July 1st. Canada Day. Canadians and non-Canadians alike wear their red-and-white proudly and take in the free celebrations on Parliament Hill, in Major’s Hill Park, across the Ottawa River in Jacques-Cartier Park and beyond.

Depending on Wikipedia here but apparently 162 countries in the world celebrate their own independence day. Lot of blood, sweat and tears must have been shed to gain independence so it is natural that whichever independence celebration you attend in the world, there is going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance. That is definitely the case with the Canadians. These guys know how to enjoy themselves. There is nowhere better to celebrate Canada’s birthday than Ottawa. I visited earlier this year and can personally testify.

Canada Day takes place on the 1st July and marks the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec)

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What can you expect?

A very big party. There are celebrations for Canada Day taking place on every street in Ottawa: parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows, fireworks, free musical concerts and even citizenship ceremonies for new citizens.

The main place to visit to get the party vibe is Parliament Hill, a sea of red and white flags where people gather to enjoy a day long celebration marked by concerts and cultural displays. The crowds start gathering on Parliament Hill early in the day to get a bird eye view of the action.  At 9 a.m,the  party kicks off with the flag raising ceremony followed by the Changing of the Guard ceremony at 9:30 a.m.

If you don’t make it out of bed in the morning, make sure you are there at noon for the spectacular Snowbirds Demonstration team. Taking place from noon till 1:30 pm it is a pretty epic display : you will witness a flypast of CF-18 fighter jets followed by the Snowbirds Demonstration Team. Every year there are live music performances from prominent Canadian artists and this year Magic!, Francesco Yates and Gord Bamford performed. The performance and live music acts continue in the evening and are topped off by one of the biggest fireworks displays you will ever see. Note that if you are with your kids, head to the Jacques Cartier Park which usually hosts a variety of activities especially for children ages 3 to 12 that include games, physical activities, performances and inflatable slides.

Canadian Museum of History Ottawa

Head to Hintonburg

Ottawa in a few words: Alive, scenic, exciting, promising and changing right in front of your eyes.

This sense of promise of change and excitement is no more evident that in the Wellington West/Hintonburg neighbourhood where there is an eclectic range of businesses.

Recommended stops include the Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli at 1321 Wellington Street which has been drawing in hungry customers with the sweet aroma of their freshly baked bagels for over 30 years now. From the original three varieties (sesame, poppy, and cinnamon raisin) brought over from the famed St.Viateur Bagel in Montreal, they’ve added their own range of unique delicious flavours like Rosemary and Olive Oil and Lemon cranberry.

Corazon de Maiz ByWard Market

Feel like a local in Ottawa:  Pop into the Hintonburg Public House

Pull up a chair at the bar at the Hintonburg Public House and treat yourself to a selection of their excellent local craft beers. I highly recommend the IPA from the local Bicycle Craft Brewery. They have some excellent bar snacks to soak in the beer like pickled eggs and marinated cheese curds sourced from the excellent local St Albert’s fromagerie. Very homely and attracting a wide cross section of locals, from retirees, hipsters, students to graphic designers, IT gurus, artists and amateur musicians- this is a great

With open-mike nights, beer tastings, dance parties, and art exhibits, there’s always something to keep visitors engaged.  (1020 Wellington St. W., 613-421-5087, www.hintonburgpublichouse.ca.)

National Gallery of Canada

Gift Shopping

If you’re looking for something unique and handmade in Canada then look no further than the popular clothing boutique Flock (1275 Wellington West) which also runs classes in knitting, sewing, jewellery- making, and other fun things.

Best view?

This view was one of my trip highlights- The Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only UNESCO world Heritage site. Teeming with sightseeing cruises, pleasure boats , canoes and kayaks, this canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink in winter , 4.8 miles in length. Think of it…the joys of ice-skating at 3am at night….

Visit the ByWard Market

Bustling. Alive, 363 days of the year (closed Xmas and New Years Day!) Don’t leave Ottawa without spend some time exploring the ByWard Market area , home to one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markers in Canada. Packed with great restaurants, bars, bistros, cafes and shops, this is a great neighbourhood to explore. Check out some of the staple food shops, some of which have been around since the earlier beginnings of the Market: Saslove’s Meat Market, House of Cheese, Lapointe Fish, and more .

If you want authentic Mexican food in Byward market, come to Corazon de Maiz. Fresh.Delicious and damn tasty. I had a chicken tostada and some veggie tacos. Plus Jarritos lime soda- love this stuff. Plus very affordable too.

Top Money Saving Tip

The other cool feature about Canada Day is that on the day, most of the area’s national museums like the Canadian Museum of History and National Gallery of Canada are free for visitors.

The Rideau Canal Ottawa

Personal Highlight

Visiting the moving Terry Fox exhibition at the stunning Canadian Museum of History.

I didn’t know who Terry Fox was until I came to Canada. I remember seeing this statue of a striking young man in front of Parliament Hill on National Day. I wondered who this young determined looking boy was with most amazing mop of hair. The following day, before leaving Ottawa I paid a visit to his ‘Marathon of Hope’ exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History.

“Terry” Terrance Stanley Fox was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. In 1980, aged 21, with one leg having been amputated because of cancer,  he embarked on an epic pan Canadian run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The spread of his cancer eventually forced Terry to end his quest , 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi) after he started. Despite his untimely death, his efforts have been pivotal in raising awareness of cancer.  Terry Fox set out with a goal to raise $1m through his run and along the way that became a goal to raise $1 for every Canadian, which at the time would have been $23m. He reached that goal before dying. Till date, $650m has been raised.

The exhibition was an intimate, moving and personal journey into the short but amazing life of Terry Fox. One that will stay with me for many years.

Where to Stay in Ottawa

I stayed at ARC the.hotel, Ottawa’s first boutique hotel . The hotel offers comfort and affordable luxury , matched with contemporary design. It has a fab location in the heart of downtown Ottawa and is within walking distance of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, Rideau Centre, ByWard Market area and the National Gallery of Canada.


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