Charlottetown: vibrant and charming

Charlottetown is undoubtedly one of Canada’s most charming cities. It’s a conucopia of grand brick building, shingled cottages with quaint shutters and large old home presiding over streets lined with oak, maple and elm trees.

It’s also a community of businesses, residents and tourists sharing a spectacular view of a harbour bustling with commercial shipping and pleasure craft.

Charlottetown, with 39,000 residents, is also home to one of Canada’s most vibrant artistic communities. Many make their living from music, poetry, storytelling and theatre, as well as visual arts and crafts.

You may know of Charlottetown as the birthplace of Canada. Politicians first got together here in 1864 to discuss the founding of the Canadian nation. Incorporated in 1855, it’s a place where heritage churches still outnumber the city’s numerous restaurants and modern nightclubs.

Province HouseProvince House
Whenever out-of-town guests stop by, I take them to the spot where our founding fathers made their plans-Parks Canada’Province House National Historic Site. While there, we usually encounter the Confederation Players, dressed in the frock coats, top hats and crinolines of the mid-Victorian period. There living history interpreters provide instant contact with the Island’s early history.

Throughout the summer, they meet, greet and entertain visitors, make toasts and speeches, and pause for photographs as they conduct walking tours through the heritage districts of the city.

Confederation Centre
Just next door is the award-winning Confederation Centre of the Arts. Its art gallery and museum feature exhibitions of Canadian art and artifacts year-round, including the work of artists Robert Harris and writer Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Along with visual art, visitors to the center are introduced to what is affectionately termed ‘the Island way of life’ through musical productions of Anne of Green Gables, inspired by the novels of L.M. Montgomery.

Blue Line walk
One of my favourite pastimes is walking along the boardwalk, or, as it is known by the locals, ‘the Blue Line’ because of the pastel-blue spray paint marking the way. Along the water side of the boardwalk, there are always warm salt breezes and beautiful scenery. On the land side, Victoria Park and its treed recreational area with outdoor ball fields, playgrounds, tennis courts and trails, delight the senses.

Beaconsfield HouseAfter a short jaunt through Old Charlottetown and sites such as the P.E.I. Museum’s newly-renovated Beaconsfield Historic House, the Blue Line will take you to the popular Charlottetown Yacht Club, a particularly good place to visit in the summer.

Travel a litte further along the boardwalk to Peake’s Quay and Waterfront Landing and you’ll find some truly unique shopping and dining experiences. This is the location of the fun P.E.I. Dirt Shirt Store (the clothing is dyed with the famous red dirt of the province.)

Events 2003
If you’re visiting this year, plan your stay to coincide with the numerous festivals and events taking place:

  • May 23 – 25, 2003 Irish Festival, 178th Anniversary: music sessions, dance ceilis, dance and music workshops and a concert.
  • Anne of Green Gables – The Musical ™ returns to The Charlottetown Festival’s Mainstage for its 39th year
  • June 28 – July 1, 2003 Festival of Lights, Charlottetown Waterfront
  • June 30 – Sept. 1, 2003 (Mondays) From the Parlour – PEI Party Concert Series: Island songs, stories, fiddling and dance.
  • July 2 – Aug. 31, 2002 Celtic Festival: piping, drumming, Highland dancing, step dancing, fiddling, singing, and storytelling. 
  • July 10 – 20, 2003 Summerside Lobster Carnival
  • Aug. 8 – 16, 2003 Old Home Week: light and heavy horses, home arts and crafts, and Christmas tree competitions
  • Aug. 30 – 31, 2003 Festival of the Fathers: Victorian Promenade, historic military displays, Pub and Brewery Tour, heritage walking tours and old-time family fun.

Good eats
Open year-round is the Atlantic Canadian Hospitality Institute and its Culinary Institute of Canada. This is a training facility for the nation’s up-and-coming food wizards. They have two dining areas– a spacious cafeteria and the full-service Lucy Maud Montgomery Dining Room. Both overlook the harbour.

A retail outlet offers freshly-baked bread and the latest in kitchen utensils for sale.

Among the many restaurants serving seafood, try the MacKinnon’s Lobster-on-the-Wharf seafood market on the Prince Street Wharf for a ‘feed of lobster’.

Vegetarians may like to sample the menu at Beanz Café, especially the homemade veggie burgers, soups and desserts.

The farmer’s market on Belvedere Avenue offers fresh produce, crafts, home-baking and the best mouth-watering East Indian food on the Island. For the best Lebanese food, try Cedar’s Eatery/ Baba’s. For the best French-fried P.E.I. potatoes, it’s George’s Grill and Takeout, both on University Avenue.

Photos © John Sylvester/Tourism PEI