The biggest bash was on Parliament Hill, where festivities will wrapped up Sunday evening with a massive fireworks display.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood alongside Gov. Gen. David Johnston for the noon-hour ceremonies.
Thousands of people were forced to stay on Wellington Street by RCMP, who let only a trickle of visitors past the gates for the noon show, the CBC's Peter Mansbridge reported.
Johnston carried out an inspection of the Guard of Honour, and the crowd watched a fly-past by the Snowbirds, before Canadian opera singer Julie Nesrallah performed God Save the Queen.
Jully Black was next on stage, singing O Canada.
As Harper took to the podium, he sent "best wishes" to the Queen for her Diamond Jubliee, marking 60 years on the throne.
He also said Canadians have much to be proud of: a "strong and growing economy, a caring and compassionate society and our Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are heading to London ... and the courage and devotion of our men and women in uniform."
Later, there were performances by Feist, Simple Plan, Roch Voisine and Donny Parenteau.
The Grey Cup was given VIP status as the football tournament celebrates its 100th birthday this year with a video montage from scenes of championship games.
Harper reflects on War of 1812
The show featured actors playing key figures from the War of 1812, one of the themes of this year's celebrations. This year marks the bicentennial of the war.
In his Canada Day message, Harper made special mention of the War of 1812 bicentennial as a source of pride.
"It's fitting that this year, that we should reflect upon the military struggle that made Canada possible, the War of 1812," he said. "Almost exactly two centuries ago, an American invasion of Canada was launched."
"Our ancestors, English, French, Aboriginal, people of all backgrounds joined in the fight for Canada. In doing so, they created a common sense of nationality based on diversity and they laid the basis for the parliamentary federation of freedom, democracy and justice that is our inheritance," Harper said.
In the Governor General's message, he said from the moment of Confederation in 1867, Canada has been a unique and challenging experiment.
Johnston said the nation resembles a giant family that each day displays a commitment to unity, diversity, excellence and equality of opportunity.
Speaking at the close of the noon-hour ceremonies, Johnston said Canadians have a lot to be thankful for.
'A better future'
"All Canadians want to create a better future for this country," he said.
Across Canada, more than 30 special citizenship ceremonies were also held, swearing in over 1,500 new Canadians.
Shabnam Clark was one of many new Canadians on Parliament Hill.
She received her citizenship last year after arriving from Iran and said she wanted to join the celebrations because her newfound country offers her so much.
"I like that Canada is a very peaceful country," she said.
The Montreal band Simple Plan then wrapped up the musical acts for the noon show.
The evening show featured performances by Feist, Simple Plan, Roch Voisine, Jully Black, Misstress Barbara and Donny Parenteau.Suggest a correction