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Jane leafing her tree Little Canada-1
Jane trying her hand at becoming a Miniature Maker at LIttle Canada

“Passion and patience.” This was the answer I received when I asked what it took to become one of the Miniature Makers at Toronto’s Little Canada miniature world attraction. And after getting a behind-the-scenes opportunity to try my hand at building even a simple piece of this incredible 1/87 scale version of Canada, I can attest to the fact that both of these adjectives are built into all of the creative people who work here. But there’s also a whole lot more, too.

Little Canada, Big Ambitions

The only thing that isn’t tiny at Little Canada is the vision belonging to its founder, Jean Louis Brenninkmeijer. Since opening this attraction in 2021, Brenninkmeijer has continued to pursue the dream of recreating all of Canada in amazing miniature vignettes by expanding the current displays, and adding entirely new regions. The vision, of course, is to represent as much of Canada as possible with detailed recreations of the country’s most iconic features and destinations from coast to coast to coast.

Peggys Cove LIttle Canada
Peggy’s Cove is part of Little East Coast

The newest region to be unveiled in 2023 is Little East Coast Canada, which captures Atlantic Canada’s most recognizable locations, and boasts some of the most intricate animations and features done to date.

fishing view water level little canada
The little details matter in Little East Coast Canada – like the waves!

One of these features is a functional Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, where actual water floods into the miniature bay and surrounds Hopewell Rocks before draining away again a few minutes later, imitating the rising and falling of the area’s world-famous tides.

Atlantic Canada’s wildlife is represented here too, with tiny animated puffins that come to life on the rocky shores, and there are even miniature fresh-caught fish flopping around in the bottom of a fishing boat.

Newfoundland is represented not just in the impressive fjords of Gros Morne and iconic landmarks of St. John’s, but also in the whimsy and character of its people: look closely at the miniature scenes on Water Street, inside some of its buildings or even on the end of a fisherman’s hook, and you’ll see the Miniature Makers of Little Canada were definitely having fun when they built this province.

Gros Morne horizontal Little Canada
Gros Morne, Newfoundland
Fisherman's boot Catch Little Canada
This may be a ‘catch and release’ opportunity!

Fans of Anne of Green Gables will recognize her storied home on Prince Edward Island, along with the island’s iconic red rocks, where tiny tourists can’t resist taking photos, even with a 1/87th scale camera.

PEI red rocks Little Canada
A mini visitor photographs the unmistakeable red shores of Prince Edward Island

Nova Scotia’s vibrant waterfront comes to life day and night with street art and even the famous ‘drunken lampposts’ that are a much-Instagrammed feature on one of the city’s full-scale docks.

Halifax street art Little Canada
Street Art tucked away on the side of a building in Little Canada’s Halifax
Halifax waterfront at night little Canada
Check out Halifax’s functioning ‘drunken lampposts’ bottom left!

More Miniatures to Come, for Years to Come

With the addition of Little East Coast, Little Canada just keeps getting bigger and there are already plans to open Little West Coast in 2024, and Little Prairies, Little Rockies and Little North to follow in the future. With so much to see and so many details that go into creating each region, it is virtually impossible to see everything in one visit, which of course gives visitors an excuse to come back again and again.

Strange scenes in Halifax Little Canada
Quirky detail created by a Little Canada’s Miniature Maker reflects their sense of humour and fun

Going Behind the Scenes

As amazing as visiting Little Canada is, I was on a mission this time to do more than just admire the miniatures: I wanted to meet the Miniature Makers behind all these unbelievably realistic creations and actually try my hand at making something myself. I figured there was no better way to see just what is involved in bringing this teeny-tiny version of Canada to life. But to be honest, even I was a little skeptical about how successful I might be: I knew I had the passion, but ‘patient’ is definitely not an adjective that would ever be used to describe me!

Meeting the Miniature Makers at Little Canada

My visit began by meeting some of the people who make up the teams, as I was curious about how and why they had come to work here as Makers. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of them were graduates of any ‘School of Miniatures”: some were fine artists with a talented eye for design, colour and form; others had a background in engineering and were putting their skills to work in constructing tiny complex cityscapes and their infrastructure; there was a theatre set designer, familiar with building tiny mockups for use in stage productions; and of course some were just plain creative folk who have a love for building things that are tiny, whether that be dollhouses or model train sets.

Jane and the LIttle Canada Makers
Meeting some of the talented Miniature Makers of Little Canada – from Left: Aliyah, [Jane], Dhwani and Jessica
Little Canada Quebec City Roof Sliding
Jessica is the Maker who had the idea for one of our favourite scenes in Little Quebec: roof sledders!

As Henk and I chatted with these Miniature Makers and saw them expertly working with 3-D computer modelling programs, or painstakingly designing 1/87-scale buildings using only Google images and online photographs as reference, what impressed me most was discovering that many of their skills were learned right here, on the job in the Little Canada studio.

Obviously where there was a will (and the passion), these Makers found a way, using their creativity and resourcefulness to dive into new challenges and learn to take advantage of whatever materials or equipment was available to them. All the Makers I spoke with seemed to share a real love for what they were doing, too, and it was clear to me that even though the deadlines were real, the work they did was as satisfying for them as it was for the visitors who oohed and aahed at the end result.

I was impressed and inspired. And a little intimidated, wondering if I had even a fraction of their talent and ingenuity to try my hand at making something that would be Maker-worthy.

Getting to Work: Trees, Please!

Having learned a little more about what goes on behind the scenes at Little Canada, it was time to contribute to a scene, in this case by helping to build a tree or two to place into the displays. With literally tens of thousands of mini trees in the various displays populating this 45,000 square foot space, the Miniature Makers could use all the help they could get with tree-making, even from a rank amateur like myself. (Plus, how badly could I really screw up a tree?)

Little Canada naked tree
My little ‘naked’ tree was waiting for me to ‘leaf it’ out

I was installed at a work desk, provided with some glue, a ‘naked’ tree structure and a container of green foam bits. With a bit of basic instruction and some friendly advice from the Makers, I was encouraged to ‘leaf out’ my little tree at my own pace, and hopefully not stick my fingers together in the process.

Little Canada tree making supplies
Just a small fraction of the supplies that go into making greenery at Little Canada

Before long, my tree began to take shape, as I glued bits of foam to the plastic branches, first tentatively and then more confidently, and before long I found myself slipping into an almost zen state of mind where my attention was entirely focused on the work my hands were doing. I realized I had no idea how much time was passing and my usual Type A impatient self was completely absorbed in the process of creating. Who knew making a tree could be so calming?

Jane concentrating
I was definitely ‘in the zone’…

My Ta-Da Tree-Maker Moment

It’s no CN Tower or ‘Marilyn Monroe’ condo, but after half an hour or so my little tree came together quite nicely, and I was very proud to see it installed as part of the Niagara Escarpment’s forest canopy, taking its place alongside other Miniature Makers’ work. No longer just an admirer of Little Canada, I was now one of their [strictly unofficial] Miniature Makers who had helped contribute to this miniature world.

Jane Tree and in situ Little Canada
I am now officially an unofficial Little Canada Miniature Maker’!

Passion and Patience

There’s a saying attributed to Confucius that says: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Obviously all of the Miniature Makers at Little Canada work very hard creating the magic that wows thousands of visitors every year. But it’s also obvious that they truly love what they do, and that their passion (and the patience that goes with it) contribute to the absolutely astonishing creations that make Little Canada so special.

And as it turns out, my brief experience as a Miniature-Maker-in-the-Making inspired me to take my own love of miniatures to a new level: I put my re-ignited imagination to work and made my own little tree at home: a 1/12 scale Christmas tree cobbled together from dollar store finds and miscellaneous beads and baubles I could repurpose as decorations.

miniature tree in progress
Making a mini tree from dollar store stuff and fake greenery
miniature christmas tree before and after
My miniature 9-inch tall Christmas tree, finished! I’m a Maker now!

This tree took many more hours to create than my Little Canada Niagara tree, including lots of time-consuming glueing and sourcing of bits and pieces, plus more imagination and determination than skill at times. But the time was definitely well-spent, I completely got into the zone, and I couldn’t be prouder of how my decked-out tree turned out.

For someone who is not known for being patient, apparently, when the passion is there, the patience comes along for the ride, too. And I have the Miniature Makers at Little Canada to thank for teaching me that.

Special thanks to Little Canada who made my behind-the-scenes visit possible, and to the Miniature Makers (for their patience in answering all my questions and the inspiration to make my own miniatures!)


Little Canada Dundas Square location

Little Canada is located right at Yonge and Dundas Square in the heart of Toronto’s downtown. There are different options for booking tickets, including fixed-timed entrances or flexible-entry ones, discounts for different ages, and even annual passports if you want to enjoy unlimited visits throughout the year.

There are currently 6 different regions of Canada on exhibit. Be sure to check out the “Little Known” facts placards on displays that contain fun trivia about each region.

“Want to join the mini ‘population’ of Little Canada? You can get ‘little-ized’ at their 3-D scanner station and have mini-you installed in one of the regions.

Little Canada Makers Window

Meet some of the Makers yourself at the Miniature Maker Window where you can see how little things are made. You can also buy mini boxed vignettes of Canadian scenes to take home. All are made by hand and signed by one of the Makers.

Little Scenes with Maurice Signed
Jane with Hat Tanzania

Jane Canapini is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the North American Travel Journalists Association. She established in 2014 to share information and tips based on personal experience so her readers could get the most out of their travels.

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