There’s more to Canada Day than eating birthday cake and watching fireworks. Free concerts, family festivals, parades and art exhibits are planned in many cities. Of particular note this year are the Canada Day events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. If you are looking for places to party, here are some suggestions:
Great concerts, an aerial show and free admission to museums are just three good reasons to be in the nation’s capital on Canada Day. It all begins on Parliament Hill with a carillon concert at 9 a.m., followed by the flag-raising at 9:30 and a Changing the Guard ceremony at 10. The Noon Show follows with a flypast of CF-18s and the Snowbirds Demonstration Team. In addition to commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the show will highlight the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and celebrate the 100th edition of the Grey Cup. Music fans will want to check out free concerts featuring everything from pop and R&B to electronica that take place at noon and 7:30 p.m. Several performers — Jully Black, Feist, Roch Voisine, Donny Parenteau and Simple Plan — will be on stage for both shows.
Elsewhere, the Ottawa Jazz Festival (through July 1) offers free admission in Confederation Park on July 1, while the Escapade Music Festival (June 30 and July 1 at Canada Aviation and Space Museum) features huge names electronic music. There is also free programming in Major’s Hill Park (behind the Chateau Laurier) and in Jacques-Cartier Park across the river in Gatineau, Que. Many museums are free on Canada Day. Fireworks start just after 10 p.m. For more, check canadaday.gc.ca.
Worth Noting: The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau has a Diamond Jubilee exhibit. A Queen and Her Country, which opens July 1 and runs to Jan. 6, recalls the queen’s first 60 years as Canada’s Head of State, her many royal visits to this country and her connection to major events in our recent history. The most striking artifact is the Maple Leaf of Canada Dress the queen wore at a state banquet in Ottawa in 1957. It is adorned with a beautiful garland of maple leaves and white roses, and glitters with crystals and imitation gems.
In Halifax, two of the biggest Canada day events draw inspiration from the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812.
The official Canada Day celebration takes place at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site with the Canada Day proclamation, flypast from CFB Shearwater, cake and a 21-gun salute, followed by the Citadel’s War of 1812 demonstration unit. They’ll join the 78th Highlanders in a display of 19th-century pageantry from the Age of Napoleon to Confederation with pipes, drums, tactical marching, musket and rifle drills, and more. From 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo Canada Day event will also mark the anniversary of the War of 1812 in song and reenactments. There is a parade at 10:30 a.m. and a performance at 2:30 p.m. at the Halifax Metro Centre. The tattoo features over 2,000 world-class Canadian and international military and civilian performers.
Other events include the Great Canadian Family Fun Fest at Halifax Common by the Pavilion & Skate Park, noon to 4 p.m. Shakespeare by the Sea, season opener of Alice in Wonderland from 7-8 p.m. at Cambridge Battery, Point Pleasant Park, Halifax; and Dartmouth Crossing will have fireworks on June 29 and July 1.
Worth Noting: The free Molson Canadian Canada Day Concert at Alderney Landing featuring Juno Nominees Mother Mother, Tim Chaisson & Morning Fold, Town Heroes, Soho Ghetto and more from 4 p.m. to midnight. Elsewhere there’s a free bandshell concert at Sullivan’s Pond on July 1 (2-4 p.m.); and a Canada Day Band Concert featuring Mike Cowie and The Booty Boppin’ Brass Band at the Public Gardens (2-4 p.m.) with free maple cookies. See destinationhalifax.com
City hall is the centre for free Canada Day activities in Edmonton. Along with the live entertainment, crafts, face painting, a petting zoo, city hall tours and displays, is a workshop where you can create a hand-made Canadiana-inspired memento, as part of the Works Art and Design Festival. Elsewhere on July 1, there’s birthday cake at Edmonton Valley Zoo; jazz with Six Feet Up at Muttart Conservatory; magic, dancing, juggling, improv and humour at the Dominion Day celebration at Fort Edmonton Park; and the Silly Summer Parade in Old Strathcona.
Watch the fireworks at 11 p.m. from any number of good viewing locations including the Alberta Legislature grounds or Victoria Park, or see it all from middle of the North Saskatchewan River on the Edmonton Queen Riverboat with live music onboard. Check edmonton.com.
Worth Noting: The Calgary Stampede (July 6-15) marks its centennial this year with some new attractions along with the usual program. A new Enmax Corral show will feature the best western horsemanship, sets and effects and First Nations’ performances; fireworks above Stampede Park will light up the city for both Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of the Stampede; while thrill seekers can try the Centennial "Outlaw" rollercoaster (named for a legendary Stampede rodeo bull), or the longest temporary zip line in Canada (climb an 24-metre tower and zip 259-metres across the park at speeds of over 60 kph).
Vancouver will mark Canada Day with a free waterfront party that includes the West Coast Logger Show, a performance by Canadian folk-rockers Spirit of the West, and the Spectacular Northwest Territories Dome (featuring visual projection, static imagery and music). That’s just a sample of what you’ll find during the 25th annual celebration at Canada Place. Check out the Canada Day Parade at 7 p.m. (starting at Georgia and Broughton streets) and the Burrard Inlet fireworks show at 10:30 p.m. Check canadaday.canadaplace.ca.
Another option is to hop aboard an Aquabus or False Creek ferry for a short ride to Granville Island for their Canada Day celebration, which will feature free jazz, roving performers, face-painting and myriad activities for visitors of all ages. Check granvilleisland.com.
Worth Noting: Victoria B.C. is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with dozens of special arts, cultural and community events (many of them this summer). One of them is Souvenir — a pop-up gallery on Victoria’s historical Government St., where artists will be selected to produce their own interpretation of souvenir objects – opens on July 1 and continues to Aug. 31, Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Check tourismvictoria.com.