Ottawa is a hot spot for visitors in the summer. The city keeps its cool thanks to water sports on three rivers, plus the national treasure that is the Rideau Canal. Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Diverse festivals throughout the summer have something for everyone, and spectacular daily shows on Parliament Hill — includling a light show and Changing of the Guard — offer the complete capital experience.
Ottawa may not be a coastal city, but that doesn’t mean it’s without water adventures — from the pristine lakes of Gatineau Park to the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers.
Adventure can be found right downtown on the Ottawa River with Wilderness Tours’ Ottawa City Rafting running half-day whitewater rafting trips within view of Parliament Hill. Explore further up river with OWL Rafting’s single or multi-day trips. “High-sea” adventure awaits little swashbucklers aboard Pirate Adventures’ 50-foot ship on the Rideau River. Their interactive “pirate-theatre cruise” marks the spot for family trips with sunken treasure, defending the ship with water cannons, singing, dancing and more pirate p-aarrr-odies.
Hot Town, Summer In Festival City
Ottawa’s cool little secret? Music festivals. Sure, other cities host summer music festivals too, but nowhere will you get closer to big-name acts than in our capital. TD Ottawa Jazzfestival kicks off the summer music festival season in June, with hundreds of headliners keeping all breeds of cats cool in Confederation Park. On its heels is RBC Bluesfest, where international big-names in DJ/Dance, Rock, Country, Blues (of course) and more fill four stages and 10+ days with music on the banks of the Ottawa River downtown. Music and Beyond melds classical music with visual arts, drama, poetry, comedy, circus and dance in the acoustic oasis of churches and concert halls in the downtown core. Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival works its charm in many of the same venues, with classical music (and more) filling these intimate, beautiful spaces.
Spotlight On History
It’s not a trip to Ottawa without a visit to Parliament Hill. In the morning, see the Changing of the Guard, a daily performance by the Guard from its Cartier Square Drill Hall just south of Parliament Hill up Elgin Street. With its own regimental band and pipers, it’s quite the scene! For the full capital experience, come back to the Hill in the evening to check out the Northern Lights Sound & Light Show, a spectacular nightly display that turns Centre Block into a giant immersive movie screen. The tradition of sound and light shows on Parliament Hill has an over 30-year history!