This is a big year for Canada. Our country is celebrating its sesquicentennial, turning 150 years young in July. Countless year-round celebrations are scheduled in Canadian cities and towns of all sizes from coast to coast—for local and international travellers, this couldn’t be better news.

While Canada is already a bucket list-destination in its own right, the country-wide celebrations for Canada 150 are undoubtedly the reason the likes of the New York Times and Lonely Planet have named Canada the number one country to visit in 2017. It’s the perfect excuse for visitors young and old to set out and discover what the country has to offer the world.

Canada 150: A quick history lesson

We all know Ottawa as the capital and political heart of Canada (for this reason, it’s also the place you want to go for Canada 150). But not many people outside of the country know that Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island was actually the birthplace of the nation.

There the confederation of Canada’s four original provinces—Ontario and Quebec (which together were known as the Province of Canada), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—took place 150 years ago on July 1, 1867. This event marked the transition away from direct British rule and towards national autonomy.

Canada confederation stamp
A vintage commemorative stamp celebrating Canada’s Confederation in 1867.

Now the second largest country in the world, Canada has come a long way since its days as the Dominion of Canada. With nearly 36 million residents, there are millions more who travel here each year, with the numbers only expected to grow over time.

How Canadians & visitors plan to celebrate Canada 150

Canada as we know it today is a place interconnected by travel. Its unique identity is shaped by the country’s diverse mix of people, arts and culture, history and heritage, and of course, geography. This year’s anniversary makes it the opportune time for us Canadians to exercise a bit of national pride by welcoming curious travellers to our home, as well as exploring and experiencing Canada for ourselves in ways we’ve never done before.

Tip: It’s a good time as any for our neighbours in the US (and visitors from other countries too) to take advantage of the low Canadian dollar, which is expected to maintain its current trend for the rest of the year.

Nationwide celebrations

To commemorate this milestone in Canadian history, the federal government has budgeted under half a billion dollars of funding for Canada 150. While these celebrations culminate on Canada Day, July 1st, there are also ongoing initiatives that involve both residents and visitors to Canada:

hiker at a Canadian national park
Ask any traveller about Canada and chances are, they’ll say something about its endless natural beauty.
  • Parks Canada is giving away an unlimited number of Discovery Passes to the public. This grants local and travelling visitors free admission to national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas throughout Canada all year round.
  • Travel companies like Air Canada and VIA Rail have grouped popular Canadian destinations together into vacation packages. Air Canada Vacations’ Go Canada collection includes guided tours, wildlife adventures, golf vacations, and rail or cruise vacations, while VIA Rail has introduced The Pan Canadian route and guided tour.
  • Canada Rocks 150 is a summer concert event that aims to set a Guinness World Record by inviting 1,500 Canadian musicians together on stage for a single performance. Canada is also home to many other music festivals—if you’re planning to visit the Yukon, our wild northern playground, don’t miss the Dawson City Music Festival to experience some Canadian folk and indie music.
  • The Canada 150 Mosaic is a community-immersive art project where murals across all provinces and territories are created and ultimately tie together to tell an even bigger story about Canada.
  • National Canadian Film Day 150 is a one-day-only event taking place on April 19, where more than 600 theatres and public venues in over 200 communities across Canada will show 150 films that showcase Canadian cinema. For film and Netflix fans, see how you can plan a trip to Hollywood North and visit some iconic film and TV series locations across Canada.

Tip: Use hashtags like #canada150 and #ottawa2017 on social media to keep up with and contribute to events. There’s even an official mobile app called Passport 2017 that keeps users up-to-date on all things Canada 150, wherever in the world you may be!

Celebrations at the nation’s capital: Canada 150 events in Ottawa

Some Canadians might argue that Ottawa has earned its reputation as ‘the boring Canadian city’ whenever mentioned alongside Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, or even Calgary. But this year will prove to be a little different: though each of the metropolitan areas might have their own agenda, Ottawa will unquestionably be the locus of the nation’s Canada 150 festivities.

Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa
Canadians and visitors gather early for Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa

With an estimated 1.75 million visiting Canada’s capital this year, you can be sure that the city has plenty of surprises planned for visitors and locals alike. And just across the river from the heart of Ottawa is the city of Gatineau, Quebec, which is also hosting its own lineup of events to add to all the fun:

  • Ignite 150 is a series of secret, impromptu performances held throughout Ottawa, the details of which are revealed to the public only days before via social media.
  • 2017 marks the 125th Anniversary of the Stanley Cup and the centennial year of the NHL, so it’s only fitting that the coveted trophy makes its way back home. From March 15-18 you can take photos with the Cup, meet and greet hockey legends, and watch as a commemorative monument is unveiled.
  • The 2017 Juno Awards will be a night to celebrate today’s best in Canadian music. All the big names in the industry will be under one roof on April 2.
  • As its name suggests, Sugar Lumberfest on April 8 will give foodies a chance to sample some gourmet, non-traditional Canadian fare with a lumberjack twist—and you can be sure there’ll be plenty of maple syrup to go around!
  • Festibière de Gatineau is the annual craft beer festival running from June 8-10. Visitors can sample over 300 unique beers from more than 30 Canadian vendors.
  • Kontinuum is billed as the ‘ultimate underground experience’. From the end of June to mid-September, this futuristic multimedia project will give visitors a one-of-a-kind immersive experience under the city where Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) is scheduled to open in 2018.
  • MosaïCanada 150 reflects on 150 years of Canadian history by showcasing this impressive, popular horticultural technique; the outdoor exhibit is open from June 30-October 15.
  • The new Canadian History Hall at the Canadian Museum of History opens its doors to the public on July 1. With over 40,000 sq ft of exhibition space spanning three galleries and thousands of artifacts, Canada’s rich 150-year history will be on display in one place.
  • For the first time in North America, the famed French theatre group La Machine will bring its larger-than-life automated creatures across the sea to the streets of Ottawa on July 27-30.

For many, many more Canada 150 events in the region, visit Ottawa2017 and Gatineau2017!

Travel insurance for Canadians & Visitors to Canada

Whether you plan on making use of the free Discovery Pass to explore the natural beauty of Canadian landscapes or celebrating Canada 150 among the excitement of city crowds, there’s a need to have a sense of travel security and peace of mind. For Canadians travelling out-of-province and visitors to Canada, emergency medical coverage is a must to ensure proper medical care in case anything goes awry during the trip.

This year, people are partaking in Canada 150 in their own ways—big or small, near or far, online or offline. How do you plan to celebrate Canada’s anniversary? Share some of your ideas in the comments below or on Twitter @TuGoInsurance!

Happy travels and bienvenue au Canada,

Justin