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2014-2015Ottawa Visitor Guide

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2014-2015 Ottawa Visitor Guide

Ottawa 2017

Let’s Go Ottawa

Rideau Canal Festival & Buskerfest bring delights this weekend!


dscn4182Last year's début of the Musical Breeze Bike Parade was well attended!The third annual Rideau Canal Festival runs this weekend, from Friday, July 30 through Monday, August 2. While all of Ontario has Monday off as a “civic holiday,” in Ottawa that holiday is named Colonel By Day, after the Royal Engineer who spearheaded the building of the Rideau Canal.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, the Rideau Canal stretches 202 km (126 miles) to Kingston and the St. Lawrence River. It was built for a military purpose (to serve as an alternative route to get troops and supplies between Kingston and Montréal in case the Americans ever blockaded the St. Lawrence) but was never used for that purpose.

Now it’s a beautiful series of waterways, locks and canals. In winter, a 7.8km (4.8-mile) ortion in Ottawa becomes the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink. In summer, recreational boaters, cruises and paddlers plie the waters, while cyclists, inline skaters and runners use the recreational pathways along its banks.

The Rideau Canal Festival endeavours to be environmentally friendly, encouraging visitors to cycle, walk or use public transportation to visit its main sites, including the Bytown Museum, Confederation Park and Dows Lake area. You can enjoy a Buy Local Barbecue Challenge on Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 11:30am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm where local chefs use local products in delicious presentations. Or participate in Saturday’s Musical Breeze Bicycle Parade, held in conjunction with the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, where cyclists are encouraged to participate with their bicycle bells and other noisemakers in musical performances along the Canal.

Some of the most popular attractions are the flotillas — the nighttime flotilla at Dows Lake on Saturday night followed by fireworks and the daytime flotilla on Sunday, leaving Dows Lake at 2:00pm on its way to the National Arts Centre downtown.

New this year is a salute to the Badaling Great Wall of China, and the other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China, to be found in Confederation Park at the World Heritage Plaza. Crafts, performing arts and a sneak preview of the magnificent Chinese Archway currently being constructed in Ottawa’s Chinatown on Somerset Street West near Bronson await!

And if you’re downtown for the Rideau Canal Festival, you’ll also want to check out the Ottawa Busker Festival on the pedestrian Sparks Street Mall heading west from Elgin Street (July 29-August 2). There’s no admission charge, but if you’re charmed by the performers, you’re expected to contribute a loonie or toonie or two at the end! You’ll be amazed at the quality and variety of street performers on hand.

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Lesser-known events happening soon


Like my previous post on the weird collection of photos that end up on my BlackBerry, sometimes I hear about so many cool events, it’s hard to keep track. Here are a few, all coming up in the next couple weeks, to look out for here in Ottawa.

Orchestras in the Park: Free concerts by the National Arts Centre Orchestra on LeBreton Flats (outside the Canadian War Museum). Four nights of performances, July 22-25, including Canada’s own Nikki Yanofsky on Saturday.

Ottawa Turkish Festival: A free event this weekend (July 23-25) in Confederation Park downtown. All things Turkish, including music, dancing and delicious food!

ottawa-international-chamber-music-festival-horizontal-credit-ottawa-tourismSome concerts at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival are in beautiful downtown churches -- like Dominion Chalmers United Church, shown here -- but on July 24 and 25, you can hear free concerts outdoors at Rideau Hall, the home and workplace of Canada's Governor General!Free concerts at Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival: Okay, so people have heard about the Chamber Music Festival, July 24-August 7 (it’s the world’s largest, after all!). But did you know that they offer 4 free concerts at Rideau Hall on July 24 and 25? Bring a picnic and enjoy!

Midsummer Herbfest: A nice drive west through the countryside on Sunday, July 25 will bring you to the Herb Garden just outside Almonte. Spend a day learning about herbs, enjoying a chef cook-off and meeting some cool people!

Odyssey Theatre: Like my post on a Company of Fools, Odyssey Theatre performs outdoors in the beautiful Strathcona Park in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood just east of downtown. From July 29 to August 29, after a hiatus of a couple years, they’ll be back in action with the world premier of Janet Irwin’s They All Do It, inspired by Mozart’s opera, Così fan tutte. Great fun!

Wellington West 1st Thursday Art Walk: On the first Thursday of every month, the art galleries of Wellington West, a dynamic, funky neighbourhood in the near west of Ottawa, open their doors from 5 to 9pm. Wander in and see what’s happening! If you like that, you’ll love the guided art gallery walking tour offered every Saturday from May 1 through October 31 in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. It starts at the great Gordon Harrison Gallery on Murray Street.

Pipefest 2010: A collection of pipe bands, drummers and Highland Dancers will raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society on Parliament Hil on Saturday, August 7. This is part of a 24-hour, worldwide initiative. And if you like Pipefest, you’ll love the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, east of Ottawa, on July 30 and 31. Tons of Scottish fun!

Capital Hoedown: This is a brand new country music festival, to be held August 5, 6 and 7 at the Rideau Carleton Entertainment Centre. Headliners include Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson. Yahoo!

So get out there and enjoy!

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Rollicking Shakespeare in the great outdoors


company-of-fools-outdoor-theatre-credit-ottawa-tourismA Company of Fools performs Shakespeare's plays in Ottawa-region parks. This photo, taken three years ago, well before the performance began, gives a sense of the beautiful "willow grove" setting at Strathcona Park.One of my favourite summertime rituals is going to see Company of Fools perform a work of Shakespeare in the great outdoors. This fun, frenetic troupe performs Shakespeare in a very engaging way. While they follow the original texts, they also add a liberal dose of pop culture references that keeps the audience’s attention. And while their “stage” is often a sheet, a series of boxes and decidedly low-cost props, they make up for any visual shortcomings with a broad physicality that inevitably leads to laughter.

Each actor plays many roles — meaning quick costume changes and occasional visual hijinks to make it all make sense!

This year’s production is A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I’m hoping to catch it next Monday night in the beautiful Rideau River-side Strathcona Park in the downtown neighbourhood of Sandy Hill. But don’t worry if you can’t make it to that performance — they’re also playing in Wakefield, Westboro, Kanata, and Nepean, among others. Their website has the schedule (and directions). The shows continue nightly except Sundays until Monday, August 2.

Performances begin at 7pm and end by about 8:30pm with no intermission. You’re asked to bring your own lawn chair, or blanket (or you can just sit on the grass!). Some people arrive early and bring a picnic dinner. It’s oh so civilized!

At the end of the show, they literally “pass the hat” for payment. People generally give $10 or more per person — trust me, it’s worth it!

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Recent BlackBerry photos


My job and my interests bring me to some pretty cool places in and around Ottawa. Sometimes I have a camera handy; other times I rely on my BlackBerry to take a snap so the moment isn’t lost forever.

However, it sometimes takes me a while to download those photos. That’s what I did today and I thought I would share the results:

The first photo is from Rideau Hall, home and workplace of the Governor General of Canada, currently Michaëlle Jean. (It was just announced that David Johnston will replace her in September.) They have a tradition at Rideau Hall that visiting dignitaries plant a tree. Last year, the Emperor of Japan visited and planted an eastern hemlock tree, shown below. (Next I have to get a snap of the tree that Queen Elizabeth II planted during her visit in early July this year.)


In May, I visited the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orléans (the eastern reaches of Ottawa). It’s abeautiful, breezy building with a great theatre and interesting programming. There’s not a bad seat in the house!

I’ve blogged about this before but I just love yoga on Parliament Hill (every Wednesday, weather permitting, until September 29 thanks to Lululemon Athletica). Lucy Zilio of OMNI TV filmed one of her “Tuned In” spots here. It’s just so colourful and summery and as you can see, hundreds show up!

Then on June 30, #1 Toronto breakfast show, Breakfast Television, broadcast live from Ottawa from 6 to 9am! It was an early morning but what a show! The crowd that showed up was enthusiastic, with Spartacat, Mounties, Ceremonial Guardsman, the band Silver Creek, the crews from the National Gallery of Canada‘s Pop Life show, the staff from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Haunted Walk gang and more!

There was such a hubbub around Ottawa around Canada Day that I never did get to the National Arts Centre for the unveiling of the Oscar Peterson statue by Queen Elizabeth II. It was only later when I was able to snap a shot. It’s very tempting to join the Canadian jazz legend on his bench and imagine him tickling the ivories!

And then it was Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest — the no-holds-barred party of the year! My favourite show, shown below, was a blistering show by John Hiatt on the smaller Subway stage but people raved about everyone from the Flaming Lips to Santana to Iron Maiden to Drake to the B-52 to Rush. Party on, Ottawa!

So now I’m caught up… can’t wait to see what pops up next on my BlackBerry camera!


Japanese Emperor's tree at Rideau HallTheir Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan planted this tree at Rideau Hall on July 9, 2009.
Shenkman Arts CentreThe lobby of the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orléans.
Yoga on Parliament HillSay "ommmmm" and stretch it on Parliament Hill every Wednesday during summer in Ottawa.
Breakfast TelevisionMarie Lemay of the National Capital Commission (in pink) prepares for an interview with Breakfast Television co-host Dina Pugliese while members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police look on, on June 30, 2010.
Oscar Peterson statueCanadian jazz great Oscar Peterson sits at his favourite piano outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, thanks to sculptor Ruth Abernathy.
Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest 2010An enthusiastic crowd ate up whatever John Hiatt dished out at this year's sprawling, red-hot Bluesfest!
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Ottawa in the news! What are they saying about us?


Recent media coverage of Ottawa has done a good job of showing off Ottawa’s attributes.

A July 11 travel article in the Washington Post described Ottawa as “Canada’s cool capital.” Journalist Michael Kaminer spent some time in Ottawa in April and was impressed! A quote: “In fact, if anything now characterizes the city, I’d say it’s an unselfconscious cool. There’s a proudly indie aesthetic in its neighborhoods… “

Or this: “And there’s a buzzing food scene that turned out to be the weekend’s big reveal. Larger cities get the glory, but Ottawa’s kitchens might be some of North America’s best-kept secrets. Locavore-fueled creativity here arguably rivals that of San Francisco or Chicago, albeit with less ego, zero attitude and gentler prices.”

Ottawa’s culinary scene also received great coverage at, where writer Barbara Angelakis waxed poetic about our offerings: “There are in fact so many high-quality dinning establishments located throughout Ottawa’s downtown and neighborhoods that, like her more famous foodie sister cities of Quebec and Montreal, she should also be considered “destination gastronomic” when planning a toothsome getaway.”

And overall look at the city formed the basis of another post, as did a visit to Holtz Spa.

And if you’ve been watching OMNI TV, you may have seen one of Lucy Zilio’s fun “Tuned In” spots. My favourite is the Yoga on Parliament Hill piece that shows a colourful group enjoying free yoga classes each Wednesday in front of Canada’s seat of government, thanks to Lululemon Athletica.

The piece on the Haunted Walks of Ottawa is pretty darn good, too! You can also watch a piece on the Rideau Canal, the ByWard Market neighbourhood and La Terrasse at the Fairmont Château Laurier.


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