You know that summer is finally here once Ottawa’s patios, outdoor festivals and activities on land and water spring to life. It is a great place for outdoor adventure – coupled with a sophisticated urban vibe. There is no better city for a getaway, a weekend fling, a treat… or a much needed break. And this summer Ottawa has a packed agenda, so that whenever you visit you are sure to find lots going on. Ottawa is one of those cities that really knows how to embrace the seasons. So whether it is celebrating winter at the Winterlude festival – or celebrating the outdoors with summer music festivals – Ottawa shines. And in summer Ottawa’s natural beauty comes to the fore.
Once you arrive in Ottawa you don’t necessarily need a car at all, since it is such a walkable city. And there are so many different ways to get about….
There are over 600 kilometres of recreational paths in Canada’s Capital Region. And “Sunday Bikedays” in summer mean that 50kms of roadways are reserved for cyclists, in line skaters, runners and walkers. You can rent a bike very easily - Ottawa has a shared CycleHop program similar to Toronto and Montreal. Also locally owned RentABike is right downtown, located on the Rideau Canal beneath Rideau St. and across from Westin and Chateau Laurier Hotels. They offer bike rentals by the hour or by the day. Choose your ride from a selection of 300 new bikes that come complete with a helmet and bike lock.
Ottawa is blessed with two rivers – the Ottawa and the Rideau rivers – plus the historic Rideau Canal runs through the heart of Ottawa. So there are no shortage of ways to get out on the water. Here are just a few:
After all that exercise you may want to chill on one of Ottawa’s many patios and enjoy its great cuisine, wine, craft beers and more. Wander the quaint ByWard market district for boutique stores and culinary delights.
As our Nation’s Capital, it falls to Ottawa to throw a wonderful Birthday Party for Canada every July 01. And what a party! But as our Nation’s Capital, Ottawa also has Parliament Hill. Not everyone realizes that you can visit year round.
There are guided tours of the Centre Block year round and tours of the East block run July to early September. Self Guided options can take you to the top of the Peace Tower and to the Memorial Chamber that commemorates Canadians who have lost their life in military service. On a first come, first served basis, members of the public can also watch debates in the Senate and the House of Commons.
Every summer morning Parliament Hill is alive with music and colourful drills. The ceremonial Changing of The Guard began as a morning routine on the Hill in 1959, and has turned into an annual tradition. This large-scale production includes a regimental band and pipers. From June 26 through 20 August, 2016 the ceremony begins at 10 a.m. each morning - but arrive about 15 minutes early to grab a spot with a great view.
For a less formal visit to Parliament Hill – in summertime you can partake in yoga on the lawns at Parliament Hill.
And for a nocturnal visit – don’t miss the new “Northern Lights” sound and light show on Parliament Hill! Northern Lights is a free bilingual show presented nightly from July 9 to September 10, 2016. This all-new experience of sound and light is a thrilling thematic journey through Canada’s history presented in spectacular detail against the backdrop of the Parliament Buildings.
All summer long there is music in the air in Ottawa with a series of world class music festivals.
TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 23- July 3, 2016)
This annual foray into jazz and similar genres is one of the biggest draws during Ottawa’s lively festival season. The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival mixes big names from the world of jazz with a number of other inimitable artists between. This year’s lineup includes Brian Wilson, Sarah McLachlan, Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, Kamasi Washington – and lots more! For the full lineup click here.
The combination of large outdoor concerts at Confederation Park downtown with smaller, intimate shows at indoor spaces like the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage allows for variety in look and feel during the 12-day festival. Approximately 300 Canadian performers are included in the lineup each year, attracting up to 180,000 fans!
RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest (July 7 - 17, 2016)
Bluesfest is one of the largest international music events in the world! There are over 220 varied musical acts on several outdoor stages, attracting more than 300,000 music fans each year. Musical genres include rock, roots, world music, electro, DJ’s, gospel - and blues. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Sam Hunt, Brad Paisley, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, Alessia Cara, the Monkees, Nelly and City and Colour head the lineup at this year's RBC Bluesfest. For the full details click here.
Ottawa International Chamberfest (July 21 - August 23, 2016)
Chamberfest fills the city with the refined sound of chamber music! Chamberfest covers a variety of music types from classic Baroque to contemporary, jazz, vocal and choral, and spoken word. The festivals main stage is at the beautiful Dominion-Chalmers United Church but also holds alfresco concerts and a series of “Bring the Kids!” shows for children. . For a full line up of concerts click here.
Music and Beyond Festival (July 4 -17, 2016)
Music and Beyond is a new classical music and multi-disciplinary arts festival. Classical music is presented in all formations including orchestras, choirs, bands, wind ensembles, recitals and small ensembles. The festival pursues links with other art forms and cultural disciplines including visual art, drama, poetry, dance, architecture, science, law, food and wine and even yoga. Music and Beyond is virtually unique in the international field of music festivals. Amongst innovations this year are “Shakespeare and Music” with Christopher Plumber and “Music and Circus” with China’s Hebei acrobatic group (where a large circus tent will be set up at City Hall for performances)
CityFolk (September 15 - 19, 2016)
CityFolk takes place on the great lawn at Lansdowne Park and the festival highlights Canada’s rich traditions with music, dance, storytelling and crafts. Side-stage shows are a particular highlight as musicians share the spotlight.
There’s always something going on in Ottawa, no matter what time you visit. You can always check out the events calendar at www.ottawatourism.ca for the up to date information.
Canada Day on July 01 each year is a day of celebration in the Capital that is not to be missed. And on July 01 – the Jazz Festival programming is free! The day of national pride in Ottawa is also a day of all out fun! Streets in the downtown core are closed to traffic and hundreds of thousands of people come out for a fantastic afternoon and evening of celebration. The festivities take place on Parliament Hill, in downtown parks and on the streets with ceremonies, musical talent from across the country, fireworks — and more!
Northern Lights Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill (July 9 - September 10, 2016)
This all-new experience of sound and light is a thrilling thematic journey through Canada’s history. This must-see event is presented every evening in spectacular detail against the backdrop of the Parliament Buildings.
Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light (August 6 - 20, 2016 : Wednesdays and Saturdays)
An international fireworks competition with the greatest pyrotechnic experts promises unforgettable evenings of magical moments, colourful lights and melodic sound. There are 5 consecutive nights of stunning firework displays set to music. Some of the very best fireworks experts from around the world represent their countries as they demonstrate their skills in this explosive battle of light and sound. The Sound of Light competition takes place at the Canadian Museum of History. And general admission is only $8!
Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June 23 - 26, 2016)
This annual celebration of the historic Chinese dragon boat tradition takes place at Mooney’s Bay, along the Rideau River. It is the largest free event in the City of Ottawa with over 5,000 paddlers and 85,000 attendees. The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is North America’s largest dragon boat event—more than 200 teams compete! In addition to the colourful boats and exciting races, the free-admission festival offers world-class entertainment with acts such as The Sheepdogs, extreme sports demonstrations, a variety of exhibitors and artisans, as well as a beachside bar and a children’s play area. This festival is sure to entertain all ages!
Ottawa Busker Festival (July 28 - August 1, 2016)
Come out and experience this very unorthodox entertainment by street performers from around the world. There’s something for the whole family including acrobats, contortionists, hula hoopers, yo-yo’s, musicians, comedians, escape acts, magicians, jugglers and more! You name it, they have it all! Free admission but donations appreciated.
Ottawa Fringe Festival (June 15 - 26, 2016)
The 20th anniversary! The Fringe Festival is a celebration of the arts and an opportunity for local, national and international artists to showcase their original work.
Franco-Ontarian Festival (June 16 - 18, 2016)
The biggest French celebration in Canada’s capital region, with concerts, street art and entertainment celebrating Franco Ontarian culture.
Ottawa Ribfest (June 22 - 26, 2016)
Sample some of the best BBQ chicken and ribs you’ll ever taste while teams from Canada and the United States compete.
DessertFest (June 11 - 12, 2016)
Taking place at the historic Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne, this is the largest dessert festival in North America! Walk around and sample delicious treats such as chocolate, candy, ice cream, cupcakes and more. Your delicious favourites are sure to be here!
Ottawa Craft Beer Festival (August 26 – 28, 2016)
This year taking place at the Aberdeen Pavilion, Lansdowne Park. This is the largest craft beer festival in Ontario showcasing craft ciders as well as beer. Local, regional and provincial craft brewers will be present, and there will be lots of delicious food to go with the beer as well.
No matter when you visit Ottawa you are sure to find fascinating exhibitions that excite and challenge the mind at the National Museums. Check out Canada's Capital Museums Passport, which gives you access to seven wonderful museums over a period of seven days. An Individual passport is $45 including taxes and a Family passport is just $99 including taxes.
The Passport gives you access to all these great cultural attractions:
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
Canadian Museum of History
Canadian Museum of Nature
Canadian War Museum
National Gallery of Canada
Royal Canadian Mint
Here is just a flavour of what exhibitions are being staged this summer:
Canadian Museum of Nature
Ultimate Dinosaurs (June 11 to September 5, 2016)
Meet T- Rex’s bigger, badder cousin in an exhibition that highlights large dinosaurs of the Southern Hemisphere and be introduced to 20 new and exotic breeds.
National Gallery of Canada
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842) (June 10 to September 11, 2016)
Considered the most important female painter of her time, she was forced to leave France in the wake of the French Revolution, bringing new inspiration to the portrait genre as she visited the great capitals of Europe. The exhibition includes the chance to see a portrait of Marie Antoinette.
Canadian Space and Aviation Museum
Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy Experience (Until September 5, 2016)
A world premiere for Star Trek fans! Discover the science behind the science fiction as you learn about Star Trek technologies like tricorders, warp drive, phasers and teleporters.
Canadian Museum of History
Napoleon and Paris (June 16, 2016 to January 8, 2017)
Discover the complex relationship of a legendary man and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Over 250 works reveal Napoleon’s ambitious dream of turning Paris into the capital of Europe.
Canadian War Museum
Deadly Skies – Air War, 1914-1918 (June 10, 2016 to January 29, 2017)
Go beyond the dogfights and immerse yourself into the lives of nine people, from both sides of the conflict, who experienced the air war of the First World War. Join them as they train to fly, gather intelligence, fight aerial battles and drop bombs. Their stories — told using over 100 authentic artifacts woven into an innovative graphic novel presentation — provide insight into the history and enduring consequences of the first air war.
Of course Ottawa is an easy getaway from both Toronto and Montreal. It’s not far by car - and VIA Rail is a great option as well. Porter Airlines have frequent service to Ottawa from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Or experience Air Canada’s award-winning service to Ottawa, with the most flights to the nation’s capital.
To plan a trip to Ottawa visit www.OttawaTourism.ca or phone 1–888–OTTAWA–8 for some great short break ideas. You can create your own Ottawa Getaway by booking hotels, discounted attraction tickets and all the individual elements of your stay.