Canada Day

Canada Day tips and packing guide

Official programming for the 2020 Canada Day celebrations has yet to be announced. Some programming may be affected by the ongoing rehabilitation of Parliament’s Centre Block, however, you can still expect epic events and entertainment that make Canada Day in Ottawa the country’s biggest birthday party! Here are our tips based on the 2019 celebrations.

If you’re coming to Ottawa for Canada Day this year, you’re in for a super-sized treat! Canada’s capital is hosting a two-day celebration on Sunday, June 30 and Monday, July 1, 2019! (To learn more about official Canada Day long weekend programming, visit our Canada Day webpage.)

If you’ve never experienced Canada Day in Ottawa, check out our suggestions below on what to bring and what to expect at this unforgettable patriotic party. (Note: most of the suggestions below refer specifically to July 1st, but they may be helpful for June 30th as well.)

  1. Dress in RED & WHITE: Reflecting Canada’s flag, everyone – be it visitors or locals – wears these two colours on Canada Day! If you want to take your attire one step further, stock up on maple leaf and Canada flag stickers, as well as temporary tattoos and face paint. And if you’d like to be able to keep track of a group or of children, dress them in a bright and distinctive accent colour. The brighter the colour, the better, as they will stand out from the crowd!
  2. Bring a CANADIAN FLAG: You’ll see the Canadian flag out in all shapes and forms on July 1. Hold yours and wave it around proudly or if you choose, wear it as a cape. You’ll see many revelers doing this. There’s only one rule; don’t let the flag touch the ground, as it’s disrespectful.
  3. Grab a PAPER CANADIAN FLAG: These small paper flags are usually distributed at the main Canada Day celebration sites (Parliament HillMajor’s Hill Park and the Canadian Museum of History). Get a flag and keep it with you for the day!
  4. Stop for a meal at a restaurant or on a patio WHEN YOU CAN: Most restaurants in the ByWard Market, Downtown Rideau and Elgin Street neighbourhoods (as well as elsewhere throughout the downtown core) DO NOT take reservations on Canada Day. So if you see a potential spot, grab it while you can!
  5. Bring a REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE: With all of that walking in the July heat, you’ll get thirsty quickly and this is a great thing to have on hand! And at the official Canada Day celebration sites mentioned above, you’ll find several water bottle REFILL STATIONS. Make sure to stay hydrated, so you can enjoy all of the fun from dawn to the end of the fireworks and beyond!
  6. Bring a BACKPACK: This is a useful item to have with you, as you can bring along many helpful things such as sunscreensunglassesa camerahand sanitizer and a hat, to name a few. And if you plan on doing lots of reveling on Parliament Hill, DO NOT FORGET sunscreen and a hat as there is NO SHADE at this site. 
  7. Bring a small amount of CASH: There are many street food and souvenir vendors in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day. A small amount of cash is great to have, so you can buy something quickly and keep celebrating. Also, if you’re looking for a healthy snack such as fresh fruit or vegetables, most ByWard farmers’ market vendors only deal in cash.
  8. Bring a SMALL UMBRELLA or a RAINCOAT: These items are good to have just in case it starts to rain, but keep them portable! Opt for a smaller umbrella, which will be easy to carry and won’t block other revelers’ views of the stages set up at the main celebration sites.
  9. Consider bringing a FOLDING CHAIR: If you don’t plan on moving around too much on Canada Day going from one site to another, a folding chair might be useful. You should be able to set up your chair if you head to Parliament Hill earlier in the day, but you may be more limited as the day progresses. And keep in mind that you’d have to carry the chair through the city’s crowded streets at the end of the day.
  10. See the FIREWORKS (July 1 at 10:00 p.m.): Parliament Hill is not necessarily the best place to see the fireworks, as the historic Parliament Buildings can block part of your view. Consider these alternatives:
    • The central loop of Confederation Boulevard which runs along Wellington Street, Mackenzie Avenue, Sussex Drive in Ottawa, as well as Laurier Street in Gatineau
    • Major’s Hill Park, overlooking the Ottawa River
    • Along the Ottawa River
  11. Take advantage of FREE PROGRAMMING on Canada Day: In addition to the three official Canada Day sites, free activities are usually also offered at many other locations around the city. A few highlights include:
    • Museums: Most of Ottawa’s museums also offer free admission on Canada Day; however you may still have to pay admission to see their special exhibits. And keep in mind, the museums are air conditioned, offering great places to take a break and cool down during the day!
    • National Arts Centre (NAC): The NAC offers a variety of free programming for all ages on July 1.
    • TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: Drop by Confederation Park on Elgin Street to enjoy free Jazzfest concerts on July 1.
  12. GETTING AROUND: On Canada Day, various roads are closed to traffic and parking is very limited as locals and visitors of all ages gather in downtown Ottawa. For example, roads by Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, Jacques-Cartier Park and the Alexandra Bridge, and the road in front of the Canadian Museum of History are closed on Canada Day. For more details, consult the complete list of road closures.

    The best way to get around is on foot, by bike, or by public transportation. Take advantage of the following FREE options on July 1:

    • Free supervised bike stations at Major’s Hill Park, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History
    • Public bus services on OC Transpo (Ottawa) and STO (Gatineau). 
    • Free shuttle bus between official sites and strategic locations. Visit the Getting Around section of the Canada Day website for details.
  13. Leave your PET AT HOME: In the heart of the action, the crowds are enormous and your animal won’t necessarily be seen by all of those revelers’ feet, and it might be scared by the noises and fireworks!
  14. SHARE your experience: Be sure to share the fun via social media – use the #MyOttawa and #CanadaDay hashtags!

For a glimpse into official Canada Day programming, visit our Canada Day webpage.

Stay up to date

Stay up to date on upcoming events and ideas to plan your next trip to Ottawa with friends, family or on your own by signing up for the Ottawa Tourism Newsletter.