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Your Complete Guide to Canada Day in Ottawa, 2012

Your Complete Guide to Canada Day in Ottawa, 2012


by: Brian Clarke

Canada Day in downtown Ottawa can be overwhelming for anyone.

If you’ve read our Canada articles this week, such as “Canada Day in Ottawa: Like Smoking on an Exercise Bike” or “2 Best and 2 Worst Things About Canada Day”, you may have noticed a theme.  Canada Day downtown is an awesome party, but can be a bit much if you aren’t prepared (or are involved in the cleanup efforts!).

There is so much bustle and activity that even the most experienced socialite can get lost and confused.  This is why we have provided this guide to Canada Day in Ottawa.


Food can be tough to find when the crowd takes over.  And even when you do make it to a restaurant, you’ll likely be waiting in line for a seat or your meal for ages.

Yes, there’s the odd vendor selling popsicles or something, but if you’re spending a full day on Parliament Hill, you won’t survive on frozen sugar.  My suggestion is to pack a cooler.  But I understand that many people don’t want to do this, in which case you essentially have three options:

Rideau Center Food Court

I also consider the McDonald’s on Rideau Street to be included in this.  Obviously, this is the fast option, and probably the best bet for lunch,  but not for dinner – the mall closes at 6PM on Canada Day!

Byward Market

If you’re lucky, you may be able to find an early seat in a Byward restaurant.  A few of you extremely fortunate ones will get a nice spot on the patio.  But if you know you’re going downtown with the intention of sitting at a restaurant, show up early! In past years I’ve noticed line-ups for seats at restaurants by 11:30AM.

Elgin Street

Elgin Street restaurants are nearly as busy as the Byward Market ones, but the further you go down the street, the more chance you have of catching a shorter line.  If you want to have a sit-down dinner but aren’t willing to wait in line, I’d suggest going to an Elgin Street restaurant as far away from Parliament Hill as possible, such as St. Louis or Elgin Street Diner (if you want quick diner food).

Also, keep in mind that most restaurants and bars will have limited menus on Canada Day, and a lot will jack up their prices.


This is what everyone comes downtown for, isn’t it? There are activities everywhere, so if you don’t know where to go, you might miss out on a lot of interesting stuff.  Here is what’s going on everywhere near the Hill.

Parliament Hill

9:00AM – Carillon Concert

9:30AM – Flag-Raising Ceremony

10:00AM – Changing the Guard

12:00PM – Canada Day Noon Show (see Music below)

2:00PM, 3:00PM & 4:00PM – The Drums, Crown Forces 1812

2:00PM – The Royal Canadian Geography Society’s Giant Map

2:30PM, 3:30PM & 4:30PM – Afro-Caribbean Dance Group presents ‘Black Corps: War of 1812’

7:00PM – Canada Day Evening Show (see Music below)

10:00PM – Fireworks


Hopefully, you listened to my advice in the article “5 reasons to take a rickshaw on Canada Day” and will be looking for a rickshaw runner as part of your Canada Day celebrations. While we may be tough to find at times through the crowds, here are the best places to look to find a rickshaw:

  • Our regular stand at the corner of William and George
  • At the corner of Rideau and Sussex
  • At the Alexandra Bridge between Major’s Hill Park (Ontario) and Jacques Cartier Park (Quebec)

Street Performers

Like rickshaw runners, street performers love Canada Day for business. The best of the buskers flock downtown to put on a show.  The following locations are the best spots to potentially find a street performer engaged in a show:

  • At the corner of Sussex and George
  • At the corner of William and York


For many, the fireworks are the best part of Canada Day downtown.  However, they also attract the largest crowds and it it is difficult to find room to stand.  If you want to see the fireworks from Parliament Hill or Major’s Hill Park, you’d better reserve your spot at least two hours in advance.  If not, here are some other locations you might try:

  • Bottom of the York Street Stairs (York and Sussex)
  • The top floor of a parking garage – there is one on George Street and one at Clarence and Dalhousie that have rooftop parking.


As I mentioned in this article early this week, the music is one of the best things about Canada Day in the capital.  No matter your taste, you’re sure to find something you like!

Canada Day Noon Show (Parliament Hill @ 12PM)


  • Feist
  • Simple Plan
  • Roch Voisine
  • Jully Black
  • Donny Parenteau
  • Neverest
  • The Drums, Crown Forces 1812
  • Michael Beauclerc

Canada Day Evening Show (Parliament Hill @ 7PM)


  • Feist
  • Simple Plan
  • Roch Voisine
  • Marie Mai
  • Jully Black
  • Misstress Barbara
  • Donny Parenteau

Escapade Music Festival

Canada Day Line-up

TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival

Canada Day Line-up

If there’s anything we missed, our anything you’d like to know about Canada Day, including what to do or where to go, ask in the comments below, on Facebook or send us a Tweet (@ottawarickshaws) tomorrow and we can give you some good advice!