Whitewater rafting on the Rideau River, celebrating life at giant festivals, bicycling through wooded parks, relaxing on lakeside beaches — with so many exciting things to do, Canada’s capital really does come into its own in the summer months. Here are ten great reasons why Ottawa’s 1.4 million residents take life outdoors every summer.
1. The Festivals Are Amazing
Ottawa is called “Festival City” for a reason. From Canada Day celebrations, when huge crowds descend on Parliament Hill for concerts and fireworks, to the biggest one-day outdoor beach volleyball tournament in North America — H.O.P.E. Volleyball SummerFest (July 14, 2018) — there’s always an amazing event going on in the city.
The biggest and best summer party may be RBC Bluesfest (July 5 – July 15, 2018). One of the largest music festivals in Canada, you won’t ‘just’ hear blues at this great event. The 2018 lineup features the Foo Fighters, Sturgill Simpson, Dave Matthews Band, Bryan Adams, Chromeo, and more. It’s going to be ten epic days of music on the banks of the Ottawa River. See you at LeBreton Flats Park!
2. You Can Go Whitewater Rafting in the City
Rafting within sight of Parliament Hill? Absolutely. Gentle rafting trips run right through the capital’s downtown all summer long. If you’re looking for truly wild, truly world-class whitewater, head to the Rocher Fendu section of the Ottawa River for its Class IV rapids.
If you like your water activities a bit more relaxed, rent a stand-up paddle board to meander down the Rideau River while getting a bit of core work in. Or hire a canoe or kayak for a few hours to explore one of the gorgeous lakes just outside the city — Dow’s Lake is fifteen minutes past downtown; Lac Phillipe and La Pêche Lake are about an hour’s drive away.
3. Sundays Are Bikedays
Late May till early September, Sundays see over 50 kilometers of Ottawa’s scenic parkways closed to motorists. All morning, cyclists, in-line skaters, joggers, and walkers take over the streets from Gatineau Park to the Colonel By Drive.
If you’re coming to town without a bike, there are plenty of outfitters who can sort you out with one. Or download the app to get in on the VeloGO bike sharing program; there are fleets of the bright green bicycles dotted throughout downtown.
4. There’s All the Outdoor Art
Ottawa is huge on the arts, but you don’t have to go inside the National Gallery of Canada to know that. Street art is everywhere. The Quartier Vanier is home to literally dozens of murals portraying the history of the area. Shaun McInnis has taken over the side streets of Westboro with his signature portraits. The Glebe is also good for street art (and bars with outdoor patios).
The ByWard Market neighbourhood is also known for its public art: look out for the bronze “Alley Cats” on Murray Street, and the whimsical “McClintock’s Dream” which hangs from the ceiling of the market itself.
5. You Can Do Yoga on Parliament Hill
You could take a tour of the grandly Gothic Parliament Buildings, or you could join hundreds of other yogis for a free class on the lawn at midday every Wednesday. Hosted by Lululemon, classes take place right through till the end of August. Bring your own mat and water.
If you prefer your classes a little more aerobic, on Sundays at 3 pm there’s free Zumba on the Hill (until September 30, 2018).
6. Hike Gatineau Park
Just north of downtown Ottawa, Québec’s Gatineau Park is home to 90,000 acres of woods and lakes, and 165 kilometers of hiking trails. One of the most popular summer trails is the 2.5 km Pink Lake trail. The water here so green-blue it looks straight out of the Rockies.
7. The City’s Live Music Venues and Outdoor Patios Come Alive
There’s the Rainbow Bistro for live blues, and Bar Robo in Chinatown for everything from jazz to electro. Babylon is all-DJ dance parties and Pressed Café is the place for open mics and bluegrass nights.
Then there are the rooftop patios in and around ByWard Market. For the best views over the city, head straight for Andaz Ottawa. For an amazing cocktail menu — think cold saké sangrias and drinks featuring orange syrup, yellow beets, and good, strong tequila — there’s Atari.
8. There Are the Movies in the Park
Get yourself over to Dundonald Park at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights for the open-air Centretown Movies Outdoor Film Festival screenings. This year’s movie listings are still to come, but previous years have included classics like Labyrinth and homegrown comedies like My Canadian Internship.
9. The ByWard Market Has Perfect Picnic Food
One of the oldest and largest public markets in the country, ByWard Market is the place to get your picnic foods.
If you want your cheese, breads, and wines to be as local as can be, just look for the Savour Ottawa logo. It identifies foods produced in or near Ottawa.
10. Two Words: Lakeside Beaches
There are sandy beaches all along the river, but if you want a swim to go with your beach time, you’ll want to head to one of the lakes a little outside downtown.
On the shores of Lac Meech in Gatineau Park, O’Brien Beach is popular with families and groups of friends. Breton Beach is the biggest of Lac Philippe’s three beaches, and it’s a wonderful swimming — and kayaking and canoeing — spot, too. See you by the water.
Ottawa really is the ultimate summer destination. From music festivals to movies in the park, there are endless brilliant ways to experience the Canadian capital through the sunny months.
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