BEST OF OTTAWA: Festivals
With 20-years writing about Ottawa life we think we have
a pretty good idea of the best of what this city has to offer.
In this new weekly summer series we’ll share it with you.
From our top picks of hotels, live music venues, local brews,
bands and more, check, share and discuss
#OLMBest every Monday!
Bluesfest could be called the event of the Summer. Having evolved slightly over its 20+ yer history, it’s known for attracting some heavy hitters of the music industry. This year’s lineup includes July Talk, Muse, P!nk and Sam Roberts Band. They’re also big into giving back to the local community, running a program called “Blues in the Schools” to encourage arts education, letting kids get creative and explore making music.
From September 13-17, CityFolk will take over the great lawn at Lansdowne Park. A music festival with something for everyone, the lineup is a mix of big names and up and coming groups. Standout acts include Father John Misty, Bahamas, Broken Social Scene and Jack Johnson. They also have an initiative called Marvest – a free event partnering with local companies to show off Ottawa talent in atypical locations.
Nothing says Summer like a party on the beach and Carivibe is Summer at its finest. This beach and food festival celebrates Caribbean culture in the capital and is known as Canada's Biggest Caribbean Beach Party. Taking place in June on Petrie Island, there’s music, dancing and amazing food. It doesn’t get any better than this.
One of the best things about winter in Ottawa, Winterlude provides fun for the whole family. Whether marveling at the world class ice sculptures, watching ice dragon boat races or indulging in the unique but classic Canadian treat that is snow taffy, you’ll to enjoy yourself so much that you’ll actually start to relish the frigid temperatures.
Every May, Ottawa gets decked out in multicolour for the Canadian Tulip Festival. The flowers are an annual historic gift from the Netherlands to recognize the contributions of Canadian soldiers in freeing Europe as well as Princess Margriet’s birth in Ottawa, the only royal ever born in North America. This year’s crop featured a limited edition red and white variety created specially for the nation’s 150th birthday.
This massive glow in the dark block party lights up Bank Street in June. The combination of music, light and art includes glow yoga, a marketplace and bazaar, dance parties, an art zone and. A smorgasbord for the senses, the also have musical acts, headlined this year by Neon Dreams. The silent disco (when everyone in the room dances to music blaring from individual headphones) is an experience like no other.
For the first week in August, the best buskers in the world flock to Sparks Street to show off their (sometimes award-winning) original talents. The festival has attracted a wide range of performers for the past 26 years, ranging from fire-breathers to contortionists to acrobats. Always fun and sometimes a little mind blowing, prepare to be truly amazed.
Founded by local musicians in the 1980s to develop the local jazz scene, this classic Ottawa festival is known for showcasing some of the best Canadian talent, including Feist, Serena Rider, Lindi Ortega and Hannah Georgas. This has been a core value of the festival from the very beginning, leading them to feature around 300 domestic artists every year. Plus, their location in the center of downtown Ottawa could not be more convenient.
WestFest is often the kickoff of the Summer festival season and the organizers know how to throw a good party. This year’s festivities included headliners like Monkeyjunk and Lemon Cash. The festival grounds were home to a Clocktower beer garden, a food truck court composed of many local favourites, a community mural, a popup movie, a marketplace of local creations and a pavilion celebrating indigenous cultures.
Escapade Music Festival
This music festival is fairly new on the scene features a mashup of artists ranging from Steve Aoki to ZEDS DEAD. VIP tickets get you access to the VIP Chill Zone and bottle service. They offer discounted accommodations in what they call the “Escapade House” – a batch of 2 bedroom suites at a local conference centre offering a late-night café, movie lounge and shuttle to festival grounds. Organizers also host a string of afterparties after each event to keep the party going well into the early hours.