During my years at the University of Western Ontario, I would frequently take the Greyhound bus from Toronto to London, which would stop in Hamilton to pick up more travelers. Back to present day, I visited my friend and her husband several times over the summer and I must say that Hamilton is a lot different than I thought it would be. It has a reputation for being smoky and dirty along the waterfront. What my friend told me (and proved to me) was that Hamilton has really cleaned up the area where she lives, the west end of the waterfront.
What I’m telling you is a collection of observations I had over a few visits there.
First of all, no matter when you show up there during the summer, there is Bayfront Park, which is located at the north end of Bay Street. Although it is a young park with young trees on the most part, it is great place for picnicking and walking. The Canada Geese are abundant and fun to watch. There is even a beach there but you rarely see people swimming there (despite the beauty the water is still quite dirty). You also see people fishing there but my friend tells me most of them do the catch-and-release thing, because the fish are as dirty as the water. Still, it adds to the atmosphere when you see people fishing there.
They have events there as well. I witnessed one day when there was a rowing competition and the place was just packed, with tents up all over the place and about four ice-cream trucks. Woohoo! After one event there were a bunch of rowers who did a moment of silence for the “Women Who Have Breast Cancer” team. It was to mourn the non-survivors; they dropped flower petals into the water to honour them. It was distinctly touching and you don’t see that every day.
At Bayfront Park they also have walk-a-thons, including ones where you can take your dogs and it benefits the SPCA (the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). It gets really busy down there and it gets hard to find parking. Luckily my friend has a driveway.
If you walk east from Bayfront Park you go through a couple of boat clubs, and it is really nice to see all the yachts and sailboats. Then you get to Pier 4 Park, which is known for its car shows. Oddly enough, the car shows do not occur once but at least two or three times per summer. There you can see old cars that are done up really nicely. I saw a pale blue 1966 Ford Mustang that appealed to me but even though it was for sale, it was twenty thousand dollars. That’s about twenty thousand more than I could afford to spend, so I passed.
If you keep going east on Guise Street, you go past a couple more boat clubs and then you get to pier eight. There are a few attractions there. First, there is a little trolley that takes you around the waterfront, back along where I just described, past there and along the Waterfront trail, and under a bridge into Cootes Paradise. The whole round trip lasts over an hour and it only costs six dollars, which is a great bargain for such a pleasant excursion.
There is a tiny little hut called Scoops that serves ice cream. Woohoo!! It is made locally and for under four bucks you can get a huge double scoop cone. There are picnic tables there where you can just sit and look at the boats.
Then there is William’s Coffee Pub. It is probably the nicest coffee shop in Hamilton. It definitely has a great atmosphere, with a patio where you can have your coffee (or cocktail) and meal. The only problem is that in good weather, the place is always packed.
Behind there is the Discovery Centre, a Canadian nature museum. I can’t remember how much it was to go in but I wasn’t particularly impressed, except they have a pretty cute little mad scientist show for kids. The place is mainly for kids and I think most adults would find it a little tame (boring). We certainly did.
A little to the east of the discovery centre, via a nice paved walkway where my friend walks her dog, is Parks Canada’s battleship the Haida. It’s about four $4.00 to get in and it is quite interesting to go in and see how the World War II sailors lived and worked. I never knew it before, but Canada had the third largest navy in the world around the time of World War II.
The last time I went to visit my friend we went to Wingfest, which was down by the Discovery Centre. They have rides and games there just like a fall fair. We went on the purple dinosaurs, which is a kids’ ride, because my friend has a weak stomach. Even that made her sick, because her husband kept spinning the car around. They also had this car giveaway, which we filled out ballots for and which I now regret, because it turns out a couple of months later they just keep calling you trying to get you to go to a time share presentation. Oh well, live and learn. In the evening (we never went), they had eighties bands playing and you could get in for about two bucks.
One final thing about Wingfest and that is DO NOT buy wings there. You can get them cheaper elsewhere. The secret is to walk about two hundred yards to the plaza at the corner of James St. and Burlington St. There is a pizzeria there run by a Chinese family that sells wings that are really good, for dirt cheap! They are called Weston Pizza. You only know these things if you know a local. Isn’t it great to have friends who know the town?