Even grown-ups admit birthdays are nice because you get lots of presents. Lucky for us, Canada was especially generous for its 150th anniversary of confederation in 2017. Not only were there spectacular, firework-filled parties, special events, and art collaborations from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia, the country gained a bunch of new permanent attractions. Here are the most exciting additions across Canada — don’t miss them.
In the nation’s capital, the 150th marked three significant cultural additions. First, there was the country’s largest legacy project, a $111 million renovation to the National Arts Centre. Second, Canada’s Masterpieces, Our Stories debuted at the National Gallery of Canada — a reimagined 45,000-square-foot area telling the tale of art in Canada through 1,000 indigenous artworks and history — part of the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries. Finally, the Canadian Museum of Nature unveiled its much-awaited 8,000-square-foot Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, a permanent space delving into Canada’s North — culture, land, plants, and animals. Though it makes up two-fifths of Canada’s land, the Arctic is seldom visited. The gallery’s 200 artifacts and fossils, lauded as the world’s best, plus multimedia, and interactive exhibits touch on natural history and sociology, aiming to give you a near in-person experience.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Learn about history the fun way: By looking at art. A vibrant mural now graces the birthplace of the 1867 confederation: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Part of a nationwide Canada 150 Mosaic project, there are 150 murals in total focused on cultural and geographical diversity. These are made up of a whopping 80,000 paintings created by locals in community centers around the country illustrating things they love about their homes. The colorful Charlottetown mural comprised of 800 tiles shows Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald seated between a lighthouse and Province House. It now resides at City Hall.
Royal BC Museum’s 5 objects
Victoria, British Columbia
Want to understand how British Columbia shaped national history? Head to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria — a leading Canadian museum, in particular for its outstanding collection of First Nations coastal art. For the 150th, the curators selected just five objects from seven million to represent B.C. And they are a Haida argillite chest by Charles Edenshaw depicting a human transforming into a raven; a pygmy short-horned lizard; the Douglas Commission document with a seal from Queen Victoria; Western Red Cedar boughs; and Immigration Detention Hospital wall fragments. Each tells a different story, representing a distinct aspect of the province. The chest, for example, is made of argillite, a black sedimentary rock found only in Haida Gwaii. The artwork, purchased and collected by primarily non-natives, symbolizes how Aboriginals have evolved and adapted to colonialism. You can now see the five selections in the 100 Objects of Interest online exhibition — check it out to learn more.
Capital Boulevard art installations
Edmonton renamed downtown’s 108th Street Capital Boulevard for the 150th and transformed it into an inviting, pedestrian-friendly public space, inspired by Washington D.C., Rome, and London. The city not only spruced up the five-block thoroughfare leading to the Alberta Legislature — adding stylish street furniture, lighting, bike racks, a plaza, and wide tree-lined sidewalks — it created new street islands with permanent art installations by five Canadian artists recounting Canadian history. Another bonus: A new landmark facility for the western Canada’s now largest such institution, the Royal Alberta Museum, which reopens at its new downtown location in 2018.
Connected: The Great Trail
National – spotlight on the Yukon
Billed as “the longest recreational trail in the world,” the 15,000-mile trans-Canada Great Trail is a network crossing every province and territory, traversing wilderness, urban, and rural landscapes. Grassroots volunteer groups finished building it for the 150th in 2017 after 25 years of combined effort — phase II is next, when all the signage goes up. You can hike, bike, dogsled, ski, paddle, or saddle up and ride it. In addition to the superlative Canadian Rockies portion, hikers-in-the-know name the Wild West Yukon Territory’s portion as one of the best. In particular, there’s Tombstone Territorial Park, with its rugged mountain peaks along the epic and remote Dempster Highway en route to the Arctic coast, and Klondike country’s Dawson City footpath, passing through the rough ‘n tumble Gold Rush town steeped in history and artifacts.
Mountie in flowers
Artists created 13 towering, whimsical statues out of plants and flowers representing the 13 provinces and territories for Canada’s big anniversary, as part of the Mosaic150 project. First unveiled in Gatineau at Quebec’s Jacques Cartier Park, one will now be permanently on display at the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. Fittingly, the 14-by-14-foot metal work covered in 13,000 blooms and botanicals is a horseback Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer donning the world-famous Mountie uniform, the Red Serge. After all, the RCMP cadet training center has been based in Regina since its founding in 1885. Look out for the other 12 topiaries, which will also find homes in their respective territories and provinces.
Nod to the time zone founder
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador got a nifty new symbolic sculpture at Harbourside Park in downtown St. John’s, a Cadillac Canada project of 150 “Daring Moments” in history. The compass with an arrow in it is Montreal artist José Luis Torres’ take on precision clockwork, an homage to the engineer who first came up with worldwide standard time zones back in 1879, Sandford Fleming. The work also addresses the province’s unusual situation when it comes to time: Part is on Atlantic Time and the other on Newfoundland Time. That means locals on “The Rock” vote first, watch new shows first — and celebrated Canada’s 150th first, of course.
Montreal invested $73 million to construct a modern year-round performance and entertainment destination blending nature with culture. The 65,000-seat open-air amphitheater is in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a city jewel east of downtown Montreal. The complex includes a beautifully landscaped public plaza with restaurants, art, outdoor furniture, water features, picnic spots, and green spaces. It also spotlights the signature Calder sculpture “Man and His World,” created for Expo 67, and links visitors with new pathways to the St. Lawrence River shoreline. The complex debuting in summer 2019 will easily accommodate the big festivals, such as the large-scale Osheaga music and arts festival, and add to existing draws like the Environment Canada Biosphere Museum. In addition, the French-speaking city is giving Alexandra Pier and passenger terminal in Old Montreal a $78 million facelift, making a vastly improved cruise ship visitor welcome for the 110,000 who disembark at the port each summer.
Bison Butte Mountain Bike Course
A local cycling association initiative as part of the 2017 Canada Summer Games, Winnipeg’s Fort WhyteAlive got a shiny new technical mountain bike course. Now all levels can ride the hilltop Bison Butte Mountain Bike Course at Fort WhyteAlive, a 640-acre enviro-education-rec center including a bison prairie, hiking trails, visitor center, restaurant, and aquarium. The course is the first of its kind in central Canada to meet national standards, designed for high-level competitions, with features such as rock gardens and table tops, berms and a pump track, but with ride-arounds at every point so it’s still accessible for everyone.
Also in the nation’s capital, a park opened on Aboriginal Day: Pindigen Park at LeBreton Flats west of downtown. A collaboration with First Nations communities — Anishinabe and Algonquin — it celebrates local indigenous heritage and culture with steel animal silhouette sculptures, interpretive panels in Algonquin, French, and English, and symbolic landscaping. The design of the public green space and garden is based on the concept of all things in harmony: People, land, air, and water. The Algonquin name says it all: “Come on in, all are welcome here.”
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Canada, it’d be hard to find a more exciting time than now.
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