Ottawa-Gatineau Special Events and Festivals: Canada Day
Canada Day is a celebration, not just for Ottawa, but the whole country. The events and ceremonies in Ottawa are televised around Canada by radio and television networks. Canadians of all ages participate in the day's events and celebrations to show off their pride in Canada! Compared to Canada Day celebrations in other cities, Ottawa IS "over the top" in its exuberance. There are thousands of people sporting Canada Flag tattoos (the temporary kind), Canada Flag sunglasses, Canada Flag boxer shorts and bikinis, and Canadian Flags used as capes, superman style. Heck, it's almost the stuff accuse Americans of being: excessive.
Most of downtown is blocked off: basically anything within 3 blocks or Parliament Hill, plus Rideau Street, Sussex and Mackenzie, the Alexandra Bridge to Hull and Hull's Laurier Street in front of Jacques Cartier Park. This enables the mass of people to move freely between the major activity venues: Parliament Hill, Major's Hill Park, World Exchange Plaza (downtown) and Confederation Park (across from the city hall). Free shuttle buses are offered to transport celebrants from Major's Hill Park to Jacques Cartier Park on the Alexandra Bridge. For the evening concert and fireworks, the rest of downtown (everything north of Laurier), the Byward Market area, the du Portage bridge, and all of Laurier Street in Hull are closed to handle crowds (up to 300,000 watch the fireworks). To ease traffic afterwards OC Transpo and STO (for Hull) offer free bus service after 9 pm.
Parliament Hill is the main focus of the celebrations, with one show featuring a number of Canadian performers at noon, a "Pre-show" show at 6 pm, and the "Evening Show" at 9 pm, ending in spectacular fireworks. Even with the stage taking up much of the hill, somehow they manage to squeeze in not only the Changing of the Guard ceremony, but the RCMP Musical Ride.
Majors Hill Park
This park, with its great view of the Parliament Buildings, and close to the commercial possibilities of the Byward Market, offers buskers and lots a number of sponsored tents with demonstrations, give-aways, and kids' face painting. There is a concert stage in the park's north end featuring a variety of performers. Activities here run from 10 am until 5:30 pm.
Jacques Cartier Park (Hull)
This park offers a variety of kids activities and games, a labyrinth, a circus, many buskers, plus a performers stage. Even though this is in Hull, the activities here are available in both languages. Activities here run from 10 am until 5:30 pm.
World Exchange Plaza (Queen @ O'Connor)
This performance venue focuses on Canada's multicultural side, showcasing talent from different Canadian ethnic groups, with performances running form 11 am until 6:30 pm.
This park (cross from City Hall) features a number of more mainstream performers on a stage.
Museums are Free!
Canada Day is special because everyone gets free admission to all the museums (the other time they're all free is "Museum Day" in early May). . This is a great opportunity to experience almost EVERYTHING in the capital, at a price any family can afford. Though young kids may quickly overdoes on museums. Not only are the museums free, but the NCC beaches and attractions in the Gatineau Hills are also free (no usual parking charges).
Here are our hot tips: start at the Aviation Museum in Rockcliffe (family saves $12) head to Sussex Drive and take in the National Gallery, the Royal Canadian Mint and the War Museum (a family saves $15), take the shuttle bus to Jacques Cartier and go the Museum of Civilization (with Postal and Children's Museums) and a family saves another $20. You may not see everything, but it's a great way to whet a young child's appetite about the magic of museums without investing a fortune (besides if they see other kids doing it, they may just assume it's a lot of fun!)