Ottawa

What you need to know if you're heading downtown on Canada Day

Here's a look at what's happening in Ottawa this Canada Day, and what to expect when you get to Parliament Hill — for one thing, shorter security lineups than last year.

New security plan for Parliament Hill should limit lineups to an hour, officials promise

There should be more smiles and fewer frowns in downtown Ottawa this Canada Day, as new security measures are expected to significantly cut the wait to get onto Parliament Hill. (Legislative Assembly of Alberta)

Canada Day is coming. Here's what you need to know before you get the party started.

Will it be like last year?

We'll see!

The throngs of Canada Day revellers who descended on downtown Ottawa for last year's sesquicentennial celebration waited in security lines for up to eight hours just to get onto the Hill. People were not happy.

Organizers with the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Parliamentary Protective Service say they learned from that unfortunate experience, and say their goal this year is to reduce wait times to one hour, max.

To achieve that goal they've brought in crowd control experts, performed simulations and made a few changes.

  • There will be one main entrance at Wellington and Kent streets, instead of two gates at either end of Parliament Hill. As well, there's an accessible entrance at Bank and Wellington streets.
  • The list of restricted items has been simplified. Don't pack any bags larger than a school backpack, and don't expect to get your bike past security. 
  • There will be more food, water stations and portable toilets once you've passed through security.
  • There will be more volunteers around to help point partiers in the right direction. Look for them on every street corner as you approach the Hill.
  • Moving the security entrance to the west will open up more space in front of the Hill for visitors to take pictures, officials say.

Visitors are advised to study the list of restricted items before leaving home, and to try to arrive early. There will be express lanes at the airport-style security checkpoint for people who don't have a bag.

The Parliamentary Protective Service will be tweeting wait times and other information on July 1.

Canada Day on Parliament Hill: What you need to know 1:22

What's happening?

The biggest party on July 1 is happening on Parliament Hill.

It starts at 8 a.m. with a one-hour Indigenous ceremony and carillon performance of songs by k-os, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Joni Mitchell.

The noon show will feature performances by Arkells, Lights, Iskwé and your only chance of the day to catch Martina Ortiz Luis, the official anthem singer of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Snowbirds will do a fly-past as part of the ceremony.

As the weekend approached, the Department of Canadian Heritage said the noon show could be shortened, moved back or cancelled because of extreme heat.

Wapikoni, a short Indigenous film screening, happens from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. ET on the big screens.

The evening show starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and features Ruth B, Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, The Dead South, Klo Pelgag and DJ Shub.

Fireworks will light up the sky from 10 to 10:15 p.m.

Both Parliament Hill shows will be broadcast on CBC television, radio and online.

Women, diversity and Indigenous reconciliation are the official themes of Canada's 151st birthday weekend. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

There are events planned off the Hill, too.

Major's Hill Park gets going on Saturday morning with art battles, an escape room competition, miniature train rides and live music from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.

On Canada Day, Major's Hill activities run from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Across the river at the Canadian Museum of History, there's free admission from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Activities on the museum grounds start at 9 a.m. and run throughout the day. They include a chance to see some Canadian wild animals, Canadian-themed trivia and a trampoline area.

Here's the full list of events from The Department of Canadian Heritage.

How do I get there?

At its peak, roads will be closed this weekend around Parliament Hill as far west as Booth Street, as far south as Laurier Avenue, as far east as Nicholas Street and up Sussex Drive as far as Boteler Street.

The Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River is affected by closures, as are parts of rue Laurier and boulevard des ​Allumetières.

Here's the Canadian Heritage map:

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OC Transpo buses are free all day on a special holiday schedule, with extra service for the fireworks including an expanded Route 91 to and from Orléans. The O-Train will run until 12:15 a.m. on July 2.

The city recommends leaving home by 7 p.m. to get a good spot for the fireworks, noting the Mackenzie King Bridge stations will close at 7 p.m. when the bridge is closed.

After the fireworks, you can catch a bus on Slater, Albert or Bank streets.

STO buses are free as well, with special shuttles running in a loop from the Robert Guertin park-and-ride to Jacques Cartier Park.

Another shuttle stops at Major's Hill Park (the intersection of Murray and Mackenzie streets), in front of the Canadian Museum of History on rue Laurier and at the Supreme Court of Canada.

The STO also has advice on how to get out of the core once the fireworks are done.

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