Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa

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If you’re planning a Canadian adventure this summer, you’re definitely in luck—Canada Day is just around the corner with plenty of celebrations going on. Thankfully, today’s guest contributor and Ottawa resident, Vanessa Chiasson from  Turnip Seed Travel, is showing us the best way to partake in Ottawa Canada Day celebrations!

Ottawa locals love to pretend that they’re blasé about Canada Day, but it’s really all an act. We can’t help but get excited about the fireworks, the airshow, the concerts, and—of course—all the yummy food happening in our own hometown, Canada’s capital city. Our pride is absolutely contagious and it guarantees that visitors will have a great time as well.

Canada Day on Parliament Hill, Canada’s seat of government, feels like a giant national street party to which everyone is invited. While there are Canada Day celebrations across the country every July 1st, no one embraces the occasion quite like Ottawa. And as 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation, anticipation is building throughout the city. With a few insider tips, you can get the most fun and memories for your time in Canada’s National Capital. It’s time to celebrate, eh!

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Canada Day Celebrations: Endless Activities, Many Locations

Of course, Canada Day is more than just one day of celebrations! You wouldn’t expect a fun loving group like Canadians to confine their festivities to just one day, would you? You can enjoy events throughout Ottawa all week long, including plenty of attractions the day before and after the main event. The City of Ottawa has a handy list of the week’s festivities on their website.

Ottawa Parliament Buildings make for a picturesque backdrop to the party!

And the fun doesn’t just take place on Parliament Hill! There are official events and activities planned for Major’s Hill Park (between the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and the National Gallery) which are especially family friendly, as well as indoor and outdoor entertainment at the Canadian Museum of History.

A true locals’ favorite, the Mackenzie King estate (a beautiful woodland house belonging to a former Prime Minister, set in the heart of Gatineau Park), serves elegant afternoon teas. And it is rumored to offer complimentary birthday cake on Canada Day! If you enjoy nature—and delicious baked goods—this is a wonderful alternative or addition to the activities downtown.

The Canadian flag flies proudly during Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. Click through to learn about all the fun ways that you can celebrate Canada's birthday on a visit to Ottawa.

The Canadian flag flies proudly on Canada Day (and every day).

Throughout the city, different community centers offer their own family friendly programing. The community of Navan, for instance, has its own agricultural themed Canada Day celebrations! If you’re staying in the suburbs (or simply are eager for a more quiet day), ask friends and neighbors for details of their local events.

Essentials Must-Sees

If the downtown festivities have piqued your interest (and how could they not?!), you’ll want to be in place on Parliament Hill by 11:00am on July 1st. Soon after, the most ceremonial aspect of the day gets underway, from the arrival of dignitaries and royalty, such as the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales, and the dramatic flyby of the Snowbird military pilots.

After a day of exploring and taking in the sights, you’ll want to make your way back towards Parliament Hill for the evening’s concert. This year, for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, there’s a line up of incredible homegrown talent, include Cirque de Soleil, Alessia Cara and Gordon Lightfoot.

Ottawa National Gallery is a great place to escape the crowds during Canada Day in Ottawa. Click through to read more about the Canada Day celebrations.

Make your way to the National Gallery to escape the crowds on the streets.

By day’s end you’ll be looking for some well deserved rest and relaxation but there’s one more spectacle not to be missed. The annual Canada Day fireworks begin around 11:00pm. While everyone refers to this event as the “Parliament Hill fireworks,” the Hill is the last place you want to be. The large buildings and the slope of the land aren’t conducive to enjoying a good view. Officially, Major’s Hill Park and the grounds of the Museum of History are recommended viewing sites but anyone in Ottawa will tell you the best plan is to make friends with someone staying at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and crash their party instead!

Practical Advice and Insider Access for Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa

Need a bathroom break or some air conditioning? The majority of the city’s museums offer free admission on Canada. The National Gallery of Canada and the Bytown Museum are included on this list and both are located downtown and are well worth a visit – whether you need to *go* or not!

Bring cash. There will be a large number of food trucks and other vendors to tempt you.

Looking for a quiet(ish) meal? The patios will be packed but indoor-only restaurants will be more accessible. Some personal favorites include Clover (a charming wee bistro with a focus on local ingredients at 155 Bank St), The Sconewitch (with yummy scone-based sandwiches and salads, tucked in the back at 150 Elgin St), and Ahora Mexican Cuisine (just a step away from the busy Byward Market at 307 Dalhousie St).

Bring sunscreen AND a disposable poncho. If the last few years are anything to go on, July 1st will bring intense heat—and an afternoon thunderstorm!

Designate a meeting point. It’s easy to get lost in the crowds—pick a statue or a storefront as your designating regrouping point.

Embrace the buses. They’re free all day on July 1st and run late into the early hours of July 2nd to accommodate the fireworks. If you must drive, plan to park far away and embrace a 10-15 minute walk to your car. (My personal favorite is the underground parking at the Minto building at 180 Kent. It’s far enough from the action to be calm and quiet, you can easily walk, catch a taxi, or hop a bus to Parliament Hill, and there’s a burger and sandwich shop on the main floor that makes superb poutine).

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Be crafty about your accommodations. To get the best value, seek out hotels that are removed from downtown but still on a direct bus route. Alternatively, consider staying on the Quebec side in the city of Gatineau. You’re still just commute ride away. Finally, don’t despair! There are always cancellations prior to a big event and usually the 48 hour mark is the sweet spot for old guests to get a complete refund and for new guests to snag a last minute room.

Final Thoughts

I think Canada Day really embodies the best about Canada—and about Ottawa. We’re hospitable and welcoming and eager to showcase our hometown pride (albeit a bit modestly!) And everyone wants every visitor to enjoy the very best we have to offer so they’ll return again and again!

Sounds like a great party, doesn’t it? Have you ever Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.

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