Many have weighed in on the enigma of what it means to be Canadian. Hockey mania, extreme politeness, milk in a bag… all strong contenders. But to truly tap into the essence of Canadian-ness, you need to score this hat trick – make the pilgrimage to Canada’s capital, on Canada Day weekend, and do these Canada-loving things.
Here are 10 ways to celebrate the Canadian spirit in Ottawa this July 1, Canada’s 152nd birthday.
Visit Parliament Hill
The seat of Canada’s government is a hive of activity all day long throughout the summer, but especially on Canada Day with ceremonial events, activities and live entertainment. Although Centre Block is closed for renovation, free walking tours are available in the Senate of Canada Building and in West Block. Don’t miss the Centennial Flame, lit in 1967, in front of the Peace Tower. And be sure to extend your nama-stay to include a Wednesday when free yoga classes take place on the Hill.
Make A Museum Stop
Ottawa is home to top-shelf museums, and many offer free admission, as well as special programming on Canada Day. Choose from the Museum of Civilization, The Canadian War Museum, the Museum of Nature, The National Gallery or the Diefenbunker.
Cruise The Rideau Canal
See the city from the unique perspective offered by the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage waterway that meanders through downtown and ultimately weaves its way down to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. Guided tours are offered by Rideau Canal Cruises.
Feed Your Insta-Need
Strike a pose at the Ottawa sign surrounded by colourful Muskoka chairs, relocated from the ByWard Market to York Street Plaza. Or celebrate Canadian history with a selfie at Nepean Point with the Father of New France. This scenic lookout provides a panoramic view of Parliament Hill, and the Alexandra Bridge crossing the Ottawa River. At the top, stands the statue of explorer and cartographer Samuel de Champlain holding his famous astrolabe.
Make It A Great Canadian ‘Cheat Day’
Take a diet break and indulge in Canadian culinary treats. Start with luxurious pancakes and maple syrup at Flapjack’s Diner. After that, make your next course a ‘Canadian salad’: aka Poutine. The Great Canadian Poutinerie on Deschamps Avenue, Smoke’s Poutinerie on Dalhousie Street or the Elgin Street Diner are all safe bets for classic and creative takes on fries, gravy and cheese curds. And of course, no Canada Day is complete without gorging on a BeaverTail, Canada’s answer to the doughnut. The BeaverTails kiosk in the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s original purveyors of the delightfully decadent fried, doughy pastry.
Whip Out Your Jazz Hands
Canada Day coincides with the last day of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. And to celebrate our nation’s birthday, the concerts at the Confederation Park Stage are free all day.
Switch Gears With A Bicycle Tour
Head to RentABike or Escape Bicycle Tours for a guided sojourn along Ottawa’s extensive network of bicycle routes that lead to cool attractions as well as lesser known hidden gems in the city.
Delve Into Ottawa’s Dark History
From campfires to the Capital, Canadians love a good ghost story! Join Haunted Walks on the original haunted walk of Ottawa. A cloaked guide will regale you with spooky stories from the past as you’re led by lantern light to iconic haunted spots like the ByTown Museum and the Fairmont Château Laurier.
Have A Beer, eh
What better way to toast the most wonderful country in the world than with a cold brew. And beer lovers, you’re in the right place. Ottawa is a hotbed for craft beer culture. Head to Brother’s Beer Bistro in the ByWard Market or whet your whistle in Ottawa’s most storied tavern, The Château Lafayette (The Laff to locals). Here are a few more ideas for great thirst-quenching spots.
Catch The Canada Day Fireworks
Last but certainly not least, don’t you dare miss the day’s biggest event – the 15-minute pyro-musical spectacle of dazzling fireworks lighting up the sky. Launched from Nepean Point, and set to a Canadian music soundtrack, the show starts at 10pm and can be viewed from all around the city. Great spots include Major’s Hill Park and around Confederation Boulevard.
MORE HELPFUL TIPS:
Where to stay: Stay in style at the Fairmont Château Laurier, located next door to Parliament Hill, or get a room with a view at the Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market. There’s no shortage of luxury, comfort and convenience at boutique style hotels like The Westin, ARC THE.HOTEL, Novotel Ottawa and The Metcalfe Hotel. Les Suites Hotel is a great option for families or groups with handy kitchenettes and couches. If you’re traveling with a furry friend, check out Brookstreet Hotel‘s pet-friendly policy. Find even more accommodation options here.
How to get around: Ottawa is well connected. If you’re looking for car free options, VIA Rail is super convenient as the train station is only a 20 minute bus ride from the heart of the city, and Ottawa Central Station, the city’s bus terminus and is also just minutes away. The Ottawa International Airport is approximately half an hour from the city core, and OC Transpo operates an airport-to-downtown bus every 20 minutes for just $4.
You can expect a lot of people to converge on the capital for Canada’s ultimate birthday party, so be sure to pack your smile and patience along with a refillable water bottle, a hat for shade and a small Canadian Flag to wave around.
Happy Birthday Canada! Here’s to the next 152 years.