Hamilton: Not a lunchpail town
While Toronto and Niagara Falls are recognized far and wide as the top tourist attractions in Ontario, there’s a place about half way between them that few people ever consider visiting, even for a day-trip. They don't know what they are missing.
The place I'm referring to is the city of Hamilton and its environments. All that many people ever see of Hamilton are the steel mill smokestacks they glimpse from their cars as they speed past it on their way to Niagara Falls. Hamilton is often the butt of jokes, especially in Toronto.
Just as Polish jokes from the U.S. are recycled into Newfie jokes in Canada, Cleveland Jokes are turned into Hamilton jokes in Toronto. Recently a TV newscaster who was covering a fire in Hamilton for the evening TV news referred to the city as a lunchpail town, and just to make sure his viewers got the point, the camera zoomed in on the steel mills.
Hamiltonians, as seen from Toronto, are "Laverne and Shirley" types who, when not toiling in the steel mills, spend all their time bowling, or rooting for the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
As someone who has spent many a pleasant day exploring the Hamilton area, I can assure its critics that they are misinformed, big-time, in thinking of it as an industrial area with nothing much of interest. And I’m not just saying this because my late wife was a born and bred Hamiltonian. (Incidentally, one of my wife’s favourite Toronto jokes was about the guy she saw on Yonge Street wearing a tee-shirt that said: “ The Leafs, next year for sure.”
Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the Hamilton attractions: Hamilton Place, a state of the art theater. Hess Village with its charming boutiques. Dundurn Castle and its eerie dungeons. The magnificent Royal Botanical Gardens. A vintage-warplanes museum and the famous Canadian warship, Haida. If you turn off Main Street, near the renowned McMaster Hospital, it's only a few minutes drive to Dundas, which bills itself as "The Valley Town."
Until recently, Dundas, which is now a part of Hamilton, boasted the largest collection of cacti in the world, and it still has a cactus festival every summer. Over at Bulloch's Corners, just outside Dundas, there’s a lovely old fieldstone Heritage House called Three Gables, and directly behind it you’ll find Webster’s Falls, which though nowhere near as big or famous as the other one, is, nevertheless, picture perfect in its surrounding parkland and picnic area.
In the Hamilton area there are scenic conservation delights like Crooks Hollow, where my wife and I spotted Blue Herons and, once, a wolf. There are many spectacular views of the city of Hamilton to be had from high on the "Mountain."
OK, so it’s not a real mountain. But to hear Torontonians disparage Hamilton Mountain, you'd think the Scarborough Bluffs were the Rockies.
In the Hamilton area you’ll also find walking trails, apple orchards, quaint villages and the Flamborough- Downs Raceway and Slots. If you suddenly feel like a blast from the past, drop into Easterbrook's authentic old-time diner over near the Botanical Gardens. Their foot-long-red-hots have been world famous in the Hamilton area forever. And their duck-shooting machine still costs only a nickel per game.
A trip to the Hamilton area will soon convince you that there is much more there than steel-mills, bowling alleys and football, not, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, that there's anything wrong with that.