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What to expect in Canada in 2016: a coast to coast look at the year ahead in travel and tourism

The new home of the Edmonton OIlers is taking shape downtown.

The new home of the Edmonton OIlers is taking shape downtown.

From a new centre celebrating Stompin’ Tom Connors (“The Good Old Hockey Game”) to the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto and on to a fab new gallery in Whistler, there’s no shortage of excellent events, happenings and openings across Canada in 2016, our nation’s 149th birthday. Here are some things you might want to catch in the New Year.

ALBERTA Things are booming in Calgary’s East Village, where the new national music centre is set to open next year. It’s a booming area already just east of downtown, with cool restaurants like Charbar. Calgary’s Pigeonhole (http://pigeonholeyyc.ca/#modal) was named the country’s best restaurant recently by En Route magazine, so it’s definitely a time to get thyself to Cowtown. Not to be outdone by its rival to the south, the folks in Edmonton next fall should be celebrating the new Rogers Place arena in time for the start of the Connor McDavid’s, I mean Edmonton Oilers, season. The building is in the bustling Ice Zone district at 104th St. and 104th Avenue. Check out fun area restaurants such as the Mercer Tavern, too. Down in Canmore, they’ll be running the third annual Canmore Uncorked festival, a wine and food party to celebrate one of Canada’s best foodie towns. It runs April 6-17. (http://www.tourismcanmore.com/canmore-uncorked) The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Wembley, Alberta is bringing in new five newly discovered Alberta species never before displayed in full reconstruction. (https://dinomuseum.ca/). In Banff, look for a new hotel in the heart of the action. The Moose Hotel & Suites promises a 4-star property with a spa, two rooftop hot pools and an indoor pool. (http://moosehotelandsuites.com/)

An artists' rendering of the new Au Sommet Place Ville Marie in Montreal.

An artists’ rendering of the new Au Sommet Place Ville Marie in Montreal.


QUEBEC Au Sommet Place Ville Marie is a new observatory in downtown Montreal that’s set to open in February. There will be a “extraordinary” view of the city as wel as gallery space with a “high-tech interactive experience focussing on historical and contemporary Montreal,” as well as rooftop terrace and a bistro. (http://placevillemarie.com/assets/docs/ausommet_pvm_en.pdf) Opening in May will be Memory City (Montreal en histoire) in Old Montreal, with fascinating characters who helped shape the city projected on walls, trees and even the ground. Expect several new hotels, including the 11-storey Marriott Renaissance in January at Robert-Bourassa Blvd. and Cathcart. (http://www.montrealenhistoires.com/) The Mount Stephen Hotel is set to open on Drummond St. near de Maissonneuve Blvd. prior to the city’s wildly popular Formula 1 Grand Prix event. Foodies already are excited by the scheduled fall opening of L’atelier Montreal de Joel Robuchon at the Casino de Montreal.

Annie's Table in Prince Edward Island is to re-open as The Table this year. I'm hoping they keep some of the old decor.

Annie’s Table in Prince Edward Island is to re-open as The Table this year. I’m hoping they keep some of the old decor.


PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND A new Stompin’ Tom Connors tribute attraction is slated to open on Canada Day 2016 in the town of Skinners Pond in western PEI, where the legendary Canadian singer grew up. The old school house he attended is being renovated and opened for tours, as is the family home. They also will have a café and, naturally, an entertainment space for today’s foot stomping musicians to sing their own tunes and pay homage to the man behind such famous tunes as The Good Old Hockey Game and Sudbury Saturday Night. I’ve written before about how much I loved Annie’s Table, a wonderful food place and cooking school in a gorgeous, refurbished church in New London. The former owner, Annie Leroux, has moved on but new owners are set to open it under the name The Table on Victoria Day weekend. It’s a brilliant and beautiful space that I hope remains about the same as it was. The Table will feature “experiential cuisine created with Island foods,” with cooking classes, “hands-on gathering from the garden” and a focus on fresh, local ingredients grown in one of Canada’s most bucolic destinations.

There's no guarantee Team Canada will win hockey gold at the World Cup of Hockey the way they did at the Vancouver Olympics. But it should be a great tourney in Toronto next fall.

There’s no guarantee Team Canada will win hockey gold at the World Cup of Hockey the way they did at the Vancouver Olympics. But it should be a great tourney in Toronto next fall.


ONTARIO The focus will be on sports in the province’s capital, as Toronto will host (wait for it) the NBA All-Star Game, the World Cup of Hockey and the Grey Cup, not to mention this coming season being the 40th for the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2016 NBA All-Star Game, no doubt with at least one or two Toronto Raptors in the lineup, will be played at the Air Canada Centre Feb. 14. It’s the first time the All-Star Game, which celebrates the top players in a sport invented by a Canadian, will be held outside the U.S. http://www.nba.com/raptors/allstar2016-old. The World Cup of Hockey runs Sept. 17-Oct. 1, exclusively at the Air Canada Centre, with players from Team Canada and seven other squads. The 104th Grey Cup will be played Nov. 27 at the newly expanded (and outdoor) BMO Field, which should provide a lot more atmosphere than the subdued versions played in the cavernous Rogers Centre, aka Skydome, aka The Football Building That Sounds Like A Funeral Parlour. http://www.nhl.com/ice/eventhome.htm?location=/worldcup/2016 On a different note, the 2016 Pride Toronto Festival will host its first-ever “Pride Month” in Canada in June of next year. Hotel X Toronto is slated to open at the city’s booming Exhibition Place next year, with 404 rooms and rooftop lounges. (http://www.pridetoronto.com/).

The CN Tower in Toronto celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2016.

The CN Tower in Toronto celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2016.


And the CN Tower will be celebrating its 40th anniversary June 26th. (http://www.cntower.ca/intro.html). Ottawa is gearing up for a big year in 2017, which will mark Canada’s 150th birthday. In the meantime, the city is moving up in the restaurant and urban scene rankings with more and more praise being heaped on the nation’s capital. Canada’s first Andaz Hotel, a trendy brand operated by the Hyatt Hotels people, will open in Ottawa this year. And, hey, you can now buy beer in some Ontario grocery stores!

NEW BRUNSWICK Look for tons of great festivals in 2016. The Dine Around Freddy fest is great for restaurant discounts in Fredericton and is held next year from Jan. 21 to Feb. 6. http://www.tourismfredericton.ca/en/thingstodo/FROSTivalDineAroundFreddy.asp
Prefer something lower-key (and more fattening?). Try the Fredericton Poutine Festival, slated for April 6.

MANITOBA Winnipeg is spending $2 billion on convention infrastructure and attractions, including a $180 million expansion of the RBC Convention Centre that will double its size. Winnipeg has been riding high of late, with the successful and beautiful Museum for Human Rights, a super-fun polar bear conservation centre in one of the nation’s prettiest urban parks and the return of the Winnipeg Jets, not to mention other projects. The McPhillips Station Casino in Winnipeg supposed to begin a $45 million redevelopment next spring.

Woody Point and Gros Morne National Park are a lovely part of Newfoundland.

Woody Point and Gros Morne National Park are a lovely part of Newfoundland.


NEWFOUNDLAND I was lucky enough to catch part of the Writers at Woody Point Festival in western Newfoundland last summer. It was sensational, with authors such as Margaret Atwood as well as host Ron Maclean and superb local musicians. It’s also one of the most beautiful areas of Canada, inside Gros Morne National Park. The 2016 version goes Aug. 16-21. http://www.writersatwoodypoint.com/ I haven’t seen the dates yet, but the Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues Festival in St. John’s has grown by leaps and bounds and is a top-notch musical event. This year’s was held in September. http://wreckhousejazzandblues.com/

The coming year marks the 50th anniversary of Whistler-Blackcomb. They've already had 12 feet of snow this season.

The coming year marks the 50th anniversary of Whistler-Blackcomb. They’ve already had 12 feet of snow this season.


BRITISH COLUMBIA It’s the 50th anniversary for a small ski operation you might have heard of, called Whistler-Blackcomb (http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/). There should be lots of festivities and plenty of happy smiles this year as early snowfall has been plentiful. Not content to rely on snow to make its mark, Whistler also is home to the new Audain Art Museum, slated to open early next year with 56,000 square feet of space displaying selected works from Vancouver home builder Michael Audain and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa.
http://www.audainartmuseum.com/. The man himself likely will be busy on the political front, but the Trump Hotel is set to open sometime this year in Vancouver. Over in lovely Kelowna, the successful Hotel Zed Brand is set to open in the downtown area.

Kayaking the S. Saskatchewan River is a great way to see downtown Saskatoon.

Kayaking the S. Saskatchewan River is a great way to see downtown Saskatoon.


SASKATCHEWAN A new Marriott is supposed to open this year on Preston Avenue as Saskatoon continues to expand its hotel offerings. It’s a wonderful city, with great restaurants such as Ayden Kitchen and Bar and fun cultural offerings such as Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. The annual Regina Folk Festival is always a hit. The 2016 version runs Aug. 5-7. http://reginafolkfestival.com/

The new Cabot Cliffs course in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is one of the top layouts in North America.

The new Cabot Cliffs course in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is one of the top layouts in North America.

NOVA SCOTIA There was limited play last year at Cabot Cliffs https://www.cabotlinks.com/golf/cabot-cliffs/), the drop dead gorgeous 18-hole layout in Cape Breton and sister course to the renowned Cabot Links course. Look for a full opening sometime in June if things go to plan. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but I had a tour of it as it was being built and was blown away by the finishing holes along the water high above the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

DESTINATION OF THE WEEK

New York City is wonderful in winter, with skating at Rockefeller Center and snow (well, sometime soon) covering the trees in Central Park. Check the website nycgo.com for great activities. Also check out the new Unlock New York section, with suggestions on all sorts of great things to do, places to eat, and much more.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Hard to believe, but baseball spring training starts in about two months. To celebrate the looming return of the crack of the bat and the smell of hot dogs, Sheraton Hotels is offering special rates (and breakfast) at some hotels in Florida and Arizona. (http://americas.starwoodoffers.com/springtraining%20?EM=SGC_SI_1317_954_1021_14444172_14444173_AHBB_PRIM_SPRNGTRNG16_WEST_NAD_EN%20&SWAQ=Z8)

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