Behind the Scenery

Summer in Canada is enlivened by the nation’s two internationally-recognised theatre festivals – the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival. Join Jonathan Biggins for a week of performances at these two festivals, and concerts and dance by Canada’s pre-eminent performing arts organisations – the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet of Canada. All the while, enjoy the stunning scenery of Canada’s spectacular mountains and lakes.

Begin in Vancouver, gateway to the Pacific Northwest. Explore the majesty of the Canadian Rockies in the mountain town of Banff and stroll beside the pale blue waters of Lake Louise.

In Canada’s cultural capital of Toronto, enjoy visits to the nation’s foremost galleries and museums, and performances of classical music and innovative contemporary ballet. Round off your journey with a wealth of Canadian and international theatre at the Shaw Festival and Stratford Festival.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Air Canada flights arriving in Vancouver in the morning (same day). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

Check in to the hotel in the afternoon (early check-in available at additional cost) before a visit to Queen Elizabeth Park and the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. Overlooking the city at a height of 152 m, Queen Elizabeth Park provides the perfect introduction to the natural beauty of Vancouver. The 52-hectare park was constructed on the site of a former quarry (from whose rock many of Vancouver’s major roads were built), and in the middle of the 20th century it was adorned with an arboretum, a sunken garden and a geodesic-domed floral conservatory.

In the evening, return to the hotel before welcome drinks and light refreshments with Jonathan and fellow travellers.


After breakfast, enjoy an orientation tour by coach of some of the major sites and districts of Vancouver, including Gastown, Chinatown, Robson Street, Canada Place and the Alaska Cruise Ship Terminal, Stanley Park, Granville Island and Shaughnessy Estates. Lunch and the remainder of the afternoon are at leisure to continue your exploration of Vancouver’s dynamic, Pacific-facing culture.

Following a late afternoon talk by your tour leader, enjoy an evening performance by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the directorship of Bramwell Tovey, performing Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Anton Webern’s Im Sommerwind, Gordon Jacob’s Redbridge Variations and a new composition by Tovey himself, Shalimar Variations for Piano and Orchestra.


In the morning, enjoy a guided tour of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the largest art collection in Western Canada, containing more than 10,000 artworks including pieces by famous Modernists Emily Carr and Marc Chagall, and works by Canada’s Group of Seven landscape painters from the early 20th century.

Lunch and the remainder of the day are at leisure in Vancouver. In the evening, there is the opportunity to attend a theatre or music performance (not included in tour price, additional cost applies; performances to be confirmed).


After breakfast, check out from the hotel and transfer to Vancouver airport for a flight to Calgary (included in tour price).

On arrival in Calgary, transfer to Banff, a town nestled high in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Banff is set within the stunning Banff National Park, 6,641 sq km abounding with glaciers, ice fields and mighty conifer forests which first set seed 80 million years ago.

Arrive in Banff in the evening and check in to the hotel, before dinner at a local restaurant.


This morning, travel to Lake Louise, a stunning turquoise-coloured glacial lake within Banff National Park. The 2 km-long lake plumbs depths down to 70 m and is formed from the meltwaters of the surrounding glaciers. The glaciers’ slow passage through the landscape scours the valleys and produces the distinctive colour of the lake as the pulverised ‘rock flour’ refracts the bright sunlight.

Enjoy free time to stroll along the lake at your own pace, with the opportunity to take lunch at the prestigious Château Lake Louise. Return to Banff for an afternoon and evening at leisure to explore the town.


After breakfast, check out from the hotel and transfer to Calgary airport for a flight to Toronto (included in tour price).

In the evening, arrive in Toronto, the cultural capital of Canada, and check in to the hotel before an evening at leisure.


In the morning, enjoy a guided tour of the Art Gallery of Ontario, one of the country’s most significant cultural institutions, containing the world’s largest collection of Canadian art, as well as paintings, prints, sculpture and video art from Europe, Africa and Oceania.

Lunch and the afternoon are at leisure to acquaint yourself with central Toronto, whose dynamic energy powers much of Canada’s commerce, politics and culture.

This evening, attend a performance of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra featuring Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 8.


Enjoy a guided tour of the Royal Ontario Museum, the nation’s largest museum, which is famous for its vast and varied collection of Canadiana ranging from dinosaur fossils to art and world history – more than six million items across 40 galleries.

Return to the hotel with free time for lunch, followed by a matinée performance by the National Ballet of Canada. In its world premiere season, the ballet Frame by Frame takes as its subject the legendary Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren, whose innovative approach to filmmaking and animation made him one of the pioneers of synchronised music and animation. The ballet is a collaboration between director Robert Lepage and the National Ballet’s Principal Dancer, Guillaume Côté.

After the ballet, enjoy dinner atop Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, the tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere.


After breakfast, check out from the hotel and drive to Niagara Falls. The spectacular trio of waterfalls drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, and an average volume of 2,400 m³ – the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool – cascades over the falls every second. Enjoy a boat trip amidst the mists of the falls, and then free time for lunch.

In the afternoon, drive to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, situated on the shores of Lake Ontario, our base for the next four nights.


Today, begin three days of theatre performances in Canada’s famous Shaw Festival. Enjoy a morning talk by Jonathan on the day’s performance, and in the afternoon attend a matinée play.

Note: We will be attending one play in the Shaw Festival every day. Tickets for additional plays may be arranged through Renaissance Tours (additional cost applies).

(Shaw Festival performances to be confirmed.)


The Shaw Festival
The Shaw Festival began in 1962 as a joint venture between an Ontario playwright and an Upstate New York businessman, and is hosted in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake that straddles the border between their two countries. Its founding mission was to promote the appreciation of the plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, and it has since grown to become one of the great theatre festivals of the world, with its aim to present plays written in or about the Shavian Era (1856-1950) – ‘the beginning of the modern world’. While the 2018 schedule will not be announced until December of this year, to give you a taste of what to expect, the 2017 festival featured performances ranging from Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion to Bennett’s The Madness of George III and the musical Me and My Girl.

On your second day at the Shaw Festival, begin with a morning talk by Jonathan on the day’s performance, with the remainder of the morning and lunch at leisure. Enjoy a matinée play in the afternoon.

The evening is at leisure.


After a morning talk on the day’s entertainment, enjoy a matinée performance, rounding out our third day at the Shaw Festival.


After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to the charming town of Stratford, in the centre of Southern Ontario.

After lunch at a local restaurant, begin the first of three days at the Stratford Festival with a matinée play. In the late afternoon, check in to the hotel before an evening at leisure.

Note: We will be attending one play in the Stratford Festival every day. Tickets for additional plays may be arranged through Renaissance Tours (additional cost applies).

The Stratford Festival
The town of Stratford was founded in 1832 and named after Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Appropriately, it has since become the home of an internationally-renowned Shakespeare festival.

The Stratford Festival began in 1953 when Alec Guinness and Irene Worth starred in a performance of Richard III, working for expenses only, in a canvas tent on the banks of the river. Over the intervening decades, the festival has grown to become an internationally-acclaimed fixture of Shakespearean theatre, but now also encompasses theatre from Greek tragedy to Broadway musicals. The 2018 line-up will be announced in November of this year, but as an indication of what to look forward to, recent years’ festivals have included Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Twelfth Night, Molière’s Tartuffe, Sophocles’s Oedipus the King and musical favourites such as Guys and Dolls and HMS Pinafore.

(Stratford Festival performances to be confirmed.)


Begin your second day at the Stratford Festival with a morning talk by Jonathan on the day’s performance. Stroll through the elegantly landscaped gardens of central Stratford on a guided tour, visiting the rose arbours and gentle water pools of Elizabeth Garden and the Arthur Meighen Gardens.

After free time for lunch, enjoy a matinée performance, followed by an evening at leisure.


Enjoy a morning talk by Jonathan before a guided backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, discovering some of the secrets of how the festival’s performances are produced.

Spend some time at leisure for lunch before a matinée performance, capping off our final day at the Stratford Festival. In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Jonathan and fellow travellers.


Spend a morning and early afternoon at leisure, before a mid-afternoon check out from the hotel and transfer to Toronto Airport.

Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Toronto airport. Suggested return flights to Australia or New Zealand from 20:00. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 12,750

Single Supplement*

AUD 2,950

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

02 April 2018

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airlines

Air Canada
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require visas for Canada.

Tour prices includes

  • Accommodation in centrally located 4 star superior hotels, with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (R = Reception, L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines
  • A-reserve tickets for performances by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and National Ballet of Canada, and for three plays in the Shaw Festival and three plays in the Stratford Festival
  • Economy Class flights from Vancouver to Calgary (for Banff) and Calgary to Toronto, including airport/hotel transfers on either side
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Jonathan Biggins
  • Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
  • Hotel/airport transfer on tour departure
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour prices does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Airport/hotel transfer on tour arrival
  • Airport porterage
  • Early check-in to hotel in Vancouver (available at additional cost)
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
Vancouver – Westin Grand Hotel ****+
Banff – Rimrock Resort Hotel ****
Toronto – Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre ****+
Niagara-on-the-Lake – Shaw Club Hotel ****
Stratford – Bruce Hotel ****

NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.