Each year, Ottawa, as Canada’s Capital, hosts the country’s biggest birthday party on July 1. This year, in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada Day organizers are extending festivities over the entire long weekend from June 30 to July 2, 2017! Official events are free and include live entertainment and activities in Major’s Hill Park and at the Canadian Museum of History over the three days, numerous live musical acts on a huge concert stage on Parliament Hill on July 1st, and the always incredible Canada Day fireworks show on the evening of July 1st. (Note: This year will be the largest Canada Day pyrotechnic show ever and it will start around 11:00 p.m.!) Plus, on July 2nd, WE Day Canada will host their first-ever open-air festival-style event on Parliament Hill with numerous special guests! For an overview of the official programming, visit our Official Canada Day Weekend 2017 Festivities webpage.
Beyond official Canada Day celebrations, there are countless other events taking place from June 30 to July 2, 2017. Here are just a few highlights (sorted in order of start date):
Inspiration Village (May 20-September 4)
Check out special exhibits and performances celebrating all things Canadian at Inspiration Village in the historic ByWard Market neighbourhood. This new and edgy installation of transformed sea shipping containers is open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m until September 4. While you’re there, take a selfie at the giant red OTTAWA sign and share it with us on social media using the hashtag #MyOttawa!
Canada Scene (June 15-July 23)
This biennial multidisciplinary festival is planning an expanded edition in 2017 that celebrates Canada’s best in music, dance, theatre, culinary, and more! Over 1,000 artists from across Canada are participating in over 100 Canada Scene events at venues across Canada’s Capital Region, including the National Arts Centre (NAC). A mind-blowing variety of programming—including some free and family-friendly events—are taking place June 15 to July 23.
TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 22-July 2)
The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, one of Ottawa’s largest annual music events, features hundreds of artists including big names from the world of jazz and cutting-edge musicians. Venues include indoor and outdoor spaces such as Confederation Park which is located just steps from Parliament Hill. The festival runs June 22 until July 2 and best of all, shows are free on Canada Day! Here are just a few of the artists scheduled over the Canada Day long weekend: Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires (June 30), NEFE (July 1), Groenland (July 1) and Feist (July 2).
Special Haunted Walk Tours (select dates between June 23 and July 29)
Guides from the Haunted Walk celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by sharing their favourite Canadian ghost stories during their special 150 Years of Canada’s Scariest Ghost Stories tours.
Urban Camping (June 29-July 4)
The City of Ottawa has created a new Urban Camping Program which offers visitors a unique way to stay in Ottawa during the long Canada Day weekend in 2017. Select green spaces and parking lots will be converted into family-friendly sites that visitors can reserve between June 29 to July 4, 2017 for their tents and RVs. Campers will have access to showers and toilets and in some cases, can access additional amenities for a small extra fee.
MosaïCanada 150 (June 30-October 15)
Stroll along a one-kilometre path and immerse yourself into the magical world of giant and meticulous artistic horticulture at MosaïCanada 150! From June 30 to October 15, over one hundred Canadian-themed sculptures made of living plants will be displayed in Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, Quebec (near the Canadian Museum of History). This free event is organized by Gatineau 2017.
Nature Nocturne (June 30)
The historic and castle-like Canadian Museum of Nature is hosting their popular monthly Nature Nocturne event on June 30. Enjoy multiple dance floors with live music and DJs, interactive activities (with many fun photo opportunities), as well as food and beverage options spread out over four floors of world-class museum exhibitions. The June theme, 150 Throwback Special, encourages you to show your Canadian pride by wearing red and white or simply your best Canadian-themed outfit!
Canadian History Hall (opens July 1)
Be one of the first to see the largest, most comprehensive exhibition about Canadian history ever created! The highly anticipated new Canadian History Hall, which opens on July 1 (Canada Day) at the Canadian Museum of History, features 1,800 Canada-related artifacts that span over 15,000 years of Canadian history. Best of all, museum admission is free on Canada Day!
Canada Day at the National Arts Centre (July 1)
The National Arts Centre (NAC) is celebrating the unveiling of its major renovations—including a beautiful new atrium with views of Parliament Hill—by hosting free performances and activities for all ages on Canada Day 2017!
Ottawa Brewery Market—Canada Day Edition (July 1)
What better way to celebrate Canada Day than to sip some tasty craft beer made in Canada’s Capital Region and the province of Ontario, with proceeds going to local charities? The Ottawa Brewery Market is hosting a Canada Day event from noon to 8 p.m. in Hintonburg Park in the Wellington West area—one of Ottawa’s most vibrant neighbourhoods just west of downtown. Admission to this family-friendly event is free; beer and food is available for purchase.
Dominion Day (July 1)
For a uniquely retro-Canadiana-themed party, check out Dominion Day, hosted by Dominion City Brewing. Enjoy beer from the host brewery, food from local chefs, music from local musicians including Amos The Transparent and Canadian games! This ticketed event is held at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum from noon to 11:00 p.m.
Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge (July 2)
The day after Canada Day, the Alexandra Bridge will be transformed into a grassy picnic area which overlooks Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. Bring your own food and picnic blanket to your reserved picnic spot and enjoy the Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge—a Canadian first! This ticketed event is organized by Ottawa 2017.
Home to seven national museums as well as several local institutions, Canada’s Capital is a culture lover’s paradise; and most offer free admission on Canada Day! Explore Ottawa’s past at the Bytown Museum; explore the new permanent Canadian and Indigenous Galleries at the National Gallery of Canada; cool off at the new permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature; catch the Hockey exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History; commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the Canadian War Museum; and visit the Royal Canadian Mint for a Canada 150 themed token strike and free guided tours.
These are only a few of the many great exhibits that are going on! Note: Free admission may not include access to special exhibits.
Ottawa is a very easy city to explore since the majority of its main attractions are located within a 20-minute walk from most downtown hotels. Walking tours such as Ottawa Walking Tours, The Haunted Walk and Indigenous Walks offer a variety of ways to explore the city on foot. Local companies RentABike and Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals offer bike rentals as well as guided cycling experiences. Or if you prefer to sit back and relax, consider a bus or boat tour. Gray Line Ottawa and Lady Dive offer narrated, Hop-on Hop-off double decker bus tours. Lady Dive also offers tours on an Amphibus which drives through the city and transforms into a boat that floats on the Ottawa River! You can see more of the Ottawa River by taking a boat cruise with World Famous Paul’s Boat Lines or Capital Cruises, or explore Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site with Rideau Canal Cruises. Or for a brief but picturesque way to easily transfer between the Bytown Museum and the Canadian Museum of History, hop on the universally accessible and eco-friendly Aqua-Taxi! Cruises, or explore Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site with Rideau Canal Cruises. If tasting delicious craft beer is on your list, you should consider joining a Brew Donkey bus tour which includes guided visits to multiple breweries and dozens of local craft beer samples!
Whether you’re looking for exciting waterslides or big roaring rapids, you’ll find water activities in the Ottawa region to suit your desired level of fun and adventure!
Did you know the Ottawa region is known as one of the world’s premier whitewater rafting destinations? Here are a few ways you can soak up the action:
- Operated by outdoor adventure company Wilderness Tours, Ottawa City Rafting offers a gentle, family-friendly rafting adventure that starts just 10 minutes west of the downtown Ottawa. Hop into a raft at Britannia Beach and paddle or float comfortably on gentle water and over three sets of splashy Class II and Class III rapids—all while gazing at breathtaking views of downtown Ottawa and of the iconic Parliament Buildings. As you go, your guide recounts stories of voyageur fur-traders and early explorers, as well as anecdotes about Ottawa’s turbulent lumber town past. During this three-hour excursion, you might also get the opportunity to do body surfing and cliff jumping. Ottawa is one of the only cities in the world where you can go rafting through its downtown core!
- If you’re looking for high-adrenaline whitewater adventure, consider driving 90-minutes west of downtown Ottawa to the Beachburg, Ont. area, which is considered 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 an “Ontario Signature Experience” as well as a “Canadian Signature Experience,” meaning that it’s among the ‘crème de la crème’ of fun activities to do in Canada!
For a different type of water adventure, visit Canada’s largest waterpark: Calypso Theme Waterpark! Located in Limoges, about 20 minutes south of downtown Ottawa, Calypso has several state of the art waterslides, 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.
For more information about where to stay and what to do in Ottawa around Canada Day and all year long, browse the See & Do section of our website.