The peaceful, unassuming, sensible northern neighbor of the United States turns 150 this year. Canada’s origins, explains eminent Canadian historian and author P.B. Waite, are true to the country’s national psyche.
The Dominion of Canada wasn’t born out of revolution,” he writes, “or a sweeping outburst of nationalism. Rather, it was created in a series of conferences and orderly negotiations, culminating in the terms of Confederation on 1 July 1867. The union of the British North American colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada was the first step in a slow but steady nation-building exercise that would come to encompass other territories, and eventually fulfill the dream of a country a mari usque ad mare (from sea to sea).
For the past 150 years Canada and Canadians have contributed much to life as we know it today.
Canada gave the world basketball, the once ubiquitous BlackBerry®, insulin, Pablum, the McIntosh apple, eastern standard time, the electric wheel chair, the snow blower, hockey, the Wonderbra, the electron microscope, peanut butter, the egg carton, the garbage bag, the alkaline battery, and sonar, to name but a few.
Canada’s popular Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is unofficially “the sexiest politician alive.”
Canada is the home of Niagara Falls; the renowned Whistler/Blackcomb ski resort; Pacific Rim National Park; the world famous Butchart Gardens; the largest mall in North America, the West Edmonton Mall; Louise; the Columbia Icefield; Banff National Park; and Toronto’s CN tower, the tallest free standing structure in North America.
Canada has one of the oldest universities in North America, the University of New Brunswick (the alma mater of our beauty editor…and speaking of beauty, Elizabeth Arden was born on a farm in Ontario.)
Canada is having a huge birthday party.
How can you take part in Canada’s summer birthday celebrations? We assembled a coast-to-coast list that includes scheduled events and fun excursions that will give you the real Canadian experience:
Visit all Canadian national parks–for FREE
From coast to coast, there are no entrance fees to Canada’s 39 national parks in 2017. From the world renowned Banff National Park in Alberta (where you are guaranteed to see a moose) to Algonquin National Park in Ontario (where you can fall asleep to the cry of the loons and paddle a canoe on pristine waters), Canada’s national parks are spectacularly beautiful. Check here for a list.
Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Celebrate Canada Day in Newfoundland.
Newfoundland’s Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America, will celebrate Canada Day, July 1st, before everyone else. Watch the fireworks at sunrise at the Cape Spear Historic lighthouse and join in the festivities. How to get there? Click here.
Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Canada
Drive the Cabot Trail.
The Scottish Highlands are closer than you think! Canada’s Big Sur is all forest and ocean on 298-kilometres of paved loop in Nova Scotia.
Break your drive with a stop at one of lobster shanties along the way where you’ll feast on steamy fresh lobster while enjoying breath-taking views of the ocean. Go in the summer months as it tends to get foggy beginning in September. Click here to get there.
Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada
Visit old Montreal.
At 150, Canada is ‘young’ compared to Montreal at 375! Imagine yourself strolling around Old Montreal and suddenly people from the city’s past start coming to life on the trees and buildings around you. That’s exactly what happens on the Cité Mémoire circuit produced by Montréal en histoire. Discover a colorful cast of characters that were witness to the city’s evolution and learn more about Montreal every evening at dusk. Don’t forget to sample a Montreal style bagel, hot, moist and straight out of that wood burning oven on Rue Saint Viateur. To get to Montreal click here.
This November will mark one year since the passing of Canadian icon Leonard Cohen. Beginning Nov. 9, The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal will celebrate his life and work with the multidisciplinary exhibition “A Crack in Everything.”
Old Montreal, Quebec
Join the festivities in Canada’s capital, Ottawa.
The celebrations in Ottawa for Canada’s 150th year will surpass any other anywhere in Canada. (Interesting fact about Ottawa: Every year, to thank the Canadians for harboring their royal family during the Second World War, the Dutch send one million tulip bulbs to Ottawa. Every year the tulip display, said to be the largest in the world, draws a half million viewers.) Canada’s birthday on July 1 will feature the largest display of fireworks in Canada on Parliament Hill. And don’t forget to paddle the Rideau Canal. The Rideau stretches 202 km from Kingston, Ontario, to Ottawa and offers some of the best paddling in the country. In honor of Canada’s 150th, Parks Canada is offering free lockage throughout 2017. Click to find out more about Ottawa and how to get there.
The Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Canada
Celebrate one of North America’s largest gay pride parades.
The annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto on July 2nd will be even bigger during Canada’s 150th year. Every year, it attracts a million visitors to Toronto, including the Right Honorable Justin Trudeau. If you don’t get to see him in person, you can buy some Justin Trudeau swag (how about a tee shirt featuring him riding shirtless on a moose?) at shelfies.com.
Taste inventive fatty foods at The Canadian National Exhibition
(Toronto, Aug. 18 to Sept. 4)
The CNE, or the “ex” as it is known, was founded in 1879 as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition. It has enjoyed a distinguished history as a “showcase of the nation”. It was “the place” where people came to experience the latest innovations in technology and commercial products as well as performances by many of the leading artists of the time. The CNE continues to be one of Ontario’s great annual traditions. It has also become the place to try food you would be advised not try at home. Some of the foods featured over the years include deep-fried Mars bars, waffle sandwiches, the colossal onion (which features two days’ worth of fat allotment)… you get the idea. But if you don’t want to gain ten pounds in a day, there is so much more than food at the CNE. Click for CNE information.
Head to Canada’s prettiest town for the Shaw Festival and tall ships docking.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is arguably Canada’s prettiest town and the original capital of Upper Canada (before Ottawa took over in 1857, ten years before Canada became a country). Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for its historic buildings, tony shops, wineries, flower displays, and British genteel influence. Every year, thousands flock to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the Shaw Festival. The Festival began June 15th and goes right through until October. The 2017 schedule includes plays such as Dracula, Saint Joan, The Madness of King George III, and Androcles and the Lion. Click for schedule and ticket availability. And don’t forget to visit the tall ships docking at River Beach on July 4 and 5.
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Visit the Calgary Stampede.
Canada has its wild west, too. As rodeos go, the Calgary Stampede, running from July 7th to the 16th, is right up there with the best in North America. Calgary, Alberta, is the heart of Canada’s oil sands (40% of US oil comes from Canada). The Stampede has agriculture and animal competitions, country music—the venue is often called Nashville North—and food galore, especially BBQ. Click for tickets and how to get there.
Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Alberta
Take tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria.
Worlds away from the rough and tumble of the Calgary Stampede, on Canada’s beautiful west coast, sits the genteel town of Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Named after Queen Victoria, everything about the town has managed to remain aristocratic. Victoria is quiet and beautiful and steeped in tradition. One of the best is high tea at the Empress Hotel, which looks like a castle, and where high tea regulars are known to wear gowns and white gloves.
Tea room, Empress Hotel, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Home of the Empress cake, which showcases an extra special customized chocolate developed by Executive Pastry Chef AJ Thalakkat and experts in France, tea at the Empress, dubbed “hot and steamy since 1908,” is among the world’s best unique tea experiences. Click here for more information.
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If you live along or close to the border, Canada is a road trip away. If you are further afield, you can fly into any of Canada’s 20 international airports. And if you don’t know what a toque is, if you’ve never experienced the highest tides in the world, if you’ve never eaten a butter tart or poutine or fresh boiled lobster off a worn wooden picnic table, if you’ve never seen a moose, and if you’ve never sugared off, it’s high time you went to Canada.