There’s no doubt about it. When it comes to culture, Canada has given the world more than its fair share of notable writers and musicians. Immerse yourself in the cities and regions that so deeply influenced their craft and you might even come away inspired to do a little creating of your own!
Leonard Cohen remains no less a part of the fabric of Montreal since his passing in 2016. A Montrealer through and through, the city heavily influenced his song-writing, and without a doubt, he continues to impact all who dwell there.
Montrealers proudly claim Cohen as their own, and the 11,000 square-foot portrait mural unveiled downtown in November 2017 is a testament to this devotion. Walk the streets of Montreal and follow in Cohen’s footsteps.
Check out the cafés where Cohen was often seen scribbling away in his notebook, and take a stroll along Saint Laurent Boulevard, Montreal’s ‘Main’ that features heavily in his work. Stop for a bite at the Main Deli Steakhouse, said to be Cohen’s favourite, and spend the evening at the Montreal Pool Room, one of Cohen’s popular haunts. If you’re a die-hard fan, you’ll want to wander down Belmont Avenue, stopping for a photo at number 599, the home where Cohen was raised.
Literary giants of the north
Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory is brimming with historic buildings, wooden boardwalks, and Klondike Gold Rush history. It’s also home to more than its fair share of famous authors. Step into the world of literary giants, Jack London (Call of the Wild and White Fang), and poet Robert Service.
Answer the ‘Call of the Wild’ on a walking tour where you’ll unlock the colourful past of these writers and their homes, including the Robert Service Cabin. Visit the Jack London Museum and Interpretive Centre for an insight into the dog that inspired White Fang, and his challenging life during the Gold Rush days.
Pilgrimage to Avonlea
With over 50 million copies of the book sold since 1908, devotees of Anne of Green Gables can’t get enough of the spirited red-head and its unique setting on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, home to author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
The tiniest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island is a vital player in the storyline, every bit as important as Anne’s foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, and her special friends, Gilbert and Diana.
A trip to Prince Edward Island is something of a pilgrimage for Anne fans, as they enter the world that inspired Montgomery to pen this celebrated tale. Discover Avonlea for yourself, and find out just why Anne says, “Isn’t it wonderful that every day can be an adventure?”
Walk through the rooms of the Victorian rooms at Green Gables Heritage Place, explore the ‘haunted woods’ and ‘Balsam Hollow’ described in the book and take a stroll through the barn, granary, and woodshed, restored to the period of the 1800s. Spend the day in Avonlea Village, a real-life recreation of the fictional town of Avonlea, and pick up some souvenirs to take home. Get to know Lucy Maud Montgomery through her personal scrapbooks preserved at her birthplace.
When night falls, head into Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre of the Arts and grab your tickets to Anne of Green Gables – The Musical, the longest running musical in the world. This popular show has been running for 52 successive seasons and is set to continue just as long as there are Anne fans to enjoy it.
Made in Toronto
There’s something in the air in Toronto. Its global reputation as a hotspot for the arts may be attributed not only to the Toronto International Film Festival, but also to the likes of revered songwriters Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, as well as critically acclaimed author, Margaret Atwood. All three honed their craft in Canada’s biggest, most diverse city, soaking up the urban culture and using it to arouse their muse.
Joni Mitchell, originally from Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, was a regular busker on the streets of Toronto, where she honed her craft and built her legion of fans. Neil Young also regularly performed in Toronto, where he was born. Margaret Atwood, prolific novelist and poet, developed her talents at Toronto University and went on to write several celebrated works, including The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, as well as more than 15 books of poetry.
Toronto is a thriving hub of multicultural performance and art. It hosts major music and dance festivals throughout the year and is teeming with creative folk ready to share their craft. For outdoor tunes, take in a free jazz concert in St. James Park or head to Toronto Music Garden for the Summer Music in the Garden Series from June to September. Lovers of Indie music won’t want to miss Indie Fridays at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Those with their finger on the pulse hang out at The Drake Hotel, a dynamic music venue, complete with art exhibitions and live performances, where you’re bound to meet like-minded souls.
Soak up the country and western spirit of Alberta and walk in the footsteps of acclaimed vocalist, KD Lang. Lang formed her very first band in the city of Edmonton, and the country and western spirit of Alberta was expressed through her music, propelling her to global fame.
Immerse yourself in Alberta’s farming heritage and get to know its salt-of-the-earth locals. Take a road trip to Southern Alberta and learn about the Native Americans who were the provinces very first farmers. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a show ‘n’ tell experience where you’ll be given the same element of surprise as the bison experienced so many times in the past as they were herded off the edge of the cliff. It might sound cruel, but it meant there was food, clothing, tools, and shelter for the long cold winter for the Native Americans. Some six thousand years later, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo is one of the oldest and best-preserved communal buffalo hunting sites in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For a modern-day celebration of all things country and western, you can’t beat the Calgary Stampede. ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’ is 10 days of unforgettable fun each July and it’s all for a good cause. This not-for-profit community organisation promotes western heritage and values and raises money for youth and agriculture programs in Calgary and southern Alberta. Being part of the crowd sitting ring-side to watch rodeo’s toughest stock go head-to-head should be on everyone’s bucket list.