We’ll be kicking off our Summer of Awesome tour this year with Canada Day festivities on Friday. Usually I like to blog about activities after we’ve already done them, so I can speak with some degree of authority and confidence. But since a post about Canada Day would be kind of silly to put up next week – “Thanks a lot Lynn, I’m sure this info will really come in handy in 360 days, if I can find it again” – I’m flying blind, winging it, throwing it all out there in advance of actually doing it.
If you live in the suburbs of Ottawa, you can have a really good time on Canada Day and avoid the whole crazy transportation nightmare by celebrating close to home. There’s Canada Day in Kanata, Canada Day in Barrhaven, and Canada Day in Orleans to choose from. All offer super kid-friendly activities, like bouncy castles, kids’ musicians, face painting, and yummy treat foods. There’s even a midway (sadly, not free) in Kanata. If you have slightly older kids, you can stay for the evening concerts, featuring SLOAN (one of my most favourite bands EVAH) in Kanata, The Lincolns in Barrhaven, and The Drew Nelson Blues Band in Orleans, followed in all three places by fireworks.
But if you do want to gamble with your life, live on the edge, look death in the face AND LAUGH, there’s always downtown.
Image courtesy of Canada’s Snowbirds.)
This is our first year ever taking the kids downtown – my husband and I haven’t been to the Hill for Canada Day ourselves in over 10 years. Here’s our survival plan.
First of all, we have to get there. Driving is insane – getting in and out of downtown is bad enough, but finding parking will take you all day long. It’s especially worse this year because the Royal Couple ™ will be in town, meaning that many more roads than usual will be closed. You can check out the road closures here but basically they could just replace this map with a big flashing sign that says “DO NOT DRIVE DOWNTOWN ON CANADA DAY” and be done with it. If you have no choice but to drive, come very, very early, and try for parking at the Rideau Centre or in the market. But be prepared to walk in from a ways off (not to mention the fact that the farther you park your car, the less traffic you’ll have to deal with on your way out).
We’re personally planning on taking the bus. I’ve heard from our neighbours that the buses get full. As in, packed buses racing right by you, one after the other. So we’re actually planning on driving out a bit, closer to the terminus of the major bus lines, so we can hopefully get on the bus early enough in its route to avoid the overcrowding. Since we’ll be bringing a stroller, a packed lunch for TEN people, and all the usual supplies we need for a day out with the kids, I expect to get a lot of dirty looks on the bus. As long as we don’t get into any knife fights, I’m up for it.
Assuming we make it downtown, what is there to see? On the Hill itself, there will be a morning show starting at 9 a.m. (including The Changing of the Guard, which my kids declared to be the most boring thing EVER last year, so this one is definitely for the older, more appreciative crowd), another concert/show at noon (with the Snowbirds going overhead, prepare any little ears for the shock), then the evening show begins at 7 p.m. I just found out that Jian Ghomeshi will be one of the co-hosts of the evening show.
He’s my radio boyfriend, so be sure to say hi for me, since we’ll be giving the Hill a pass in general. With our super young kids, it’s too crowded and they don’t have the patience to sit and watch a show, but older kids and teens will probably love the people, the music (Great Big Sea will be playing both at noon and in the evening), and the general feeling of sharing in Canadian pride.
If you’re a royal watcher, the young couple will be traveling in an open carriage from Rideau Hall to Parliament Hill between 11:30 and 12pm, then staying on the Hill to watch the midday show. I hear the Prince will be giving a little talk around 1:15 and then they’ll do a bit of a walkaround and hand shake around 1:45. If you want to touch the Princess, oh man, I can’t even imagine how early you’ll have to get there. But how AWESOME would that be for a little girl who loves princesses? It’s a toss up – if you brave this one, be sure to tell me all about it.
Most of the action for little kids is over at Major’s Hill Park, and across the river at Jacques Cartier Park. Both are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (when the fireworks begin) and feature plenty for your wee ones to enjoy. Major’s Hill features a stage with bands and dancing performances all day, a display about the history of basketball, and lots of really good food. I read somewhere that there will also be a big screen where you can watch the noon show, featuring close-ups of the Prince and Princess, so if the Hill is just too much you might want to catch them on video. Jacques Cartier Park is where the big fun is – things like jumping castles and crafts, a kite flying demonstration (SO COOL), tons of fun and silly kids performers, and the International Village, featuring instruments and homes from around the world.
There’s a free shuttle bus that travels between the two parks, stopping just outside each one. They run often, but there are line-ups, so if you’re feeling spry you can also walk across the bridge. More info on the shuttles is at the bottom of this page.
If you need a break in the middle of the day, the National Art Gallery has free admission on Canada Day and might be a nice place to cool off and sit down. If you do manage to make it to the end of the evening, remember that OC Transpo buses are free after 10 p.m., so be sure to use them to get home safely. Watch out for the stroller-related glares, though.
Our plan is to get in (we’re budgeting 1 1/2 hours travel time), see the parks, maybe the art gallery, eat our picnic lunch, and then get out before dinner. But if you don’t hear from us, send help – preferably a nice open carriage with a Prince and Princess inside.
Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.