Canada Day: How to Celebrate Canada's Birthday

Fireworks on Canada Day reflection on Rideau Canal

Edwin Chang Photography/Getty Images

Every year on July 1, Canadians celebrate Canada Day. This day is a statutory holiday, meaning a large percentage of the population gets the day off and in turn, many retailers, government offices, libraries, schools, and services shut down. Employees at most workplaces do not have to go to work but will still receive their regular pay.

Celebrations like fireworks and parades are generally held on this day. In major cities outside of Quebec, like Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia, celebrations begin early in the day and continue into the evening, with concerts, games, and other festivities.

Ottawa, in particular, as the nation's capital, puts on a really big show every July 1, which often receives a royal audience. In 2010, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attended the celebrations. In 2011, Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton, made their way to Ottawa for Canada's 144th birthday party. In 2017, Canada turned it up a notch to honor its 150th anniversary.

History of Canada Day

July 1 marks the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada. The Canada Day holiday is comparable to the Fourth of July celebration in the U.S. but with slightly less hoopla and on a more "Canadian" scale.

What to Expect

Schools, banks, government offices, and many other stores and businesses close on July 1. Most tourist destinations, including major shopping malls, will stay open. Expect some stores to have holiday hours. It's a good idea to call ahead to restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions to confirm Canada Day hours.

Typically, Canada Day celebrations include parades, fireworks, backyard barbecues, and other get-togethers. Many revelers wear red and white in honor of Canada's national colors.

Regardless of which city you celebrate in, there will likely be road closures and altered service on public transportation.

Canada Day in Toronto

Toronto celebrates Canada day with festivals, live music, fireworks. In 2019 there were fireworks displays at eight parks around the city so you should be able to find a good seat for the show. Parks around the city will host parties with carnival rides, art workshops, and even a zipline! The Toronto Ribfest usually comes to town in time for Canaday weekend with days of music, magic shows, and tons of ribs.

Canada Day in Ottawa

The bulk of Ottawa's Canada Day festivities will happen on Parliament Hill and at Major's Hill Park. There will be DJs, concerts, and interactive displays. The Canadian Museum of History will also put on special activities that celebrate the country's indigenous cultures. The two days of festivities culminate in a grand fireworks show at 10 p.m. on July 1.

Many of Ottawa's museums are open and have free admission including the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of History, and Canadian War Museum. Check individual museum websites to confirm admission rates and opening hours.

Canada Day in Vancouver

From a parade to a fishing festival Vancouver goes all out for Canada Day. Highlights include the Granville Island celebration with the aforementioned parade, a huge Canada Day cake, multicultural fair, live music, and more. The Watefront at Canada Place puts on a festival with three performing stages, street hockey, and a lumberjack show.

Canada Day in Quebec

In Quebec, Canada Day is not celebrated as fervently as in the rest of the country. Federal offices, schools, and banks are closed, but many people in Quebec look at July 1 as "moving day" because this date has been historically the end of lease agreements.

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