Canada invites you to its birthday party
anada has been a federal state for one-and-a-half centuries now, but it’s more millennial than its ‘ID card’ shows. Two birthday hashtags have been created (#Canada150 and #OnThisDay) plus a logo and an app (Passport 2017), and they’re already celebrating in 19 cities. But the best bit is for guests invited to the party. Up until the end of the year, they’re offering free entry for residents and tourists to the more than 200 historic sites and national parks managed by Parks Canada. From the 14 square kilometres of Georgian Bay Islands National Park to the 45,000 square kilometres of the country’s largest park (and one of the biggest in the world), the Wood Buffalo National Park.
Dorothy had to follow the yellow brick road, but anyone landing in Canada can follow the red chairs, installed in national parks to “connect with nature in the country’s most unique and treasured places”. From one of these chairs you can gaze out at turquoise lakes; the mountainous peaks of Banff in the province of Alberta; red sandstone dunes and cliffs like the ones on Prince Edward Island; the Mealy mountains near the Labrador Sea covered in snow and ice… and lots more besides.
Montreal makes it a double
Montreal is adding its own 375th birthday party to the 150th anniversary celebrations. One of the top events is ‘Montréal Avudo’, a spectacular multimedia sound and light show that looks back at the history of the city and takes place alongside the river up until 2 September.
Canada is an injection of pure air and unbridled nature. Close to 9% of its surface is covered with fresh water. You can fly to Ivvavik National Park, on the most northerly point of the Yukon, and venture into the country’s Arctic landscapes. You can trek on glaciers near the North Pole in Quttinirpaaq National Park. Or enjoy night views of the Torngat mountains and then at dawn go to Sallikuluk (Rose Island) and take one of its hiking trails to Torngat Mountains National Park, where you can spot polar bears.
Four of the country’s most outstanding National Parks are Kejimkujik, ideal for canoeing among sandy beaches, coastal wetlands and lagoons. The second is Rouge National Urban Park, where you can visit working organic farms and ancient indigenous sites. Prince Albert is the third and the most attractive for the adventurous traveller, with water sports like water skiing and wake boarding. The fourth suggestion takes you to Kluane National Park and Reserve, a land of “extremes” in the south west Yukon, home to Canada’s highest mountain peak, Mount Logan, standing at 5,959 metres.
Mountains and lakes give way to Toronto. After giving free entry to 150 architectural spaces, in September the city is inviting everyone to a contemporary art exhibition that deals with several artists’ views of the notions of identity and nationhood. Key elements of a year in which, as provincial Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Eleanor McMahon, says, “honours the past, present and future of the city’s exciting cultural diversity”.
The capital, Ottowa, isn’t missing out on the party either. From 7 to 22 July, the city is hosting Sky Lounge, a culinary experience from the air on board a ‘flying restaurant’ where people will be able to savour the country’s best cheeses and wines. Another key date is 1 July, Independence Day. Part of the day’s events is the ‘Canada 150&Me’ programme, aimed at 150 young Canadians who will be travelling round the country talking about “their generation’s great challenge”. From 6 to 16 July is also when the Quebec summer festival is held. Eleven days, ten stages and 250 shows featuring artists like Pink, Kendrick Lamar, Muse, The Who and Metallica.
Canada doesn’t want visitors to leave once the birthday party is over. That’s why it has opened The Great Trail, the world’s longest recreational hiking trail. 24,000 kilometres for exploring the country from one end to the other. And enough time to stay on for the 151st celebrations.