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Ontario Road Trip: Hamilton

By Kristin Archer | @IHeartHamilton

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On the second Friday of every month, the art galleries, shops, and restaurants along the vibrant James Street North, in the heart of downtown Hamilton, open their doors to showcase their newest attractions. In recent years, James North has become the arts and culture hub and a vital part of the rejuvenation of the city. The crackling energy and creative spirit of an event like this has prompted new slogans like, “Art is the New Steel,” and “You Can Do Anything in Hamilton.”

Kristin creating chalk art on the streets of James North

A short bus ride in from Toronto brings you to downtown Hamilton. Rain or shine, and for people of all ages and families, Art Crawl is an inclusive event with something for everyone.

The best part about Art Crawl is that no two are ever the same. With each visit I’m led down new paths and around corners, venturing into spaces I have not been before. Walking into the various galleries along the street, the amount of art is truly inspiring.

Inside the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Design Annex

I’ve witnessed artists create masterpieces right before my eyes, sipped sangria, watched my favourite band, popped into a photo booth, grabbed a snow cone, took in a fashion show, posed in animal masks, appeared on camera at CBC Hamilton, tried on vintage clothing, passed by a busking opera singer, circus performers, a marching band, and some complimentary hair-cutting… where else can you do all of that in one place?

Art Crawl is also the prime time to sample some of the best local food, from Mulberry Coffeehouse, Mex-I-Can, Ola Bakery, The Harbour Diner, Jack & Lois, Green Smoothie Bar, or just down the street along King William to hit Homegrown Hamilton, The Baltimore House, Culantro Peruvian Cookery. Or grab a grilled cheese to go, since Hamilton is now a food truck mecca.

You can learn more about the city’s history in the newly restored Lister Block, one of many architectural gems in Hamilton. An essential stop is also Makers’ Market outside the stunning Christ’s Church Cathedral. With its rich history, you can also tour the interior.

What would be Hamilton without music – in the warmer months, stroll by pivotal record store Dr. Disc for a rooftop concert. Later in the night, I usually end off at premiere live music venue This Ain’t Hollywood, conveniently situated at the very end of the street. You’re guaranteed to witness incredible, eclectic local talent.

The only thing better than Art Crawl? The annual Supercrawl, an even bigger, all-day event that extends to a larger stretch of the downtown core.

Young Rival performing at Supercrawl

These events make me proud of my city and excited for what’s to come. Art Crawl gets bigger and better with every month, and it reflects the growth of the city. You must make it a stop on your to-do list when visiting Hamilton.

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