The lazy, hazy days of summer are finally upon us. After this year’s relentless winter, and a decidedly confused spring, Hamiltonians are savouring this season particularly more; we only get a few months of these temperatures. So, it’s no surprise that as soon as it hits the 20’s, people are plotting out where to spend their free afternoons and weekends.
Many opt to chase the sun outside of the city and escape to a vacation home, cottage, or resort in the summertime. However, if you’d rather not spend a mortgage payment’s worth on a cottage getaway, and want to avoid sharing a 400 Series highway with thousands of other disgruntled travelers for five hours, then fear not. If cheap and cheerful is your mode, then shed those sleeves, zinc your sniffer, and make a point of checking out these local spots to soak up the sun this summer.
Starting off with an obvious one. If you grew up in Hamilton, Confederation Park (or “Confed,” as we all affectionately refer to it) was a summertime staple from youth right through your 20’s – particularly Wild Waterworks. I hadn’t returned for many years until last summer when I accompanied my students on a class trip, and was feeling a little skeptical about what kind of experience I would have as an adult. I was happy to note that even at my age (in my students’ eyes, 30-something is practically geriatric), it still held its appeal!
The Park is well-maintained, with some upgrades in the last few years. There’s plenty of chairs, pavilions, and picnic tables to situate yourself — if you get there early enough, you can find yourself a spot on either side of the pool that has beautiful daylong sunshine.
If you get restless, grab a tube and hit the waterslides. Night Rider, Blue Demon, and Vertigo are sure to bring you all the laughs, and hopefully not because you lost your shorts on the way down. If it’s mellow waters you seek, hit up the Eazy River and float the day away. The park also has body slides, a Little Squirt Works area, and of course, the wave pool. Even all these years later, I found myself shrieking at the sound of the bell signifying the start of the waves. Be sure to BYOT (towel), arrive early to avoid massive lineups, and bring some change to cool yourself off with an ICEE (surprisingly hard to find these days).
Wild Waterworks is open 7 days a week, from 11:00 am – 8:00 pm until August 12, when the hours change to 11:00 am – 7:00 pm. Park closes for the season on Labour Day.
Binbrook Conservation Area
If you don’t mind a 20-minute cruise, definitely check out the Binbrook Conservation Area for your choice of a lazy or active day of sunshine.
Located on Lake Niapenco, or the Binbrook Reservoir, the park includes a splash pad, swimming beach, picnic facilities, and – as of this spring – a treetop trekking course. While the swimming beach is small, it’s quite clean and easy to access; however, it does get quite busy, so come early to park your towel in your preferred spot. The lake is also a popular fishing hotspot, and a 2017 Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority study revealed that the lake boasts a very high quality of fish, including perch, bass, walleye, and pike. If you feel like touring the lake, rent a paddle board and cruise around. Other visitors opt to kayak or canoe as well and enjoy the calmness of a powerboat-free lake.
The Fun Splash Sports Park has been an extremely popular attraction as well, for those who prefer a challenge over laying out on their towel. This water-based obstacle course is a fun way to work through different challenges, either solo or as a team. The recent addition of the Happy Splash Kids Zone is a similar but smaller and shallower course for kids over the age of 4. Rest assured that these courses are staffed by lifeguards and are easily viewable from the shoreline. Pro tip: if you’re not a fan of the mucky feeling of the bottom of a lake on your feet, bring water shoes for this beach. Otherwise, pack your essentials and you’re good to go.
Don’t want to get your pretty toes wet at all? Try climbing a tree or two in the new treetop trekking area. There are aerial courses (including bridges, balance cables, and net walkways), kids courses for ages 5+, a Treewalk Village, ziplining over the river, a GPS treasure hunt, and team building activities. Binbrook Conservation Area really has something for everyone.
Binbrook Conservation Area is open 7 days a week, from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm.
Rollerblade, Cycle, or Walk the HamBur Loop Waterfront Trails
While we’ve all heard the jokes and cautionary tales about the Steeltown shorelines, you can still enjoy the view of our waters on a sunny day from a breezier vantage point.
The recently coined HamBur loop consists of two paved waterfront trails: the 8 km Hamilton Recreation Beach Trail, and the 7.5 km Hamilton Waterfront Trail. If you’re in the Confederation Park area, hop on the Recreation Beach Trail right by Hutch’s On the Beach (after downing a cheeseburger to fuel yourself up). This trail will take you under the Canal Lift Bridge and into Burlington, where you can cool off at Burlington Beach.
If you’re looking to check out the Hamilton Waterfront Trail, park at Bayfront and cruise along the path towards the Harbourfront. This time, cool off at the Tugboat Playground at Pier 4, stop to watch the Dragon Boat Practices, and maybe try the fish and chips this time from Hutch’s Harbour Front (yes, they’ve got you covered on both trails). Both trails are paved six meters wide, ensuring a smooth and safe pedestrian experience. Unlike many of the other sunny attractions, the trails don’t close on Labour Day, so be sure to return in September to watch the summertime beauty transform into fall.
If you’re living in the downtown core and would rather get your Vitamin D far from the packed parks and pools, keep it simple — hit up a patio. Hamilton has a nice handful of spots for you to choose from in this regard, but there are two that are undeniably sunshine-appropriate. The first one, The Lazy Flamingo, is a Hamilton classic, and holds a special place as a mainstay of Hess Village. Friends and I determined back in university that it was one of the only spots in Hess that actually had all day sun, and we wouldn’t need to rotate tables (or go elsewhere) as the afternoon rolled on. There’s plenty of seating, shady options if you need to tap out for a while, and their menu has something for every taste. Stay for their Open Mic nights every Tuesday.
Next, if you’ve been in the Westdale/Main West area recently, you’ve likely had an afternoon pint at Grain & Grit. Located on Ewen Road, just down the street from Fairweather, this brewery boasts an impressive beer list with an open concept interior that opens up to a sunny patio. If you don’t find a seat right away, fear not as somehow seats here always open up quickly, and people are usually cool enough to squeeze over and fit you in at one of the farm tables.
On any given day, there’s a food vendor on-site serving up delicious eats — peep their Instagram for each week’s lineup (if you see Espeto Brazil or Crosta Catering, don’t sleep on it). They often have live music on the patio too, and it’s conveniently located right by the Rail Trail so you can bike yourself home with a nice glow.
Be sure to check out our 2019 list for Hamilton’s 10 best patios for more great spots in the city!
Unlike some of the aforementioned activities and attractions around the city, this is a spot that might not immediately come to mind when you think of a place to spend a sunny day — but it should be. This treelined gem is tucked away off of Cross Street in the beautiful heart of Dundas; if you weren’t looking for it, you might not even know it was there.
I was surprised to learn that the Dundas Driving Park has been around since 1887 (!!), and according to the Dundas Museum, additions dating back to 1913 included “a bandstand (destroyed by a fire in 1949, replaced by a new band shell in 1953), dance pavilion, race track, covered grandstand, log cabin, washrooms, water, lights, benches, and romantic pathways.” Nowadays, visitors to the park spend the days cooking up a feast at the BBQ pits, cooling off in the wading pool or splash pad, hitting a few balls at the baseball diamonds, or strolling the surrounding area to look at some of the gorgeous century homes. Best of all, admission is free. If you happen to be there on a Tuesday, stay to check out the Dundas Concert Band play a show at the band shell — can’t say you’ve had a complete summer day without some music. The perfect cozy spot to spend a summer’s day.
Splash Pad and Wading Pool are open 7 days a week, from 10:00 am – 7:30 pm until Labour Day, and the Driving Park is open 7 days a week, from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
Let us know in the comments what your favourite sunshine spots are in Hamilton!
Dundas Driving Park photo courtesy of Lintack Architects Incorporated.