April showers bring May flowers… March showers do too. Unfortunately for me, my outdoor adventure to Hamilton was kyboshed by Mother Nature as rain clouds hung low in the sky. That didn’t stop me from visiting Ontario’s Royal Botanical Gardens, and it shouldn’t stop you! Spring is a great time to explore before the crowds of summer hit, despite the higher chance of inclement weather. Check out how Robin & I entertained ourselves with some help from Tourism Hamilton and Attractions Ontario!
The Royal Botanical Gardens are located on the cusp of Hamilton and Burlington. For almost 100 years, this National Historic Site protects over 1000 hectares of wetland, field, forest & escarpment ecosystems across the two cities. While the majority of this is located outside, the RBG Centre is a great place to start on a rainy day! It’s an amazing building which shouldn’t be overlooked. Construction materials like carpet & drywall are not used, along with less-harmful paints and treatments. The air you breathe (especially in the Atrium) are fresh and clean thanks to the plants within it! A third of the building’s materials were sourced locally and almost 100% of the demolition/construction waste was diverted from the landfill. How amazing is that?!
Every winter the RBG Centre hosts a special winter exhibition. This year, RBG’s The Big Freeze focuses on the Ice Age and how it impacted life on Earth. First you’ll learn how drastic environmental changes shaped Canada’s landscape over the past 4 millions years. Then, you’ll discover how mammoths, mastodons & bear-sized beavers worked together as part of the local ecosystem. If you’re attending with small children, there’s plenty of interactive science shows, presentations and more on weekends and holidays! A large part of the exhibit is interactive where you can use your senses to connect with the creatures. A highlight is the huge skeletons they have on display, you’ll definitely want to snap a photo or two. Be sure to say hi to Bucky for me – he was my favourite!
Afterwards we made our way to the Mediterranean Garden. Here you’ll find a permanent display of a variety of plants from trees to cacti. What surprised me was that they even have a cork tree! Did you know that if harvested correctly, no harm is done to the tree? I had no idea! There’s also a beautiful koi pond as well as benches scattered throughout so you can truly relax and enjoy! One of the highlights for me though was the miniature sculptures of world landmarks. It’s like RBG knew I’m jonesing for an international adventure!
At this point we had already spent 3 hours at RBG and our tummies started to rumble. RBG boasts their Greenhouse Café, open year round. They also have their Rock Garden Café, however it closes for the fall & winter. While their Warm Maple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce looked tempting, we opted for a change of scenery. Making our way to the car, we drove into downtown for a midday break at the Berkley North. You’ll have to wait for another post to get the full details, but know this: their brunch is to DIE for! Offered Saturdays & Sundays from 11:30am-3pm, this west coast inspired bistro will leave you wanting more… even if you’re full to the brim!
I never realized how large RBG was, or how dispersed their gardens were! While we didn’t make it to the Arboretum across the street from the RBG Centre, we did stop at the Rock Garden as was suggested by their front desk staff. Luckily the rain had stopped so we could make our way outside. Very few plants were in bloom, however the landscape and the newly renovated building are absolutely breathtaking! It’s definitely worth a stop as it’s all included in your admission price. I can’t wait to come back in the fairer weather to see the beautiful blooms!
Speaking of blooms, are you interested in anything in particular? Check out what’s in bloom using their handy calendar, or pick up a Visitor’s Guide at the RBG Centre to see what’s in season. With over 25km of trails and 5 areas of interest, you’ll definitely be making more than one visit!
Have you ever been to the Royal Botanical Gardens? If not, I suggest you go – especially if you want to see The Big Freeze. Don’t delay, it’s only on until April 17th!
Thank you to Tourism Hamilton for having me as I enjoyed exploring a new side of Hamilton! Merci as well to Attractions Ontario for arranging this adventure! All reviews and opinions are my own.