Whether it was Big for you or not, you need to start planning for next summer — Canada’s 150th — right now. Because waiting till next June to plan your July 1st will attach a lifetime of bad memories to the word “staycation.”
So here are 10 ways to make next summer as big, memorable and different as possible. They all acknowledge that our huge nation with its tiny population density will be swarming with visitors, including millions of Canadians.
1. Go where others don’t. Canada has 47 National Parks. Yet the big ones like Banff and Jasper are already groaning from too many visitors. Banff alone had 10 per cent more people this year past and the most since 2000. Think what it will be next summer. Instead, why not head to Gros Morne in Newfoundland whose fjords are every bit as beautiful as Norway’s. Or Georgian Bay Islands National Park, just a two-hour drive from Toronto and eerily like a Tom Thomson painting.
2. Invite the relatives (Part 1). Multi-generational travel is all the rage, with granddad happily picking up the tab. But pick a place (Canada has thousands of mountaintops and seaside coves) everyone can enjoy and whose backdrops will turn group shots into family heirlooms.
3. Invite the relatives (Part 2). What better excuse to re-connect with family members you’ve avoided for years than by inviting them to a Sesquicentennial Reunion. That way, you win points for reaching out, and you don’t have to talk to them for another 50 years at least — 2065, when we celebrate our bi-centennial.
4. Invite the Relatives (Part 3). Millions of us come from outside Canada. In fact, the majority of Torontonians were born outside the country. So rather than heading back to Italy, Jamaica, Scotland, Philippines or Russia to see your cousins, invite them to come here next year. Only your Russian relatives won’t be impressed by all our open space.
5. Support our indigenous people. Ninety per cent of our land mass is in what’s called “The North.” So why not head there — to Churchill, Manitoba to mingle with the polar bears; or hike Yukon’s Chilcoot Trail, the outdoor museum about the Gold Rush of 1898; or camp out in the newly-created Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador.
6. Invite our newest people. Canada just took in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Why not reach out to them — and to all our other new immigrants — and make them part of our first 150 years too? After all, millions of us are either immigrants or our forebears were. Indeed, we’re not only a nation of immigrants, we’re Canadian because of our diversity.
7. Do something you’d only do once every 150 years. If you’re a foodie, visit every one of Canada’s Top 10 restaurants. If you’re a winey, visit Canada’s growing number of wine-producing regions. Or, now that global warming has made it possible to sail from west to east through the NorthWest Passage, why not do that before everyone does?
8. Create 150th anniversary traditions you can repeat every year. I know a family whose four members each plan to learn a new skill next year — from playing the saxophone, to doing fine woodwork, to writing a family history, to running a marathon. Then, starting in 2018 — our 151st anniversary — they’ll take four short breaks to immerse themselves into each of their brood’s newly-learned skills.
9. Take a road trip. We have 1,042 million kilometres of roads, thousands of tiny towns, huge mountains, vast prairies and infinite shorelines. What better way to bond with the family than bundling them all into the car and setting off on a road less traveled. And don’t worry if you get lost. That’s precisely the point. As they say: “Adventure is not in the guidebook and beauty is not on the map.”
10. Overspend. What’s an anniversary but a pre-approved excuse to spend more than you’ve budgeted? So if you’ve dreamed of helihiking in the Rockies at $1,000 a day or bunking in at Newfoundland’s Fogo island Inn at $1,675 a night, now’s the time to act with deliberate unreason. But start saving now for your iconic Canadian experiences — and start planning for them now, too.
Because next summer comes around only every 150 years. Time for all of us to come around now to make it our best birthday ever.