If you’re looking for great music acts in the great outdoors, look no further than Ottawa in the summer! When the weather heats up, Canada’s scenic capital becomes home to several world-class music festivals. From Jazz stars, to Pop and Country headliners, to Indie and Folk, there’s a music scene that is sure to suit you. And the best part? Most of these exciting festivals are within a 20-minute walk from any downtown-area hotel. Find out about some of Ottawa’s larger music festivals here:
Westfest: (June 8-10, 2018)
Each year, more than 100,000 people converge just west of downtown Ottawa to this FREE festival highlighting Canadian arts and culture. In 2018, Westfest is being held at Tom Brown Arena and Park, located at the east end of the vibrant Wellington West neighbourhood. Enjoy live music, food, local craft beer, an Indigenous Pavilion, family fun area, and lots of other fun activities.
TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 21-July 1, 2018)
Each summer, one of Ottawa’s largest music festivals – known locally as “Jazz Fest” – attracts some of the world’s best, as well as up-and-comers in the world of Jazz. Concerts are held on several outdoor stages near Ottawa City Hall and more intimate shows take place at indoor locations throughout downtown Ottawa. This year, the eclectic lineup features Chaka Khan, Alison Krauss, Herbie Hancock, St Germain, and many more international and Canadian artists. And each Canada Day (July 1), the Jazz Fest offers FREE admission to its concerts!
Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June 21-24, 2018)
This annual celebration of the historic dragon boat tradition takes place at Mooney’s Bay, just south of downtown Ottawa along the Rideau River. More than 200 teams compete in North America’s largest dragon boat event, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018! In addition to the colourful boats and exciting races, you’ll find a variety of exhibitors and artisans, food and drink, a Children’s Area with fun activities, plus world-class entertainment. The 2018 Dragon Boat Festival lineup includes the Sam Roberts Band, Broken Social Scene, Wintersleep, Hollerado, Matt Mays and much more. Admission is FREE!
Heineken Escapade Music Festival (June 23-24, 2018)
Taking place the weekend before Canada Day, “Escapade” as it’s known locally, is Ottawa’s electronic dance music festival which takes place at Lansdowne Park, a popular gathering place located in the trendy Glebe neighbourhood near downtown Ottawa. Attracting a typically younger crowd, this is one of Ottawa’s wilder summer music festivals. Headliners in 2018 include Alesso, Kaskade, Armin Van Buuren and many more.
Canada Day (July 1, 2018)
For a truly memorable and epic Canada Day, join the country’s biggest birthday celebration in Canada’s Capital! Each year on July 1, tens of thousands of people gather in downtown Ottawa where numerous streets are closed to traffic. Stroll around and take in the many FREE Canada Day concerts on Parliament Hill and in other parks, as well as FREE Jazz Fest concerts and family activities throughout the area. And as nighttime falls, don’t miss the spectacular annual fireworks display!
Music & Beyond (July 4-17, 2018)
Kicking off the July music festival list is Music & Beyond, a classical music and multi-disciplinary arts festival. Over 14 days, this festival hosts dozens of concerts that feature orchestras, wind ensembles, instrumental and vocal recitals as well as smaller groups. It also draws attention to connections existing between classical music and other art forms such as dance, visual art, poetry, yoga and architecture, among others. This festival aims to make classical music affordable for all audiences, including students, seniors and families. The 2018 lineup includes John Rutter, Chanticleer, Cuarteto Quiroga, Alliage Quintet, Les Violons du Roy among others.
RBC Bluesfest (July 5-15, 2018)
This is one of Ottawa’s biggest and most anticipated annual music festivals! And don’t let its name fool you: “Bluesfest” offers much more than Blues. Taking place just steps from Ottawa’s downtown core at LeBreton Flats (beside the Canadian War Museum), this festival offers major headliners from the Country, Jazz, Pop, Rock and House music genres – to name a few. Get together with 300,000 Bluesfest fans over 10 days to enjoy 2018 acts such as Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Shawn Mendes, Bryan Adams, Beck, Rae Sremmurd, Sturgill Simpson, Rise Against, Blue Rodeo and many more. Past performers have included Sting, Van Morrison, The White Stripes and The Black Eyed Peas. This is one of the top music festivals in North America!
HOPE Volleyball SummerFest (July 14, 2018)
This annual day-long festival is known to be one of Ottawa’s favourite FREE summer events, attracting a crowd of about 20,000 each year! Taking place at the scenic Mooney’s Bay Park along the Rideau River (just south of the Rideau Canal), this beach volleyball tournament benefits several local charities and offers an outdoor concert line-up for players and spectators alike. Opening acts perform throughout the day and headliners take the stage later on. This is a day of fun in the sun for a good cause!
Ottawa Chamberfest (July 26-Aug. 9, 2018)
The Ottawa Chamberfest – the largest chamber music festival in the world – is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018! From quartets, to pianists, to unique contemporary and theatrical events, this festival has a little something for everyone. Performances take place in some of Ottawa’s most beautiful spaces, including churches. This is a great way to spend a summer evening and get out of the heat!
Ottawa Chamberfest headliners this year include Roby Lakatos, Angela Hewitt, Marc-André Hamelin with Quatuor Danel, Ariel Quartet with the Rolston String Quartet, among others.
CityFolk (Sept. 12-16, 2018)
CityFolk (formerly the Ottawa Folk Festival) is a celebration of music, dance and visual art, offering various musical performances, music workshops, family-friendly activities, craft beer, artisan and craft vendors, and much more over five days. CityFolk takes place at Lansdowne Park, located just south of Ottawa’s downtown core along the scenic banks of the Rideau Canal. Some of the performers last year included Jack Johnson, Father John Misty, Amanda Mashall and Post Malone.
And from Sept. 14-15, 2018, Marvest at CityFolk offers FREE performances in various locations throughout the lovely Glebe neighbourhood.
These are Ottawa’s larger music festivals, but you can still find live music acts at smaller outdoor festival venues such as the Festival franco-ontarien (June 16-18, 2018) in June, and the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2018).
For even more ideas, consult Ottawa’s Tourism’s online Event Calendar.
Tips and tricks when attending music festivals
Now, you have your festival ticket or you know which one you’re attending. But are you wondering what else you might need? Here are a few suggestions to make sure you have a great time:
- Wear proper shoes: As most of these music festivals take place outside, plan for rough and uneven terrain. You don’t want your heels getting caught in the ground. Opt for something relatively flat, which will also prevent you from rolling your ankle on uneven ground. You’ll be comfortable and ready to dance the night away!
- Bring a folding chair: Though most fans stand or walk around at these outdoor festivals, a folding chair is a good idea if you anticipate needing a rest. A folding chair is also a great thing to have if you plan on relaxing and watching a specific act for most of the evening.
- Water bottle: As these festivals take place in the summer heat – which can be quite humid in Ottawa – a water bottle will help to keep you hydrated and keep you cool. Also, there are often bottle refilling stations at these festivals. Be sure to drink plenty of water on a hot day. You won’t be able to enjoy the festival if you have heat stroke.
- Bring sunscreen: Sunscreen or sunblock will prevent your skin from getting burned in Ottawa’s hot summer sun. Keep in mind that the sun’s strongest hours are between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. So be sure to re-apply your product or to seek shelter in the shade during this time. Again, make sure to drink some water!
- Bring a jacket or a sweater: Though Ottawa’s summer days can be extremely hot, its summer nights usually bring in a cool breeze –especially if you are in an open space like LeBreton Flats. Bring a sweater or a light jacket to help keep you cozy once the sun has gone down.