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Canada Day Bashes

Join all of Toronto in celebrating Canada’s 143rd birthday! The city is bursting with memorable parties, activities and festivals to commemorate the special occasion.

photo by Ian Muttoo

There’s no such thing as too many birthday parties!
>> Sing “Happy Birthday” to this country on Canada Day at Mel Lastman Square. The North Toronto venue offers magicians, fire-breathers, jugglers and musical entertainment, including performances by Digging Roots and God Made Me Funky. There’s also an opportunity to meet 2010 Olympic gold medallists Vicky Sunohara (from Canada’s women’s hockey team), Kristina Groves (long-track speed skating), and Charles and François Hamelin (short-track speed skating). Fill up on barbecue fare before the evening culminates with an explosion of fireworks.

>> A fun-filled day by the lake awaits as part of Harbourfront Centre’s Canada Day festivities. International food, musicians and fun kids’ activities top the list of things to do. View award-winning Canadian short films courtesy of the National Film Board, or say hello to Olympic gold-medal-winning speed skater Christine Nesbitt. Cool off in the afternoon with a canoe ride before settling in for evening concerts by Cheryl L’Hirondelle (6:30 p.m.) and The Sadies (9:30 p.m.).

>> Bring the whole family to Ontario Place to splash in the waterpark, enjoy the Wilderness Adventure Ride and bask in the Canadian spirit. Live performances by First Nations dance troupes are offered during the day, while the much-anticipated Festival of Fire lights up Lake Ontario with a huge fireworks show.

>> Black Creek Pioneer Village presents a Canada Day Celebration in line with its historical mandate. Tour the heritage site in a horse-drawn wagon and look on as 30 people officially become Canadian citizens. Friendly animals keep you company while you partake in pioneer-era activities like croquet and stilt-walking.

>> Gather at downtown’s Yonge-Dundas Square for a multicultural Canada Day event that honours the traditions of Toronto’s ethnically diverse population. Experience an array of international arts, crafts, food and dance, including a performance from Montreal’s Les Éclusiers de Lachine.

>> The theatrical Canadian Stage TD Dream in High Park offers an all-ages carnival-themed party with games and music, plus pizza, cake and cotton candy. Meet this year’s Dream cast and crew and snag a backstage tour before taking in a free evening performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the open-air High Park Amphitheatre.

>> Free Canada Day events are also offered at several other Toronto parks. Groove to live tunes at Queen’s Park (site of the Ontario Legislature), or revel in carnival games, sports, street performances and a fire truck ride. Northwest of downtown, Downsview Park’s bounty includes free amusement rides, a petting zoo, acrobatic performances, concerts, a citizenship and immigration ceremony, and, of course, fireworks. And at East York Park you can peruse a street sale, embark on a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey tour, and indulge in great food and fireworks, too.

>> Take a trip to Mississauga, Toronto’s westerly neighbour—the city’s Canada Day treat of free public transportation makes it an easily accessible destination. Hit the 330-plus stores at Square One, or stop by next door at the City Centre for a Canada Day celebration with such performers as Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila, plus fireworks to commemorate the occasion.

And the fun doesn’t stop there!
>> The 44th annual CHIN International Picnic, the world’s largest free picnic and music festival, is a Canada Day-weekend staple. The festivities at Exhibition Place kick off with a flag-raising ceremony, followed by musical performances by Chinese singer/actor Gallen Lo Ka-leung and South Asian sensations Ghulam Ali and Jazzy B. As dusk falls, picnickers can view the Ontario Place Festival of Fire.

>> Lords and ladies are welcome to attend Casa Loma’s Renaissance Festival. Take a trip back to medieval times:  warhorses parade in the stables, warriors patrol a Viking encampment, and minstrels stroll by as you explore the castle. Don’t be surprised to see soldiers burst into spontaneous duels!

>> Head to Lake Ontario and climb aboard one of the visiting Tall Ships during the Redpath Waterfront Festival, or stroll over to the nearby Power Plant contemporary art gallery to view its summer exhibition and browse an afternoon book sale.

>> Art buffs can also go further afield—to the picturesque town of Kleinburg, 45 minutes northwest of downtown Toronto—to take advantage of two-for-one Canada Day admission at the renowned McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

>> Dig into some meaty goodness at the massive Toronto Ribfest at Centennial Park. Here, more than 70 vendors offer some of the best ribs in North America, plus other such fare as pizza and corn on the cob.

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