I moved to Ottawa way back in June of 2000, just days before July 1. My first Canada Day in the capital was memorable indeed: the crowds, the sights, the sea of red t-shirts, the flags everywhere... and the afternoon thunderstorm that left me soaking wet and covered in dye from my fresh-off-the-rack Canada Day outfit from the old Stitches warehouse on Rideau.😂
I didn't yet know the city and spent much of the day wandering downtown looking for the best places to celebrate, grab a bite, escape the heat, and escape the rain. This was way before smartphones, and other than Parliament Hill I had no idea where to go! Pretty sure I ended up at Zak's Diner.
Whether you're brand new to Ottawa or you've been here for years, I've whipped up a handy guide with my top 6 picks for Canada Day in the 613.
1. parliament hill
Quite simply: this is the biggest party in Ottawa. So big that this year it's TWO WHOLE DAYS, June 30 and July 1, and it's spilling over into Major's Hill Park and across the river to the Museum of History. Loads of free performances, everything from music to modern ballet. You can check out the full Canada Day line-up right here, and these are my top picks:
Parliament Hill: The Strumbellas, Cœur de Pirate, K'naan, Ballets Jazz Montréal, Karim Ouellet (voice of an angel!), and the NAC Orchestra.
Major's Hill Park: iSKWē (huuuuge fan right here!), Said the Whale, Tokyo Police Club, Chances, Medhi Cayenne.
Museum of History: Silla and Rise (YAS!), Ben Caplan (also YAS!), DJ Shub, Bleu Jeans Bleu, Elberlyn.
And don't forget the fireworks!!! The 15-minute show starts at 10pm with a 100% Canadian musical score -- I'm hoping for a song by The Tragically Hip.
2. National Arts Centre
Pop by the NAC! They'll have loads of FREE Canada Day activities happening rain or shine for the whole family. Added bonus: it's a great place to cool off or dry off, and take advantage of the free Rogers wifi, public washrooms, and lots of places to charge your phone. It's a packed day from 8:30am til 4:00pm (full schedule here) and here are my top picks:
9:00am: Outdoor Yoga lead by Myrielle Bernier-Acuna - NAC Wood Terrace (located on the NAC's rooftop and it's pretty magical!)
9:30am: Powwow work-out with Amanda Fox - Canal Lobby Stage
12:00pm: NAC Orchestra performs on Parliament Hill
1:30pm: Public Citizenship Ceremony - Canal Lobby Stage
2:00pm: House Dance Workshop with Capital Sessions featuring DJ Rise Ashen, Bgirl Tangent & DJ Miguel Graca - Peter A. Herrndorf Place
3. the metcalfe hotel
If you want to stay right near the action, The Metcalfe Hotel is the place to do it. Hubby and I went for a staycation a few weeks ago and LOVED this little gem in the heart of downtown. It's beautifully renovated and the rooms are filled with local touches: old photos of Ottawa in the 1800s and 1900s, and thanks to the vintage maps on the wall, I learned Laurier Avenue used to be called Maria Street! Other noteworthy details: The Met is pet-friendly, and the spacious rooms have exposed brick, hardwood floors, and beautiful bathrooms with double showers and even a separate makeup station.
Hubs and I loved that we were a 5-minute walk from anything and everything: Parliament Hill, Elgin Street, the Rideau Centre, the National Arts Centre, Confederation Park, Major's Hill Park, and sooo much more.
If you've had enough of the excitement downtown, you can book The Met's new Nordik Spa Package that includes passes to the Nordik Spa thermal experience for two people and complimentary bathrobe rentals. If you don't make it for Canada Day, put this on your summer to-do list. Book your stay right here!
4, byward market
The Byward Market is a must on any Canada Day itinerary, especially if you're hosting friends and family from out of town. It's the perfect spot to grab a bite, enjoy a patio, or do some shopping. My favourite spots in the Market:
EAT | DRINK
Heart & Crown Byward Market: part of Ottawa's Irish Village with a whopping 5 pubs under 1 roof plus 6 patios. Their fish and chips are some of the best in town, and since it's a Mealshare item, every time you order you'll provide a meal to a youth in need!
La Bottega Nicastro: pop in for one of their massive sandwiches to fuel you through Canada Day. Try the Genoa salami with provolone and hot peppers!
BeaverTails: try the Killaloe Sunrise with cinnamon, sugar, and a squeeze of lemon. Or go savoury and try a BeaverDog: an hot dog wrapped in a BeaverTail. Yup.
Roadtrip: local clothing shop in Clarendon Court. Fun tees and polos, cute dresses, shorts, and loads of denim. Perfect place to find a Canada Day outfit.
BBxCollection: brand new boutique on York Street with graphic tees, swimwear, hoodies, and workout tanks, all with an uplifting, inclusive vibe.
Trustfund: local clothing shop on Sussex Drive. Think elevated classics like the softest tees, coziest sweaters, and Canadian Smash & Tess rompers.
5. elgin street
Elgin Street is a fabulous spot for a great meal and some Canada Day drinks on a patio. They're currently undergoing a big dig, so it's all the more important to keep supporting your favourite local spots (and trying new ones!) as they face this massive construction project. It's still super easy to explore Elgin on foot and there's free evening and weekend parking at City Hall -- so go explore!
EAT | DRINK
The Whalesbone on Elgin: seafood that'll knock your socks off. Try the oysters, octopus, and scallops. Great patio in the back!
Citizen: small plates, wine, cocktails, and local beer. Amazing staff! Just off Elgin at the corner of Gilmour.
The Standard: Great drinks, fast service, and really solid nachos. This place knows how to throw a party too.
Town: modern Italian classics, like ricotta-stuffed meatballs and duck frites. Fantastic cocktails and wines by the glass.
How are you folks spending Canada Day? What's on your must-see list? Happy 152nd birthday to the true north strong and free! 🇨🇦
This post is sponsored by Canadian Heritage but all opinions are mine all mine.