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Ottawa Summer Festivals

There are a few things about our nations capital that may surprise you, namely, that everyones’ wardrobe isn’t limited to black, navy and beige, that the three of us who don’t work for the federal government make up our own acronyms just to feel involved and that there are more festivals in this town than you could possibly hope to attend. Keep in mind most (if not all) of these festivals need volunteers- it’s a great way to see some amazing talent for free. I’ve rounded up a few of my favourites, but there are many, many more. Check out this handy website for the full list and plan your summer accordingly.

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, May 25-26

Ottawa loves running. It’s a serious epidemic here. And even if, like me, you think it’s hard on the knees and would rather just find a nice patio to hold down, ‘Race Weekend’ as it  is affectionately known, is a force to be reckoned with. The city floods with over 40,000 runners and all events take place along the Rideau Canal, of the city’s pretty centrepieces. Ranked by runabroad.com as one of the ’101 races to run before you die’ there is something for everyone in the family to participate in.

Ottawa International Children’s Festival, May 29- June 2

Located at Lebreton Flats, that peculiar stretch of land downtown that lies dormant all winter waiting for festival season, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival promotes art education  through theatre, dance and music. An international cast of artists and volunteers create an amazing environment for those aged 4-15 and their families. Also cool: The festival aims to attract school groups as well as families, meaning classes regularly partake in the events!

Canada Dance Festival, June 8-16

Internationally acclaimed, the Canada Dance Festival is held annually at the national Arts Centre but includes venues around the city- including sidewalks and streets!  Featuring contemporary dance professionals as well as those new to dance. Check out the website for more information and recently released programming.

Amnesia RockFest, June 14-15 Montebello, Quebec. 

Okay, this one isn’t in Ottawa. But under an hours drive north east from the city, pretty Montebello hosts Rockfest, making it more of a commute than a road-trip, really. For those born in the mid 70′s to early 80′s this line up will have you flashing back. Big time. Plus, it was founded in 2005 by a 17 year old. Offspring, Rise Against, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Deftones, Social Distortion, Rancid, Pennywise, the list GOES ON, my friends.

TD International Jazz Fest. June 20-July 1

Hi David Byrne and St. Vincent. What’s up Aretha Franklin? Welcome to Ottawa, Boz Scaggs and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Jazz Fest is another huge event here in the Capital. There are so many fabulous musicians packed into this event (including my high school alumni, the charming Leeroy Stagger) and they play at some pretty inspiring venues including the National Arts Centre, and out under the stars. Who wouldn’t want to see Willy Nelson play at dusk on a warm summer night at Confederation Park? Tickets can be purchased by event, or get a pass and see as much as you can before it’s winter again.



RBC Ottawa Blues Fest, July 4-14 

This is the big daddy of Ottawa’s festivals, make no mistake. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking Blues Fest limits its self to one genre of music. Located a five minute walk from Parliament Hill, it does not get more central than this. I saw Snoop Dogg play at last year’s fest and it is my current concert to beat. The Black Keys, B.B King, Bahamas, Femi Kumi, She and Him, Flogging Molly, Fun, WU-TANG CLAN! (sorry.) Tegan and Sara, Rush, Mother Mother, Weezer, A Tribe Called Red (I won’t be missing these Ottawa locals play). That is a fraction of the musicians gracing the three stage, ten day event. Did I mention Rush is playing? Tickets are remarkably affordable, the weather is generally beautiful, and the local beers are plentiful. See you there.

This is but a small sampling of what is out there to enjoy, now that the snow has melted and the citizens of Ottawa are thawing out. Get out there and enjoy some of the amazing talent gracing our town this summer!

Ottawa Chamber Festival, Tim Hortons Dragon Boat Fest, Ottawa Folk Fest, Festival franco-ontarien, Music and Beyond, Capitol Velo Fest, Carnival of Cultures, Ottawa Fringe Fest, Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival, Summer Fling, Ottawa Lumiere Festival, Electric Fields Festival, I’m not kidding, there’s more.


(Images sourced from here, here, here, here, and here. )

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Tags: Canada Dance Festival, children's festival, , Meg Irving, Ottawa, Ottawa Race Weekend, , RBC Ottawa Blues Fest, Rockfest, Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival, TD International Jazz Fest

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About the Author - Meg Irving

Meg is a copywriter, social advocate and mama from the west now living in the east. She has an insatiable appetite for current events and chocolate, but not in that order....


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