Experience Canada Day in Ottawa, Canada’s Capital! Arrive in Ottawa the day before Canada Day (June 30) and settle into your hotel. Ottawa has many hotels for you to choose from; from luxurious establishments to more economic options. Learn more about available accommodations on our Stay page.
DAY 1 – See, Savour and Spa
Late morning: Located just across from the Fairmont Château Laurier, hop on a guided tour of the beautiful, tranquil Rideau Canal with Rideau Canal Cruises.
Float along the scenic waterway on an electric, state-of-the-art bateau mouche and learn about the famous canal, which is Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Did you know that a large part of the Rideau Canal was dug out by hand?
Lunch: Opt for some Canadian contemporary cuisine. Just across from the boat cruise dock you’ll find the National Arts Centre (NAC), which is home to Le Café restaurant. Here, you’ll find a charming covered patio at the water’s edge. Relax with a great meal, a cool drink and enjoy a lovely view!
Afternoon: Enjoy a spa treatment at Holtz Spa. Located at the corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, Holtz is Ottawa’s first luxury spa, offering many treatments from manicures, to facials, to massages and more!
Looking for something uniquely Canadian? Indulge in the spa’s Maple Luscious Body Scrub and Wrap. Maple sugar is the main ingredient in this treatment that uses locally made maple body scrub and maple shea butter. This is a piece of Canadiana you’ll remember.
Early evening: After all of that relaxation, you’ll be in need of a snack. Just cross the street and wander over to the Parisian-style Métropolitain Brasserie.
Offering a lovely patio, this restaurant hosts Hill Hour on weekdays from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Enjoy great deals on mussels, oysters and shrimp, and maybe catch a glimpse of Ottawa’s who’s who. It’s not uncommon to see parliamentary journalists and politicians relaxing here after a long day on Parliament Hill.
After grabbing a snack, head back to your hotel to relax. Or, opt to get a little bit of shopping in. Steps from Métropolitain, you’ll find CF Rideau Centre, Ottawa’s downtown shopping mall. Having undergone a $360-million renovation, Rideau Centre is now home to several high-end retailers including Stuart Weitzman, Kate Spade New York, Tiffany & Co. and Nordstrom, among others. Do some shopping and get something that will remind you of Ottawa when you put it on.
8:15 p.m.: Enjoy dinner at The Courtyard Restaurant. Located in the bustling ByWard Market neighbourhood, this beautiful heritage stone building restaurant offers French-based cuisine with a contemporary flair. Enjoy local ingredients and flavours!
DAY 2 – Canada Day (July 1)
Morning: When you wake up today, the city will be transformed! Today, you can walk nearly everywhere, as the downtown core is closed off to motor vehicles. So put on some comfy shoes, some red and white clothing, and head out.
9:00 a.m.: Be on the iconic Parliament Hill for the Flag Raising Ceremony and the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Every summer since 1959, the Hill’s front lawn comes alive with colourful drills that are accompanied by a regimental band and pipers. But these activities are even more special on Canada Day!
Around 10:00 a.m.: Explore the city and see some of the sights. Today, every piece of Ottawa is alive! Walk around, people watch and catch a myriad of performers in the streets.
Today, entry into Ottawa’s museums is FREE! Within the downtown core you’ll find the Canadian Museum of Nature, the National Gallery of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint – where Canadian currency is made. Also worth visiting is the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History.
The Museum of History is Canada’s most visited museum. Walk through the Grand Hall and take in the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. You’ll also get spectacular views of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. Visiting in 2017? Visit the museum’s brand new Canadian History Hall, which opens on July 1, 2017 (Canada Day).
9:30-9:45 p.m.: Grab a blanket, if you have one, and head to Major’s Hill Park. Located behind the Fairmont Château Laurier and overlooking the Ottawa River, this is the best place to see the Canada Day fireworks, which light up the sky each year at 10 p.m. Either go up to the park’s railing or get cozy on the ground. You’ll get a great view from wherever you are in the park!
DAY 3 – See Nature, Take Flight and Relax
Morning: Meet your Tours Expédition Ottawa guide in the hotel lobby and head out for a VIP-style tour of the luscious Gatineau Park.
Whether you want to go hiking through the park or canoeing, Tours Expédition’s excursions are completely customizable in terms of trails and length. And don’t worry, this small, local, year-round tour company brings all the equipment you might need. They even provide a gourmet picnic lunch, which can be enjoyed in one of Gatineau Park’s quaint cabins or on one of its scenic rock cliffs, weather permitting. A reservation is recommended for this tour.
Afternoon: After you’ve recovered from your morning excursion, hop in a taxi and head to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum to see the city from above in a vintage biplane ride.
Operating out of the museum, Ottawa Biplane Adventures offers scenic tours of the city in a vintage, WWII WACO UPF-7 open cockpit biplane. Put on your goggles and see Parliament Hill from above as the wind whips through your hair! This is a unique Ottawa experience that you won’t soon forget.
After your flight, opt to explore the Aviation and Space Museum. If you can, catch a guided tour of the museum’s Storage Wing. Here, you’ll see many artifacts that cannot be displayed in the museum’s primary building.
Early evening: After all of that outdoor activity and sightseeing, you’ll no doubt be in a mood to relax. Head back to your hotel for a bit and when you’re ready, hop in a taxi and go to Nordik Spa-Nature.
Located at about a 20-minute drive north of downtown Ottawa, ‘Nordik’ as it’s known locally, is the biggest outdoor luxury spa of its kind in North America. Grab a drink and a snack at one of Nordik’s two restaurants before enjoying the spa’s thermal hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas experience.
Want to indulge? Book a massage or opt for Nordik’s unique salt water Källa treatment. The underground Källa floating pool, which offers many health benefits, is only the second of its kind in the world. The other one is in Switzerland!
Stay here and soak the night away as Nordik is open until 11 p.m. on week nights and midnight on weekends.
DAY 4 – Discover the Ottawa River
Morning: Have a car or you’ve rented one? Head west of Ottawa to the area of Beachburg, Ont., which is home to the city’s whitewater playground. This area, which is about 90 minutes from the downtown core, is actually home to some of the best whitewater adventure in the entire world!
Here, you’ll find several rafting companies that offer a variety of full-day or multi-day experiences ranging from gentle, family-focused rafting to high adrenaline, expert level adventure. Set out onto the river with your seasoned guide for a day of fun, complete with a barbecue lunch on the banks of the river. This is a favourite summer activity of visitors and locals alike!
And as there are a few companies in the same area, your rafting experience is completely customizable. Opt for a company that offers a sunset boat cruise or another one that offers hot tubs after a long day of bouncing down the river. The choice is yours! The Ottawa region’s whitewater season goes from May to September.
Did you know that rafting in the Ottawa River region is a Canadian Signature Experience? It’s true! Determined by Destination Canada, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River is a ‘Canadian Signature Experience,’ meaning that it responds to a traveller’s desire to venture beyond the beaten tourist path.
Late afternoon: If you’ve only gone rafting for the day, head back into Ottawa to relax for a while and get ready for dinner.
8:30 p.m.: Enjoy dinner at Restaurant e18hteen. Located in Ottawa’s historic ByWard Market neighbourhood, this restaurant offers fine dining in a sumptuous atmosphere. Enjoy delights prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan Korecki, the runner-up of Top Chef Canada’s season two.
DAY 5 – A Culinary Capital
Morning: Have breakfast at French bakery Le Moulin de Provence in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. This is a great place to get the day started with a delicious croissant and a coffee.
Looking for a unique Ottawa souvenir? Get one of Le Moulin’s famous, maple leaf-shaped “Obama Cookies.” During his February 2009 visit to Ottawa, President Obama stopped at the bakery to pick up a few of these red and white edible souvenirs. They became an instant hit!
Mid-morning: Discover Ottawa on a walking culinary adventure tour! Head out with one of C’est Bon Cooking’s expert guides to learn the evolution of Ottawa’s food scene by visiting award-winning restaurants and unique fine food shops. And the best part? Tasty samples are provided all along the way!
Afternoon: Now, after all of that walking around in the summer heat, you’ll probably be in need of an air conditioned break. Go back to your hotel to freshen up or go back to CF Rideau Centre if you didn’t have time to visit all the shops you wanted to the other day.
4:00 p.m.: Arrive at the Fairmont Château Laurier for its famous Afternoon Tea. At the Fairmont’s Zoé’s Lounge – named one of the best bars in Canada by enRoute magazine – you’ll want to order the Canadian tea, which features Canadian delicacies from across the country. Sit by the solarium-style windows, sip your maple tea and melt away the rest of your afternoon by watching the comings and goings along the busy Rideau Street.
Around 6:00 p.m.: Return to your hotel to get ready for dinner. Or if you’re all set, do some last minute souvenir shopping in the ByWard Market.
8:15 p.m.: Enjoy a delectable meal at Signatures Restaurant. Whether you’re with a loved one or a friend, you’ll enjoy the charm of this gourmet dining experience.
Housed in an elegant 1877 former lumber baron mansion, which is also home to Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, Signatures offers modern French cuisine crafted by Executive Chef Yannick Anton. Enjoy a quiet, candlelit dining atmosphere and spend your last night in Ottawa in style!