WARM UP TO OTTAWA
Enjoy a mind-boggling variety of summer festivals, shows and events in Canada’s capital.
The city’s many national museums are mounting numerous enticing shows. At the National Gallery of Canada, Impressionist Treasures: The Ordrupgaard Collection (May 18 to September 9) features 76 paintings from a famous Danish museum. At the Canadian Museum of Nature, the big draw will be Brain: The Inside Story, an exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History (May 18 to September 3). And the Canadian Museum of History delves into one of Canada’s most famous stories of exploration with Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition (until September 30).
SUMMER HEATS UP
When it comes to festivals, June is packed. One of the first is Ottawa Italian Week from June 7–17, which celebrates Italian music, food, theatre, comedy, art and more. Overlapping the first part of Italian Week is Westfest, a free music and arts festival at Tom Brown Arena and Park (June 8–10).
Hot on the heels of those events is the Ottawa Fringe Festival for fans of off-thewall theatre (June 14–24); the Ottawa Beer Fest for craft beer lovers (June 15–16); the Festival Franco-ontarien, which celebrates the province’s francophone culture (June 14–16); and the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival (June 21–24) featuring a two-day Pow Wow.
The 2018 TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival (June 21 to July 1) will take place at the Marion Dewar Plaza, across from its usual home in Confederation Park, which is undergoing some construction this year. Performers at this year’s event include Alison Krauss, Herbie Hancock and Boz Scaggs.
Fans of thrilling aerial acrobatics should head to the Canadian Tire Centre between June 27 and July 1 for Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo. Also at the end of June are the RCMP Sunset Ceremonies (June 27–30). Spectators can watch the famed Musical Ride, then see the Canadian flag lowered at dusk. Bring a chair and a blanket, and come early, as this free event is wildly popular.
On July 1, downtown Ottawa becomes one massive pedestrian mall and entertainment venue on Canada Day. Most major arteries are closed to cars but they are wide open to strolling entertainers, food trucks, concert stages and hordes of people festooned in red and white, and taking it all in.
Throughout the summer, Parliament Hill is a hive of free activity, including guided tours of the famous buildings, the Changing of the Guard ceremony every morning, noon-hour yoga classes on the lawn once a week, and a light-and-sound show each night at dusk.
The granddaddy of Ottawa music festivals, Bluesfest (July 5–15), has expanded far beyond its blues roots to encompass just about every genre of music. Acts this year include Foo Fighters, Bryan Adams, Beck and Naughty by Nature. If you like your tunes a bit more sedate, try Chamberfest, one of the world’s largest chamber music festivals (July 26 to August 9).
The long weekend in August brings fire eaters, jugglers and contortionists to town for the Ottawa Busker Fest (August 2–6). Mid-month, the Capital Fair’s midway is a magnet for kids (August 17–26). And dozens of colourful balloons floating over Ottawa at the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (August 30 to September 3) always signal summer is coming to a close.
Just because the kids go back to school doesn’t mean the fun stops, however. Folk music fans have five days of shows from which to choose at the Cityfolk festival (September 12–16). Country superstar Keith Urban performs at the Canadian Tire Centre on September 14, and Elton John plays the same venue two weeks later (September 28).
When the leaves start to change, leaf peepers head to Gatineau Park. And the Ottawa REDBLACKS, 2016 Grey Cup champions, play home games at TD Place at Lansdowne Park from May 31 to November 2.
LEFT: Parliament Hill and the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel glow in the twilight. BOTTOM: RBC Bluesfest draws crowds of music lovers to Lebreton Flats every July. © Ottawa Tourism
RIGHT: Ottawa’s Chamberfest is the world’s largest chamber music festival. © Ottawa Tourism