Ottawa Tourism

What’s Up in Ottawa – Spring 2017

So many stories, so little time… Is that your story? If so, feel welcome to use the information on these pages to get your creative juices flowing. There are so many great ideas and angles for stories on visiting Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region, and just a few are available on this website. If you have a specific need, niche or story idea that isn’t covered here, please contact our Communications Team

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Gardens Galore

Gardens Galore

Spring in Ottawa is synonymous with the Canadian Tulip Festival (May 12-22, 2017). The tulip is Ottawa’s official flower, stemming from World War II, when the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Ottawa and Princess Margriet—the younger sister of the recently retired Queen Beatrix—was born during their stay. Canadian troops played a pivotal role in the liberation of the Netherlands, so when the war ended and the Royal Family returned to Europe, they sent a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa. The gift of tulips continues to this day.

This year, the 65th annual festival, with the theme One Tulip, One Canada, extends over 4 official sites: the main tulip beds at Commissioners Park at Dows Lake; an art installation in the ByWard Market neighbourhood; the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne (featuring international music, dance, and culinary options); and the Garden Promenade, a tour experience showcasing the best of Ottawa’s public gardens! The Garden Promenade, highlighting over 140 gardens, including parks, memorial sites, rooftops, green walls, community plots, and more on a handy searchable map, will continue even after the festival ends.

Watch for the Canada 150 tulip this spring, specially bred for the occasion and featuring red “flames” on a white flower, mimicking the Canadian flag. Looking ahead, Ottawa will host the World Tulip Summit in October 2017. The Canadian Museum of Nature’s Landscapes of Canada Garden on the west lawn of its iconic, castle-like building highlights three ecosystems—a boreal forest, prairie grasslands and an Arctic landscape (complete with a huge stainless steel iceberg sculpture by Bill Lishman). Between June 17 and September 4, 2017, visitors will also be able to take in Populace on the museum’s east lawn: the Ottawa Guild of Potters has created thousands of ceramic feathers, roses and fleurs de lis, recognizing Canada’s Indigenous people, the English and the French.

Ottawa the Headquarters of Canada's 150th Birthday Party

Ottawa the Headquarters of Canada's 150th Birthday Party

A year-long celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday is well underway in Canada’s capital! Download a complete list of all blockbuster cultural and sporting events, openings and legacy projects at www.ottawatourism.ca/ottawa-in-2017. This document is kept up-to-date as announcements are made. Be sure to download the Android and iOS app as well: www.ottawa2017.ca/ottawa-2017-app

Some spring/early summer highlights:

  • Various dates: Free cultural events at Lansdowne via 75 high commissions and embassies at Ottawa Welcomes the World
  • March 27-April 2: The JUNO Awards celebrate the best in the Canadian music industry
  • April 8: SugarLumberFest, a gourmet sugarshack experience at Lansdowne’s Horticulture Building
  • 10 diplomatic missions showcase their countries’ relationship with Canada at an International Pavilion:
    Israel (May 3-25) at 50 Sussex Drive
    Poland (June 2-18) at 7 Clarence Street
    Germany (June 27-July 26) at 7 Clarence Street
  • May 20-September 4: Inspiration Village—constructed of shipping containers—highlights each of Canada’s provinces and territories on York Street in the ByWard Market neighbourhood
  • June 17-18: Ottawa International Triathlon, Canadian Triathlon Championship and CAMTRI American Cup
  • Late June to early September: Kontinuum, an underground multimedia experience, brings a free interactive sound and light fantasy voyage into an unfinished underground light rail transit tunnel—a world first!
Step Out and Enjoy Ottawa's Nightlife

Step Out and Enjoy Ottawa's Nightlife

Did you know? Ottawa has one of the most vibrant and active burlesque communities in Canada! Be sure to check out the Bourbon Room every Wednesday for a scintillating show featuring a hand-selected cast of different performers each week produced by Rhapsody Blue. On the first Friday of every month, Ottawa’s biggest burlesque troupe Capital Tease performs at Fatboy’s Southern Smokehouse, and the famous Burlesque Brunches take place once a month on Sunday at Kinki Lounge and Kitchen. Every two months, Shade Nyx produces a show at House of TARG, featuring the best of Ottawa’s burlesque, music, and vaudeville.

Maybe live music is more your scene… Catch a show in a pub (Heart and Crown in the ByWard Market neighbourhood has music every night) or a coffee shop (Bar Robo hosts eclectic acts), or check out great blues at the Rainbow Bistro; jazz downstairs at Vineyards Wine Bar 3 nights a week with no cover charge; or just about anything (comedy, improv, spoken word, poetry, music, open mic, and more) at LIVE on Elgin every night!

Don’t forget the gaming excitement to be found at Casino du Lac-Leamy, either, and on Fridays and Saturdays, enjoy the nightclub Aléa and its state-of-the-art sound and lighting system.

And the festival scene really heats up in spring, with the Ottawa Grassroots Festival (April 20-23); Ottawa Children’s Festival (May 10-14); Canada Scene festival at the National Arts Centre (June 15-July 23); Franco-Ontarian Festival (June 15-17); Glowfair on Bank Street (June 16-17); Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival (June 20-25); Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June 22-25); TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 22-July 1) all offering top-notch musical options.

Explore the Rideau Canal This Spring

Explore the Rideau Canal This Spring

The Rideau Canal is Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, stretching 202km (126 miles) between Ottawa and Kingston. To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks, as well as free lockage along all its canals, including the Rideau Canal. Pleasure boaters love to explore the Rideau.

What if you don’t have a boat of your own? Step aboard Rideau Canal Cruises for a guided tour of the downtown Ottawa part of the canal on a beautiful, quiet, electric boat. Operating between May 19 and October 9, 2017, the cruise is an excellent way to learn about this engineering marvel.

You can also stop by the Bytown Museum — celebrating its 100th birthday in 2017—to learn more about the Rideau Canal’s construction. And, of course, cycling or running alongside the canal is a very popular pastime.

New! And looking ahead to 2018, stay tuned for the North American premiere of Le Boat, a company that offers self-drive canal boats! Le Boat will debut along the Rideau Canal system next year—a truly unique way to experience this beautiful waterway, from gorgeous scenery to exploring rural communities to exciting urban adventure.

Quick Bites of Ottawa's Food and Drink Scene

Quick Bites of Ottawa's Food and Drink Scene

  • An ornate addition has been added to the already popular The Albion Rooms restaurant at the Novotel Ottawa; The Heritage Room Gastropub officially opened in mid-March 2017.
  • Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, the official brewery of Ottawa 2017, continues its collaborative ways. Each month of 2017, the brewery partners with a different Canadian place or brewery to produce a special beer. In March, the partner was Ottawa’s own Tooth & Nail Brewing Company; the resulting beer, Lock Monster, is an Extra Special Bitter. Stay tuned for more!
  • Meanwhile, Kichesippi Brewing Company’s Heller Highwater received a Gold Medal at the 2017 World Beer Championships in Chicago, with a score of 91 points (out of 100), and was rated as Exceptional.
  • Congratulations to Joe Thottungal, chef and owner of Coconut Lagoon, which serves delicious dishes from the south Indian state of Kerala. Thottungal won silver at the Canadian Culinary Championships in early February 2017.
  • New! Sur Lie, an unpretentious French bistro, opened in the ByWard Market neighbourhood in early 2017.
  • New! The Feline Café plans a spring 2017 opening in the hip Wellington West neighbourhood, providing a place to enjoy the company of feline friends (rescue cats up for adoption!), while enjoying vegan food and drinks. They also plan fun events like cat-yoga and movie nights.
  • New! Two new openings are happening in spring 2017 on opposite corners of Nicholas and Rideau Streets near CF Rideau Centre: JOEY Restaurant and the local brewpub chain, the Clocktower.
  • New! In spring 2017, Ottawa’s classic Zak’s Diner opens Zak’s Cantina, a social-family restaurant serving Mexican street food in a laid back ambiance with urban décor. On the menu: margaritas, sangria, tacos, burritos and traditional Mexican fare at affordable prices. Bonus: patrons will be able to see and eat inside a chicken bus (a colourful, modified and decorated bus that transports goods and people between communities in Latin America).
  • New! The owners of small-but-mighty Italian-themed town on Elgin Street have launched a second venture around the corner called Citizen! Citizen has a Nordic feel to it with small plates, sandwiches, bar snacks and a killer cocktail list.
  • New! Canada’s first Starbucks Reserve location opened in November 2016 in Ottawa’s vibrant ByWard Market neighbourhood. The locations sell the highest-end products in the Starbucks line and also serve wine and craft beer after 4:00pm.
Ottawa Race Weekend

Ottawa Race Weekend

Close to 50,000 runners plan to participate in the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend May 27-28, 2017. This is the largest multi-distance race event in Canada; the largest marathon in Canada (Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon); one of only two IAAF-sanctioned marathons in Canada and the only IAAF-sanctioned 10K in Canada. A half-marathon, 5K and kids’ 2K runs also take place.

Museum Roundup

Museum Roundup

The Bytown Museum celebrates its 100th anniversary by showcasing objects from its permanent collection in A Century of Community. Until February 19, 2018.

At the Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, Canadian artist Valerie Noftle’s exhibition From Hand to Hand, exploring the stories of veterans through photographs of their hands, is on until July 30, 2017.

Check out the (mostly scaly) tail end of the Reptiles exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature until April 8, 2017! Visitors learn about several reptile species, including 30 live specimens. On June 21, 2017, a new permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery opens at the museum, focusing on the ecology of one of the world’s harshest climates. 

At the Canadian War Museum, the 100th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Vimy Ridge is commemorated between April 6 and November 12, 2017 with the exhibition Vimy – 100 Years.

The Canadian Museum of History prepares to open its new Canadian History Hall, which tells the story of Canada through 18 “chapters” of artifacts in three galleries, on July 1, 2017! Until then, catch Hockey (until October 9, 2017), which explores Canada’s historic love of the sport of hockey, and its impact on Canadian identity.

At the National Gallery of Canada, the major retrospective of Canadian Indigenous artist Alex Janvier wraps up on April 17, 2017. A number of other exhibitions open soon after, including Photography in Canada: 1960–2000 (April 7-September 17, 2017); PhotoLab 2: Women Speaking Art (April 7-October 1, 2017); and Canadian and Indigenous Art: 1968 to Present (May 3, 2017-May 6, 2018)—all leading up to the unveiling of the newly renovated and integrated Canadian and Indigenous Galleries on June 15, 2017.

And finally, watch for the reopening of the Bank of Canada Museum (formerly the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada), this summer and the completely renovated Canada Science and Technology Museum in November 2017!

REVAMPED! Canada’s National Museums Passport

REVAMPED! Canada’s National Museums Passport

Visitors to Ottawa now have a better way to enjoy its multiple national museums. Canada’s National Museums Passport has been revamped and now offers admission to 3 national museums, over 3 consecutive days, for just $35. Each accompanying child (17 and under) receives a 30% discount on general admission. The passport is available at the six national museums that participate in the program, as well as at the Capital Information Kiosk across from Parliament Hill. Find full details at www.museumspassport.ca

Cycling Explorations

Cycling Explorations

The City of Ottawa launches 15 new cycling routes in spring 2017: 10 routes explore the rural areas within the city and 5 explore the urban areas. Complete with suggestions of places to stop along the way, these routes (available in both English and French) offer options for beginners as well as more advanced riders.

What if you came to Ottawa without your own bicycle? You’re in luck! Several companies offer rentals and/or tours, including:

  • RentABike, located adjacent to the Rideau Canal in a former train tunnel under Rideau Street
  • Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals, located on Sparks Street
  • VéloGo, a bike sharing service with bike hubs in downtown Ottawa and Gatineau