Origins of Canada Day
In 1867 the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec) were united on July 1st to become the kingdom of Canada. Originally known as Dominion Day, the holiday was renamed “Canada Day” in 1982 when the Canada Act was passed. The day is often referred to as Canada’s birthday and the name is quite fitting as the uniting of the colonies was only the first step in the journey to becoming what we are today: a multicultural nation rich in heritage and filled with natural beauty. It is with pride that we celebrate the birth of our nation, and doing so on Parliament Hill in Canada's capital city is simply unparalleled. Come join a buzzing, patriotic crowd that numbers in the tens of thousands for a full day of festivities, events and performances that all culminate with a dazzling fireworks display.
Parliament Hill Celebrations
Parliament Hill lies on the banks of the Ottawa River and is the main site of Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. It is a truly fitting celebratory location as the new National Flag of Canada was first raised here in February of 1965. The historic hill fills early as crowds gather for the flag raising ceremony at 9 a.m. followed by the stirring Changing of the Guard ceremony and a carillon concert. The bells of the Peace Tower, a symbol of Canada’s Parliament, join in with the music.
At noon, look up to the sky to watch the awe-inspiring Snowbirds as they demonstrate the incredible skill of the Canadian Forces with a display of acrobatics and precision flying. A new show is designed each season although favourite maneuvers such as the Canada Burst and the signature 9-abreast exit are always included. On the ground, a cultural show takes place for much of the noon hour.
Don’t leave too early or you’ll miss out on the swing dancing that takes place all afternoon and the highly entertaining shows performed by the Ottawa Stilt Union and A Flock of Flyers: remix. The day on Parliament Hill finishes with an evening concert (which is also broadcasted live for families who can not stay for the entire event) and a spectacular fireworks display.
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Mayor's Hill Park Festivities
Not far from Parliament Hill, Mayor’s Hill Park hosts a variety of events, most of which kick off at 9 a.m. Test your Canadian trivia knowledge and wish a happy 200th anniversary to Sir John A. Macdonald, the country’s first Prime Minister. An exhibition by the Grain Farmers of Ontario informs festival goers about farming and agriculture, while the Dairy Farmers of Canada will round out your breakfast knowledge by teaching you how to milk a cow and make cheese curds.
Shows and demonstrations take place at various times throughout the day including cooking, exercise, gymnastics, a brass band and the amazing Flying Fools with their acrobatic high dives. The Chicken Farmers of Canada will have salads and sandwiches for purchase along with the 23rd Annual Great Canadian Chicken BBQ. Most of the festivities wrap up around 5 p.m. to give visitors a chance to relax before the 7 p.m. evening show that lasts until almost 11.
Jacques-Cartier Park Events
Families with young children will appreciate the offerings at Jacques-Cartier Park and a convenient free shuttle runs between this park and the celebrations at Mayor’s Hill Park. Inflatable play structures and face painting are available all day and more curious kids will have fun exploring the adventure course and sailing lessons. The Mini-TFO hosts will do a show at 10 and 2, and the Farfaelfes will be wandering the park all day. Watch the afternoon demonstrations by the Montreal soccer freestylers and then take a break before the 7 o’clock evening show.
The fun is not limited to just the parks; many places around the city have special activities to celebrate Canada Day.
An early morning ceremony takes place at the National War Memorial to honour the Royal Newfoundland Regiment that fought in France in 1916 at Beaumont-Hamel. The Ode to Newfoundland will be sung, followed by the national anthem.
Many museums are free or have special activities including Canada Aviation and Space Museum (free), Canada Agricultural and Food Museum (free), Canadian Museum of Nature (the castle is free), Canadian War Museum (free), and the Canadian Museum of History including the Children’s Museum inside it (free).
Listen to live music and be part of a Living Flag in Downtown Rideau – Ottawa’s Arts, Fashion & Theatre District.
The National Arts Center is also free and offers activities all day. The NAC supports arts education across theatre, orchestra, dance and new artists. They also help to educate youth and support art instructors in the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in the country.
The National Gallery of Canada is also free for the day (excluding the Alex Colville special exhibit) and has a delightful collection of non-performance art. View the collections and return to the plaza in the evening to watch the fireworks.
Other free places to visit include the Royal Canadian Mint, Rideau Hall, the Official Residence of the Governor General of Canada and the Mackenzie-King Estate, the home of Canada’s 10th prime minister which features a beautiful collection of restored cottages and gardens and will be having additional activities for kids.
Federation Park and Marion Dewar Plaza are showcasing the up-and-coming jazz bands courtesy of the Ottawa Jazz Festival Inc. Performances alternate stages and times, allowing everyone to listen to all the performers with ease.
Be part of the excitement in the capital region as Canadians across the country arrive to enjoy the festivities and show their national pride. Celebrations take place all over the city from the solemn to the spectacular and there is something for everyone from the youngest member of the family to the oldest.
Have you attended Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill?
Tell us your favourite part, comment below!