From malls to museums, book explores what is ‘biggest and best’ in Canada

TORONTO  – In a country the size of Canada, there is no shortage of places to visit, ranging from don’t bother to don’t miss. But which ones are the best?

Aaron Kylie, editor of Canadian Geographic magazine, takes a stab at answering that question with his new book, “Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1,000 Facts and Figures” (Firefly Books).

It’s a compendium of superlatives, highlighting what is tallest, highest and longest as well as “the firsts and the world bests,” Kylie writes in the introduction.

Entries vary from the obscure (the highest pingo in Canada, near Tuktoyaktuk) to the familiar (the largest mall in North America, West Edmonton Mall) to the odd (a tiny, 2.2-metre-wide house in Toronto), with chapters covering themes such as geography, weather, wildlife and transportation.

Kylie finds places that stand out from one end of the country to the other. On the West Coast, Haida Gwaii is the site of Canada’s earliest known human settlement, dating to between 12,000 and 15,000 years old. Out East, the Royal St. John’s Regatta, held every August, is the oldest sporting event in North America and “the largest garden party in the world.” In the Far North, Grise Fiord, Nunavut, is the continent’s most northerly community.

But, for Kylie, what is best often equates to what is biggest. He celebrates the tallest recorded tree in the country (a 56-metre-high western red cedar in Pacific Rim National Park), the largest indoor aquarium (Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto), the biggest hotel (Toronto’s 1,590-room Eaton Chelsea), the longest pedestrian bridge (the 914-metre viaduct in Outlook, Sask.) and the longest downtown boardwalk (the 3.8-kilometre trail in Halifax).

On the perennially interesting topic of weather, the book notes that Victoria is Canada’s hottest major city, but sun seekers would be well advised to head to Estevan, Sask., Canada’s “sunshine capital,” which averages 2,540 hours of sunlight a year.

Calgary is the country’s sunniest big city (2,396 hours), except in winter when Winnipeg is No. 1. If you’re heading to Klemtu, B.C., pack an umbrella – it’s Canada’s rainiest community.

There is plenty of fodder here for a potential road trip, including dozens of those famous and quirky roadside monuments  – from the world’s largest chainsaw in Lillooet, B.C., to the giant hockey stick and puck in Duncan, Alta., and the illuminated fiddle in Sydney, N.S.

Fans of the open road should also note that Saskatchewan has more road surface than any other province, a total of 250,000 kilometres.

The biggest museum in the country is the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., with five million artifacts and over 1.3 million visitors a year.

But some smaller, lesser known museums also claim to be best in the land, in their own unlikely ways.

The Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston, Alta., boasts the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles on the continent.

And just outside Wetaskiwin, Alta., the Reynolds-Alberta Museum has “the nation’s largest collection of publically held service and operation manuals for cars, trucks and planes.”

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