A beautiful sea of red and white filled the streets, sidewalks, shops, and restaurants of Ottawa on Canada Day. The city was alive with the spirit of Canada and I felt at home. Ottawa is a thriving city full of culture, government, business, and fun. As the capital of Canada, I always envisioned my first visit to Ottawa to be on Canada Day and this year I made it a reality. From 7 am until 11:30 pm, we explored why Ottawa was a great place to visit on Canada Day and I’ve come up with 5 great reasons to visit Ottawa on Canada’s birthday.
Number 5 – Paul’s Boat Lines
One of the best ways to see Ottawa is aboard Paul’s Boat Lines. We rode along the famous Ottawa River getting the perfect view of Parliament Buildings, Supreme Court, the Museum of Civilization, the National Art Gallery, Rideau Falls, the residence of the Prime Minister, and countless other historic sites in Ottawa. As an introduction to the city, we were given a unique, water perspective in a family-friendly environment. Athena loved the views and clapped every time the guide shared information about Ottawa. She may not have known what the guide was saying but she liked her regardless. The cruise gave us a view of the city as it was first conceived with the river as it’s main highway and resource.
Number 4 – The Changing of the Guard
The Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill ran from morning to night. With ceremonial events including the Changing of the Guard, musical and dance performances, and fireworks there was something for everyone. We arrived on the hill at 8 am and it was already bustling with thousands of people. At 9 am, the Changing of the Guard Ceremony was a colourful event for all ages. The Ceremonial Guard is assembled from two regiments – the Governor General’s Footguards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards – and also has its own regimental band and pipers who perform in the ceremony. Most of the Ceremonial Guardsmen taking part in the ceremony are university and college students; all are primary reservists in the Canadian Forces. As the music began, the crowd glowed with excitement. We were proud to be Canadians and we wore our colors on our shirts and our hearts.
Number 3 – Various Street Performances and Entertainment
By 2 pm, Parliament Hill was full yet we somehow managed to move freely among the crowd even with the stroller. The busy, excited patrons were never too occupied to watch for this mom and her baby girl. It was like everyone was moving in unison and filled with a proud happiness. We were able to relax on the lawns of Parliament and wander the streets of downtown Ottawa while strolling buskers and drummers entertained us. The area was buzzing, but it never seemed quite as uplifted as when the Snowbirds flew over head. The sound of the CF-18 fighter jets turned up the volume of an already jumping Ottawa. Buskers, bikers, musicians, and vendors were littered throughout the city and red and white Canadians filled every other crevice.
Number 2 – President’s Choice Canada Day Fireworks
A spectacular fireworks show took place in Ottawa-Gatineau at 10 pm on Canada Day. The fireworks were launched from the Astrolabe at Nepean Point and lit the skies over the Ottawa River behind Parliament Hill. The display consisted of 1,177 fireworks items, 1,133 aerial shells, 74 of the largest shells allowed in Canada, and 2,356 projectiles/effects. There were many spots in Ottawa and Gatineau with great views of the fireworks, but Athena and I were personally invited by the Public Relations Director at Fairmont Chateau Laurier to watch the show from the turret of the hotel. The view was fit for royalty. Athena and I were princesses in our tower watching the show of a lifetime. It was an unexpected bucket list event that I didn’t have on my list because it was too wild for my imagination. I thought spending Canada Day in the nation’s capital was already astonishing, but the fireworks from the best location in the country was another world.
Number 1 – Heli-Tremblant Helicopter Tours
Did you think the views of Ottawa were beautiful from the boat? Wait until you see them from the air! Our Heli-Tremblant helicopter tour allowed us to admire the beautiful scenery over Ottawa from a bird’s eye view. With vibrant colors and an impressive landscape below, the picturesque surroundings filled my entire vision. We approached Parliament Hill from the left and could see the vein-like streets filled with red and white. The flight allowed us to discover the nation’s capital, the Ottawa River, the city of Gatineau, the Hill Casino, and various tourist attractions including the parliament building all in 20 minutes. No other tour will offer such extensive coverage in such a short time.