A birthday is always a celebration, and the birthday of a nation calls for widespread revelry. The 1st of July marks the enactment of the British North America Act in 1867, a document which united three colonies into the Canada we know and love today.
What better time to plan a Canada road trip than when you know the whole country is in party mode? We did a little research to find the best destinations for this summertime holiday, and how to fit them into a great Canadian road trip
Of course, the best place to celebrate a nation’s special day is in the capital. Each year sees a big patriotic party on the lawns of Parliament Hill, Major's Hill Park, Jacques Cartier Park and spilling into the streets of Downtown Ottawa which are closed for the occasion. 2015 will be no different, starting with a flag raising ceremony and the Changing of the Guard. As the day progresses there will be an airshow by the Snowbirds Demonstration team, a range of activities for kids in Jacques Cartier Park, an evening concert featuring homegrown acts like Magic!, Gord Bamford, Marc Dupré and others, and the night ends with a giant fireworks show.
Ottawa does have an international airport, with regular flights to and from major Canadian cities, major U.S. cities and a few to the Caribbean and London. If it’s your sole intended destination, you can fly in and pick up an Ottawa car rental
with no problems. However, it isn’t a major hub for any airline, and you might discover it’s easier to fly in to one of the other major cities in the immediate vicinity like Toronto
(both within a short day’s drive) and plan to be in the capital on July the 1st as part of a touring holiday in eastern Canada.
The U.S has a Charlotte and a Charlottesville, but Canada has a Charlottetown. Located on Prince Edward Island, it’s widely considered the country’s birthplace. More accurately, it’s where Canada was conceived: delegates from the then-separate colonies met in the settlement in 1864 to discuss a union which was subsequently passed into law in London in 1867. Although you might not want to revisit your own conception on your birthday, this one is a lot more fit for public viewing and adds something extra to the patriotic celebrations.
The day itself will see official ceremonies, a flag raising, a 21 gun salute, family activities, an outdoor concert featuring regional musicians and another spectacular fireworks display. Canada Day weekend, the 3-4th of July, brings the start of the Waterfront Concert series with a lineup including Kim Mitchell, April Wine and City and Colour.
Charlottetown’s small airport flies mostly to and from nearby Canadian travel hubs, but it still has a range of car rentals
for visitors. To incorporate the historic city into a Canada Day road trip, you could fly in to Halifax
and make the drive. It is located on an island, but Northumberland Strait is bridged by the Trans Canada Highway so no ferries are needed.
We include Niagara Falls not because of any particularly stirring celebrations, but because it’s an iconic Canadian landmark - and the fireworks combined with the falls make for some great photo opportunities. That’s not to say there’s nothing going on. There’s a parade, entertainment for the kiddies, a car show, buskers and more.
While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Niagara-on-the-Lake for some quaint Canadian small-town vibes - it’s not known as Canada’s prettiest town for nought. It’s also right in Wine Country Ontario, so you could taste the delights of this very scenic corner of the country and celebrate that way. Just make sure there’s a sober driver, or park up and take a tour.
Toronto is the best place to fly in and pick up a car rental for Niagara, and Montreal is another good option if you’re willing to make a trip of it.
The Harbourfront Centre in Toronto is where you will find the biggest Canada Day bash. If a party atmosphere is your thing, you should head to the lakeside city early because the fireworks begin on the 30th of June. On the 1st, the formalities are underway in the morning and give way in the afternoon to all kinds of activities, workshops, markets, music and even a life-size Canada Flag cake. 2015 brings a disco dance party in the evening, followed by “By Divine Right” in concert celebrating not only the nation’s birthday but their 25th anniversary.
Fly right in to Toronto Pearson pick up a Toronto car rental and hit the road, or make the drive there from Montreal or Quebec. You could also opt for a bi-country road trip and head across the border from nearby Detroit
. Just check that your rental supplier allows it and you’re good to go!
All of our picks thus far have been on the eastern side of Canada, but we promise there are patriotic parties happening in the west too. Vancouver is the place to be for the day itself which is celebrated in Canada Place on the waterfront overlooking Vancouver Harbour.
Three stages full of Canadian performers mean you can always find something you like as the backdrop to your Canada Day. There will be a show by Vancouver Circus, a parade presented by Port Metro Vancouver and the requisite fireworks display. Those are just the main events, and revellers will also enjoy street hockey, family fun zones and more.
There’s no issues getting to Vancouver, it’s a significant North American travel hub and has the country’s second-busiest airport. Pick up a car rental at Vancouver Airport
and all of western Canada awaits.
Summer is just beginning to heat up in Canada, and with celebrations across the nation, Canada Day is the perfect excuse to get on the road and make the most of it.
If you could choose any place in Canada to celebrate, where would you go? Tell us in the comment section below.