Yesterday, I received an email from a resident of Toronto who told me that she is thinking of moving to Hamilton with her boyfriend. She wanted to know more about the neighbourhoods and the happening places within the city. This was my response:
Moving to Hamilton is a big step, but totally worth it.
Hamilton is evolving rapidly, a progressive social, political, and physical change is happening in this city. There is a bike lane network that is ever-expanding, as well as a bike share program set to launch this spring; a push for better transit (including an all day GO station on James St North slated to be complete by next year); more walkable neighbourhoods to raise a family; a reviving core; developments popping up daily; shopping districts worth visiting; historic buildings worth admiring; and bountiful satellite towns for getaways, just to name a few things.
I’ll start off with the streets that we know: Locke Street, James Street, and Ottawa Street.
Locke Street is a beautiful, lively street. It has everything: antique shops, coffee shops, thrift stores, a grocery store, delicatessen, cheese shop, flower shop, gym, book store, bars, salons, and numerous restaurants that are worth visiting. Not only does this street have just about every ingredient a Toronto resident is accustomed to on their commercial streets, but it is also surrounded by some of the nicest neighbourhoods this city has to offer. Kirkendall North and South are home to quiet, quaint streets with heritage houses, condos, apartments, churches, schools, and beautiful parks (you definitely need to check out the H.A.A.A grounds).
James Street is vast. From North to South, both areas offer distinctively different experiences. James Street North is undeniably the hottest street in the city. It is the “go-to” street when visiting. Home to Supercrawl and monthly Art Crawls, you could argue that it’s the artistic hub of the city. It connects to our urban shopping mall, Jackson Square, the friendly Farmers Market, the beautiful Hamilton Public Library Central Branch, and has a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants. In relation to Toronto, this street is a lot like Ossington. The neighbourhoods that surround it (Beasley, Central, and the North End) are some of the most diverse and liveable neighbourhoods in the city – another great area to start a family.
James South is quieter, if that’s what you’re looking for. It has some of the city’s best restaurants and a strip of bars on Augusta Street that are always worth frequenting. The James South area is surrounded by amazing neighbourhoods to wander: Durand, Corktown, and Stinson. These neighbourhoods are full of architectural riches. Neo-gothic, Tudor Revival, Colonial, Georgian, French Revival, Neo-Romanesque, Queen Anne, Modern, Post-Modern, Brutalist, Art Deco, Contemporary, and just about every other style of architecture imaginable are on display throughout their historic streets.
Did you know Ottawa Street is home to the first Tim Hortons? They are currently building a new two-storey Store #1 complete with a museum. This street was once the textile street of Hamilton, but has evolved into a lively shopping district. New commercial tenants are moving in all the time and it’s quickly becoming one of the most happening streets in the city. Crown Point and Delta are also great family friendly neighbourhoods and they aren’t too far from Gage Park, a lush park designed in the City Beautiful style.
Westdale Village really is a village within a city. It’s a great escape that is a short bus, bike, or car ride away from the core. Westdale offers a lot in the way of amenities and is home to Westdale Theatre, a historic theatre that turns dinner and a movie into something magic. The area has a lot of history (like all of Hamilton, really). The neighbourhoods are sprinkled with young families, established families, and student housing. If you’re in the area, McMaster University is definitely worth visiting. Architecturally, this University has some breathtaking buildings and scenery. It’s also compact and offers a real communal campus feel, which you don’t quite get with the vastly sprawling University of Toronto.
King Street, one of Hamilton’s main arterial roads, is a street on the turnaround. From Wellington Street to Dundurn Street this area is sprinkled with just about everything. While in the International Village, swing by J.H. Gordon Books, browse the racks for vintage clothes at Girl On The Wing, and grab a coffee at Cafe Oranje before continuing West to Gore Park. Situated at the James and King corridor, the park is a slice of tranquility, where cultures meet and Hamiltonian’s co-mingle. On the way, stop at The Royal Connaught and take a peak at its newly renovated grand lobby. Once an illustrious hotel, this condo development will completely alter Hamilton’s core for the better.
Also be sure to visit The Art Gallery of Hamilton. It always has incredible installations and exhibitions that are worth the price of admission. Currently, they have a Cézanne exhibition that runs until February 1st. From there you can head to Commonwealth Square. This public space offers a beautiful vista of our masterful City Hall and Hamilton Place, where the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra regularly serenades patrons with beautiful, moving music.
There’s also the Strathcona neighbourhood. The area is affordable, with Victoria Park (which includes tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, a pool, and a community garden) close by, and within proximity to just about everything. You could go to De La Sol for yoga, The Mustard Seed Co-op for locally sourced groceries, and Dundurn Castle to tour the grounds of a remarkable piece of Canadian history.
One of our hidden treasures is the Bayfront. Travel North on Bay Street and you’ll find it. The Waterfront Trail is a beautiful walk, wrapping west around the bay towards Westdale. You’ll see the city from many wonderful vantage points. If you decide to travel east at the Bayfront, there’s Pier 4 Park, a great place for a picnic or a casual stroll. In the summer, it’s always nice to sit and watch sail boats gracefully sail about the bay or walk to Pier 8 and grab a coffee from Williams and take the West-Harbour Trolley, rent some bikes, or enjoy the roller rink and live music at Sarcoa Restaurant.
But it’s about more than just neighbourhoods. Hamilton is brimming with a creative class. There is a palpable energy within the city that is contagious. Shops are well supported, streets are inviting, and friends are easy to make when you’re downtown. Hamiltonian’s are enamored with their city and it shows. Hamilton is going places and it’s not City Hall that’s driving this city, it’s the people.
I’ve barely scratched the surface. I could go on and on. It’s easy to ramble about ones love affair with this city. However, the best thing to do is grab the GO train or bus, walk outside of our GO Centre on Hunter Street and explore. The brightest gems are the ones you discover yourself. Leave all the pre-conceived notions of Hamilton at home and you’ll quickly fall for its charm. It has it all and then some. There’s so much heart to this city. You should give it yours. It will welcome you with open arms.
My apologizes for any grammatical errors. This post is verbatim.