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The capital of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown is a small but bustling city and the site of the Charlottetown Conference, where Canadian statespeople met to first debate the Canadian Confederation. It's unsurprising that most of its most popular sights and attractions hark back to this historical epoch, with the majority of locals employed in the public sector.
Roundly celebrated for its clean air and sound urban planning policies, Charlottetown is easily navigable and picturesque. Victorian-era buildings dominate the scenic downtown area, while an ongoing waterfront redevelopment project seeks to convert industrial areas into parks and outdoor hiking trails.
The city's maritime position exerts a moderating influence on its climate, with temperatures never dropping as low, or climbing as high, as other Canadian cities of similar latitude. Its premier tourist drawcard is by far and away the Green Gables House, tucked away in the beautiful Prince Edward Island National Park, but there is plenty more to see and do for just about everyone in Charlottetown, a place bursting at the seams with entertainment and culture.
Nestled in the Prince Edward Island National Park is the charming and picturesque Green Gables House that, in the early 1900s, inspired author Lucy Maud Montgomery to write her celebrated novel Anne of Green Gables. Tourists flock here every year to ramble around the famous house, which served as a setting for the treasured tale, and to also enjoy the beautiful park that houses Green Gables. The house itself is filled with interesting displays, and also contains the charming Butter Churn Café and a visitors centre with restored rooms. There are trails to be explored (fans of the book will recognise Lovers Lane and the Haunted Wood), guided evening walks, children's activities, restored gardens and many other treasures to be enjoyed.
Founded in 1964 as a National Memorial to the Fathers of the Confederation, the centre is a celebration of the diversity, talent and character of Canada and its history. Situated on the site of the old Charlottetown marketplace, it takes up a city block and is home to an art gallery, several theatres and a restaurant. A celebration of theatre and comedy, the annual Charlottetown Festival has spawned several highly successful productions, including the immensely popular Anne of Green Gables, Canada's longest running musical. The Confederation Centre Art Gallery has more than 15,000 pieces of contemporary, modern and historical Canadian art, and is well worth a visit.
The Confederation Trail stretches from tip to tip of Prince Edward Island, traversing through forests, wetlands, villages and waterways, for 173 miles (279km). Almost entirely flat with a finely crushed gravel surface, the trail is perfect for walkers, cyclists and even those in wheelchairs. Visitors enjoy the island's natural splendour, lush flora and abundant flora in peace and tranquillity.
In winter, the trail is a favourite with snowmobilers and provides a picturesque route through the province, from Tignish to Elmira. The less adventurous can choose to follow the trail for some of the way and stop off to rest and grab a bite in one of the many villages connected by the trail.
Founder's Hall is one of the more popular attractions on Prince Edward Island, located in a restored 1906 building on the Historic Charlottetown Waterfront. It incorporates history with state-of-the-art technology, allowing visitors to enjoy interactive exhibits, holovisuals and an absorbing 'Time Travel Tunnel' which traces the development of Canada and its provinces. The aim of Founder's Hall is to celebrate the spirit of cooperation shown by the Fathers of the Confederation, and to educate the public on the country's heritage. Far from the usual museum fare, it also contains a boutique shop selling island crafts, memorabilia and souvenirs.
The main allure of Prince Edward Island for travellers is the fact that the little province inspired and formed the setting for the beloved Anne of Green Gables novels. But Green Gables House is actually situated in the Prince Edward National Park in Cavendish, making it more of an excursion for those on holiday in Charlottetown. The Confederation Centre for the Arts, within the city, also owes some of its popularity with visitors to L.M. Montgomery's novels, as a number of Anne-themed musicals and plays draw fans into the theatres of the complex. Other worthwhile tourist attractions in Charlottetown include St Dunstan's Basilica, a National Historic Site of Canada; Founder's Hall, which proudly traces the history of Prince Edward Island and the country as a whole; and the lovely Victoria Park. Charlottetown's appeal is its old-fashioned charm, perhaps epitomised by attractions like the 1950's-style Brackley Drive In Theatre.
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