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Summer Festivals and Historic Places across Canada

Whether you're a fan of the rodeo or a foot-stomping music lover, you've got your pick of festivals and events this summer! And while you're taking in the sights and sounds of your favourite festival, stop by historic places on the way.

In July, Calgarians and rodeo lovers from all over North America gather for a week of cowboy fun at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta. The event takes place at the stampede grounds in downtown Calgary beside the Elbow River. Although the grounds aren't themselves historic places yet, Calgary is full of rich and wonderful historic places.

A short walk from the stampede grounds will take you to Calgary City Hall National Historic Site of Canada, a sandstone building dating from 1911, 17 years after the city's incorporation. The building's Romanesque Revival style is only part of its historical significance.  It has also housed the police and other municipal offices. Just a short walk away is a lovely space to take a stroll: Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada. The pedestrian space is lined with shops and gives tourists and Calgarians a glimpse of the city's growth before the Depression.

If after a day of rodeos, pancakes and parades you're too tired to continue enjoying the festivities check out this historic theatre that is still a cinema today: Calgary's Palace Theatre National Historic Site of Canada was built in 1921 for the Allen theatre chain. The theatre is a reminder of how families like the Allens contributed to the expansions of the Canadian film industry. If going to the movies isn't high on your list of things to do, you can always wander by and admire the elegant Neo-Classical facades while you're exploring Stephen Avenue National Historic Site.

beaulieuFans of 19th century architecture won't want to miss a visit to Beaulieu National Historic Site of Canada (left). The home is a combination of Victorian, Chateau and Romanesque Revival architectural styles, and was built in 1891 to be a social space, in addition to the home, of Calgary elites the Honourable James Alexander Lougheed and his wife Isabella Clark Hardisty. The mansion's spacious setting on beautifully manicured grounds shows that Calgary's past splendour continues to be appreciated today.

In Montréal, the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival is an all-summer spectacular that brings people to the streets, clubs and theatres of Montréal. The festival itself turned 30 last year and has an impressive line-up ready for fans! Montréal is rich with historic buildings, green spaces and impressive architecture - old and new.

Hit two birds with one stone by taking in some sketch comedy at Le Monument-National. The Renaissance Revival building was built in the 1890s to symbolize French-Canadian culture in Montréal and has been a socio-cultural centre ever since with spaces for theatre, teaching and community gatherings. It is the oldest continuously used theatre in Québec. Comedians take to its stage during the festival to share a laugh or two and keep this building alive.

Christ Church CathedralGot some time between shows? There is PLENTY to do and see! Your first stop could be the Christ Church Cathedral National Historic Site of Canada (right), built in the late 1850s for the Anglican community in Montréal. Since its opening in 1860 the cathedral has undergone alterations. The steeple, for example, was deemed to be too heavy and was changed to a steel-aluminum construction in 1940. The cathedral has remained to today an important symbol of the growth of Montréal's Anglican community. Your next stop, just a short walk away, is Montréal's Birthplace National Historic Site of Canada. The site includes the remains of Fort Ville-Marie built in 1645. This is where Sieur de Maisonneuve founded Montréal when he landed in May 1642. The fort's location on the river was strategic for defensive purposes. Other historic places and heritage buildings line the street and the river around the Old Port of Montreal.

As the summer season ends and the kids are going back to school, the fun is just getting started on Cape Breton Island. Music fans and nature lovers will enjoy the Celtic Colours International Festival that takes place in communities across Cape Breton. A variety of locations for the week-long festival means that you can see different parts of the island, explore many communities and listen to lots of music in venues that are both old and new.

One venue is the chapel of the iconic Fortress of Louisbourg, celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. The original fort was built in 1713 and until 1768 served as a strategic defence fort in the struggle between the French and the British for control of present-day Canada. Built by the French and used as a military and economic hub, the British demolished the fort in the 1760s and the site was abandoned by the 1780s. The reconstructed fort that stands today welcomes the music festival and you to visit!

orangedale 1Cape Breton Island is a beautiful part of Nova Scotia and its many historic places add wonderful character to the long stretches of highway that wind along coastlines and through hills. Depending on what shows you'd like to see, you may find yourself travelling toward central Cape Breton. If so take time to visit the small community of Orangedale, on the west coast of the Bras d'Or Lake. The Orangedale Railway Station (left), built in 1886, was once a hub of activity and a symbol of economic growth and prosperity in the region. The station, the oldest in the province, sits on the old lines of the Intercolonial Railway. Today the building houses a museum dedicated to the lives of the people who lived and worked at the station, a restored caboose, an engine and freight cars!

mac-millian houseOn the west coast of Cape Breton, Inverness is also playing host to Celtic festival events. While it's too late to make reservations at the Seaview Inn, or MacMillan-Cameron House (right), drop by to take a look at the outside. Built between 1908 and 1912, the house was used as a private home until the 1920s when, unable to support the building and her large family, Diana MacMillan turned the house into an inn that was popular with travellers for decades.  Hosting prime ministers, nationally-recognized poets and popular musicians, MacMillan-Cameron House has been an important part of the cultural life of Inverness and Cape Breton for a century!

There are lots of historic places across Cape Breton Island so chances are you will be able to visit some of them while enjoying the Celtic festival. Large events often make use of historic places, supporting the past and the future of the community at the same time.

Additional Links:

- Calgary Stampede

- Just for Laughs Festival

- Celtic Colours International Festival