Your Guide To Family Fun in Hamilton – 2020 Edition
The fight against COVID-19 is still an ongoing battle. We have gotten to the point where we can proceed with caution in many aspects of our lives, though. Normally, for a summer vacation, my family enjoys taking a road trip. We weren’t really ready/able to this year, however. Turns out, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to risk level during this pandemic, nothing beats staying home, sure. If you do want to get out, and #supportlocal, I’ve learned that there are plenty of fun places in Hamilton that are following government protocols (or going above and beyond them), to try to keep you and your family safe. After spending some time checking out new stuff, revisiting old favorites, and looking into others, I’ve compiled this guide of things to do in Hamilton with kids, during these quarantine times. To quote the Beastie Boys, ch-check it out!
Our summer days and nights are usually all about baseball, as all of the fam (minus little KJ) plays it. As most leagues are not running this year, due to COVID-19, we had to look elsewhere, for our lower risk, socially distant sports fix. For example, we signed B and J up for tennis lessons. In my case, I tried golfing.
Hamilton is home to numerous highly rated courses (including one that was the home to last year’s Canadian Open). As a complete novice, I hit the links with another complete novice, on a course not far from my house, Southern Pines Golf And Country Club. The cool thing about golf is that you can play it while comfortably abiding by COVID-19 protocols. For example, Southern Pines has a mandatory mask policy when indoors there only. Check-in is done through a window outdoors, as is ordering takeout food and drinks. Physical distancing is encouraged, and I didn’t see anyone not following it, when I was there. Carts are available for rent, but clubs are not. You can’t remove the flag in each hole when putting, either, to minimize the touching of it.
The non-cool thing about golf is that it is super hard:
Southern Pines, while very scenic, also isn’t the easiest course to play or navigate. While bumbling along the greens looking for where to aim, for example, someone yelled at us that to get to the hole, we had to take a dog-leg left. I still don’t know what the heck that means, but we, predictably, took aim at the wrong hole. The duo of teen boys behind us did not have the same problem, for what it’s worth. Regardless, Southern Pines is still quite enjoyable, even for rookies like my buddy and I.
When I heard that Splitsville in Hamilton was opening back up a while ago, I will admit to being surprised. A bowling alley, with all of the sharing and closeness, seemed like a risky outing. And that’s without mentioning the arcade there. In actuality, Splitsville Hamilton is following the government guidelines, and taking many other precautions to try to ensure that everyone’s visit is as safe as possible.
On our recent visit there, masks were mandatory everywhere except when you were at your lane. Capacity was also heavily limited, too. Groups are limited to five people, and placed on every other lane, for social distancing purposes. Arrows and signs were everywhere, as well, so the flow-through was suitably distant.
Regarding the bowling balls, there’s no sharing. A bunch of them are already at the lane, when you get there. If you need another sized one, you have to ask a staff member for it. When you’re done, you leave them there, along with your bowling shoes, both of which are cleaned and sanitized afterwards. There’s lots of hand sanitizer on site, and staff members were constantly cleaning the different surfaces. The restaurant is not open to dine in, but servers are available, to take food/drink orders. A little patio area is set up outside, too, if you just want to eat/drink.
Splitsville is one of the most fun things to do in Hamilton with kids, regardless. These procedural modifications didn’t hamper our bowling experience at all.
Treetop Trekking Hamilton is a place that I’ve heard good things about, and have been meaning to check out for a long time. It only took a pandemic for me to finally book a visit for the family. Located in the Binbrook Conservation Area, Treetop Trekking Hamilton is an outdoor park, with numerous courses and adventures for people of all ages. There’s the Zipline And Aeriel Game Trek, for 9 year olds and up, where you move through the trees via various challenges; Discovery Kids Courses, which are like mini versions of the Aerial Game Trek, for kids 5 and up; and the Treewalk Village, a big playground, made up of treehouses, slides and obstacle courses, for kids 3-7.
Reservations are required ahead of time, because they are operating at a lower capacity, but are still busy. They want to stagger things, to reduce traffic during check-in (which is also done outdoors). Equipment and harnesses are cleaned and sanitized after every use, too. Hand sanitizer stations were readily available, and the staff are really particular about making sure people are acceptably spaced out, either in line, or on the different activities. Masks are required during check-in, but not while out in the park.
We really did not know what to expect….
Because of time constraints, B and I opted for the Aerial Game Trek, while K, J and KJ did the Treehouse Village. The feedback that I got from them about the Village was that it was more suited for smaller kids than older ones, and adults are mainly just there to supervise. They also were done well before the allotted two hours. In retrospect, we would have got more bang for our bucks if we booked J for the Discovery Kids Courses instead, and then let KJ do his thing, in the Village.
The Aerial Game Trek is admittedly fantastic. Once you are harnessed up, you go through a brief orientation, to get used to the equipment and rigging.
And then you are off to try the courses on your own!
The courses are composed of a variety of “games” that you have to pass through. Once you are on one, there is no turning back, because of how things are designed, with the rigging. The games includes stuff like rope bridges, tightropes, moving logs, and, of course, zip lines!
The courses get progressively difficult and fear-inducing. It’s pretty physically demanding, as well, especially if you’re in dadbod shape like yours truly. I was sweating profusely, but I didn’t want touch my face to wipe the sweat away, either. B’s an agile, athletic 10 year old kid, but he struggled as we went on, and developed sore hands (note: bring gloves). We both tapped out before the last course, but it was good times for the most part.
One other note. Pricing for Treetop Trekking is not insignificant (our outing regular price would have been $150 approx, for the five of us). This does include admission to the Binbrook Conservation Area. To get the most value, a decent plan might be to bring a picnic lunch, and hit up the Conservation Area before or after Treetop Trekking.
Adventure Village is an amusement park located in Confederation Park, which is on the waterfront in Hamilton. While some of the attractions are not open, some are, with additional COVID-19 safety measures, like batting cages, go karts, laser tag and mini golf.
On a recent family outing there, to go mini-golfing, a tee time had to be booked ahead of time (maximum group size is six people). Clubs, balls and retrievers are sanitized after every use, by staff. Masks are mandatory throughout the park, and available for purchase if you don’t have one. Temperatures of guests are taken via a non contact thermometer. Hand sanitizer is at the entrance booth, but I did not notice it elsewhere on the course. While on the course, you have to wait for those ahead of you to finish, as usual. I think that the actual holes seemed shorter too, so you don’t have to reach so deep down to get your ball.
Adventure Village, as mentioned, is near the shores of Lake Ontario. As such, one thing that my family loves to do on a nice day, is grab some ice cream from Hutches, and go for a walk along the beach!
PARKS AND RECREATION
For the more budget conscious outings, Hamilton has some sweet spots. Since it’s unofficially “The Waterfall Capital Of The World”, hikes to see said waterfalls are a popular past time. The Devil’s Punchbowl, in particular, is one of the more unique places in Ontario to explore.
As I have alluded to before on here, playgrounds and splash pads are operational again, in and around the city. Hamilton is full of good ones, too. Gage Park, for one. The Dundas Driving Park, for another. Or my personal favourite, Pier 4 Park.
When it comes to kids, it tends to be hit and miss, in terms rule following, and COVID-19 guidelines. Some kids are OK, some, like Pushy (who we saw again at a completely different park! What are the odds?!) are not OK.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
Catching a flick wasn’t really an option in Hamilton until not too long ago. And, in the interest of realness, we have yet to venture out to the movies. Cineplex Hamilton Mountain, Cineplex Ancaster, Playhouse Cinema and Landmark Cinemas 6 Jackson Square are all open, with modified, safer viewing experiences. These include reduced capacity, in-theatre seating distancing, masks requirements, enhanced cleaning measures by staff, and directional signage.
For that throwback vibe, The Starlite Drive In Theatre in Stoney Creek, is also open. Because of COVID-19, they’ve cut capacity, to allow for extra distance between vehicles. As well, only members of the same household are allowed per vehicle. The on-site playground is closed, but concessions and washrooms are open. Tickets must be ordered ahead of time. I didn’t see anything about masks being required. Bottom line, for family fun ideas, you can never go wrong with hanging out in your car and watching a movie under the stars!
BRING IT ON HOME
In terms of things to do in Hamilton with kids, checking out shows, concerts and sporting events are highlights, for my family. These obviously haven’t been possible recently. However, as the old saying goes, if you can’t build Rome in a day, bring Rome to your home! Pretty sure that I butchered two expressions there, but let’s continue.
For example, for those who miss going to Tim Hortons Field, to watch the Hamilton Ticats play, Bench Brewing Company has a special edition Ticats beer! Grab a six pack of that and throw on the 1999 Grey Cup, to get your pigskin fix. For bonus points, to get a truly authentic stadium experience, find a Toronto Argos fan in your neighbourhood, tell them that they suck, then get into a fist fight, while people nearby chant Oskee Wee Wee (note: I’m joking. Please, no violence, people).
This pandemic has seen a rise in virtual events, as well. Virtual fans are rising in popularity, such that it’s possible to get your travel fix, from the comfort of your couch.
Here’s me in the NBA Bubble, watching the Toronto Raptors play:
I made a trip to the WWE’s Thunderdome, to witness Summerslam:
RANT TIME: this was a bummer!
See, I signed up, and was told that my time in the ‘dome was 10:45pm. The show was slated to end at 10:30, however. Weird. Hours before the show, I received an email saying that my time changed to 6:45pm. I logged in at 6:45pm, and was told that my session was over. No Summerslam for me. For the heck of it, I then logged in at 10:45pm, and I got inside the Thunderdome. This is the virtual equivalent of wandering around the concert venue after the show is over, and no one else is in the building.
J and I did make a much better trip from Hamilton to Los Angeles, to watch America’s Got Talent from the ‘virtual audience’.
Some of my peeps couldn’t believe that I got these “tickets”, but it wasn’t that difficult. Googling is bound to find scores of opportunities, if you know what you want to see!
With that, I think that’s it’s time to see the end of this post. Tata for now!
Disclaimer: complimentary or discounted rates were provided for some of the places mentioned in this post. Opinions expressed were all mine, as usual.