When we asked local artist and musician Tom Wilson what sets Hamilton's culture scene apart from other destinations, he answered: 'community'.
"I really believe it's the artist's vision that changes an environment, changes a culture, and changes this city. And that's the difference between Hamilton and most other places".
"I've never found any place more inspiring than Hamilton."
Watch the video then read on to find out how our creativity, arts, heritage and community combine to create our unique character.
And how they inspire artists like Wilson and visitors alike.
1. GALLERY HOPPING
Art Gallery of Hamilton
Not sure where to begin? Start here at the largest and oldest art museum in southwest Ontario. The AGH is home to a permanent collection that's considered one of the country's best.
Renowned exhibits include Alex Colville’s Horse and Train and the mind-blowing Bruegel-Bosch Bus by Kim Adams featuring a 1960s Volkswagen installation decorated with thousands of mixed media pieces.
Exploring on foot is always a great way to discover hidden gems. Find amazing local talent at go-to James Street North galleries Hamilton Artists Inc., Centre 3, and Factory Media Centre. Dundas is home to Carnegie Gallery while our university campus hosts McMaster Museum of Art, home to one of the best university collections in the country.
2. CRAWL THIS WAY
On the second Friday of every month, James Street North is transformed into a friendly street party, showcasing the city's artists, crafters and downtown businesses. I always suggest these lively evenings as a one-stop shop to experience the city's eclectic art, music, and food. It's also the perfect time to shop local and pick up a souvenir!
Every September, our downtown core shuts down to car traffic for an epic music and art inspired block party called Supercrawl. This annual off-shoot of monthly Art Crawls has been going strong for over a decade. The free weekend-long festival showcases a dynamic lineup of music, art, fashion, performance, talks, crafts, and food. There's nothing in the region – like it!
3. CITY OF MUSIC
Hitting up a concert is my favourite kind of night out. Experience Hamilton's talented music scene with a stop at classic club The Casbah, intimate Mills Hardware, rowdy Absinthe Hamilton, and CORE Entertainment‘s various venues for both big-ticket and intimate concerts. If you time your visit right, you may catch an outdoor concert at our historic football stadium at Tim Hortons' Field like Arkells' epic hometown Rally in 2018.
Classical music fans can revel in beautiful live performances by the always innovative Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra or the Brott Music Festival, the country's only music festival with a full-time professional orchestra in residence.
From must-visit music festivals to smaller shows in unexpected places like churches, rooftops and world-famous gardens, be sure to check Tourism Hamilton's event calendar for full music listings.
4. STREET ART
Mural, mural on the wall
In Hamilton, art can be found in unlikely places and around every corner. Spot many colourful murals around town (and don't forget to share your discoveries on Instagram using hashtag #MyHamilton!).
When visiting Hamilton, check in with Concrete Canvas Art Festival and Collective Arts Brewing for live mural painting experiences.
Hamilton is also home to beautiful and thought-provoking public art pieces. Snap a photo of Raising the Barn while grabbing delicious food at the Hamilton Famers' Market and enjoy our West Harbour views beside the iconic Rafaga Unleashed statue.
Take a self-guided tour of Hamilton’s knockout public art pieces.
As the largest botanical garden in Canada, Royal Botanical Gardens are a treat for the senses. Delight in the history of the land, the beauty of the horticulture, and marvel at their incredible Sculpture Collection.
5. LIVE PERFORMANCES
The world's a stage, when you're visiting Hamilton, with a variety of engaging live performances to choose from.
Theatre Aquarius is the city's established, professional theatre, producing memorable productions for more than four decades in the heart of downtown. It's located near Hamilton's famed 'Restaurant Row' on King William Street: perfect for dinner before the show and drinks after.
Fringe Festival fans have a couple of ways to enjoy the popular theatre festival in Hamilton with editions during both the summer and winter with a special Frost Bites. The touring Dusk Dances brings lyrical dance performances to scenic Bayfront Park every summer.
6. MOVIE NIGHT IN HAMILTON
Make it a movie night at newly revived art house theatres Playhouse Cinema and The Westdale which show off a mix of independent and classic films.
Go retro at one of the Starlight Drive-In - one of the region's few remaining drive-in theatres, with several huge screens all playing back to back movies for the price of one.
The Art Gallery of Hamilton hosts extensive film programming with regular film series and festivals year round. Look out for their annual AGH BMO World Film Festival that's been going strong for more than 10 years
7. HANDS ON HISTORY
History buffs flock to Hamilton for the city's fascinating history, brought to life by its many museums, historic architecture and more than 15 National Historic Sites.
Among these many highlights are Dundurn Castle, a sprawling Victorian home overlooking the harbour, Battlefield House, a pivotal War of 1812 site, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Canada's largest flying museum and home to the iconic Avro Lancaster.
Explore more sites that have shaped the city we are today with our round up of Must Visit Hamilton Historic Sites.
Kristen Archer is a lifelong Hamiltonian and the voice behind the popular brand I Heart Hamilton which encourage everyone to be a tourist in Hamilton. She’s passionate about discovering her hometown, new experiences and sharing all that Hamilton has to offer. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.