Canada is celebrating 150 years since Confederation this year, and the country’s pulling out all the stops to mark the occasion – which makes for plenty of things to do this summer, whether you’re planning a staycation or hitting the road to explore. But what to choose? Here are some cross-country options for every taste, from galleries and exhibits to comedy shows and film retrospectives.
Museums and galleries
In Ottawa, visit the National Gallery of Canada for a massive retrospective on the history of Canadian art encompassing almost 1,000 pieces across 2,000 years. Opening June 15, From Time Immemorial to 1967 covers artists like Emily Carr and Daphne Ojdig as well as themed explorations of topics such as the emergence of Inuit art.
Starting June 29, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is featuring a special exhibition on what it means to be Canadian. Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood collects works from 33 emerging and established artists to look at Canada as a “dynamic work in progress” and examine three key questions: where has Canada come from, what is it now, and where is it going?
At Winnipeg’s Manitoba Museum, Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History examines the effects of Confederation on Red River residents, combining existing collections with loaned items such as a walking stick used by Louis Riel. The exhibit covers not just the people affected by the past 150 years of history, but the ecology, too, from the extinction of passenger pigeons to the changes in Prairie ecosystems.
In Victoria, the Royal BC Museum is hosting Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada, a look at the legacy of the Canadian icon’s 1980 Marathon of Hope. Visitors will first see the Ford E250 Econoline van that shadowed Fox on his journey, and learn about the impact he has made on Canadian life and culture through to the present day.
Head east to be the first to greet July 1. Do it with a bang at Signal Hill National Historic Site in St. John’s, significant not just for its military importance but also as the site where the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal was received. Be there at 6 a.m. for a special sunrise salute.
The Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta is bringing more than 40 tall ships to ports in the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec throughout the summer as part of a five-month, 7,000-nautical-mile race that crossed from the United Kingdom across to North America and back to France. Anyone can drop by one of the host cities for a free tour aboard the ships, which will be plying Canadian waters from late June through late September.
2017 isn’t just Canada’s 150th birthday – it’s the 20th anniversary of P.E.I.’s Confederation Bridge. Bridgefest, from June 16 to 18, is designed for anyone with a passion for big infrastructure. Events include a fireworks show; a Burton Cummings concert and gala; a 5K, 10K or half marathon across the bridge; and tour opportunities by boat or helicopter.
Wildlife is the focus of BioBlitz Canada 150, a countrywide event that turns citizens into scientists who can help gather data and document new species as they explore and learn about biodiversity. Flagship events take place in Vancouver, Regina, Toronto, Quebec City and Halifax, while other communities will host smaller get-togethers.
Who could cram centuries of history into a one-hour performance? Comedians, of course, which is what you’ll get at Toronto’s Second City. The legendary troupe is putting on Canada: The Thinking Man’s America. The show promises to mock clichés, pay homage to comedic greats and let people get smug – but not too smug – about Canada’s place in the world.
Also in Toronto, the TIFF Bell Lightbox is holding a year-long retrospective of Canadian film classics called Canada On Screen. Events, installations, 72 screenings and a list of 150 essential moving-image works from Canada’s history make up the program – including, of course, everyone’s favourite old chestnut, the Log Driver’s Waltz.
And if you’re in Ottawa on the big day, get to Parliament Hill early. A flag-raising ceremony and the Changing of the Guard starts at 9 a.m., followed by a 10 a.m. concert of the Peace Tower bells and a performance overhead by the Snowbirds. In the evening, expect a star-studded concert – while details aren’t out yet, you can be sure Ottawa will greet the 150th anniversary of Confederation with a bang.