If you’re coming to Ottawa for Canada Day – the country’s biggest annual birthday celebration on July 1 – you’re no doubt excited to see everything Canada’s Capital has to offer!
From the boisterous energy of Parliament Hill to the busy reveler-filled streets of the city’s downtown core, you’ll be having a good time wherever you choose to go.
But if you’ve never experienced Canada Day in Ottawa, you might not know what to bring along with you. So we’ve put together a handy list of items and tips that will help you make the most of Canada Day in the country’s beautiful capital city.
TIPS & TRICKS:
- Dress in RED & WHITE: Reflecting Canada’s flag, everyone – be it visitors or locals – wears these two colours on Canada Day! If you want to take your attire one step further, stock up on maple leaf and Canada flag stickers as well as temporary tattoos and face paint. You’ll see many people with these on too. And if you’d like to be able to keep track of a group or of children, dress in a bright and distinctive accent colour. The brighter the colour, the better, as they will stand out from the crowd!
- Bring a CANADIAN FLAG: You’ll see the Canadian flag out in all shapes and forms on July 1. Hold yours and wave it around proudly or if you choose, wear it as a cape. You’ll see many revelers doing this. There’s only one rule; don’t let the flag touch the ground, as it’s disrespectful.
- Grab a PAPER CANADIAN FLAG: These small paper flags are usually distributed at the main Canada Day celebration sites (Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park and the Canadian Museum of History). Get a flag and keep it with you for the day!
- Stop for a meal at a restaurant or on a patio WHEN YOU CAN: Most restaurants in the ByWard Market neighbourhood and throughout Ottawa’s downtown core DO NOT take reservations on Canada Day. So if you see a potential spot, grab it while you can!
- Bring a REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE: With all of that walking in the July heat, you’ll get thirsty quickly and this is a great thing to have on hand! And at the official Canada Day celebration sites mentioned above, you’ll find several water bottle REFILL STATIONS. Make sure to stay hydrated, so you can enjoy all of the fun from dawn to the end of the fireworks and beyond!
- Bring a BACKPACK: This is a useful item to have with you, as you can bring along many helpful things such as sunscreen, sunglasses, a camera, hand sanitizer and a hat, to name a few. And if you plan on doing lots of reveling on Parliament Hill, DO NOT FORGET sunscreen and a hat as there is NO SHADE at this site.
- Bring a small amount of CASH: There are many street food and souvenir vendors in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day. A small amount of cash is great to have, so you can buy something quickly and keep celebrating. Also, if you’re looking for a healthy snack such as fresh fruit or vegetables, most ByWard farmers’ market vendors only deal in cash.
- Bring a SMALL UMBRELLA or a RAINCOAT: These items are good to have just in case it starts to rain, but keep them portable! Opt for a smaller umbrella, which will be easy to carry and won’t block other revelers’ views of the stages set up at the main celebration sites as well as at Confederation Park. Located on Elgin Street, Confederation Park is where you’ll find the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. Admission to Jazzfest on Canada Day is FREE!
- Consider bringing a FOLDING CHAIR: If you don’t plan on moving around too much on Canada Day, going from one site to another, a folding chair is a great item to bring along. Just keep in mind, you should be able to set up your chairs if you head to Parliament Hill earlier in the day. If you go in the evening however, it’s difficult to find a spot. Also, if you bring a chair downtown with you, you’ll have to carry it through the city’s crowded streets as you attempt to make your way home after the fireworks at 10:00 p.m. So consider whether this is a good option for you.
- See the FIREWORKS: Parliament Hill is not necessarily the best place to see the fireworks, as the historic Parliament Buildings can block part of your view. You might want to consider setting yourself up at Major’s Hill Park instead, where you can enjoy a better unobstructed view. And just across the Ottawa River, the Canadian Museum of History is also a nice alternative. Just keep in mind that the Alexandra Bridge, which links Ottawa to Gatineau, is closed one hour before and one hour after the fireworks (from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). So plan ahead!
- Take advantage of FREE PROGRAMMING on Canada Day: Each Canada Day celebration site offers free entertainment and activities all day long. But you’ll also find free programming at the National Arts Centre (NAC) and the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. Most of Ottawa’s museums also offer FREE ADMISSION on Canada Day; however you’ll still have to pay admission if you wish to see their special exhibits. And just FYI, the museums are air conditioned, offering great places to take a break and cool down during the day!
Another free Canada Day activity is to watch the many boats going through the Ottawa Locks on the famous Rideau Canal. On Canada Day, you’ll see many boats moored along the canal from Wellington Street almost all the way down to Somerset Street and Ottawa’s pedestrian Corktown Bridge, which is also known as the “Love Lock Bridge.” This is a lovely Ottawa tradition where couples put a lock on the bridge then throw the keys into the canal to symbolize their everlasting love!
Enjoy FREE OC TRANSPO TRANSPORTATION on Canada Day: Ottawa’s city bus service, OC Transpo, offers free transfers on Canada Day all day long. This is an easy way to get to and from Ottawa’s busy downtown core and avoid all the street closures and pedestrian traffic. After the fireworks, remember to be patient while waiting for the bus. There’s an enormous crowd of people trying to leave the downtown core at the same time.
- Leave your PET AT HOME and your BIKE outside the celebration zone: In the heart of the action, the crowds are enormous and your puppy won’t necessarily be seen by all of those revelers’ feet! As for bikes, definitely cycle into the downtown core, but lock your bike up just outside the centre of the action and walk in. The Canada Day crowd is so vast and dense that biking through the downtown core (or even walking your bike) is a very difficult task.
- SHARE your experience: Be sure to share the fun via social media – use the #MyOttawa and #CanadaDay hashtags!
For more ideas on what to see and do on Canada Day in Ottawa, visit the Canadian Heritage website. Have fun, stay cool and be safe. Happy 149th Birthday Canada!