The Trans-Canada Highway in the Great White North is known for being many things: a beautifully scenic drive; a fun way to get from Canada’s East Coast all the way to the West Coast; an epic road trip to get to know the rustic country and exciting urban centers. But here’s something else about the Trans-Canada Highway: It’s peppered by roadside attractions. And not things like wax museums or fake spacecrafts – no, the majority of the Highway’s roadside oddities are oversized objects, everything from giant animals, to currency, to massive pieces of furniture. It’s as if Canada was once populated by giants who disappeared and left their playthings behind.
But where did all these objects come from? Was there a national motive to fill the towns along the Trans-Canada Highway with oversized tourist attractions? Here’s a brief background to the history behind the monuments, as well as a checklist for what you might see when you road-trip along Canada’s famous coast-to-coast highway.
Where Did These Roadside Oddities Come From?
There are so many oversized roadside attractions along the Trans-Canada Highway that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a tourism venture sanctioned by the Canadian government. In fact, there was no organized campaign for giant objects at all – rather, several towns across Canada realized that tourist dollars could be made by creating oversized things as a way to encourage people to visit. Each town seemed to take the cue from the next, and before long the Trans-Canada Highway was lined with gigantic attractions for people to gawk at.
These days, the collection of oversized Canadian content doesn’t seem to be growing (no pun intended), but there’s still a ton of interesting things to keep an eye out for while road-tripping the Highway. These roadside oddities can provide a little bit of a bragging right to the small towns they belong to, as well as some tourist profit. Not to mention it’s just plain fun to be known as the town with the oversized [insert object here].
Some Big & Best Roadside Attractions in Canada
Let’s go from East to West along the Trans-Canada Highway and see what we might find:
The World’s Largest Lobster – Shediac, NB
Although it’s a statue rather than the real thing, this concrete-and-steel creation hangs out in Rotary Park in Shediac, a small town northeast of Moncton. The gigantic lobster was created in 1990 as a tribute to the town’s fishing industry and also as a potential tourist attraction. The plan worked, and according to Big Things, about 500,000 people visit the lobster every year. Stop by Shediac for a lobster roll and to snap a picture with the biggest crustacean you’ll ever see.
The Big Axe – Nackawic, NB
New Brunswick seems to be a province full of oddities, and the Big Axe in Nackawic is no exception. Only a year older than the giant lobster listed above, the Axe was similarly created as both a tourist attraction and a symbol of the town’s industry (Nackawic has special status as a Forestry Capital of Canada). The platform that the Big Axe rests on does additional duties as a stage for outdoor events, and Big Things notes that the Axe contains a time capsule in its head. One can only imagine what the people of the future might think of this massive woodcutting tool.
The Big Nickel – Sudbury, ON
Many Canadians have heard of the Big Nickel in Sudbury, proving how well-known the giant coin is. The oversized 1951 five cent piece was created in 1964 with the intent to put Sudbury on the map. A 28-year-old fireman named Ted Szilva envisioned the nickel as Sudbury’s way to celebrate the Canadian Centennial, along with an underground mine and science centre to pay tribute to Sudbury’s mining history. Although the idea was rejected, Szilva raised the funds to create the 30-ft. replica built out of stainless steel to withstand the elements. It looks very different from the typical nickel that a Canadian might find in their wallet, but the Big Nickel has come to stand the test of time as Canada’s most famous oversized piece of currency. (For Ontario tourists looking to see even more giant money, there’s also a big toonie (two dollar coin) in Campbellford, and a big loonie (one dollar coin) in Echo Bay.)
The Giant Pierogy – Glendon, AB
By far one of the most unique oversized attractions you’ll see on your Trans-Canada trip is the statue of a massive pierogy (also called pyrogy, a dumpling that is a stable of eastern European cuisine) being speared by an equally massive fork. You’ll find this creation in the village of Glendon, Alberta, conceived to attract tourists to the tiny spot. (If a gigantic dumpling that weighs 6,000 pounds doesn’t do it, then clearly there is no hope for any village.) However, it’s much more heartwarming to envision the Giant Pierogy as a tribute to the Ukrainian-Canadian population of Alberta. There’s even a Pyrogy Festival in Glendon every August. (If you’re looking for some oversized meat to go with your dumpling, the world’s biggest kovbasa sausage is located in Mundare, Alberta.)
(Kevin M Klerks/Flickr)
World’s Largest Easter Egg – Vegreville, AB
Here’s another whimsical example of the Ukrainian influence on Alberta – the town of Vegreville is home to what’s known as the World’s Largest Pysanka, a type of elaborately painted Easter egg that is a traditional part of Ukrainian culture. Big Things breaks down the structure of the aluminum creation: “The highly complex design features 524 star patterns, 1,108 equilateral triangles, 3,512 visible facets, 6,978 nuts and bolts and 177 internal struts. The pysanka leans at a 30º angle and turns in the wind like a weather vane.” As with Glendon’s pyrogy, Vegreville holds a festival devoted to the pysanka the first weekend of July, with Ukrainian music, folk art sales, and food. The Egg is located in Elk’s Park, which also hosts a statue of an oversized elk, so you’re getting two massive attractions in one.
World’s Largest Hockey Stick and Puck – Duncan, BC
Canadians are known for their obsession with ice hockey, so it’s only appropriate that the biggest hockey stick and puck in the world are located in Canada. Originally created for Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, the massive stick and puck are 40 times larger than their life-size equivalents and had to be moved from mainland Vancouver to Duncan (a town on Vancouver Island) via a barge and three flatbed trucks. In 1988, the sports equipment was officially installed on the side of the Cowichan Community Centre (now the Island Savings Centre), where it was recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2008 as being the official world’s largest ice hockey stick and puck. Definitely the best decoration a small-town ice arena could have.
For a truly unique road trekking experience in your motorhome or RV, you could absolutely make an once-in-a-lifetime journey out of spying the oversized sights along the Trans-Canada Highway. Bring a camera and snap selfies in front of as many gigantic creations as you can — and while you’re at it, stop in to the little towns that host these wacky statues, visit the local establishments, and pick up souvenirs of your trip. The roadside attractions may be oversized, but you’ll soon find that the love behind them is just as large.
Have you ever spotted any larger-than-life roadside attractions? What were they, and where did you find them? Let us know in the comments.Sources: