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Like most Canadian cities, Hamilton experiences a long, cold winter.
This makes it all the more important to get well acquainted with winter activities in Hamilton in order to keep active and social through the winter months. As it is located on a lake, winter in Hamilton can be damp but often milder and less snowy than other nearby cities. The average temperature from December to February hovers around minus 8º Celsius.
First of all, you are going to need a jacket and boots. Depending on how long you are planning to stay in Hamilton, you may want to invest in something serious that will last you for years. If you are here temporarily, you may want to consider budget over long-lasting qualities. The warmest winter jackets are lined with goose or duck down. However, with developments in clothing technology and evolving questions about the ethics of manufacturing clothing using animal products, synthetic padding can be just as warm for a fraction of the price, and more jackets on the market use no animal products whatsoever.
While brands like Canada Goose, Moncler, and North Face are popular status symbols, know that you probably do not need an arctic-grade coat for getting to and from your car, work, the grocery store, and the pub or local cafe. If cost is an issue, consider going for a lesser-known brand; just make sure it is windproof and waterproof. Sports equipment stores like Sports Experts and Mountain Equipment Co-op often stock their own or lesser-known brands at lower prices, and discount stores like Winners fill up with many styles and options as early as the end of September. Canada has also adopted America’s “Black Friday” tradition of major sales in mid-November, so this could be a good opportunity to pick up a deal.
As for boots, the key is water resistance. Nobody wants wet feet in subzero temperatures. Look out for a good grip also, as sidewalks and driveways get icy quickly. It becomes common during winter in Hamilton to keep a spare pair of shoes at the office, and some places may require you to take off heavy winter boots at the door.
Some locals live for (and long for) winter in Hamilton because it means one thing – hockey. Canada’s national pastime is as popular to play as it is to watch, and spur-of-the-moment games (also known as ‘pick up’ games) often start up on the city’s many ice rinks at any time of day. If you want to join in, give it a try and someone will probably be happy to show you how to play. Many parks in Hamilton feature rinks of various sizes throughout winter, often maintained by local residents as well as the city. You can find a list of rinks here. Some rinks offer skate rental, but you may want to get a pair of your own. Prices for skates at sports superstores like Sports Experts, or second-hand equipment chain Play It Again Sports usually have more affordable prices on skates.
Tobogganing – or sledding – is another popular way to make snow fun. Unfortunately, the powers that be in Hamilton have decided that it is only allowed in a few parks. So while illegal tobogganing probably won’t land you in serious trouble, it is recommended to stick to these four:
- Chedoke Golf Course – Martin Course
- Garth and Stonechurch Reservoir
- King’s Forest Golf Course
- Waterdown Memorial Park
There are many other winter activities in Hamilton to try if you are determined to experience the best that Canada has to offer. Go on a winter hike to get a fresh perspective on Hamilton’s famous waterfalls when they freeze solid. Try snowshoeing or snowmobiling, or enjoy the festive lights that brighten up downtown and provide consolation for the fact that it gets dark before 4 p.m.
Or stay inside . . .
Realistically, despite winter’s many outdoor attractions, sometimes these are better viewed from behind a window. Hamilton has many food delivery options, and with a well-priced internet package for online streaming, you may never want to leave your house. However, there is still a lot to do during winter in Hamilton that will get you out of the house and keep you warm.
Many of Hamilton’s restaurants and cafes have seasonal menus, particular with the city’s love for local produce. Museums and parks often put on special winter events. Gage Park even has a tropical greenhouse.
Even if you just grab some friends and go for a drink, or to the mall, it is a good idea to get out and do something during winter in Hamilton. Many Canadians will assure you they don’t really mind the cold, but the main problem with winter in Hamilton can be that it drags on for about four months. If you are not used to cold weather for such a long time, it can start to affect your mood. The best way to counteract this is to stay active and make plans, as well as giving yourself time to relax and get cosy with comfort food, warm drinks, and good company.
What you need to know about winter in Hamilton
Aside from finding ways to keep busy, it is also crucial to know about the realities of winter in Hamilton. For example, parking permissions may change due to snow removal schedules. Public transport may be slowed down due to weather conditions, and getting from A to B, whether on foot, in a car, or by public transport, generally takes longer. However, Hamilton is well accustomed to snow and cold weather, and its infrastructure is equipped to cope. Snow removal is generally reliable in and around downtown, and public transport and road access keeps on running.
While Ontario does not require drivers to get snow tires (for those used to British spelling, this is how you spell tyres in Canada), it is strongly recommended. Regular tires have less traction below 7º Celsius, and it is a good idea to change to snow tires about two weeks before snow is due. Talk to a local garage if you are unsure of when to get your tires changed, and make sure you visit our pages on driving in Canada in winter and car care priorities in Canada.
Schools do not usually close for bad weather unless there is a danger to staff and students. If the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), which operates most of Hamilton’s schools, decides to close schools for a “snow day”, it is announced on their social media channels, local radio, and the Hamilton Spectator newspaper. Their general rule is that if the school buses are cancelled, school is also cancelled.
Ultimately, winter is a fact of life in Hamilton – but it does not need to be a negative one. Keeping busy, spending time with friends, family, and coworkers, and trying new activities can all make winter bearable, and before you know it it will be spring again.