Ottawa Festivals

Ottawa Festivals

Ottawa festivals take place regularly throughout the year. For the sake of definition, Ottawa festivals are:

1) activities and events that take place over 3 or more days 
2) annual events in the National Capital Region

If any of these festival themes strike your fancy, by all means work your vacation so that you happen to be in town at the same time! Most of these festivals draw huge crowds of fans, so be prepared. For short descriptions of what to expect at each festival, scroll down.

I will continually update these with new information as it comes out. The summer promises to be packed full of the type of excellent performances that Ottawa festival-goers have come to enjoy. Keep coming back to check which festivals will be coming! For our best 12 tips for enjoying summer festivals, click here.

To see what’s coming up on the festival scene in a calendar format, VIEW FULL CALENDAR HERE (opens in a new window).

Winterlude – February

One of the only Ottawa festivals that takes place during the winter takes place every February. Brrr!! Ottawa hosts Winterlude: a festival that celebrates Winter in a three-weekend long occasion. Ice carving, snow sculptures, skating on the Rideau Canal, and playing in North America’s biggest snow playground are central to the Winterlude festival.

Canadian Tulip Festival – May

May 9 – 19, 2014 brings the widely-visited Canadian Tulip Festival. A favourite of Ottawa festivals, the festival this year promises to be jampacked with events.  All centred around the gorgeous colourful tulips that are on display.  The greatest concentration of tulips can be found at Commissioners Park, located at Dow’s Lake. You’ll find other displays at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and along the Ottawa River.

Ottawa International Children’s Festival – May

Looking for fun for the children? Make sure you book your vacation May 9-14, 2014. The Alcatel Ottawa International Children’s Festival is held at Lebreton Flats Park, the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, this festival celebrates live performing arts for children age four to fifteen.

Le Festival Franco-Ontarien – June

Le Festival Franco-Ontarien takes place every year in June. This year, the dates are: June 12-14, 2014. Francophones and francophiles alike descend on Major’s Hill Park (at the Rideau Canal’s Ottawa River entrance) to celebrate the French community in Ontario and experience French arts and culture.

Ottawa Fringe Theatre & Arts Festival – June

For all you theatre & arts fans, pick your vacation during June 19-29, 2014. Catch the Ottawa Fringe Theatre & Arts Festival that takes place at the Arts Court and the University of Ottawa. The Fringe Festival brings together theatre companies from all over the world to share their skills in front of audiences. The festival chooses these theatre companies by lottery–the audience never knows what it will get!

Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival – June

Take in the exciting sport of Dragon Boat Racing! The Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is taking place June 19-22, 2014. This festival is held yearly at Mooney’s Bay Park on Riverside Drive. The races celebrate cultural and heritage activities, family-focused activities, and are an exciting spectacle to see. Come cheer for your favourite team! A great addition to Ottawa festivals!  The entertainment is free at this event.

Ottawa International Jazz Festival – June/July

For the music-lover, the June 20 – July 1, 2014 TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival attracts fans from all over. The main stage is found at Confederation Park (Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue). World-famous jazz superstars have headlined at this festival in past years. Past performers have included jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Smokey Robinson and Diana Krall. The passport price is well worth it to enjoy 12 days of great music.

Canada Day – July

I know this doesn’t exactly fit in with my definition of “festival” mentioned above, but I just had to include this one: July 1st is Canada’s Birthday! Ottawa celebrates with an entertainment-packed day of shows, activities, concerts and street performers. Canada’s best artists perform at Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, Confederation Park, and Jacques Cartier Park in Hull. Prepare for packed crowds and lots of fun things to do in the downtown area throughout the day and night. The birthday celebration is always capped off with a spectacular fireworks display at Parliament Hill. Maybe you’ll forgive me for calling this a festival if I say that we pack a lot of festivities into this one day!! 😉

Ottawa Bluesfest – July

Ottawa festivals are great places to hear music. The Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest is taking place from July 3-13, 2014. What started out originally as a 3-day festival has now expanded to 12 days packed with music. Don’t let the name fool you–Bluesfest invites artists of Blues, World Music, Alternative, Rock, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Rap, Folk, Urban, and other forms of music! Enjoy the festival at Lebreton Flats & the War Museum.

Music and Beyond – July

Like the festival name suggests, Music and Beyond is a 13-day Ottawa festival that celebrates classical music and its connection with other disciplines. This year, the festival takes place from July 5-17, 2014. Covering a wide variety of performances including writers, speech, drama, acrobatics, visual art, fine dining and others, Music and Beyond is celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2014. Past performers that participated in this festival include such luminaries as actor Christopher Plummer, sopranos Kathleen Battle and Emma Kirkby; tenor Ben Heppner; conductor Trevor Pinnock; pianists Peter Serkin, Janina Fialkowska and Menahem Pressler; writers Vikram Seth and Peter Robinson; violinists William Preucil, Martin Chalifour, Jonathan Crow and Mayumi Seiler; the Emerson, Borodin, Jupiter, Fine Arts and New Orford string quartets; the Theatre of Early Music; principal dancers from the National Ballet of Canada; the Canadian Brass; the Hilliard Ensemble; the National Arts Centre Orchestra; I Musici; and Les Violons du Roy.

Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival – July/August

The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, or “Chamberfest” for short, rounds out the music line-up by offering classical and chamber music. What started out as concerts in two local churches has grown steadily to almost 100 concerts in churches and other venues throughout Ottawa. The festival now features over 250 of the top chamber musicians from Canada and around the world. The Ottawa Chamber Music Society has won the prestigious Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Arts seven times. A great way for classical and chamber music fans to take part in Ottawa festivals!  This year, it’s being held from July 24 – August 7, 2014.

The Ottawa International Busker Festival – August

One of my personal favourites (shh! don’t tell) has got to be the Ottawa International Busker Festival. A busker is a person who “entertains in a public place for donations.” (courtesy of  The festival takes place at Sparks Street Mall from August 1-4, 2014. Talented and well-loved performers from all around the world take to the streets to entertain audiences with their shows of juggling, comedy, storytelling, fire-eating, miming, music, magic and more. The shows are by donation, so by all means donate generously when the hat is passed around: the buskers earn their living from your contributions!

Sound of Light Fireworks Competition – August

This annual fireworks competition is held at Casino du Lac Leamy in Hull, Quebec. Every year, firework companies from around the world compete in an effort to thrill tourists and residents alike with their spectacular pyrotechnical displays that are set to music. The competition is held on Wednesday and Saturday nights starting on August 2nd, 2014 and ending with a Grande Finale competition on August 16th, 2014. During the Grande Finale competition, the four represented countries will compete to win the Zeus Trophy. Who will win this year? This annual competition sneaks in between the Ottawa Festivals for Chamber Music, Busking and the Ottawa Folk Festival to satisfy visitors looking for visual and auditory artistry.  Note the NEW venue change to the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization).

Ottawa Folk Festival – September

The Ottawa Folk Festival rounds out the amazing line-up for music festivals in the National Capital Region. Check back for the exact dates in 2014. The venue for this 4-day celebration is at Hog’s Back Park, located at Colonel By, Heron, Riverside, and Hog’s Back roads. The festival features music, dance, visual arts on daytime and evening stages.

Festival de Montgolfieres de Gatineau
(Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival) – August/September

While this is not technically one of the Ottawa festivals, it does take place within 15 minutes of downtown Ottawa. Over the first weekend in September, in Parc de la Baie, hot air balloons take to the sky to fill the horizon with their colourful spectacle. The festival happens from August 28 – September 1, 2014, with a Friday evening balloon launch and then morning and evening launches (Saturday – Monday). Entertainment includes music concerts, magic, fireworks, extreme sports demos, and buskers. Scheduled activities will also take place, including: an amusement park, crafts market, bazaar, picnic areas, classic car exhibition, contests and more. Hot air balloon rides are available on the grounds for $200. 

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Accordian Player Snow Sculpture at WinterludeWinterlude Snow Sculpture
By QUOI Media Group from Canada (Wikimedia Commons)
Ice sculptures at Confederation ParkTwo mini ice popsicles enjoying Winterlude at Confederation Park
Ottawa Confederation ParkEntrance to ice sculptures in Confederation Park one year
Tulip Festival in the CapitalSome of Ottawa Tulip Festival's glorious colourful bounty
By jctalbot, wikimedia commons
Ottawa Jazz Festival and Ottawa BluesfestOttawa Jazz Festival and Ottawa Bluesfest bring many famous names to town
Photo by bonvivant,
Canada Day fireworks displayFireworks display is always worth watching on Canada Day
Photo by crinity,
Music Festivals in the CapitalChamber Music Festival is music to the ears
Photo by clix,
Festival de Montgolfieres in Gatineau, QuebecThe balloons take to the skies in the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in the fall
Photo by awottawa,