09 AUG 2018: Book your clients into Hamilton, when they're coming to Ontario. It's a great place to start any holiday to the Niagara Peninsula. Back in 2004, the Ontario government put out a report that said Hamilton would become a key centre of a huge growth area on the Niagara Peninsula. And that has certainly come true.

An Ontario Government consultant, encourages all his clients and friends to fly into Hamilton, and make it a base. "I tell them the accommodation is much cheaper than closer to Niagara Falls, and the many restaurants along James Street North are great with good food and reasonable prices."

"I also tell them to bring their hiking boots and explore the many cascades and waterfalls that Hamilton has in abundance." They also don't need to haul their bikes anymore. There are 750 SoBi bikes for rent in 110 locations, and they can return it to any one of them.

The fun starts with the John Munro Airport-small and friendly with lots of parking, it's a great gateway.

A quick trip down the mountain and the Hamilton Sheraton Hotel offers comfy beds, a nice pool and a walk- through Jackson Square mall to places like the Hamilton Market, Nations grocery store, the Art Gallery, FirstOntario Centre, and Hamilton Place Theatre.

There are many Airbnb's in Hamilton (including mine), and 45 sets of my guests rave about Hamilton and how convenient, AND reasonable it is.

 Clients craving a visit to Toronto, can take the GO Bus which offers direct non-stop service every half hour, and more often in rush hour. Speaking of Toronto, now your clients can take the very convenient GO Bus route 40 to Pearson Airport.

If they're in the mood to gamble or visit Canada's most famous tourist attraction Coach Canada runs buses to Niagara Falls approximately every two hours.

But your client will want to leave lots of time to explore Hamilton - the city has a lot to offer.

Hamilton used to be known for its steel companies, that has all changed and the West Harbour has been a destination for fun.

This is a marine playground, bordered by wonderful trails perfect for walking, biking or roller-blading. A free bus runs from downtown to Bayfront Park every half hour in the summer, or your client can walk it in 15 minutes, although they won't want to, they'll be stopping for a drink in one of the bistros and cafes along James Street North. The Hamiltonian offers an intimate leisurely, guided tour of the Harbour. There is a cute little train that takes people around the park, giving them the history of the area.

HMCS Haida, Canada's most decorated warship is docked at the Navy Pier 9. On Pier 8, there is a popular roller rink, that offers dance classes one night a week. In the winter there is ice skating, and yes you can rent ice skates and roller skates.

Hamilton can also brag that it has the only "Royal" designation in North America, the Royal Botanicial Gardens. The Rose gardens have been totally redone, and so has the Rock Garden. In the spring 100,000 tulips show off. www.rbg.ca

A great restaurant and a Mediterranean Garden under glass, adds to a great destination.

Shopping? There is amazing shopping on James St. North, and be sure to drop into the Hamilton Store to take back some memories. Owner Donna Reid will help with suggestions.

 Locke St. just 10 minutes from downtown, and on a bus route, is a great place to look for antiques. Ottawa St. in the East end of Hamilton is famous for its fabric stores.

Hamilton is home to the Tiger-Cats (CFL), who play in the new Tim Horton Field stadium.

In the winter Bulldogs (OHL) call the city home.

Dundurn Castle is another "must see." Costumed staff brings mid-19th century to life at the restored estate of Sir Allan MacNab. They do a great job of both the upstairs and downstairs parts of the castle.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority holds in public trust 7 major recreational conservation properties, so people can enjoy a day of hiking, birding, or the great outdoors. Included in these areas are 25 waterfalls, 14 Niagara Escarpment properties, 12 significant wetlands, two rail trails and 140 km of trails, an 18000-year-old-muskeg bog, on one ecological preserve.

Grandad's Donuts at James St. N. and Burlington St. serves the best donuts. Tell Grace and Ella, both part timers, I sent you.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (www.warplane.com) "Canada's Flying Museum" is run by dedicated volunteers. There are more than 40 aircraft, including North America's only operational Lancaster bomber. You can see aircraft restoration in progress, check out the interactive exhibits, shop for great stuff and in season you can go for vintage aircraft rides. A trip on the Lanc is $3,500 plus membership.

The Collective Arts Brewing Company has become hugely popular. They describe it as a grassroots beer company fusing the craft of brewing with the inspired talents of emerging artists and musicians.

Super Crawl's 10th. Anniversary is coming up September 13-16. Last year they welcomed over 130,000 enthusiastic people to the free four-day music and art street festival that showcases live music, art installations, fashion, theatre, artisans and makers, food trucks, and more.

It takes place two blocks from my house, I'll see you there.

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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