also largely politically divided by those who live in the mountain suburbs, which is part of the Niagara escarpment, and those who live in the lower urban city. The Niagara Escarpment is the longest in the world and several hundred feet tall in many parts of the city. It is strikingly beautiful to stare down or up at the escarpment. In many parts of Hamilton’s neighborhoods, individuals can purchase a home for a quarter or less of what they would pay for a similar home in Toronto. This explains the financial pull, but there is much more than just a good deal to be had.
Hamilton has a bubbling art and food scene that is distinctively linked to James St. North. The streets success and growth is something that has surprised many long-time residents, some who felt the street would never change. The street is full of coffee shops like The Mulberry and Saint James Espresso Bar & Eatery. On Cannon and James, you can find all your art supplies at Mixed Media. If you’re in the mood for food, Jack & Lois prepares down to earth comfort food. South on James you’ll find Mezcal, one of Hamilton’s best taco and tequila bars. There’s also spillover onto Barton St. at James, as businesses are beginning to “turn the corner” so to speak – be sure to check out The Butcher & The Vegan for a mix of meat an vegan fare that is focused on ethically and locally sourcing their produce. In the east, Ottawa is another vibrant street full of antique shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. One of the best cups of coffee and waffles can be found at The Cannon. Be sure to check out Dundurn Castle, located on the west end of the city. Dundurn is a forty room neo-classical mansion that overlooks Burlington Bay. Tours are available daily, though it’s free to walk the grounds and check out the gardens. The gardens are maintained by staff using 19th century tools. If you take the tour, make sure not to skip the kitchens as local chefs prepare food sourced from the gardens in such a way that is consistent with what people would have eaten during the 1850’s. The Hamilton’s Farmers Market, located downtown is open year round is constantly growing to not only offer great produce but also local restaurants, bakeries, and shops. It’s one of the best farmer markets in Canada.
Outside of the dense urban city you will find plenty of green spaces to roam, and 100+ waterfalls to capture jaw dropping pictures at. If you want to stay inside the city, Gage Park offers a ton of open space to have a picnic, relax, walk your dog or catch some local events at. There’s always something going on the weekends at Gage during the warmer months.
It’s easy to see why people visit Hamilton, and why some are staying longer than a day or a week. The city has a changing demographic, with more young people than old. A billion dollars has been awarded by the province to fund a a Light Rail Transit system that connects the lower city via the east and west corridor. Hamilton exists on the same vein as Brooklyn, Detroit and Bristol. The city is not synthetic, plastic, or pretentious. It is what it is, for better or worse.