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(2017 - Spring/Summer Issue)


With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday this year, Ottawa is pulling out all the stops to give visitors a year to remember.

Special sesquicentennial events will abound, making an already-packed calendar of festivals, museum expansions and sporting events even more appealing. With a giant dragon wandering the streets, people eating dinner on a platform dangling from a crane and the Grey Cup coming to town, it’s going to be a year like no other in the nation’s capital.


One hub of activity will be Inspiration Village, a temporary site constructed of old sea containers in the heart of the ByWard Market. This Ottawa 2017 project, which the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada helped design, will be the site of art exhibitions and concerts between May 20 and September 4.

A few blocks away, the National Gallery of Canada has extensively renovated several spaces to create the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, which open in June and weave together the history of aboriginal and non-aboriginal art in Canada.

In Centretown, the Canadian Museum of Nature is set to unveil its new 743-square-metre Canada Goose Arctic Gallery on June 21, focusing on the geography, ecosystems, sustainability and climate of Canada’s most northerly regions. 

Not far from Parliament Hill, a subterranean sound-and-light show called Kontinuum will illuminate one of Ottawa’s new light-rail transit stations between June and September (dates to be confirmed). It will be produced by Montréal-based Moment Factory, which has created multimedia “environments” for casinos, cruise ships and Madonna concerts.

Above ground and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Québec, MosaïCanada (June 30 to October 15) will be a free outdoor attraction in Jacques Cartier Park consisting of some 40 larger-than-life horticultural sculptures telling the story of Canada’s history—everything from an aboriginal family constructing a canoe to a gigantic green Yvan Cournoyer skating down the ice.


The National Capital Region usually celebrates Canada Day in epic style even in an ordinary year, but in 2017, the slate of concerts, street entertainment and fireworks is expected to be even better than usual. Adding to the celebration, two major cultural institutions are set to unveil major renovations that day.

In Gatineau, the Canadian Museum of History will open its new Canadian History Hall. In three galleries spread across 3,716 square metres, the museum will present a permanent exhibition on Canada’s history as told through 1,500 artifacts. Visitors can also catch the museum’s major temporary exhibition of the year, Hockey in Canada: More Than Just a Game (running until October 9).

Also on Canada Day, the National Arts Centre (NAC) will open the finishing touch to its $110.5-million expansion: a towering glass atrium facing Parliament Hill, on the other side of Confederation Square. The NAC will be one of the hosts of this year’s Canada Scene festival (June 15 to July 23), featuring roughly 1,000 creative people from across Canada in fields as diverse as dance, film, music and the culinary arts.


As usual, summer brings a range of festivals to the capital. The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 22 to July 2) draws crowds to Confederation Park. Just after it ends, the behemoth known as RBC Bluesfest (July 6 to 16) takes over LeBreton Flats. Expanding far beyond its blues roots, it has become one of Canada’s biggest music festivals, and big-name acts coming this year include 50 Cent, Pink, Muse and Flume. On July 15, HOPE Volleyball SummerFest—the world’s largest outdoor volleyball festival—comes to Mooney’s Bay Beach. And finally, for those with quieter tastes, Ottawa Chamberfest—the world’s largest chamber music festival—takes place from July 22 to August 4.

Festivals are just part of the summer fun. Also in July, Sky Lounge—a restaurant in the air above Ottawa City Hall—will be serving diners a special menu created by chef Stephen La Salle of Feast + Revel restaurant (July 7 to 22). Not long after, the French theatre company called La Machine will be bringing a giant dragon and a super-sized spider to downtown Ottawa from July 27 to 30. The towering creatures will show up unpredictably, likely leading to some interesting radio traffic reports.

August sees yet more festivals and amusements, including the Ottawa Busker Festival (August 3 to 7) and Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light, a series of fireworks performances choreographed to music (August 5 to 19).


In the fall (dates to be announced), two Ottawa cultural institutions are due to move into new or substantially renovated quarters: the Ottawa Art Gallery will have a new 7,432-square-metre, five-storey home near the Rideau Centre, while the Canada Science and Technology Museum will reopen in late 2017 after an $80.5-million renovation.

Another big draw in autumn will be the Grey Cup Festival (November 21 to 26), almost an entire week of fun for football fans culminating in the big game at Lansdowne Park, a popular downtown sports and entertainment hub. Speaking of Lansdowne, some 40 embassies and high commissions will be organizing evenings there throughout the year (until early December) to celebrate the food, culture and customs of their countries, as part of the Ottawa Welcomes the World festival. 

So whether your taste runs to world cuisine, giant spiders, modern art, horticulture, music, science, aerodynamic dining, football or pyrotechnic displays, Ottawa has you covered in 2017. It’s going to be a birthday party for the record books.

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