One evening in late spring Erika McMeekin (aka The Academy of All Things Awesome) and I took an evening bike ride around the lower city. We were floating out a whim of an idea to uncover some real Hamilton gems. Now there’s is nothing that I love more than exploring this city but roaming it together with someone who’s brimming with optimistic enthusiasm was really pretty energizing. We found ourselves perched on various rooftops admiring different vantage points of the city. Eventually we made our way through the grounds of Dundurn castle, and across McQuesten bridge peeking out from lookouts and gaps where the trees parted in search of a rumoured secret garden. A few times we took wrong turns down different trails that lead to nowhere (all part of the adventure). It was an eerily breathtaking sight to finally find ourselves standing in an overgrown and lush green modern day ruin. I’ve got to give thanks to my Hamilton writing hero Paul Wilson who wrote about the Sunken Garden, which is what led us to check out the forgotten space ourselves. As the evening was starting to stretch its way across the bay we biked through Hamilton’s oldest cemetery looking in awe at the old epitaphs, and admiring the ornate and beautiful mausoleums. From downtown rooftops, secret gardens, to Bayfront Park, roller skating and sunset views throughout the city; the minute we started peddling around town Erika and I were scheming plans for future adventures. Our first ride out was a super awesome way to kick off the start to summer. This one evening of exploring turned into a series of summer time bike rides. We wove our way from east to west, up the escarpment and down, on foot and by bike, with a road trip to Dundas and the mountain to confirm urban legends of secret lakes, the best peanut butter cookies, and an abandoned obstacle course. Not everything was as glamourous as we’d imagined in our minds but some places were breathtaking and made us fall in love with this city a million times over. The best part about hanging with Erika on these adventures is that she actually puts these lofty city daydreams into action in the form of super cool events through The Academy of All Things Awesome (check them out!). But most importantly all this Hamilton exploring actually culminated into an amazing collaborative project between myself, Erika, and fab friend and illustrator Jacqui Oakley. Stay tuned for more posts later this week and for a sneak peak of the project. Can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to! You’re going to loooooove it. Trust me –you’ll want first dibs.
Bike rides and beers. Two of my favourite summer time things.
At the start of July I headed down to Because Beer (at Pier 4) with a bike gang of awesome women. We were a brigade of five with our rides.
I love the lay of the land of downtown Hamilton; few to no hills, and anywhere across town in no more than 20 minutes max. It’s seriously such a bikeable city (if you don’t count the one-way thoroughfares). We biked through the North End and those we passed on fellow SoBi‘s gave friendly nods or bell rings as we went by or as we convened at the mouth of Bayfront Park to the corral of bikes just outside the venue.
We did a buffet sampler of all the food trucks. My fav is Meat Ventures (droooool…). Food featured below: taco from Taco Queso, Meat Ventures Bacon Fatty, Bomberos Nachos (I’m pretty sure these had mac’n cheese in it), Meat Ventures Parm Fries, and The Salted Pig Poutine.
Our go-to beer for the day was from Longslice Brewery. We just kept going back for more of their Loose Lips Lager. Other favourites were Garden Brewer’s Piperales Black Pepper (unfiltered smoked amber ale brewed with crushed pepper corns), and secret orders of Viva Puff (hibiscus/raspberry lager mixed with a raspberry stout) which is not on their beer menu but you can request it with a wink wink from Flying Monkeys Brewery.
The sun hit this magic spot and everything went golden. When the last light dipped behind the horizon we sipped our last beers to the sounds of Yukon Blonde before hopping back on our rides to cruise back uptown.
Seriously just the most perfect summer day.
*SoBi Hamilton’s Bike Share, $4/hour or $85/year
In the next week there are so many great festivals happening in and around the city. I want to go to all of them.
Here are a few of the must see and do’s if you’re sticking around Hamilton.
Hamilton World Music Festival
In its third year and back by popular demand the Hamilton World Music Festival is here this weekend!
Boasting past musical guests like Polaris Prize and Juno Award winner Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, this year’s line-up features an excellent roster of International artists like Sérgio Pererê (from Brazil), and Zal Sissokho (from Senegal). Hamilton favourites like Mother Tareka (9-piece hip-hop funk band), Neeraj Prem (sitar), the Riddim Riders (reggae band), Bonnie Hamilton, and The Snow Beach Players (featuring #HamOnt mashup of local live hip-hop bands Canadian Winter, Haolin Munk & Kojo ‘Easy’ Damptey Band).
A song by Alysha Brilla, who’s song 2 Shots, I first heard on CBC Radio a while back. The chorus would get stuck in my head for days. She’s performing Saturday 8:30-9:30pm.
Strangewaves Music Festival
Strangewaves is a three-day festival in its second year for music, art, and film lovers alike.
The festival this year is at the Paris Fairgrounds, where you can camp all weekend and check out another amazing line-up of Hamilton musical musical outfits like: Simply Saucer (Proto Punk ), Thoughts on Air (soulscape), Goatfooted (dank ambience back from the grave), Zac Shaw (sax king), plus all sorts of indie acts hailing from LA to NYC, PLUS one of my ultimate faves Julie Doiron (OMG!), and DJ Rasta Princess (Montreal -reggae, reggae, reggae) -eeeep! Sounds like it’s going to be a fun little festival. AND, surprise guest yet to be announced for Saturday night -who could it be!?
Tickets are available here, or at The Brain (199 James Street North, Hamilton).
The Hamilton Fringe Festival is celebrating its 13th year (#turning13)!
This year there are more than 48 theatre companies bringing to Hamilton a variety of comedy, drama, magic, dance, and family friendly entertainment in more than 300 performances over 11 days.
The amount of theatre that will be at our finger-tips during the next week is daunting (yet also awesome!).
If I had to pick just a handful of plays to see, these would be them:
El Diablo of the Cards (comedy): Be SURPRISED in the most HILARIOUS way! “El Diablo of the Cards” comes all the way from Brazil to bring you an UNFORGETTABLE night! Take your seat and get ready to laugh! Ewerton Martins will astound with his unbelievable improvised card magic. Really unreal, provocatively absurd, this delightful idiot will introduce you to the madness of card’s magic.
All KIDding Aside (comedy): Time is running out, a life altering decision teeters before you…and you’re on the fence! Sometimes the biggest fears can be the “little ones”
The Bathtub Girls (drama, physical theatre): The Bathtub Girls is an original play based on the first known case of sibling matricide in Canada, occurring in 2003, Mississauga, ON. The work has strong roots in contact improvisation and examines the desire for a sense of community and identity, and the actions taken for their acquisition.
Awoken (drama, sci fi): Meet Todd. Todd can’t sleep. But Todd is dreaming. Neither awake nor asleep, Todd must journey through his own corrupted subconscious – idle fantasies and suppressed memories – and discover his purpose, before choosing to wake up…or sleep forever. Inspired by a true story. All lighting controlled by the sole actor on stage.
Devil in the Details (comedy): Laura, after a freak photocopier accident, finds herself dead and the executive assistant to Satan himself. As she navigates her new boss and the inner workings of the seven circles, she finds that not everything is as it seems. Hell is losing souls, influence and power but no one knows why… Welcome to Hell.
I will be updating my Facebook page regularly with various events going on in the city. Take a look at my event page for some great things coming up like Dusk Dances (Bayfront Park), Life of a Craphead: Bugs/ Zak Tatham: Doorcuts (summer film screening series at Hamilton Artist’s Inc.), and A Night in White (at Whitehern hosted by the Other Bird Chef Matt Kershaw) just to name a few.
Festival season is quickly approaching. If you are looking to get a little sample of some summer festival happenings in Hamilton this weekend, then you should check out FrancoFest.
FrancoFest is a free three day open-air festival at Gage Park. It is a family-friendly festival that celebrates the diversity of francophone culture through live music, dance, and visual art.
For the kids there’s: circus workshops, art exhibitions, painting, drumming, reptile demonstrations, maquillage, and roaming artists.
FrancoFest has been around in Hamilton for 35 years but it is still pretty low-key (in a good way). You won’t be pushing a stroller through throngs of dusty festival crowds or staking out seats with your lawn chairs to catch the performances. It’s a festival that you can enjoy at a leisurely pace; pack a blanket and some shade, sample some eats from the food trucks and take a wander through the vendors (all beautifully curated).
There’s something about arts, and culture that the French just do better.
This was a festival that I attended last year that I really enjoyed. The vibe was just right. With little to no expectations of what the festival entailed; we grabbed some food from the food trucks, listened to some gorgeous music, wandered around the kid’s art painting station, and got a feel for just how cool francophone culture really is.
FrancoFest is free and takes places June 24, 25 and 26. Parking on-site is $10.
One of my favourite Hamiltonians, Whitney McMeekin aka Girl On The Wing, plus her sister and organizer of all things super fun in Hamilton (namely founder of The Academy of All Things Awesome & Sous Bas), Erika McMeekin put on their first Hamilton Flea back in July.
It was housed in Treble Hall (a building I’m constantly gushing over) with a slew of amazing vendors from gourmet donuts from Donut Monster, vintage finds via Roly Poly Records, The Eye of Faith, and other vendors like Rare Specimens jewellery, White Elephant, Stay Home Club and the Jelly Brothers.
It was summer-time hot, the venue packed, and an all ’round success and super fun afternoon shopping around, seeing friends, and hanging out inside a very unique and underused Hamilton space.
It felt like we all got in on a little Hamilton secret for an afternoon.
Well… this weekend Whitney and Erika are putting on the second edition of Hamilton Flea in yet another gem of a secret Hamilton building.
This Saturday, November 14 from 11-6 at 45 Wellington Street North and King William, come check out over 30 vendors like the ladies from Hoot Furnishings, Girl Can Create, Vintage Soul Geek, Newold’s, and… Donut Monster will be back serving up delish donuts, plus my fav coffee to-go -Smalls will be there while you chomp down on some Phat N’ Phull eats and shop around bopping to the tunes Dj’d by Young Lions Music Club.
For a sneak peak into this Flea’s building check out Whitney’s post on Girl On The Wing here.
This summer I took my first visit out to the Ancaster Farmer’s Market.
The market is tucked nicely into a beautiful tree-lined grassy green space just behind the old Saint John’s Anglican church.
Not so much a traditional market as it is a destination to go to for an evening outing, a delicious meal out and a place to pick up some local and seasonal produce, plus some snacks, breads and treats for perhaps later in the week. You’ll see wine vendors, Cake and Loaf and Earth to Table baked breads, Fenwood Farms (for fresh local meat), cheese, maple syrup and a complementary and comprehensive list of other vendors here.
It was super kid and family friendly, and definitely a place worthy of another visit again in the fall for pumpkin pies, and the like plus perhaps my last indulgence of the remnants of summer with a little scoop of Foundry Ice-cream.
The market is open weekly on Wednesdays from 3-7pm at 37 Halson Street (with ample parking in back of the church).
I’m giving a little nod to the latest addition to the food scene on Dundurn.
Although not really your typical neighbourhood market, it is a high-end gourmet sandwich coffee shop with pre-made pies, dinners, cookies, sauces, flowers, and a small selection of seasonal produce.
It’s the kind of place that I might imagine someone rushing home from a busy 9-5 work day to pick something up on their way home or to a friend’s: dinner, dessert or a missing vegetable and sauce needed to complete a meal, along with a bouquet of fresh flowers -yes please! A one-stop crowd pleasing gourmet dinner stop.
I popped by the market the other day for a late morning baby date.
My friend and I devoured a super delicious breakfast biscuit with egg, dill, swiss cheese (hot and melty) and ham, in between rocking our babies and dusting renegade savoury biscuit crumbs from their heads. There wasn’t a chance for a photo opp; being a hungry mom and all, it was gone in seconds flat -a true sign of tastiness! It definitely got my stamp of good food approval and left me wanting to come back another day for more.
In addition to the prepared dine-in or take-out food, you can also pick up anything from bread, jams, spreads, Balzac’s Coffee beans, to a cactus in a tea cup, or a carton of eggs. Combine this place with being able to sell bottles of wine and a case of craft beer you’d pretty much have a shop that’d truly cover all the bases for hosting a hungry guest (the LCBO and Beer Store are after all just down the road).
As we were about to leave the sandwich station was being prepped for their 11am lunch start (dinners served after 4pm), and I couldn’t resist getting two sandwiches to go for Steve and I later that afternoon. I opted for the Muffaletta and Reuben both of which came with a choice out of 4 different sides or salads.
Muffaletta with side of carrot raisin slaw.
Right now the idea of dinning out a restaurant with a 3 year old and 2 month old is looking like something that’s probably not going to happen in our near future, so we’ll have to settle for tasty eat-ins at home a la Dundurn Market. Excited to try out their Take Away Dinner options!
There’s something weird about the way I think about summer in that I always feel like it’s fleeting. Come July 1st I’m already counting the limited amount of days that I’ll have left for swimming, camping, cottaging, bbqs and patio beers.
This year we did not get up to much. There’s been a lot of summer city living, checking out the parks, wading pools and staying pretty close to home. I’m strictly in survival mode; whatever can get me through the day now that we have two little ones.
Last summer we made a day trip out to Port Dover. I’d never been before and since I’m a sucker for water, waves, sand and a little beachy kitch we decided to take the trek.
We arrived early-ish in the morning and were able to score primo parking close to the beach and have our pick as to where to set up shop. The water was warm and the beach was clean with only a little littering along the shore of washed up kelpy-weeds.
The beach quickly got packed as droves of people came in to escape from the heatwave that was rocking that particular summer week. It was full-on summer on the beach with a gorgeous breeze that made you forget that the humidity was kicking at a near 100% and the ground was hot enough to fry and egg. If the summer heat kicks back into high gear (as I’ve heard it might next week) maybe we’ll make it back this way or explore another beach like perhaps 50 Point.
Besides loving any excuse to be beach-side, one of the main reasons I wanted to take this trip to Port Dover was so that we could make a stop at the infamous Hewitt’s Dairy Bar. The dairy bar itself boasts over 50 years in operation with the dairy being over 125 years old.
Mint chocolate chip (my favourite) was the perfect way to end a summer’s day at the beach.
A few weeks ago we celebrated the Art Gallery of Hamilton‘s one hundred years of existence at a free BBQ picnic in their sculpture garden.
The BBQ was followed by a slew of kid and family friendly activities.
The kids were loving this; printing old car and machine parts onto T-shirts!
Although Omi was a little young for the art activities and the guided tour of the gallery that didn’t stop us from doing our own self directed toddler-mini-tour.
William Blair Bruce -The Phantom Hunter 1888
While on our wanderings, I was glad to have gotten a peek at the William Blair Bruce exhibit. Bruce was a born and raised Hamiltonian, who established himself primarily as Canadian impressionist painter, recognized and celebrated throughout Paris, North America and Europe.
I later learned that following Bruce’s death his collection was donated to the city of Hamilton, which at the time did not have a municipal gallery. The collection would in turn play a critical role in the foundation and establishment of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. It’s possible that without Bruce’s collection the AGH may have never materialized. My guess is it’s no coincidence that the Bruce exhibit coincided with the celebration of the AGH’s centennial.
The Bruce exhibit runs at the AGH until October 5th. It’s the largest Bruce exhibit to be shown with 100 works; some of which have never been publicly exhibited. Definitely a must-see! (FYI first Friday of each month admission is free!!)
I’m so thankful that Hamilton has the AGH. Happy one hundred years!
After a several year hiatus from camping, this summer it made a long awaited return into our lives with a trip to Killbear Provincial Park.
Admittedly, I was really worried about taking an active nearly two year old camping. I was nervous about Omi being able to sleep in a tent, running off in all directions and just generally being so active that we’d be exhausted by day one. All the worries were for not because the sleeping worked out fine. He took long naps and for the most part he slept through the night. The little guy was in such awe with the water, rocks, wild blueberries, deer, chipmunks and campfires that it was mostly just amazing to observe him soaking it all in.
I’ve long loved Killbear ever since a short camping trip I took with some friends when I was in university. It was the first time I saw the Milky-way in all its glorious glowing splendour as well as the first time I saw such picturesque and quintessential Canadian landscapes. The scenery is just breathtaking and is so Group of Seven with its windblown trees and smooth-rock-faced Canadian shield that dips into the waters of Georgian Bay. The place is magically unchanged and holds a nice little spot in my nostalgic little heart.
With this trip it truly felt like I had finally experienced summer. I soaked, swam, sun bathed and breathed it all in. My lofty summer dreams and expectations were met on our four day camping stay so much so that we’re planning to do a repeat camping trip to Killbear again next year. Who knows, we may just become one of those Killbear Harold Point lifers that we’d met that have been coming up to camp year after year.
*Killbear Provincial Park, 35 Kill Bear Park Road, Nobel Ontario, 705.342.5492