On July 1st, our friendly neighbors to the north will celebrate their country’s 150th birthday—fun fact: it’s called a sesquicentennial—and a milestone this big deserves something special. So one-upping every 20-something year old, they’re going beyond a birthday weekend or even a birthday month and opting for a birthday year. That’s one good reason to plan a trip there this summer. 

Here are a couple of our favorite places to hoist a Molson.

By Jes Ware
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MONTREAL

While the the country is partying over its big one-five-oh, Montreal is celebrating its 375th anniversary (the bash actually started in December so it would last 375 days). More than 175 concerts, exhibits and carnivals are planned, but even without counting the birthday festivities, Montreal has a ton going on. The 50th Formula 1 Grand Prix will be held in June; August will see Federer and Nadal play for the Rogers Cup. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our favorite part about Montreal: Food. Our CEO Paul Tumpowsky recommends Joe Beef,  the meat-tastic Gallic brasserie, but warns that its greatness will be lost on you if you’re just looking for a light snack. Where to stay? the lavishly renovated Ritz-Carlton Montréal. Remember to ask about the booklet with $275 worth of passes for the birthday festivities.

More Montreal favorites:

  • Be sure to check out the city’s hundreds of indie music venues—from Club Soda to Métropolis—as well as ice-rink turned concert arena, Centre Bell where Bob Dylan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other big acts drop in.
  • For restaurants, the lobster poutine at Garde Manger is a must. If you’re the type who thinks poutine is strictly for building personal winter insulation, go for the market cuisine and shared plates at Provisions. For lunch, Olive and Gourmando is charming, rustic and fit for foodies.
  • Whether or not you stay at the Ritz-Carlton, make sure to reserve a table for the sleek, top-notch Maison Boulud there.


Vancouver from the air
Photo by Vancouver Tourism

VANCOUVER

On the other side of the country, Vancouver is hosting “Canada 150+”—the plus sign acknowledging the native populations’ lengthy, pre–European presence on the land. The city has set up light shows in the parks and epic sightseeing tours up the coast, but it’s a worth a visit just to explore Vancouver’s fusion of hip urban scene and majestic wilderness. Exploring the food scene alone can take up a whole weekend, bouncing from pan roasted scallops with foraged mushrooms, pumpkin and caramelized yogurt at Hawksworth to the handmade Gemelli with slow cooked veal at Osteria Savio Volpe to Mensch Jewish Delicatessen, the best place to get pastrami. The Fairmont Pacific Rim, right on the waterfront, is an ideal basecamp, smack in the middle of the celebrations and overlooking both the harbor and the mountains. 


More Vancouver favorites:

  • Explore the Gastown neighborhood, which is crawling with cocktail bars and restaurants like Meat and Bread or Pourhouse.
  • The birthplace of Lululemon, Herschel and Arc’teryx, Vancouver also has a youthful and energetic shopping scene. Native Shoes makes a non-terrible version of Crocs and Aritzia has become to go-to for all things trendy.
  • Fraserhood is Williamsburg to Gastown’s Soho. The long-standing Vietnamese neighborhood still has traditional pho shops, but it’s also home to cutting-edge restaurants and bars like Crowbar and Nammos Estiatorio.
  • Call us crazy, but we’re looking forward to seeing Canada’s crooning spaceship commander, Colonel Chris Hadfield—otherwise known as the guy who sang Space Oddity while on board the International Space Station. He's on a whole different kind of tour this summer.
Wickaninnish Inn

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Parks Canada is offering free 2017 Discovery Passes all year—meaning national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites across the country are free of charge. For a country that is more than 80% wilderness, that’s a lot to explore. One of the most scenic spots is Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, home to the luxurious Wickaninnish Inn. The Relais & Châteaux hotel is known for its exceptional cuisine and its setting on a peaceful beach, surrounded by ancient temperate rainforests and surf-friendly waves. It’s paradise for hikers, kayakers and whale watchers. And don’t worry about the weather: this stretch of the Pacific Coast is known for storm-watching. So when the ocean and sky start looking angry, snuggle into your fireplace-warmed suite, take a sip of local wine and watch the 20-foot waves break on shore.

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TORONTO

Toronto is celebrated for its film festival (every September) but its 150th birthday calendar is just as exciting—and overflowing with events. Want to “cut a rug”? Everyone’s invited to dress up like it’s the 1940s at a festival celebrating Canada’s hearty sense of humor during the war years. Or on June 24th, don your steampunk finest at a festival showcasing Canada’s inventions during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Of course, Toronto has events and festivals that are not costume-required as well. There's the Toronto Festival of Beer July 28-30, TIFF Lightbox—the venue used for the film festival—is hosting Canada on Screen 2017, a free, year-long program highlighting the best in Canadian cinema. Canada Days (June 30–July 3) promises to be a citywide celebration with multiple stages for live music (no word yet on whether Arcade Fire or Justin Bieber are performing). Where to stay during all the festivities? We suggest the Park Hyatt Toronto Yorkville, across the street from the Royal Ontario museum and within walking distance of incredible Italian fare at the 1920s-inspired Carisma or simple eats and gorgeous views from the 54th floor of the TD Center at Canoe.



SPEAK CANADIAN

If you want to blend in, here are some essentials:

  •  Toque: A winter hat
  •  Double double: A Tim Horton coffee with two milks and two sugars
  •  Rink rat: A skating fanatic who spends too much time on the ice.
  •  Zed: Canadians’ way of saying the letter “z” … “ I loved reading World War Zed”

Skip "aboot" and "eh?" — if you're not Canadian, they just never come out right.