A CITY FOR ALL SEASONS
The birthplace of Canadian Confederation has blossomed into a year-round favourite.
The secret to visiting Charlottetown is picking your travel dates to sync with one of the city’s many events. I visited in September—a busier month. Aside from festivals, I enjoyed getting lost in Charlottetown’s historical charm: walking its famed Victoria Row while browsing eclectic art galleries and funky shops, sipping delicious espresso on a café patio, and snapping a photo of St. Dunstan’s Basilica. In the afternoon, I took in a Canadian history lesson at the Confederation Centre of the Arts before strolling through Victoria Park. The picturesque waterfront boardwalk and the many water tours from Charlottetown Harbour, which include lobster fishing, Chinese Junk Boat Tour, kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing, were delightful.
After a whirlwind day of sightseeing, I participated in the kid-friendly scavenger hunt for bronze mice before our 7 p.m. dinner reservation at Hopyard. Why not? While I didn’t excel as quickly as my younger companions, it was a good laugh and a great way to uncover Charlottetown’s historical landmarks and local literary artists.
During the long winter months, the bustling Victorian Christmas Weekend in November and Jack Frost Winterfest in February are must-attends for all ages. Winterdine is a wonderful way to enjoy Charlottetown’s
scrumptious restaurant scene, which includes two vegan restaurants and a smattering of vegetarian options. You can work off your dinner all winter long with Snowshoes in the City, an initiative that offers free snowshoes at participating accommodation properties. There are also a number of trails along which you can escape into the winter quietude if you so desire.
Musically, Charlottetown is busy throughout the year. Whether it’s an Irish ceilidh, jazz or an upcoming singer-songwriter, live music is easily found in one of the city’s many bars and venues. For art and music lovers, The Guild features live theatre and musical performances, along with stunning art exhibitions. Allow extra time to take in the art before your show. We loved the charming Anne of Green Gables: The Musical at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, which also doubles as a national gallery.
Charlottetown comes alive during the summer months with numerous festivals. The provincial event calendar provides a quick overview of which productions are running in Charlottetown and across the province.
The Charlottetown Festival features a special show on the main stage every year, or you can take in something new at The Mack, sister venue to the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Surprisingly, the PEI Brewing Co. is another theatre venue.
If art is more your thing, Art in the Open in late August is a superb venue. For one day and night, historic downtown Charlottetown is transformed into an interactive public art gallery, where people of all ages are encouraged to take part in art installations, art crafting projects, theatrical pop-ups and creative parades. It sprawls into the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Victoria Park and neighbouring squares.
The Diversecity Multicultural Festival celebrates music, dance, food and cultural talents of over 50 new and established PEI communities throughout the province, including downtown Charlottetown. It features a number of children’s activities, as does Old Home Week, an agricultural festival in August with live harness racing, an Island tradition.
During autumn, PEI’S Fall Flavours Festival, a month-long culinary event across the province, is a must. It features acclaimed guest chefs who host mouthwatering experiences that celebrate PEI’S unique food traditions, alongside many talented graduates from PEI’S Culinary Institute of Canada who are dedicated farmto-table cooking leaders. Mid-september we enjoyed championship-winning Caesars and chowder all to the backdrop of Maritime fiddling and step dancing at the PEI International Shellfish Festival. From oyster-shucking competitions to culinary demonstrations hosted by award-winning chefs, this four-day festival has numerous events, including intimate cookbook signings and meet and greets with Food Network celebrities.
Veg It Up!, PEI’S newest food festival, is a celebration of vegan food that will convert the most cynical carnivore. The PEI Beer Festival is another highlight, showcasing a selection of tasty craft brews. And Burger Love and Farm Day in the City highlight Charlottetown’s strong connection to rural PEI.
If you can’t make these, be sure to attend one of the city’s exquisite farmers’ markets featuring locally grown foods and artisan products. We were fortunate enough to stumble across one on Saturday morning— a perfect source for our picnic lunch later that day.
Whether it’s a family vacation, a solo mission or a romantic getaway, Charlottetown offers many surprises for the seasoned traveller. It’s easily a favourite Canadian city to visit at any time of year.
ABOVE: Kayaking through Charlottetown Harbour is a popular warm-weather activity. OPPOSITE TOP: Fresh seafood and outdoor patios make for the perfect Island culinary experience in Charlottetown. OPPOSITE CENTRE: Fall is an especially colourful time of the year to visit Charlottetown and take part in festivals. Discover Charlottetown