What’s going on Canada Day and where should I go?

Published: June 3, 2019
Last updated: April 1, 2021
Couple taking a picture next to the Ottawa sign at the Byward market during multi-day bike tour of Ottawa with Escape

Canada Day in Ottawa; Photo by CHRIS MIKULA, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Canada Day turns downtown Ottawa upside down. Enjoy the activities or escape the crowd on this special day

Many Canadians hope to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa at least once in their lives. Let’s face it, to be in Ottawa on Canada’s big day and stand in front of the Peace Tower on Canada’s national front lawn is something you want to experience.

Canada Day is celebrated on July 1 every year. On that day in 1867 Canada marks the anniversary of the formation of the British North American provinces in a federation called Canada.

Canada’s pride bursts into the open (some alcohol helps usually and since 2018 perhaps the legalisation of pot too) in the downtown core on Canada Day. Many revellers are dressed in the national colours white and red. They’ll have their faces painted, wear flags on their hats or dig up their red hijab. Keep your eyes open for Captain Canada, completely dressed in red & white.

Canada Day Party at Parliament Hill

The Parliamentary Precinct, as the area around Parliament Hill is officially called, is the scene of a large party, starting just before noon. You can watch a flashy show in the early afternoon and evening with artists from every province taking to the stage. Be in time, as security is tight and you may have to wait quite a while before you can get in. Bring water and food, just in case.

One big pedestrian mall

An area of around five streets south of Parliament Hill becomes one big pedestrian mall as a number of streets are closed off, allowing you to safely walk between Parliament Hill and the Byward Market.

Because there is more to do in the downtown core. Major Hill Park, for example, has lots of stuff to do and see with bands playing throughout the day. Then there is the lawn of the Museum of History in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa with many activities going on. Check out the official website for the latest.

Typical Canada Day

How would a typical Canada day in Ottawa look like? Well, it is a slow start with a good breakfast. Then it is off to downtown by public transport, foot or bike to see the Governor General arriving. GG Julie Payette arrived by bike in 2018 and by canoe in 2019, much to the concern of security, with a small group of invited residents on bikes/canoes following her.

Then it is off to see the live performances on the hill. Early afternoon, you may want to take in some food and then it is off to either the Museum of History or Major Hill Park. Approaching the end of the day, you may want to have a great dinner and prepare for the 10 am fireworks.

If you have the time and you come from farther away, we strongly suggest you come a day earlier or stay a day or two longer. There is a lot to do in the Nation’s capital. Take for example our three hours Best of Ottawa Neighbourhood tour to see Ottawa by bike or our two hour express tour. There is so much to see!

If you’d rather escape the downtown crowds, renting a bike or taking a tour might be a great option for Canada Day. It is often -but not always- warm on Canada Day and many Ottawans are gone to cottages or simply stay in their backyard around the barbecue: the roads are usually quiet.

Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals is open on Canada Day. It’s a busy day so you might want to book in advance.

Make sure you are back downtown to enjoy the 10 pm fireworks on the Ottawa river. Click here to check out Canada Day activities.

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