The 7 Best Places to Celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary

From the most spectacular fireworks displays to compelling museum exhibitions

The 7 Best Places to Celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary

Canada’s fireworks are no joke.

It’s Canada’s 150th anniversary of its Confederation, when the British colonies of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia joined to form the Dominion of Canada. The country will be marking this milestone in myriad ways in 2017, from a nationwide mural project known as Canada 150 Mosaic to free admission at every national park. Almost every province and city has found its own ways to mark the sesquicentennial, too. And while many celebrations take place on Canada Day (July 1, when the Constitution Act united the three colonies), others take place later in the summer and into the fall. Here are seven events that have us booking a flight north this year.

1. Ottawa

While Prince Charles and Camilla Parker will be traveling to Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary from June 30 to July 2, most of the talent at the capital’s various events is Canadian. Cirque du Soleil, Gordon Lightfoot, and Ottawa-born Alanis Morissette are among those who will be performing at three different venues, including Parliament Hill. Even if you miss those celebrations, 250 concerts, street parties, and other events are scheduled through summer and fall, including the arrival of a giant mechanical fire-breathing dragon and spider at the end of July, the first North American appearance of these unusual works of art from France’s La Machine.

2. Calgary

Every year the world’s top fireworks designers compete in Calgary’s International Fireworks Festival, with original music representative of their nations and pyrotechnic displays lighting up the night sky. To mark the 150th anniversary, various regions of Canada will compete here instead. On six nights falling between August 15 and August 26, teams from the West, Prairies, Ontario, Québec, and the Atlantic will dazzle audiences with displays of peonies and chrysanthemums, to use the pyrotechnic terms, reflected in the lake at Elliston Park.

3. Toronto

The 150th anniversary celebrations over Canada Day weekend don’t get much larger than those in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, with various open-air celebrations and concerts along the waterfront and at Mel Lastman Square, Humbert Bay Park West, and other sites throughout the city. If you miss the big weekend, the Aga Khan Museum’s HERE exhibition highlights 20 contemporary artists grappling with Canadian identity and how it is defined, via works by First Nations artists and immigrants to Canada. The exhibition opens on July 22 and runs through January 1, 2018.

4. Vancouver

Vancouver has chosen to bill its anniversary celebrations as Canada 150+, the plus-sign recognizing that the histories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations predated Confederation. Indigenous performers, including musicians and spoken-word poets, are celebrated duirng the nine days of the Drum is Calling Festival from July 22 to July 30 at locations throughout the city. Included are names that are well known, like Buffy Sainte-Marie and PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, and rising stars. The festival also features carving and weaving demonstrations, film screenings, and vendors selling indigenous foods.

Rue Dans in Québec City

Rue Dans in Québec City

Photographer: Finn O’Hara

5. Québec City In Québec City, the Festival d’été is also marking its own milestone, namely its 50th anniversary. One of North America’s premier summer festivals, the event runs for 11 days (from July 6 to July 16) and takes place at 10 different outdoor venues (including Canada’s largest outdoor stage). Headliners this year include Gorillaz, Nick Jonas, and Melissa Etheridge. Many events are free, while passes that include all ticketed performances start at less than $80 (US).

6. St. John’s, Newfoundland

As the capital of the country’s easternmost province, St. John’s will kick off the celebrations on Canada Day (July 1) with a sunrise walk up Signal Hill. It is followed by a “Wake up the Nation” breakfast, an afternoon of kid-friendly activities in King George V Park, and then an evening concert and fireworks at Dominion Memorial Market. All of the day’s activities are free.

7. Prince Edward Island

In Canada’s smallest province, travelers can mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in an intimate way, by taking a culinary journey back in time. The Table Culinary Studio in New London is offering a four-hour Taste of the Past experience that includes a visit to the birthplace of L. M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, followed by a cooking class using local produce and seafood to create a typical meal from the 1860s, served on antique china in the former church that houses the studio. (Taste of the Past classes are scheduled through September; $100 per person.)

Bonus: Montreal’s 375th

While the 150th anniversary is the most celebrated milestone in most of Canada, Montreal is marking the 375th anniversary of its founding this year. AFAR’s guide to seven events in the city is the best place to start for celebrations in Québec’s largest city.

>>Next: The Best Secret Spots in Canada, According to Its Citizens

John Newton is a writer, editor, and translator who splits his time between Méridia, Mexico, and Brooklyn, New York.
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