When you think of Canada Day in Ottawa, what activities spring to mind? Some families spend the day downtown, some at their cottage or trailer, others camp at a nearby provincial park, and some use the day off to start their summer vacation. Planning Canada Day activities, especially with young children, can be daunting. To help, here is a list of family-friendly activities, events and sites to see, do and visit in Ottawa on Canada Day.
When in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day, a visit to Parliament Hill is pretty much mandatory. Each year, Parliament Hill draws thousands of Canadians dressed in red and white. It’s the place where Canada Day festivities officially kick off (usually with the raising of the flag at 9 a.m. and the Changing of the Guard at 9:30 a.m.) and it’s the place to be if you want to listen to dignitaries and ceremonies commemorating Canada Day (this usually takes place from about noon to 1:30 p.m.).
And while the Changing of the Guard is a unique activity for some kids, don’t be afraid to make Parliament Hill a quick photo op and then move on. With the exception of live music, there isn’t a lot of kid-friendly activities on Parliament Hill - but Canada’s Snowbirds are known to fly by around noon on Canada Day. And if live musical entertainment is what you’re looking for, come back in the evening as live bands countdown the fireworks display that typically goes off around 10 p.m.
Major’s Hill Park
Major’s Hill Park is the hubbub of family-friendly Canada Day activities in Ottawa’s downtown core. Visit the park for face painting, live musical and cultural performances, exhibitions, and so much more. At the end of the day, this is a great spot to watch the spectacular display of Canada Day fireworks over the Ottawa River.
If you have children aged 3 to 12, Jacques-Cartier Park is the place to be! Located minutes from Parliament Hill on the Quebec Side (next to the Canadian Museum of History), a trip here on Canada Day means fun and play for the entire family. The Park features a variety of activities including games, performances, and inflatable slides, and a visit here on Canada Day is easy thanks to a shuttle bus from Major’s Hill Park!
Jazz Festival – Confederation Park
Located right across from City Hall, Confederation Park on Canada Day is home to food trucks, activities and is your ticket to some of the world's most recognized jazz artists, presented by the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. If your family enjoys good music, Confederation Park is a must-stop on Canada Day and the entire weekend! And the NAC Orchestra is playing at Confederation Park at 7 p.m. this Canada Day – a rare musical treat!
Mackenzie-King Estate is in the heart of Gatineau Park and makes for great photos any time of year. If your family loves the outdoors, take a walk through the wooded paths or gardens, visit historical ruins from the early 1900s or enjoy a cup of tea at the Mackenzie King Café and Tearoom. Special to Canada Day is music in the gardens, games for kids of all ages and birthday cake in the afternoon!
Official home of the Governor General, Rideau Hall is 79 acres of gardens and oasis that is only a few minutes from downtown Ottawa. There is always free activities taking place on the grounds of Rideau Hall, and Canada Day is no exception. Pack a lunch and spend the afternoon enjoying this beautiful local gem.
Ottawa Champions Baseball Game
Take your kids to a ball game! The Ottawa Champions have a game at 3:05 p.m. on Canada Day as well as Saturday and Sunday, July 2nd and 3rd. Enjoy ball game food, cheer on the local team and sing with the mascot! Seats prices are economical and it’s fun for the entire family, regardless of age (or whether or not they like baseball).
Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races
If you and your family love to run join Run Ottawa for the Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races at Walter Baker Park as part of the official Kanata Canada Day celebrations. There will be fun and friendly running events, including 5K, 10K, 1.5K Fun Run for kids aged 5 to 11 and a 100 Meter Tow Trot for kids ages 4 and under. A fun and healthy way to start Canada Day!
Visit a Museum!
Most museums in Ottawa have free admission to their general exhibitions all day July 1st and many have special events taking place just for Canada Day! This includes the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canada Space and Aviation museum, as well as the following museums:
Canadian Museum of History
On July 1st, the Canadian Museum of History will host a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits, games, and performances for the entire family. There are even inflatable structures (perfect for the little ones!). The Canadian Museum of History is just over the bridge in Gatineau, and there is a free shuttle bus from Major’s Hill Park.
Located on the Lower Locks of the Rideau Canal, the Bytown Museum is a great little museum that also has ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade, souvenirs, and more available in their café and boutique.
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
In addition to the animal barns and incredible play structure, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum will have a full day of games, activities and even ice cream making! Pack a lunch and tour the gardens or just let the kids play in the playground. This museum always has something fun going on and Canada Day is no exception.
Canadian Museum of Nature
If you haven’t been to the Canadian Museum of Nature in awhile, Canada Day is the perfect chance to do so for free. Visit dinosaurs, mammals, minerals and sea life; and for a fee you can watch their newest feature: Walking with Dinosaurs: Plant Earth 3D!
Celebrate Canada Day in Your Community!
If you are looking to avoid the huge crowds of Canadians in downtown Ottawa, but still want to celebrate Canada Day with others, there are plenty of community events across Ottawa, including:
Sponsored by Mattamy Homes, join your Barrhaven neighbours at Clarke Fields, 93 Houlahan for a midway, food trucks, live music, amazing fireworks and much, much more! For more information: http://www.canadadaybarrhaven.ca/
Blackburn Hamlet celebrates Canada Day with activities and fireworks from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Blackburn Hamlet Community Hall, 190 Glen Park Dr, For more information: http://blackburnhamlet.ca/events/
Celebrate Canada Day at the Diefenbunker from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.! Free admission (first come, first served and tour slots fill up fast!) as well as face painting, refreshments and an obstacle course. For more information: http://diefenbunker.ca/2016/02/18/canada-day-july-1/
Canada Day in Kanata take place at Walter Baker Park in Kanata and includes live entertainment, a large kids zone, a beer garden and more. Crowds of over 30,000 are known to attend this popular west Ottawa Canada Day celebration! Fireworks start around 10 p.m. For more information visit: http://www.canadadayinkanata.com/
Celebrate Canada Day in Osgoode Village at the Osgoode Community Arena, 5660 Main Street starting at noon on July 1st. Events include a dog agility show, kids activities, stage shows and fireworks! For information: http://www.osgoodevillage.com/?event=canada-day
Join the community of Riverside South at Claudette Cain Park as they celebrate Canada Day with family-friendly activities for all ages with a professional fireworks show to finish off the day! For information: http://riversidesouth.org/calendar/riverside-south-canada-day-2016/
Hosted on the grounds of Sttitsville’s Sacred Heart Highschool, Stittville’s family-friendly Canada Day celebration gets bigger and better every year with activities and fun for the whole family including fireworks! For more information: http://www.stittsvilleva.com/canadaday/
How to get around on Canada Day
Regardless of where or how you decide to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, OC Transpo offers free transit all day long and after the fireworks. STO offers free transit after 10 p.m. Check out their website for more information and remember to leave lots of time for travel and to have fun – Canada Day with kids make for some great memories.
How does your family traditionally celebrate Canada Day? Leave a comment and let me know!