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“I ask this Canadian how his summer’s looking,” a Miami taxi driver tells me, “and he says, ‘Terrible. I’m working that day!’”
For many Canadians this joke cuts too close to the bone. Technically, we get as much summer as everyone else, but few nations feel as compelled to make the most of it. As a new season is about to begin, a troubling question looms: What, exactly, are you going to do with the 79 days from the official start of summer to its unofficial Labour Day conclusion?
Not that there’s any shortage of options. Our national compulsion to milk the season for all it’s worth has spawned a dizzying array of special events, festivals and watery, windy, outdoorsy diversions. That’s where this to-do list steps in. You won’t find world-renowned annual extravaganzas, such as the Calgary Stampede or the Toronto Caribbean Carnival here. This list favours newness, noteworthiness and curiosity, and makes the most of summer by filling it like it’s never been filled before.
June 21: Is dad the strong, silent type? Or does he at least appreciate the odd moment of silence? If so, a stay at Old Quebec City’s Monastère des Augustines might make an ideal Father’s Day gift, what with the 376-year-old monastery reopening as a holistic, and serene, wellness retreat this summer.
June 22: Day 4 of Pride Toronto sees the rainbow flag go up at City Hall and culminates in a lecture by the renowned and iconically moustachioed, cult filmmaker John Waters. Six days later, Pussy Riot and Cyndi Lauper are slated to lead the raucous Pride Parade. Does it get any wilder than that?
June 23: In Newfoundland, the theatrical Haunted Hike walking tour through downtown St. John’s promises a mix of drama, passion, horror, humour and suspense. Cod-kissing not included.
June 24: Watch contestants launch canoes and kayaks at the start of the three-day, 715-kilometre Yukon River Quest race from Whitehorse to Dawson City.
June 25: Dauphin’s Countryfest, a long-running country music gathering, kicks off in its namesake Manitoba town with a dozen acts on three stages and closes three days later with Grammy Award winner Miranda Lambert.
June 26: Catch a show before the 12-day, 40-venue TD Toronto Jazz Festival ends. On this night, see NYC fusion favourites Snarky Puppy at Nathan Phillips Square.
June 27: What do you get when the land of the midnight sun hosts the two-day 24 Hours of Light mountain-bike race just outside Whitehorse? Very little sleep.
June 28: What do you get when a Game of Thrones live-action role-playing game unfolds in the epicentre of Toronto hipsterism, a.k.a. Trinity Bellwoods Park? A lot of chain mail, facial hair and ironic smiting.
June 29: Take whale-watching to the next level by heading to Churchill, Man. Thousands of friendly, curious beluga whales crowd Hudson’s Bay every summer, and some tours even let you swim with them. Find one of many tour operators at everythingchurchill.com.
June 30: A $30-million revamp of the Canadian National Immigration Museum at Halifax’s Pier 21 has nearly doubled its size, which helps it cover more than four centuries of nation-building.
July 1: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg seems like a fitting Canada Day destination. Afterward, head to the sprawling grounds of the Forks historic site for one of the country’s liveliest July 1 gatherings.
July 2: The tide is high this morning on Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River, where Whitewater Adventures offers the only tidal bore rafting excursions in Canada.
July 3: Newly bolted to the rock, the guided Via Ferrata climbing course at B.C.’s Kicking Horse Mountain Resort covers two routes up the Terminator 1 peak, and a suspension bridge.
July 4: One semi-final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be played at cavernous Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton – Team Canada’s home base for the tournament – so there should be no shortage of red and white face paint in the Alberta capital.
July 5: If you don’t end up heading to Vancouver for the FIFA final, you can always head 340 kilometres north from Edmonton to Joussard, Alta., for the conclusion of the Astral Harvest arts festival, which has been called “Canada’s answer to Burning Man.”
July 6: The Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s new 300-work Auguste Rodin exhibit, produced in collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris, will be the largest yet presented in Canada. It runs until Oct. 18.
July 7: Visitors to Cape Breton Highlands National Park will want to hike Mica Hill, where a new eight-kilometre loop overlooks the sands of Aspy Bay.
July 8: There are forests, and then there are enchanted forests. The Foresta Lumina in Coaticook, Que., is among the latter, with video screens, projected images and LED lights festooning the nocturnal pathway.
July 9: To admire the world’s greatest purely vertical drop for yourself – on Nunavut Day no less – hike to the territory’s 1,675-metre Thor Peak on Baffin Island, with Iqaluit-based Inukpak Outfitting.
July 10: Al fresco lobster feasts at New Brunswick’s Alma Lobster Shop, home to a 760,000-litre lobster tank, include cooking and cracking lessons on Friday nights.
July 11: You can get (almost) anything you want, music-wise, at the four-day Winnipeg Folk Festival, with Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour on Saturday, and indie darlings Wilco closing the fest Sunday.
July 12: Will you see many adorable puffins during the week-long Bird Island Puffin Festival in Elliston, Nfld.? Absolutely. Will you dine extremely well in the self-proclaimed “Root Cellar Capital of the World”? Ditto.
July 13: In the 17th century, Samuel de Champlain lost his astrolabe (an ancient astronomical computer) on his way up the Ottawa River. Found some 300 years later, it’s now on display at Ste-Marie Among the Hurons, a historic site and living museum in Midland, Ont.
July 14: Who needs International Talk Like a Pirate Day when the kids can at act like swashbucklers on the “Voiles en Voiles” pirate ship playground in Montreal’s Old Port?
July 15: Check out Alberta’s most recently discovered dinosaur species, Regaliceratops peterhewsi (a.k.a. Hellboy), at the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s new Fossils in Focus exhibit.
July 16: The new Northern Lights multimedia show will illuminate Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings (if not senators’ spending habits) from July 10 to Sept. 12.
July 17: If you attend just one CFL game this year, make sure you’re wearing a watermelon. The hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the B.C. Lions tonight at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium.
July 18: The CBC called Yellowknife’s Folk on the Rocks one of Canada’s 10 best outdoor music festivals, and musicians seem to have noticed, what with Canadian chart-topper Corb Lund headlining this year.
July 19: The Pan Am Games’ July 10 opening ceremonies sold out long ago – it’s the largest event produced by Cirque du Soleil, after all – but the next best thing also happens to be free. The Flaming Lips are playing Yonge-Dundas Square as part of the 35-day Panamania arts-and-culture series, and if you’ve seen them live before you know Cirque du Soleil has some competition.
July 20: The world’s best golfers show us how it’s done at the RBC Canadian Open, which is being held at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., for a record 27th time.
July 21: No sport says “summer” quite like beach volleyball, with the Pan Am Games men’s final being played today at the Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre in Toronto’s Canadan National Exhibition grounds. (The women’s final takes place a day earlier.)
July 22: Take North America’s only working stagecoach to the backcountry spa at the Outpost at Warden Rock near Banff National Park.
July 23: The Granby Zoo’s new “Night Trek” lets visitors admire nocturnal cats, primates and marsupials after hours, with marshmallows and hot chocolate around a campfire at the end.
July 24: For fans of Baroque music it doesn’t get any more heated than a harpsichord duel. Renowned players Jean-Christophe Dijoux and Mark Edwards are recreating the 1709 throwdown between Handel and Scarlatti at New Brunswick’s Lamèque International Baroque Festival, which runs July 23 to 25.
July 25: Have you ever pined for an adult-sized Slip ’n’ Slide? Your dream is becoming reality across Canada this summer, with Slide the City, bringing 300 metres of slick plastic to Halifax on July 25 and 26. Find more Canadian cities and dates at slidethecity.com.
July 26: Ladies and gentlemen, start your bathtubs! (Or whatever you do with them.) The three-day Nanaimo Marine Festival and World Championship Bathtub Race culminates with the main event.
July 27: If Yellowknife’s Folk on the Rocks is up and coming, Yukon’s Dawson City Music Festival is already here. This year’s lineup from July 24 to 28 is as strong as ever, with a Yukon Girls Rock Camp among the new additions.
July 28: The three-week Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ont., stages dozens of concerts in a natural ampitheatre on the shores of Georgian Bay. This year, the fest is mixing things up by screening 1993’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, followed by a live performance of Beethoven’s Autumn Sonata. Too soon?
July 29: The Cité de l’Énergie industrial theme park in Shawinigan, Que., is hosting the fiery new Dragao spectacle in style by staging it in a revolving, heated and canopied outdoor amphitheatre.
July 30: Newfoundland’s nine-week Gros Morne Summer Music festival isn’t all about classical. This evening, for instance, members of the Lalun world music ensemble will show off their virtuosic skills with hand pans, flamenco guitars and Chinese violins.
July 31: The 126th Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, a.k.a., “Islendingadagurinn,” kicks off in the town of Gimli. Viking battle re-enactments, midway rides and pancake breakfasts are strewn over four days. Who knows? You may even learn how to pronounce “Islendingadagurinn.”
Aug. 1: Has paddleboarding become pedestrian? Try it after sunset with Vancouver Water Adventures’ 90-minute Light the Night excursions.
Aug. 2: You haven’t really experienced Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture until you’ve seen it performed at Victoria Symphony Splash, which features fireworks over a floating stage in the gorgeous Inner Harbour.
Aug. 3: Alberta’s second most famous stampede, the four-day Strathmore Stampede, wraps up with an opportunity to run with the bulls, Prairie-style.
Aug. 4: New Brunswick’s Grand Falls Gorge is the site of Open Sky Adventures’ “deepelling” diversion, which flips rappelling around by having participants face forward while descending a 40-metre rock wall.
Aug. 5: Montreal’s recently revamped Place Émilie-Gamelin summer market now includes Janet Echelman’s 1.26 suspended net sculpture and various al fresco eateries in repurposed shipping containers.
Aug. 6: This is the first night naturalists in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park conduct weekly “wolf howls” that begin with a presentation on wolf ecology and proceed into the park for howl-and-response sessions.
Aug. 7: Has Fido learned to sit and roll over? See how far he has to go at the three-day Kingston Sheep Dog Trials Festival, which kicks off today. There’s even a “lure” course of tubes, hoops and tunnels where Fido can show off his skills.
Aug. 8: The Puppets Up! International Puppet Festival in Almonte, Ont., features three days of family friendly marionettes, masks, hand puppets and more from around the world. There’s even an “Adults-Only Cabaret Puppet Show” tonight. You’ve been warned.
Aug. 9: Mumford & Sons closes the Squamish Valley Music Festival’s four days in B.C.’s Coast Mountains, with Drake, Kaskade and Alabama Shakes also in the lineup.
Aug. 10: Who can resist Newfoundland’s Leifsburdir, “the only sod-covered restaurant in North America”? This replica of the nearby L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site serves theatrical Viking Feasts at lunch and dinner. Non-tippers may be pillaged.
Aug. 11: New Brunswick’s Magnetic Hill Zoo offers weeklong “Keeper Camps” that give teens a behind-the-scenes look at the world of zoo-keeping by letting them feed, clean and care for animals.
Aug. 12: Go fly a kite, or buy or build several, at New Brunswick’s Dieppe Kite International festival until Aug. 16. You’ll see kites of the acrobatic and fighting varieties, along with flying lessons for children and glow-in-the-dark night flights.
Aug. 13: The flash mob, bring-your-own dinners that started in Paris in 1988 have spread around the world, with a Diner en Blanc taking place this evening at an undisclosed Montreal location. Guests must sign up online to receive updates, and as the event’s name suggests must come tastefully attired in white and bring a table, white chairs, a full picnic basket and china dinner service.
Aug. 14: The Stampede this is not: Until Aug. 16, the inaugural Interstellar Rodeo festival at the Forks in Winnipeg will pair Sinead O’Connor, Dwight Yoakam and Blue Rodeo, among other musical acts, with an array of food vendors and wine tastings.
Aug. 15: From Aug. 7 to 16, the Crankworx Freeride Mountain Bike Festival features races, concerts and other evocations of active alpine life. Today, however, the bike trails around Whistler will fall silent as the Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival commandeers the slopes.
Aug. 16: Some of the first dinosaur finds in Canada were made in the badlands of Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park, and from Aug. 13 to 17 the Fossil Fever event will connect small groups of visitors with a crew of McGill University palaeontologists.
Aug. 17: From now until the end of September, Parks Canada biologists in New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park will train visitors to conduct salmon snorkel surveys in resting pools on the Upper Salmon River.
Aug. 18: Canada is fast becoming a nation of zip liners – it must be something in the syrup – and by this date it’s likely Whistler’s Ziptrek Ecotours will have unveiled the two-kilometre-long “Sasquatch,” the longest zip line in North America.
Aug. 19: Kilts will tilt all summer long at Prince Edward Island’s new Highland Storm Festival, which features Celtic music and dance at the College of Piping in Summerside.
Aug. 20: There’s little indication Shakespeare was a beach lover, but he might have approved of Vancouver’s summer-long Bard on the Beach festival, which today stages The Comedy of Errors in Vanier Park near Kitsilano’s sands.
Aug. 21: Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park, one of the largest dark sky preserves, kicks off its Dark Sky Festival, a four-day series of star-gazing seminars, lectures, hikes and more.
Aug. 22: For the first time in its 52-year history, Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C., is open for the summer. Guided nature hikes begin in early July, with lifts accessing alpine meadows and scenic trails.
Aug. 23: Southern Ontario’s Leamington Tomato Festival seems determined to overcome last year’s departure of Heinz Co. with a parade, antique car show and, of course, the extremely messy “tomato stomp.”
Aug. 24: Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper has turned heads for 75 years now, and added another jaw-dropper last year with the opening of the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk viewpoint.
Aug. 25: Can’t make it to the Holy Land this summer? Go for a float in Saskatchewan’s super-salty Little Manitou Lake, the so-called “Dead Sea of Canada.”
Aug. 26: If René Descartes were around to take part in a half-day “I Dig, Therefore I Clam” chowder-cooking excursion with PEI’s By-The-Sea-Kayaking he might just revise his famous adage.
Aug. 27: The annual two-day powwow at Saskatchewan’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park celebrates the First Nations ceremonies, culture and traditions surrounding this National Historic Site.
Aug. 28: If you’re all zip-lined out, maybe it’s time to try pedalling through the treetops at the VéloVolant in Glen Sutton, Que.
Aug. 29: Turns out you can be a kid again. Starting today, the Canadian Adventure Camp in Ontario’s Temagami region is offering adults-only access to all its diversions, from rope swings to water slides.
Aug. 30: The grand opening of Nova Scotia’s newest golf course, Cabot Cliffs, is slated for 2016. But sneak-preview play is available to resort guests this summer as the fescue grass matures next to its Cabot Links sister track.
Aug. 31: You’ve been bribing the kids with a visit all summer. Now, let them sample the new Typhoon water slide at Canada’s Wonderland north of Toronto for themselves.
Sept. 1: Feeling blue about September’s arrival? Hike to Banff National Park’s Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, 2,100 metres up in the Rockies, for a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade. The surrounding views are sweet.
Sept. 2: Children can play dress-up, 19th-century soldier style, in the Historic Garrison District of Fredericton. Guides in period costume escort their young guests through the Guard House military office, prisoner cell block and restored barracks room, while a drill sergeant teaches parade drills and marches.
Sept. 3: Hike the unexpected in Saskatchewan’s Meadow Lake Provincial Park, where the Boreal Trail covers 120 kilometres of backcountry, encompassing lakes, rivers, meadows and forests of jack pine, spruce, poplar and birch.
Sept. 4: Fan Expo Canada fills the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Sept. 3-6 with one of the largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime and gaming events in North America. You may even reunite with the friends you made at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Underworld LARP in June.
Sept. 5: The Wharf Rat Rally, Canada’s largest multiday motorcycle rally, runs Sept. 2-6 in Digby, N.S. There will be live music, stunt shows, time trials and tattoo competitions.
Sept. 6: Montreal’s Red Bull Soapbox Races, the series’ only Canadian stop, offers a decidedly extreme version of the classic summertime pursuit.