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Canada North America Ontario

How to Celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa: Plan Your Trip With This Guide

1 July, 2019: There is no better place to celebrate Canada Day than in the national capital, Ottawa. As the capital of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, is unsurprisingly the most pull-out-all-the-stops-energetic celebrator of Canada’s national day. Before you head over to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, it is important to realize that, unlike in many other colonized countries, Canada Day does not celebrate the “independence” of Canada, as Canada never fought for independence from the United Kingdom. In fact, the Queen of England is still the head of state of Canada, and all new citizens must swear allegiance to the Queen before being granted citizenship. Rather, Canada simply transitioned peacefully from a British Monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. This transition was made official in 1867 when the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, giving birth to the Dominion of Canada and making Canada a self-governing Dominion on 1 July, 1867. Canada is therefore a relatively young nation—it celebrated its 150th birthday in 2017—and its national flag colours of white and red were assigned by King George V of England as recently as 1921. Canada Day (known as Dominion Day until 1982) celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada, which originally included only the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (1967), and later expanded to Manitoba and the Northwest Territories (1870), British Columbia (1871), Prince Edward Island (1873), the Arctic Islands (1880), Yukon Territory (1898), Alberta and Saskatchewan (1905), Newfoundland and Labrador (1949), and Nunavut (1999).


How to Celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa - with full flag colours
Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: © thetravellingsociologist.


With that understanding of the significance of Canada Day in mind, let’s get started on how to plan a trip to the national capital region to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa. The first thing you need to know is that there is an official Canada Day page that should serve as your reference guide and source of updated information for navigating Canada Day in Ottawa. The second thing you need to know is that security has heightened dramatically since the 150th birthday celebrations in 2017, and you must leave your backpacks or any other big bags at home and arrive early downtown to line up and undergo a security screening. Here are all the rest of the important details you will need to plan a successful trip to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa:


Security Screening:

A security screening is required on Parliament Hill only.

  • Screening begins: 7 am
  • Restricted items: large bags over 35.5 cm x 30.5 cm x 19 cm/14″x12″x7.5″ (eg, backpacks), weapons, explosives, fireworks, or alcohol.
  • Advice: access will be faster for those without bags or restricted items. Visitors carrying a bag or large item must enter the inspection lane. All other visitors can proceed directly to the metal detectors.


Main celebration sites:

Parliament Hill
111 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario

Major’s Hill Park
Mackenzie Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario

Canadian Museum of History
100 Laurier Street, Gatineau, Quebec / Canada Day hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m


Canada Day programming: begins at 8 am on 30 June; ends with the fireworks show on 1 July.

Accessibility: All official sites are accessible to people with special needs. The accessibility entrance is located at the corner of Bank Street and Wellington Street.


Accommodation: Book your hotel

Booking.com makes it easy to find the best accommodation options in and around Ottawa. Book now rather than later, as places fill up quickly as Canada Day approaches!

For ease and convenience, download the app for Android devices here.

You can also download the app for Apple devices here.


Transportation: Ride your bike or take the bus or shuttle

Parking is very limited on Canada Day due to the large crowds and road closures. The best way to get around on Canada Day sites is by using public transportation or by riding a bicycle.

There will be free supervised bike stations at Major’s Hill Park and the Canadian Museum of History.

STO (Société de Transport de l’Outaouais) typically offers free commuting all day, on all routes.

There will be free shuttle buses serving the Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau), Major’s Hill Park (Ottawa) and the Supreme Court of Canada from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on July 1.

Stop locations:

Direction: Gatineau-Ottawa toward Parliament Hill
• Ottawa: at the intersection of Murray Street and Mackenzie Avenue
• Gatineau: on Laurier Street South direction, at Elisabeth-Bruyère intersection
• Ottawa: on Wellington Street, in front of the Supreme Court of Canada

Direction: Gatineau-Ottawa toward Major’s Hill Park:
• Ottawa: on Wellington Street, in front of the Supreme Court of Canada
• Gatineau: on Laurier Street, in front of the Canadian Museum of History
• Ottawa: at the intersection of Murray Street and Mackenzie Avenue



Concession stands will be available near Parliament Hill, at Major’s Hill Park, and at the Canadian Museum of History. There are also several restaurants downtown, but note that most do not take reservations on Canada Day. And additionally, there will be many street food vendors and food trucks downtown. Have a small amount of cash with you as some of these vendors may only take cash. And the vendors at ByWard farmer’s market, where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to small restaurants, only take cash.
First aid will be available at Parliament Hill, the Capital Information Kiosk at 90 Wellington Street, Major’s Hill Park, and the Canadian Museum of History.

Lost and found boxes will be kept at Canada Day information booths at Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, and the Canadian Museum of History.

Valuable lost items will be turned over to local police:
• Ottawa Police: 613-236-1222, ext. 5238 (Case Number: 18-89799)
• Gatineau Police: 819-246-0222

Portable washrooms will be available on Parliament Hill, at Major’s Hill Park and at the Canadian Museum of History.

Road closures will include those by Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, Jacques-Cartier Park, the Alexandra Bridge, and the road in front of the Canadian Museum of History.

Pets and service animals: Dogs and pets are not permitted at Canada Day official sites. Exceptions are made for service dogs.


Health Tips:

Remember to wear sunscreen, and bring sunglasses, a hat, hand sanitizer to use before eating, a camera to capture all your best moments, and a reusable water bottle that you can fill up for free at water stations on-site.

Other optional resources to pack in your handbag or carry under your arm include a folding chair, and a small umbrella or raincoat if there is a risk of rain.


Celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa at Parliament Hill
The middle of the action—the main stage on Parliament Hill during Canada Day in Ottawa. Photo credit: © thetravellingsociologist.


Now that you have all the logistical details on trip planning at the tips of your fingers, let’s dive right into the fun—what you’ll actually get up to once you join the party and are ready to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa! Be sure to arrive downtown already all decked out in the national colours of red and white to showcase your Canadian pride. The more creative the outfit, the brighter and louder your props, the better! Paste on your temporary Canada-flag tattoos or your red and white face paint. If you have a Canadian flag at home, bring that too; you’ll want to wrap it around your shoulders (don’t let it touch the ground, as that’s disrespectful) or wave it in the air to proclaim your pride loud and clear. Once you arrive in the middle of the action, there will surely be volunteers handing out paper Canadian flags. Grab one and stick it in your hair to crown your outfit. There is free programming all day long, both the day before Canada Day and on the actual day, on 1 July. Free programming is available at the three official sites mentioned above as well as at other locations around the city. Get the full activity program here. You must absolutely end your Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa with the fireworks show, which is the last event on the schedule and the highlight of the celebrations. The show usually starts at 10 pm and the best places to see them include: the central loop of Confederation Boulevard, which runs along Wellington Street, Mackenzie Avenue, Sussex Drive in Ottawa, and Laurier Street in Gatineau; Major’s Hill Park, which overlooks the Ottawa River, and the lawn of the Canadian Museum of History, which lies along the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River (note that the Alexandra Bridge, which links Ottawa to Gatineau, is usually closed an hour before and after the fireworks).


Celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa with fireworks
The fireworks show is the highlight and closing event of Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. Photo credit: © thetravellingsociologist.


I hope you will have an easy time planning your trip to Ottawa for the celebrations now that you have this guide as a resource, and I also hope you will enjoy yourself immensely while you celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa. I wish you a happy, safe, and memorable experience. Happy Canada Day!!!


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