Have you made your plans for Canada Day yet? Canada's national birthday celebration usually features parades and festivals, pub crawls and backyard barbecues, and of course, plenty of fireworks. It's a national day devoted to celebration, rest and relaxation, and you can count on nearly every local venue hosting some sort of fun event to attend. Whether you're celebrating at home or planning a trip, in person or virtual, check out these ideas for fun things to do on Canada Day this year.
1. Canada Day Celebrations to Attend
Canada Day parades are the most traditional way to celebrate the holiday, with nearly every town and city hosting its own. The global pandemic put a crimp in the usual celebrations for 2020 and 2021, but most venues found ways to celebrate with either virtual or drive-through events. We're listing the official pages for municipal and national celebrations to help with planning your Canada Day activities. Be sure to check those official pages for any information about attendance and restrictions before you go. These are some of the biggest Canada Day celebrations you can head out— or tune in — to this July.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa
As the capital city of Canada, Ottawa host's the nation's premier Canada Day celebration, featuring live performances, family activities, cultural exhibits and much, much more — all topped off by, of course, fireworks! While the festivities are centered around Parliament Hill, visitors will find events and happenings all around the city, making for a fun-filled, interactive day for people of all ages. Keep your eye on the official Canada Day/Fete du Canada page for event schedules and more information as it's released.
Canada Place, Vancouver
Second in size only to the celebration in Ottawa, Vancouver's Canada Day festivities take place in and around Canada Place. The celebration is an all-day extravaganza that starts at 11 a.m. and goes on through the final fireworks at around 11 p.m. You'll find free concerts and performances, street buskers, festival foods and family activities galore. Information about the upcoming Canada Day celebration will be posted and updated at the Canada Place website as soon as it's available.
Canada Day, Toronto
Vying with Vancouver in size, Toronto hosts one of the biggest Canada Day celebrations in the nation. The festivities are spread across the city, with many neighborhoods putting on their own concerts, block parties and other happenings. Hot spots include Amesbury Park, Centennial Park, Harbourfront Centre and Ajax Rotary Park, which features a host of family-friendly kids activities ranging from face painting to cultural performances. The party heats up at dusk, as the city prepares for its official fireworks celebration. Check the Festival and Events Calendar on the city website for updates and more information.
Fete du Canada Day MTL
In 2021, Montreal responded to the ongoing pandemic with a six-hour virtual event featuring 12 emerging new artists performing, alongside an activity kit for families and kids. Typically, though, Montreal celebrates Canada Day with music, arts, entertainment, fun and games, and, of course, fireworks. This year's theme and event schedule will be live on the official MTL Canada Day website.
2. Celebrate in the Great Outdoors
Canada's metro areas offer every kind of cosmopolitan entertainment imaginable, but if your idea of rest and recreation involves communing with nature, head out to one of the nation's national parks, waterways or other outdoor venues. Here are just a few places to explore the rugged scenery and beauty that make Canada unique.
Is there a better way to enjoy the great outdoors than to pitch a tent — and then sleep outside it so you can look up at the stars? Whether you're camping as a family, glamping with some gal pals or roughing it with your buds, you'll find campsites that cater to your preferred style of camping. Be sure to check in with the site to find out about their reservation policy, and learn about any restrictions in place.
Visit a National Park
There's a lot more to do in Canada's national parks than just camping. Parks Canada has taken the pain out of planning by preparing itineraries for their most popular parks and conservation areas from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific West Coast.
Hit the Water
You don't have to travel far in Canada to get to a body of water. Between the two coasts, there are an estimated 31,700 lakes — nearly 9% of the nation's surface area, and about 42% of the world's lakes. That's not counting the rivers, streams and other bodies of water. From whale watching in Newfoundland to guided canoe trips at Algonquin Provincial Park, there are water activities to suit just about anyone of any fitness level.
Enjoy the Dark Sky
Escape the fireworks with an overnight trip to one of Parks Canada's Dark Sky Reserves. The Canadian national park system has committed to preserving and protecting the night sky by eliminating or reducing artificial illumination in 13 Dark Sky Reserves across the country. Book a weekend stay to enjoy the magical beauty of the starlit sky.
3. Backyard Canada Day Celebrations
Of course, you don't have to travel far at all to enjoy the great outdoors on Canada Day. Some of the most popular — and memorable — Canada Day experiences happen right in your backyard. If you're looking for inspiration to make your family celebration special, here are a few suggestions.
- Encourage everyone to dress appropriately — red and white are the order of the day, but folks can go all out to dress in historical or patriotic themes. Award a prize for the best attire just to make it more fun.
- Fire up the barbecue grill, of course, but also put together a menu that pays homage to traditional Canadian treats. A sample menu might include maple bacon candy, tourtiere turnovers, sweet potato fries and poutine, cheeseburger sliders topped with Canadian flag picks, and a cake decorated with a maple leaf made of juicy, ripe, red strawberries.
- Entertain the kids with a bucket of red and white chalk to draw on the driveway or sidewalk, or get the whole neighborhood involved in decorating the street for the day.
- These days, no party is complete without a picture booth so all the guests can Instagram their best life. Go all out with a simple backdrop, red and white balloon bouquets and Canadian flags as props, and a DIY photo booth frame to commemorate the occasion.
4. Canada Day Crafts and Activities for the Kids
Canada Day also offers the opportunity to get crafty with the kids. Whether you set up a craft table at your party or hang out with the kids for the afternoon, these are just a few fun crafts and activities suitable for kids of various ages.
- Make Canada Day windsocks. For younger kids, do a little advance preparation: cut poster board into 30cm by 45cm rectangles, and red and white party streamers into long strips. Have kids dip their hands into red fingerpaint to create a maple leaf on the poster board. An adult or older child can staple the rectangles into tubes, and then the kids can attach streamers with tape. Finish each windsock by adding a string for hanging.
- Print out these indigenous words coloring pages from the National Arts Center.
- Make these adorable Canadian paper dolls from Adventure in a Box and then encourage your kids to get creative with storytelling and puppet shows.
5. Virtual Canada Day Celebrations
If you and your family prefer not to travel, you can still celebrate Canada Day with friends near and far with a virtual Canada Day celebration. You can connect with each other via Zoom, in a Facebook Room, or over another group video chat app, and queue up a whole series of activities to enjoy together. Here are just a few ideas.
- Watch the parade (or fireworks!) together. Zoom allows one person to share their screen so your whole party can watch together.
- Watch a movie with friends and family using Scener virtual watch party app. If you're not sure what to watch, here's a list of 10 movies from Ottawa Life Magazine. Pick one or more, pop some popcorn, and settle in to enjoy.
- Have a Canada Day-themed scavenger hunt, featuring quintessentially Canadian items that can be found around the house. Mix up things to find with things to do and put a timer on it! A few suggested items and activities: a Tim Horton's cup, a Canadian team jersey, a maple leaf, a Canadian flag, anything with a moose on it, sing the Canadian national anthem, honk like a goose, sing a Celine Dion song.
- Play Canada Day trivia. You can award instant prizes via gift cards, or just give bragging rights.
- Have a dance party featuring songs by popular Canadian artists.
There's no shortage of fun ways to celebrate Canada's birthday. Whether you're hosting a party or heading out for a day at the festival, take the time to relax, refresh, and enjoy the best of what Canada has to offer.