There are few places as unbelievably sad as Canada’s collection of also-ran tourist towns. Wracked and transmorphed into Potemkin visions of what caker tourists want, these Potemkin towns invariably become centers of sad-sack commercial consumption. Whether this happens through sadsack tourist traps like lethal, abusive novelties like zoos or through a fetishized history actualized through poorly-maintained historical sites, Canada’s small-town tourism tries and fails to present anything of interest in no small part because Canada’s towns themselves are all generic places built on the same principles of sprawl, car dependency, and thoughtless development.
Let’s take a handful of examples to prove my point. As a young child I spent a lot of time driving to pathetic, collapsing tourist attractions. These places are textbook instances of caker business; rather than improving customer experience with income these places instead opt to milk every penny out of the gullible folks who dared to hope that Canadian small businesses might produce something resembling fun. The poster-child for this shit is, of course, Niagara Falls. I won’t deign to do a better job of dismissing the Falls than this unbelievably well-written piece, so I won’t try. The last line from that takedown really says it all: “We invented Vegas, for God’s sake. They have stolen our heritage”. Indeed quite.
Does the prospect of having your experience of a big ol’ waterfall ruined by waddling through an ugly downtown full of tacky has-been enterprises run by one of two families (oligarchy, for the record, is a sure-fire signal of caker business) not turn your crank? Need a “smaller-town” to waste your caker money in? Well, why don’t we turn to the vintner’s Potemkin town par excellence, Niagara-on-the-Lake! First off, you’d better not expect to be getting there any other way save for personal motorcar – there are no public transit options to get to the place, except on Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays. And even then that’s only during the summer. There’s also a touch of cruelty to playing wannabe Victorian noble in an area with atrocious living standards, but then again Canada is not a place known for its ability to recognize social cruelty.
Onwards to cottage country, where towns like Bracebridge and Huntsville milk their remaining specks of historical development while building concrete sheds of box stores and misery around said nubs of what once was. Take Bracebridge as an example. Home to the lovely Manitoba St., one of the rare streets in Canada that actually serves as a relatively enjoyable place to walk. Nice brick buildings, hip and trendy storefronts, the Saturday Farmers’ Market – what’s not to love? I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting Manitoba St. in green on the map below, and drew red boxes around the generic, formless, total shit that is also found in Bracebridge.
Oh, and don’t you worry about getting to Bracebridge, a town which was created in no small part because of rail connectivity to Toronto having rail access. You won’t be getting to Muskoka by rail anytime soon! Because fuck effectively moving huge groups of people. To be even more shitty, Manitoba St., which is already an insufferably overpriced den of caker-tchotchkes is actually pretty good in comparison to hellishly poorly-designed mutations like Collingwood, a ski and cycling hub. Both First and Hurontario Sts., which house most of the town’s attractions and commercial activity are insufferable stroads drowning in excessive parking and a lack of accessibility and affordability for car-less locals.
Even Canada’s tourist towns suck ass. Home to Potemkinized visions of small-town Canada, choking on caker businesses and their shoddy practices, and inaccessible to all save those with enough money to waste on personal vehicle ownership, the communities trying to pull tourists into their towns have thus far managed to price residents away and to build generic, boring tripe for non-residents to pretend to be amazed by. What a deal!