It’s hard to believe that this grand country, which has such a vast and rich history (which was my area of specialization for my BA and MA) is only 150 years old – in reality, there are things about Canada that are SOOOO much older. This great nation houses ten provinces and three territories, has an area of 9.985 million square kilometers and a population of over 36 million amazing people, and is of course the home of hockey, Tim Horton’s and some of the most stunning geography in the world. From ever changing oceans to majestic mountains, Canada has a little bit of something for everyone. I’ve been lucky enough to live in three of Canada’s gorgeous provinces, so for Canada Day and in the spirit of our 150th birthday, I thought I would share a few of my favourite things about each area I’ve lived in!
Prince Edward Island
This is where I grew up. No, I was not born here, therefore I will always be known as a “Come From Away” or CFA for short. I moved to the Island from Toronto when I was three and a half years old and I am so grateful I did. PEI was an idyllic and peaceful place to grow up full of music and culture and the friendliest people you will ever meet. At 83 years young, my Dad refuses to leave the Island, despite both his children and all his grandchildren living in Alberta because of what a wonderful province it is. Yes, it’s small, but that’s what makes it beautiful. Here are my top three places to visit and things to do on PEI:
· Have a lobster dinner at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers – Located in one of the most picturesque areas of PEI, the Glasgow Hills, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers provides you with that most Island of dishes, lobster, combined with all-you-can-eat mussels (a must-have) and the best seafood chowder around. Everything is included in your meal, with the exception of alcoholic beverages, so it’s a pretty fantastic deal. I recommend the strawberry shortcake for dessert and taking home some of the home-made dinner rolls – they are AMAZING!
· Wander downtown Charlottetown – Charlottetown, the capital city of Prince Edward Island has some of the most beautifully preserved historic buildings east of Quebec City. Founded in 1765, Charlottetown is full of quaint shops, amazing restaurants (some of the best in the country), tons of live music and entertainment, and gorgeous waterfront. I recommend spending a whole day wandering downtown, grabbing a coffee at Beanz Espresso Bar, and sampling Cows Ice Cream, among other things.
· Visit the Basin Head Beach – Basin Head Provincial Park, located in the far eastern tip of the Island is home to singing sands – yes, you read that correctly, the sand “sings” or squeaks when you walk on it, due to the silicone content in the sand here. Beyond that, this is just a gorgeous part of the Island, which boasts pristine white sands, warm water for swimming, and a shoreline so long you could walk for hours. I try to visit every time I’m home.
I was born in Toronto, so Ontario and I have always had a connection. However, being young when we moved, it wasn’t until I returned for Graduate School at the University of Guelph that I found some of my favourite places. I’ve lived in three cities in Ontario (Toronto, Guelph, and Windsor), but my favourite city is Ottawa, the nation’s capital. Here are my top places to visit and things to do in Ontario:
· Visit the National Gallery in Ottawa – The National Gallery houses amazing artwork by Canadian talents such as the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and Robert Harris (a famous Prince Edward Island painter!). There is so much variety and so many beautiful pieces to see in the Gallery that I still have not explored it all, despite visiting half a dozen times. Some of my favourite memories from the last fifteen years are visiting the Gallery with my Uncle Pat, a notable Ottawa resident who shares his passion for art with me every time we visit.
· Spend time in Cottage Country – Cottage Country, the area north of Toronto and Lake Ontario is the weekend getaway locale for many city dwellers, with good reason. The lakes throughout Cottage Country, whether in the Muskokas, the Kawarthas (my favourite), or the Haliburton Highlands are absolutely stunning, pristinely clean and clear (and not quite as cold as a glacier-fed lake), and surrounded by the Boreal Forest. This is the area that Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip made famous in the most-Canadian-of-songs, Bobcaygeon.
· Drive through Northern Ontario and the Canadian Shield – Yes, this may sound surprising for me to pick given its isolation, but if you want to really see the rugged beauty that is Canada, you cannot miss seeing the Canadian Shield. Also known as the Laurentian Plateau, this is the ancient geological core of our continent and the jagged rocks, rolling hills, and stunning rivers and lakes are an area of Canada that you know remains largely untouched. Spectacular!
Well, most of you know, Alberta is my home now and has been for the last eleven years. It is a grand and gorgeous province that features some of the most famous mountains in the world, juxtaposed by flat and fertile prairie land. To be honest, it never occurred to me before 2006 that I might live in Alberta, let alone that it would become my home for the better part of my adult life (with no sign of that changing any time soon). Although I miss the ocean desperately and always will, my heart has slowly become rooted out here, in part because I built a life here and my beautiful son was born here. So here are three of my favourite places to see and things to do in Alberta:
· Drive the Icefields Parkway – Whether you go the full 230 km distance between Banff and Jasper, or you make the shorter trip up to Saskatchewan River Crossing, this is a spectacular way to see the Rocky Mountains, especially if you have limited time. Just be sure to check the weather report before you head out, even in late spring and early fall – the snow starts early here and the Icefields Parkway can be treacherous during an Alberta snowstorm.
· Visit Jasper National Park – I chose this over Banff because as Albertans know, Banff is much more “touristy” than Jasper. The Town of Jasper is great for meandering around and nearby Pyramid and Patricia Lakes offer great views and easily accessible trails to walk. My favourite JNP lake is a bit harder to find – tucked away along Highway 16 as you head east towards Edmonton is Talbot Lake, with a large sand dune you climb down to get lakeside and the most beautiful and clean water I have ever seen. Yes, it’s cold, but it’s just about the only lake I’ll swim in in Alberta (that’s a whole different blog post).
· Take in one of the festivals in Edmonton – Yes, I am biased because I live in Edmonton, but man! We are a city that knows how to throw a party or festival! Taste of Edmonton is a great way to sample local cuisine and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival Festival is an iconic summer staple, with very good reason – a full weekend of fantastic music and even better community, all on Gallagher Hill. And I can’t leave out the Heritage Festival, a celebration of the many cultures that make up our beautiful city, and indeed this great country!
There are so many other sights and experiences for each province I wish I could include, but I’d be writing all day!!
Canada is a great country, from sea to sea to sea. While I have loved my international travels, there is so much I still want to see in Canada, so I’m happy when I get to explore closer to home. I have visited every provide except Newfoundland, but I haven’t seen nearly enough! What are your favourite parts of our country, places that I just HAVE to visit? Let me know in the comments below.
And Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!!
Enjoy the pretty things in life,