A Summer’s Day in Charlottetown
By Jennifer MacPhail
First, I’m here to tell you a secret. Like any good secret, it’s a well-known one, but in the event you haven’t been told – this city is pretty great in the summer.
Summer starts on Sunday, June 21st. To kick off the season and celebrate the longest day of the year, Discover Charlottetown has created Summer Solstice Weekend, which will feature three days jam-packed with summer-inspired things to see, do, taste, and hear in Charlottetown, running from June 19th to June 21st.
With so much to enjoy in the City, where does one begin? I’ve been asked to share my tips on how to make the most of a sun-filled day in Charlottetown – whether it be during Summer Solstice Weekend or any other time during the season.
Fueling Your Day
The sun is shining and you’ve just woken up. What are you going to do today? Well, first you need to grab a bicycle. The Confederation Trail runs through Charlottetown and links downtown to the rest of the Island, offering a safe route for cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, and everyone else you find on the trail. If you’re visiting and don’t have a bike, we’ve got you covered with numerous rental spots in Charlottetown. If it’s Saturday or Wednesday, you’ll want to head to the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market first thing in the morning. It’s conveniently located on the Confederation Trail and full of delicious local foods and beautiful artisan items. As part of the Summer Solstice Weekend, on June 20th, the Market is hosting a special chef demo. Be sure to sign up ahead of time for this tasty experience!
If your trip to the market didn’t fill your belly (hard to imagine!) and you find yourself a bit peckish, you’ll want to head to Receiver Coffee Co. on Victoria Row. You will arrive, look at the menu, and think, “So many delicious options, however will I decide?!” You will order the breakfast bake. Yes, other things will tempt you, but don’t second guess yourself (If you choose to ignore my advice you’ll be fine, as everything on the menu is excellent!).
Shopping & Wandering
So far I have advised you to eat a lot of food. It’s important to maintain balance in life, so now you might want to take a stroll. Make your way to Peake’s Wharf Historic Waterfront and visit the shops that open their doors for the summer season. Enjoy live music at the outdoor stage and check out the sales taking place during Summer Solstice Weekend. On your wander down to the waterfront, you’ll also discover plenty of other unique shops and beautiful storefronts, particularly on Queen Street, Great George Street, Water Street, and Victoria Row.
Peake’s Wharf Historic Waterfront is handily located next to Confederation Landing Park, which will play host to many Summer Solstice Weekend activities. Stop in and visit Parks Canada’s Discovery Dome, stroll through Artisan Alley and stop to marvel at the artisan demonstrations, enjoy a sneak peek of snippets from the Island Fringe Festival, take in National Aboriginal Day Celebrations, and get your face painted (or, you know, maybe your kid’s face).
Fun Times Outside
Charlottetown is blessed with great swaths of green space, the most popular being, arguably, Victoria Park. There is a boardwalk that stretches along the waterfront, trails in the woods, a children’s play area, tennis courts, a pool, and lots of space to toss around a frisbee. During the summer, one of the driving lanes is shut down to traffic and turned over to cyclists, skateboarders, and in-line skaters.
If your golf clubs are begging to be used, you are in the right place. Although there are many golf courses in the Greater Charlottetown Area, Fox Meadow Golf & Country Club gets a special mention for their Summer Solstice promotion. On June 20th or 21st, you can enjoy unlimited golf for the entire day at a special rate of $50.
Perhaps swinging a club at a tiny, white, unpredictable ball (sigh) doesn’t appeal to you, but you feel like reaching new heights. Cornwall’s Rise and Climb Adventure Course gives you the chance to channel your inner monkey as you clip on for an exciting ropes course. On Friday, June 19th, they are hosting their first-ever Solstice night climb starting at 8:30pm, which will allow participants to complete the course in a new, challenging way.
I’m Hungry Again!
For entertainment of a different sort, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino offers a choice of two restaurants and front row seats to live harness racing while you enjoy your meal. You can even place bets on the races from your table!
Stomach still rumbling? Perfect, now it’s time for ice cream. COWS was selected by Reader’s Digest as Canada’s best ice cream, a well deserved designation. Ice cream is also available at numerous other downtown locations, including Billy Timber Ice Cream & Candy Co. at Peake’s Wharf, Downtown Convenience, Cy’s, Kiwanis Dairy Bar at Victoria Park, and others. I feel pretty confident in saying Charlottetown is an ice cream friendly destination.
Sometimes it happens that you’ve already had ice cream for, oh, eight days in a row. For something different head to Anne of Green Gables Chocolates. Smile politely and act surprised when the store’s friendly staff offer you a sample. There are lots of goodies here fighting for your attention, but the show stealer is the chocolate covered potato chips.
Night Time Fun
You’re full now, right? Good, because we need to talk about fun evening activities. One particular Charlottetown cultural activity you might not read about in your guide is pub trivia. On almost any night of the week there is a pub somewhere in Charlottetown hosting trivia. Hunter’s Ale House leads the pack by having trivia three or four nights a week. I will warn you, trivia can be busy. You shouldn’t expect to get a table if you wait until start time to arrive. Also, schedules do change and you may find some places on hiatus during the summer months (surely reason enough to return to PEI during the fall or winter!).
Oh My, It’s Raining
Anytime I imagine a particular day or event, I always envision sunny skies. It is a fact, however, that PEI’s weather can be unpredictable by times and the reason our grass is so green is because it rains on occasion. No bother, grab your wellies and rain coat and head downtown. Do you like musicals starring red-headed heroines? Me too! Catch Anne of Green Gables – The Musical on stage at the Confederation Centre of the Arts or cross the street to The Guild and enjoy Anne all grown up and in love in Anne & Gilbert: The Musical. Both venues also house art galleries, so be sure to arrive early and take some time to wander around. The Confederation Centre is also the temporary home of an impressive recreation of Province House’s legislature, which is currently closed for refurbishment, and a fascinating video that will give you insight into the role Charlottetown played in Confederation.
If you prefer stage productions that don’t star enthusiastic orphans, you’ll be pleased to know that there are numerous live theatre performances and musical revues at the Confederation Centre, the Mack, The Guild, and the PEI Brewing Company on select nights to suit all ages and tastes.
Sometimes it’s nice to incorporate a bit of education into your day. Pop up your umbrella and head to Founders’ Hall. This attraction tells the story of Canada’s birth and how the country evolved geographically to get to where it is today. The venue also has a shop, restaurant, and Visitor Information Centre should you be stuck for fun activities, need a map, or wish to pick up some souvenirs.
City Cinema is a single-screen cinema showing movies that are not typically screened at major theatres. On the weekend there are two showings per night, which still gives you plenty of time to pop into a pub later for a beverage and live music.
Well That Was a Busy Day
That was a pretty full day, wasn’t it? And one of the best parts is that there is still lots left to do throughout the rest of the summer! Be sure to return to Discover Charlottetown’s website frequently, give them a like on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to learn about the latest Summer Solstice events and other festivals happening throughout the summer.
Jennifer MacPhail is a long-time blogger, avid cyclist, former Disney World Cast member, and cat lover. She lives in downtown Charlottetown and is excited every time there is a cruise ship in town.