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12 Ottawa Festivals you need to check out this year

Published: July 1, 2019
Last updated: April 1, 2021
Ottawa Festivals- Couple taking a picture during Escape Ottawa Tulip Festival bike tour

The bike is the worry free ride to most Ottawa Festivals

Ottawa counts dozens of festivals, because bureaucrats need some diversion too once in a while. From the annual HOPE Beach Volleyball tournament, often nicknamed as ‘meat fest’ to the highly respected Jazzfestival, there is always something to do in Ottawa.

Here is a selective list of Ottawa Festivals we talk about below:

  • Summer Solstice Festival
  • Tulip Festival
  • Bluesfest and Jazzfest
  • Classical Music festivals
  • Street festivals
  • Cultural festivals
  • Film festivals

Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival

Ottawa is built on traditional unceded territory of the Algonquins Anishinaabeg First Nations. You should really go and participate in the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival. The heart of the festival is the International Competition Pow Wow.  A feast for your eyes and ears, the competition Pow Wow attracts the best singers and dancers from across Turtle Island (the First nation’s name for North America). There is food at the Indigenous Long Tables lunch and dinners and the festival offers live music and an international art market.. Talking about food: How about Roasted Corn, Red Pepper, and Cauliflower Salad with Dandelion Greens and Wild Rice, tossed in a Walnut and Juniper Berry Vinaigrette” for dinner at a Long Table?

How about some Spring Flowers?

Everyone in Ottawa wants to be at the outdoor Ottawa festivals after the long snowy winters. One of the first large outdoor festivals in spring is the Tulip festival, every year in May. Millions of tulips bloom now in the nation’s capital, after the Netherlands sent tens of thousands of tulips to show their gratitude after Canada liberated the Netherlands in 1945. Read about our tulip tour here.

Bluesfest and Jazzfest

In late June it is time for the TD Ottawa Jazz festival, with performances indoors and outdoors in the park across from City Hall. A few days after Canada Day, it is time for blues. Ottawa’s Blues Fest is well loved and has attracted many big names in the music industry.

While the festival has veered away quite a bit from its blues roots, it is still a superior festival. It takes place on a large field in front of the war museum. Local bike advocacy group Bike Ottawa runs the free bike valet parking, sometimes parking more than 1000 (!) bicycles a night for free for over a decade. Their claim is they never lost one single bicycle!

Classical music festivals

Music & Beyond is a classical music and arts festival in early July, receiving lots of praise throughout the years. Chamberfest starts end of July until the first week of August.

The world’s largest chamber music festival presents early music, core repertoire, contemporary, and fringe in churches and venues across downtown Ottawa attracting tens of thousands of chamber music aficionados. Once September arrives, CityFolk at Lansdowne Park is on for three days. No beard or suspenders required, but a banjo ukulele scores you points.

Street festivals

Several shopping districts organise events too. There is a Buskerfest in downtown (in front of our shop no less at Sparks St.) and Bank Street organises its annual GLOW Fair, while streets further west and east have their own parties such as Wellington West’s ‘A taste of Wellington’ and Westboro’s FUSE street festival.

Cultural festivals

Being a city of immigrants, one can not forget to mention the always popular Greekfest (yes, dishes are smashed every year) on Prince of Wales, Settimana Italiana on Preston Street and The Great India fest in front of City Hall.

There are many more, such as the Ukrainian Festival, the Latino festival and Ottawa Asian Fest. Recently, a successful Palestinian Festival was added to the list. The festivals serve good food and interesting music.

Film festival buffs take note

There are at least six Ottawa festivals evolving around film. The film festival season starts end of March with Bright Nights, a Baltic -Nordic Film festival followed by a three day Irish Film Festival.

One shouldn’t miss the Latin American Film Festival in April-May with 16 countries participating at Ottawa’s brand new Art Gallery. Every September, the Ottawa International Animation Festival presents the world’s most cutting-edge, quirky and important animation — and transforms Ottawa into the centre of the art of animation.

After the summer festivals are over, there is the well known European Union Film Festival in the second half of November, when every EU member (except the UK, the way things are going) submits a movie to this wonderful two week annual event. Then there is the newer Ottawa Canadian Film Festival with main screenings planned in November too.

An easy bike ride away

Most of the Ottawa festivals take place within a few kilometers of Parliament Hill and all of them are easily reachable by foot and by bicycle, by far the best means of transportation to all the festivals.

Rather than searching aimlessly for a car parking spot that isn’t there anyway, why not rent a bike? It is so much easier. Book your bike now before it is too late. Try one of our super fun Electric bikes for to visit Ottawa festivals that are further away!

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