One of the highlights of the Niagara calendar each and every year is the Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival that takes place each summer. Known locally as, “Canal Days,” the festival takes place each Civic Holiday across four days, and offers a wealth of activities, entertainment, and attractions as unique as the Tall Ships that grace the Port Colborne harbor. If you’ve never before experienced a celebration of Tall Ships and marine heritage in the midst of a small city before, you owe it to yourself to plan a trip to Niagara between July 31 and August 3 for Canal Days’ 37th annual celebration. Here are just some of the highlights of this year’s festival.
The Tall Ships
A Tall Ship is a sailing vessel with high masts, and during Canal Days, these large, traditional, and beautiful ships fill the St. Lawrence Seaway. There are plenty of different styles of Tall Ships, including: schooners, brigs, ketches, brigantines, sloops, barquentines, and full-rigged ships, and you’ll be able to see many of them and learn about them during Canal Days. Some of the ships will be made available for festival-goers to climb on board in order to experience what life on the sea would have felt like for seafaring people for hundreds of years as ships with sails were commonly used before steam engines entered the maritime picture.
Scattered throughout Port Colborne are dozens of activities for young and old alike. Head to the HH Knoll Lakeview Park for Ontario’s biggest outdoor classic car show and take in the kite show that’s happening there as well. The children’s area is located at Seaway Park where kids can play games, participate in activities, visit Pony Paradise, and experience entertainment catered just for them. Head over to the Port Colborne Marine Museum, and learn about the history of the Canal.
Throughout the four-day celebration, artisans will be working — showcasing heritage trades and selling their wares at the museum, and other craftspeople will be set up along historic West Street and inside the indoor Craft Show. Head to the Roselawn Centre on Saturday and listen to live jazz all day long. Nightly concerts will be held at the Market Square Venue, and food and drink vendors will keep everyone hydrated and well-fed.
In addition to the activities listed above, Canal Days boasts a number of community events both of a competitive and collaborative nature. Run a 5K on Saturday morning. Join in a Sunday mountain bike race. Take a lighthouse tour throughout each of the festival’s four days. In addition, on Saturday, the International Kite show in HH Knoll Lakeview Park will showcase a number of impressive single line, quad line, and dual line kites, as well as ground exhibits and an “Aquarium in the Sky.” As dusk falls, the kites will all have lights added to them illuminating the sky in a way only seen during Canal Days. Kite lovers are encouraged to bring flashlights in order to stay safe while getting around the park.
Whether you love the sea and the ships that sail on it, or you’re just curious about this premier festival, set aside some time to take in this year’s Canal Days for a maritime experience you can only have in Niagara.
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