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(2019 - Spring Issue)


Every spring, as tulips burst into bloom along the Rideau Canal, Ottawa roars into the season like a teenager celebrating the last day of school.

Usually, there’s a week where the temperature swings wildly from below freezing to about 10 C, and suddenly every restaurant patio is packed with people in T-shirts and shorts—shivering but delightedly defiant. By the time the Canadian Tulip Festival rolls around—it runs from May 10 to 20 this year—Ottawa and its sister city of Gatineau are humming with activity. And by June, temperatures are often on the sultry side.

Spring and summer are wonderful times to explore Canada’s capital, and this year, the schedule is packed with reasons to visit.


First of all, even if you’ve toured Parliament Hill before, things have changed immensely there this year. Major renovations have begun in the Centre Block, which is now closed to the public. However, at the new Visitor Welcome Centre on the Hill, you can arrange tours of parliamentarians’ temporary homes: the House of Commons chamber built into what was once an interior courtyard in the West Block, and the Senate chamber in a former train station.

Luckily, plenty of outdoor activities on Parliament Hill will still take place, including Canada Day celebrations (July 1), the Northern Lights sound and light show (early July through early September), the Changing of the Guard ceremony (June 23 through August 24) and yoga on the lawn (Wednesdays at noon, mid-May until late August, weather permitting).

You may be able to get to Parliament Hill by train this year, as Ottawa’s long-awaited light-rail transit system is expected to be up and running sometime this spring. The inaugural Confederation Line will stretch 12.5 kilometres from east to west, with 13 stations.


One of those stations, Pimisi, will likely be packed with music fans during RBC Ottawa Bluesfest (July 4 to 14), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019. One of North America’s biggest music festivals, it will feature more than 200 acts on multiple stages at LeBreton Flats.

Other big draws for music lovers this year include concerts at the Canadian Tire Centre arena by Twenty One Pilots (May 21), Carrie Underwood (June 10), Def Leppard (July 19) and Michael Bublé (July 30). Downtown, there’s also the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 21 to July 1), the Music and Beyond festival of art and classical music (July 4 to 17), Ottawa Chamberfest, the world’s largest chamber music festival (July 25 to August 8), and CityFolk (September 11–15).

 In fact, from spring through fall, there’s a festival just about every week, from the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June 20 to 23) to the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (August 29 to September 2). And for fans of grand spectacle, Gatineau will host both Cirque du Soleil: ALEGRIA (August 2 to September 1) and Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light, an international fireworks festival (August 10 to 24).

Ottawa’s national museums have some great shows in store for visitors this summer, too. The big exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada will be Gauguin: Portraits (May 24 to September 8), while the Canadian Museum of History will be offering Neanderthals (May 17 to January 26).

If theatre is your scene, you can see lots of quirky independent productions at the Ottawa Fringe Festival (June 13 to 23) or tap your toes to the wildly popular musical Come From Away at the National Arts Centre (August 20 to September 8).

Aside from all these special events, Ottawa is simply fun to explore. Rent a bike and cycle beside the Rideau Canal. Catch a REDBLACKS football or Ottawa Fury soccer game, go out for dinner, or explore one of Ottawa’s largest farmers’ markets at Lansdowne Park. Test your puzzle-solving skills in an escape room at the Diefenbunker, an underground Cold War bunker-turned-museum. Go kayaking at Dows Lake, hiking in Gatineau Park or shopping in the ByWard Market. You can even try whitewater rafting near Parliament Hill!

Whatever you do, you’ll be in the company of enthusiastic locals. Just remember to bring your shorts—no matter what the forecast says—and you’ll fit right in.

Travel Planner:

For more information, go to ottawatourism.ca.

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