People & Culture

Why Ottawa will be the ultimate place to celebrate Canada's 150th

From immersive art installations to dining in the sky, Ottawa hopes to reintroduce itself to the world in 2017. Here's a sneak peek of what's in store.
  • Aug 03, 2016
  • 750 words
  • 3 minutes
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When the world gathered in Montreal for Expo ’67, it left a lasting legacy and sense of national pride that is still felt today. With Canada’s sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary just around the corner, Ottawa is hoping to replicate the phenomenon. 

The nation’s capital has long suffered from a reputation as a boring government town — “The city fun forgot,” says Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017. But that’s set to change next year as Ottawa welcomes the world for 12 straight months of big, bold events. 

“We want to revolt against reserve,” says Laflamme. “We don’t think people will see Ottawa that same way after 2017.”

Adds Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, “We do Canada Day very well, but we really want to take that enthusiasm and that pride and spread it across the calendar.” 

The annual July 1 festivities normally bring an influx of people to the city, but Watson estimates an additional 1.75 million people will visit Ottawa throughout 2017, potentially adding more than $230 million to the city’s economy. 

August 4 marks 150 days until the beginning of 2017. As the countdown begins, here’s a look at some of the events Ottawa has in store.  

Welcoming the world

Diversity is part of what makes Canada … Canada. To celebrate this important aspect of Canadian heritage and identity, Ottawa 2017 has invited embassies and high commissions to showcase their nations’ cultures as part of a free exhibition at the Aberdeen Pavilion and the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park. Each day will feature film screenings, food tastings, music and dance performances, and more.

Here be monsters

La Machine, a French street theatre production company, will bring their gigantic mobile mechanical sculptures to North America for the first time in July 2017. A dragon and a giant spider (purportedly the offspring of Maman, the spider sculpture that guards the entrance to the National Gallery of Canada) will take to the streets of downtown Ottawa — and who knows what will happen next? 

Dining in the sky

The ultimate culinary experience for daredevils, “Sky Lounge” gives a whole new meaning to dining al fresco. Every day for a week in August 2017, 22 guests will be hoisted by crane 150 feet in the air to enjoy a locally-crafted meal with a side of incredible views of the nation’s capital. 

Art goes underground

Although Ottawa’s new Light Rail Transit (LRT) service is not scheduled to open until 2018, the new downtown Lyon Station will be transformed into an interactive “time tunnel,” a choose-your-own-adventure digital art installation that will get visitors thinking about the future of their city. The experience will be crafted by Moment Factory, a world-renowned production company based out of Montreal. 

Red Bull Crashed Ice 

Did you know Ottawa once boasted a giant toboggan track that ran alongside the Chateau Laurier hotel? It’s making a comeback in 2017, but this time with way more adrenaline. In March, Ottawa hosts the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship, a breathtaking spectacle that will see skaters whizz down a winding chute of ice along the Rideau Canal locks.  

Stanley Cup tribute

2017 is a milestone year for Confederation, but it also marks the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, the centennial of the National Hockey League and the Ottawa Senators’ 25th hockey season. Hockey-themed celebrations are planned, including the groundbreaking ceremony for a new monument on Sparks Street and a chance for the public to meet NHL legends and see the Stanley Cup.

Giant picnic 

Canada Day 2017 will be a bigger party than usual, so if you’re in the mood for something a bit more low key on the morning of July 2, pack your favourite recovery foods and join hundreds of your fellow partygoers for a picnic spanning the length of the Royal Alexandra Bridge. Sod will be laid on the bridge for those who want to celebrate Canada’s birthday with good food and amazing views. Reservations are required and tickets go on sale this month, so stay tuned

Secret stunts 

Throughout the year, a series of 17 epic events will be held in Ottawa, with the location and time kept secret until just before the moment of truth (details will be released a few days before the event through the future O2017 app and social media). Whether it’s a fleeting yet unforgettable art installation or yoga on a barge, these can’t-miss events will take people to surprising and unusual locations across Ottawa.

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