So you’re coming to Ottawa to experience Canada Day in all its glory? This is the country’s biggest annual birthday celebration on July 1. You’ll no doubt be out and about early, taking in all that the nation’s enchanting Capital has to offer at the main celebration sites of Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, the Canadian Museum of History and on the closed streets of the city’s scenic downtown core.
The iconic Parliament Hill is where you’ll want to start celebrating that day. The festivities begin at 9:00 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony, followed by the colourful pageantry of the Changing of the Guard ceremony and then, a carillon concert on the Peace Tower bells at 10:00 a.m. At noon, look up at the sky to see a thrilling performance by the aerobatic Snowbirds Demonstration Team and Canada’s mighty CF-18 fighter jets. This annual part of Canada Day is a local favourite! And once the planes depart, you can take in a noon hour show filled with cultural entertainment.
The fun continues throughout the day at major sites downtown and across the Capital region. Then the Canada Day Evening Show begins, featuring great Canadian acts that play until fireworks explode into the sky at 10:00 p.m. sharp! Acts for the 2016 Canada Day Evening Show will include Alex Cuba, Indian City, Metric, Alex Nevsky and Les Hay Babies, to name a few.
No matter what you decide to do on Canada Day in Canada’s Capital, you’re sure to have a great time. This year, Canada Day falls on a Friday, which presents the perfect opportunity to extend your Ottawa stay. Either arrive a few days early or stay a couple of days late and explore what Ottawa has to offer in addition to its massive Canada Day celebration. From music festivals all summer long, to national ‘must-see’ museums, to award-winning whitewater adventure, how you choose to experience Ottawa is completely up to you.
If you’re thinking about extending your Ottawa visit, here are a few events happening just before or shortly after the country’s boisterous 149th birthday party!
- TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: This festival runs before Canada Day and a few days after, starting on June 22 and running until July 3. This is one of Ottawa’s largest music festivals and it includes the city’s biggest outdoor party of the year!
Here, you can catch performances under the stars in Confederation Park from acts such as the hauntingly beautiful Sarah McLachlan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Chick Corea Trio, Stacey Kent and Brian Wilson, to name a few. This festival hosts about 300 performers each year and attracts nearly 180,000 fans. Admission to the festival is free on Canada Day!
- Heineken Escapade Music Festival: Taking place on June 25 and 26 – the weekend before Canada Day – “Escapade” as it’s known locally, is Ottawa’s electronic dance music festival. Head to Rideau Carleton Raceway & Entertainment Centre, located at about a 20-minute drive south of Ottawa’s downtown core, to see headliners such as Ben Gold, Diplo, Hunter Siegel, Mark Knight and many more. Attracting a typically younger crowd, this is one of Ottawa’s wilder summer music festivals!
- Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival: This annual free-admission festival takes place at Mooney’s Bay, along the Rideau River, from June 23 to 26. This is North America’s largest dragon boat event, in which more than 200 teams compete!
In addition to the colourful boats and exciting paddling races, you’ll find world-class entertainment each evening from acts such as July Talk, Mother Mother, Alvvays and A Tribe Called Red. More than 75,000 visitors to and residents of the National Capital Region take part in the festival’s activities each year! Here, you’ll also find a variety of exhibitors and artisans as well as a Children’s Area with fun activities. This festival is sure to entertain all ages!
More Entertainment Options:
- Ottawa Fringe Festival: Running from June 15 to 26, this is Ottawa’s largest arts and theatre festival where the “must-see” acts are determined by the audience. The festival seeks to provide all artists with the opportunity to produce their art, regardless of experience, form or style. See a variety of unique art pieces from local, national and international artists.
- RCMP Musical Ride Sunset Ceremonies: Running nightly at 7:00 p.m. from June 22 to 26, this is a free, family-friendly Ottawa experience you won’t want to miss! Head over to the RCMP Rockcliffe Stables – about a 10-minute drive east of Ottawa’s downtown core – to see 32 riders and beautiful black horses perform exciting cavalry drills that are choreographed to music. These drills take place just before the sun goes down. Make sure to bring a camera!
- Ottawa REDBLACKS & the Ottawa Fury FC: Ottawa’s Canadian Football League team, the Ottawa REDBLACKS and its North American Soccer League team, the Ottawa Fury FC, play at TD Place Stadium at Lansdowne from roughly July through October. Grab tickets and take in the fun energy of a game in Canada’s Capital either before or after Canada Day!
Now, with all that reveling and sightseeing in the hot summer sun, you might want to cool down and Ottawa has experiences to help you with that. Whether you’re looking for big roaring rapids or exciting water slides, you’ll find something to suit your desired level of fun.
- Ottawa City Rafting: Operated by outdoor adventure company Wilderness Tours, this gentle family-friendly rafting adventure allows visitors to see Ottawa from a different perspective; that of the majestic, rolling Ottawa River!
Located just 10 minutes west of the busy downtown core, you can hop into a raft at Britannia Beach and paddle or float comfortably, as you bounce through three sets of splashy Class I and Class II rapids while getting breathtaking views of downtown Ottawa and of the iconic Parliament Buildings along the way. And as you go, your guide will recount the stories of voyageur fur-traders and early explorers who navigated the waterway many years before you, as well as anecdotes about Ottawa’s turbulent lumber town past. This three-hour excursion is available from May to September, weather permitting. Ottawa is one of the only cities in the world where you can go rafting through its downtown core!
- Calypso Theme Waterpark: Located in Limoges, about 20 minutes south of downtown Ottawa, Calypso is Canada’s largest waterpark. Here, you’ll find several state of the art water slides, a huge wave pool – it’s the size of three National Hockey League rinks – with different types of waves, a river-themed run and even a simulated whitewater experience called “Canyon Rafting.” Calypso also offers Zoo Lagoon, a safe aqua-play area for toddlers. This waterpark is open all summer long and from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Canada Day!
Or if high-adrenaline whitewater adventure is what you’re after, consider driving 90-minutes west of downtown Ottawa to the Beachburg, Ont. area, which is home to the Ottawa region’s beloved whitewater playground. This is one of the top five whitewater destinations in the world!
In this area, you’ll find big Class IV and Class V rapids as well as three rafting companies (OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River, Wilderness Tours and RiverRun Rafting) that offer beginner to expert level rafting and kayaking experiences. Rafting on the Ottawa River has been deemed a “Canadian Signature Experience,” meaning that it’s among the ‘crème de la crème’ of fun activities to do in the country.
Or if you’d rather stay on dry land, opt to take an extra day or two to visit a few of Ottawa’s national museums. Many of these museums are located within a short 20-minute walk of most downtown area hotels and are offering special exhibits all summer.
Take in Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Running until Sept. 5, 2016, this fun, interactive exhibit brings together props from the famous TV show and also looks at the science behind things such as phasers and other futuristic technologies. Or if art is more your thing, opt to see Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun at the National Gallery of Canada. Running until Sept. 12, 2016, this exhibit looks at the works of the woman who became Marie-Antoinette’s portraitist.
These are only a few of the many great exhibits that are going on. Also, you can enjoy free admission to most museums and galleries on Canada Day, but this does not include entry into the special exhibits.
For more information about where to stay (including packages and special offers) and what to do in Ottawa around Canada Day and all year long, browse Ottawa Tourism’s website.