The beating heart of Prince Edward Island can be felt in its vibrant music scene, with live acts presented in an array of intimate and otherworldly settings. Take in an acoustic performance by local talent in a heritage inn. Or join thousands of country-music fans at a four-day festival by a sprawling beach with miles of sand dunes. Whether you wander the heritage streets or head inside a century-old church, you’ll be serenaded with a diverse mix of beats from musicians playing classic Celtic songs, bluegrass, jazz, and more.
Enjoy an intimate performance in a heritage inn
The Trailside Music Cafe & Inn provides guests with an up-close and intimate experience in a timeless venue that feels like home. The restored 1937 barn-like building was PEI’s first co-operative, which became the community’s general store, dubbed “The Coop.” The quaint on-site cafe serves up simple fare like gooey grilled-cheese sandwiches and seafood chowder, perfectly complemented by a bottle of Iron Bridge Brown Ale from PEI Brewing Company. Live performances include the Hillsborough River Gospel Brunch held on select Sundays, plus evening acts, such as J.P. Cormier, an award-winning Canadian Celtic singer-songwriter. Four charming rooms with cheery names like Apple Valley and Cherry Hill are located right above the music venue. All have private entrances and are decked with comforting touches, like fluffy quilts, iron bed frames, and—bonus!—a record player for spinning your favourite tunes.
Take in a concert in an acoustical gem
What’s one of the top 10 music performance venues in the world? Historic St. Mary’s Church, the architectural and acoustical gem that’s home to the Indian River Festival. The 1902 French Gothic-style venue was envisioned by PEI architect William Critchlow Harris. His handiwork — marvel at the striking rib-vaulted ceiling — provides the natural acoustics for which the venue is famed. It might be tough to tear your attention away from the church’s splendour, surrounded by fragrant pines and lush fields, but the Indian River Festival concerts are guaranteed to keep you captivated and returning to enjoy the best Canadian and international artists performing jazz, Celtic, choral, and classic music in a sublime setting near Malpeque Bay.
Head to the beach for country beats
Join some 70,000 revellers at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, Atlantic Canada’s largest multi-day music festival, featuring four days of live country music. Despite drawing a huge crowd of music-lovers since the event kicked off in 2009, the festival comes from humble roots. Its venue was once simply a cow pasture! Today, big-name country music stars (think Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and the Dixie Chicks) take to the stage, transforming the town of Cavendish into country-music central over four days in July. Music fans can make their base at a boutique hotel in the nearby enclaves of Mill River, Summerside, or Charlottetown and take the shuttle to the venue. Or for a full-on immersive experience, bed down in a tent under the stars in the heart of the Canadian Oyster Coast.
Listen to street-side acts by emerging musicians
Character, charm, history, great food — and music. Gorgeous Victoria Row, the Richmond Street pedestrian stroll (bordered by Queen and Great George streets) in downtown Charlottetown, is a beguiling destination for locals and visitors alike. In summer, as part of TD Always on Stage, emerging musicians take to the streets in and around Victoria Row and provide the background vibes for passersby. Historic red brick buildings hug the cobblestone street where tartan shops, cozy cafes, and restaurants tempting with fresh-caught lobster huddle up against each other. Anne of Green Gables fans will want to make a beeline to the Anne of Green Gables store to snaps up authentic “Anne” treasures based on the novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who grew up in rural PEI.