(Note that these events are for next weekend, June 30/July 1. For events this coming weekend, see here.)
Next weekend is the July 1 long weekend, and we live in Ottawa. That means you can basically fall out your front door and find some sort of party going on. I tend to be a little Scrooge McDuck myself about Canada Day – I can’t stand the crowds, and the last time I was on Parliament Hill, I was so attacked by mosquitos while waiting for the fireworks I swore I’d never be back. But even if The Hill isn’t your thing, there are so, so many other things going on for July 1 (seriously: SO MANY), that there’s really no excuse. If you’ll be in town, get out there!
Now before we talk about Canada Day itself, let’s discuss a few events happening in the week leading up to the big day…
Starting Tuesday, June 26 and running through Saturday, June 30 is the Sunset RCMP Musical Ride. It starts at 7:30 p.m. and is at the RCMP Stables at the Canadian Police College. Can you really call yourself Canadian if you’ve never seen the Musical Ride? I think not.
Also, Monday, June 25 is kick-off day for the Changing of the Guard, which happens each summer morning at 10 a.m. on Parliament Hill. Warning: your children may find this boring as all hell. But if you have out-of-town guests, it’s pretty much a must-do. Just bring lots of snacks and maybe a GameBoy or two. As well, outdoor guided tours of the hill start on Saturday, June 30 (slightly more interesting to children due to the presence of many cats, and the ability to run free on the big lawn).
On to Canada Day! Deep breath.
The big action is, of course, downtown. This site is your bible for downtown activities. Stuff will be happening on the hill, along Rideau, in Major’s Hill Park, across the river at Jacques Cartier Park, and in Confederation Park. The Parliament Hill schedule starts at 9 a.m. with a really cool Carillon Concert (that means, played by the bells in the Peace Tower); concerts and buskers and other entertainment runs all day, finishing off with the fireworks at 10 p.m. Jacques Cartier Park is really the best place to go if you have young kids; bring a picnic and stay all day for bouncy castles, face painting, cheerleading demonstrations, breakdancing competition (SO COOL – this one starts at 6 p.m.), outdoor movies, and dance shows. There will also be some sort of fancy fire juggling show in the early evening – I think it’s at 8:30 p.m. – so if you can’t quite stay up for the fireworks, this is a good substitute. Over at Major’s Hill Park, there’s a really great barbeque, multicultural displays with performances and crafts, and a cool cowboy area including inflatable pony bouncers. Action at both parks starts around 10 a.m.; a shuttle bus is available to take you back and forth between them but really, it’s not a long walk and if you have a big stroller, it’s easier to just hoof it across the bridge than try to squeeze onto the shuttle.
Last year I took the girls downtown just for the morning of July 1, and I actually have to admit it was a pretty good time. There was just so much to do, and all of it free. We found parking at the Rideau Centre indoor parking garage (it was pretty full by 10 a.m., but when we left at around 4 p.m. there were still a handful of spots on the top level, so I’d recommend trying there any time throughout the day).
Also, if you’re looking for even more information on exactly what’s going on downtown, check out the Ottawa Kiosk Canada Day Page which is all hooked up to the full insider info. There’s also a great guide to stuff happening on Rideau Street and in Confederation Park over at the Ottawa Sun Canada Day page.
Okay! Let’s move on to museums. The Museum of Science, Museum of Nature, Museum of Civilization, National Art Gallery, and Museum of Agriculture are all having free admission on Canada Day. At the Museum of Science, you can play with bottle rockets, tour the lighthouse, and visit the observatory – all super, super cool, trust me. At the Museum of Agriculture, you can make and taste your own ice cream; over at the Museum of Civilization, a new exhibit is opening on Canada day, “A Queen and Her Country,” celebrating the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Over at the NAC, there’s a whole program of free concerts and activities on Canada Day. A mass choir performs at 10 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.; there’s the Canadian Forces band at 11 a.m. and hip-hop dancing at 1 p.m. Kids crafts, face painting, and colouring runs all day from 11 through 4 p.m., and there’s a lunchtime BBQ (which costs a nominal amount).
The Mackenzie King Estate is having a quieter celebration, featuring birthday cake, crafts, music, and organized games. That sounds like more my speed. Over on Victoria Island, there’s an Aboriginal Experiences event featuring First Nations drumming, dancing, storytelling, and crafts. Over at the Currency Museum, there’s crafts and a fun outdoor trivia game where you can win prizes. The city museums – Pinhey’s Point, Billings Estate, and Cumberland Heritage Village – are all having special games and crafts to celebrate “Dominion Day” – regular museum admission applies.
Whew! Exhausted yet? Because there’s more!
If you’d like to stay away from the downtown core, there’s outlier events in the suburbs. Canada Day in Kanata is a huge party in Walter Baker Park, featuring amusement park rides (totally not free), bouncy castles, face painting, tons of food, and bands (some stuff is free, some isn’t). Get there EARLY if you want parking; leave late if you want to see headliner Kim Mitchell and watch the fireworks. Canada Day in Barrhaven features a battle of the bands, a kids’ zone, tons of food, and fireworks, all starting at 11 a.m. in Clarke Fields Park. Queen Juliana Park in Nepean has amusement park rides, pony rides, music, and a nighttime laser light show. Canada Day in Orleans takes place on Petrie Island starting at 11 and features a magic show, visits by princesses, Little Ray’s and Radical Science, free music all day, and fireworks at 10 p.m.
And I think that might be it. If you hear of anything else noteworthy for Canada Day, please let me know (although it’s not like it’ll be hard to find an activity, or anything, jeez).
Also, most people have July 2 off as a holiday. Just wanted to mention that the Museum of Nature is closed that day (as it is regularly closed on Mondays), as are most malls and other shopping centres.
Have a great Canada Day!