Best Christmas Lights in Ottawa

Published Nov 20, 2017 | Updated Apr 17, 2018

Are you looking for the best places to view Christmas lights in Ottawa? Learn more about the lights at Parliament Hill & check out our quick list of the "coolest" locations in the city.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" …and this year the 33rd edition of Christmas Lights Across Canada, will make Ottawa's winter landscape look like the best Christmas. EVER. Kids will love the sparkle and warmth of gazillion lights projected on many of the Nation Capital's main buildings, streets and parks.

Running from early December to early January, the Christmas Lights Across Canada has been a long-lasting event that brightens up the dark of winter nights and, as part of the country's heritage, brings people of all cultures together under the tales of beautiful and dramatic lights.

This magical show will be held every evening from December 7, 2017 until January 7, 2018, fusing spellbinding colors and digital technology with the architectonic grandeur of the Parliament Buildings and heritage sites.

A Tale of Lights: History of Christmas Lights Across Canada

This tradition was created in 1985 by the National Capital Commission (NCC) to celebrate the holiday season in Ottawa, and a way to bringing luminous peace and joy to residents and visitors during the dark winter months. With a multicoloured lights exhibition, it showcases memorials and monuments along Confederation Boulevard, Ottawa's ceremonial circuit around the downtown areas of the Capital, from Parliament Hill to many other memorable government buildings.

This magnificent event became such a phenomenon that now it is not only enjoyed in Ottawa, it has become a national tradition; part of the Canadian folklore. So, every year, every capital city in each province and territory across Canada, hold their own festival of local illumination ceremonies with thousands of holiday lights, garlands and some good old-fashioned family celebration.

The Official Illumination Ceremony is a Must-See!

The Parliament Hill's Centre Block is the iconic building, home to the House of Commons, the Senate and the Library of Parliament, but from December 7, 2017 to January 7, 2018, it becomes the backdrop to the world's most beautiful show of lights and stories from the Canadian heritage and nature. Join hundreds of residents and visitors for many nights of magical multimedia shows projected onto this magnificent building.

The luminosity party begins with an official opening ceremony on December 7, 2017 at 7 p.m. Sharp.

This year, the theme is inspired by nature and climate, −the essence of Canada−, so the signature show will mix fantasy and breathtaking landscapes with the imaginary characters "Grizzly, Fox and Snowman" on an exciting journey, that will keep kids engaged in total awe. The story will be accompanied by an awesome soundtrack, all running nightly in a loop, from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. With giant snowflakes dancing on Parliament Hill's buildings and story of these lovable characters, will indeed create enchanted evenings of entertainment for the whole family.

And, just because a ginormous winter lights show is not enough, the official illumination ceremony will also feature on-site musical performances, Christmas carols and a display of pyrotechnics that will keep you feeling like a cat in front of a laser.

Follow the Official Lighting Route

First things, first. Parliament Hill will be "the" place to be for the opening ceremony on December 7, 2017. Prepare to be amazed at the tour of the lights, with thousands of bulbs lighting its most grand historic buildings.

This year, the Canada's Capital Region's winter landscape will shine with ornate holiday lights and trees dressed in colourful luminosity, that will brighten up the Confederation Boulevard, Canada's ceremonial route circling the heart of Ottawa. Confederation Boulevard will be illuminated every day from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. until January 7, 2018. But most of all. It will brighten your kids' hearts!

Best Streets to View Christmas Lights

The Boulevard is a commemorative loop in downtown Ottawa that includes:

  • Mackenzie Street

  • Wellington

  • Elgin

  • Sussex Streets

  • Laurier Street in Gatineau

  • Alexandra Bridge

  • Taffy Lane

  • Belcourt Boulevard

  • Vanier

  • Lowertown

These will be some of the best places to experience the lights, apart from the front lawn of Parliament Hill.

Belcourt Boulevard. Photo Credit

Taffy Lane. Photo Credit

Taffy Lane. Photo Credit

Additionally, just a short walk from the Hill, the whole family can frolic in a new and bright experience at Confederation Park. The displays of lighted trees and garlands will make people of all ages embrace the holiday spirit.

Best tips to enjoy the Christmas Lights in Ottawa

Let the Christmas Lights begin! But in order to have the best experience there is some important planning to do. Because the event attracts many visitors, seek to arrive early, so you can pick the best spot to see the show. Before the show, head to the multiple coffee shops nearby and warm up with some Java or hot apple cider. On the marvelous opening night, you might be able to sample free Beaver Tails, courtesy of the organizing committee, but be aware that lines will be long.

Then, walk to Parliament Hill for the formal Illumination Ceremony. This year it will be all fireworks, bonfires and laughter, that will be forever in your children's memories. Canadians know very well that weather can be unpredictable, specially during the winter. Even though it can get quite chilly at night, you and your little ones can still enjoy the Canadian outdoors by bundling up for warmth. Your ultimate packing guide should include:

  • A warm touque, −as Canadians call their knit caps− and ear warmers.

  • Gloves or mittens. A great idea is to have hand warmers in your mittens to keep toasty fingers.

  • A scarf, winter socks and boots. Do we need to say more?

  • It is advisable to carry an extra layer or two of clothing, like sweaters and thermal underwear, just in case it there are unexpected temperature changes. Bring a bit of cash for hot chocolate as well as awesome treats and souvenirs.

  • Also, don't forget to bring your camera to capture the glowy memories of a lifetime you can share with your family and friends, and that you can also share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or upload a video to YouTube.

  • If you can, bring along your foldable camping chairs and blankets for a cozy and comfortable experience.

Besides going for a drive to check out the best Christmas lights in the city, there are a ton of other family friendly events to check out in Ottawa during the holiday season.

Check out our local events page for some great indoor and outdoor activities to do with your kids.

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