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SPRING AHEAD - OTTAWA\'S LINEUP OF FESTIVITIES ROCKS
 
(2014 - Spring Issue)

Writer: LAURA BYRNE PAQUET



Classic cars and dragon boats. Buskers and authors. The history of snow and the story of frogs. Marathons and football games. And music for just about every fan.

That’s just a taste of what awaits visitors to the nation’s capital this spring and summer—and I haven’t even mentioned the beer.

Ottawa is worth a visit any time of year for perennial attractions such as the Rideau Canal—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—national museums and iconic Parliament Hill. But there’s something special about the city when brilliant crocuses start pushing their way through the last traces of snow and restaurateurs start sweeping off patios from the ByWard Market to Westboro and beyond.

Festivals Galore

The fun starts in late April, when the Ottawa Writers Festival draws literature lovers to libraries, restaurants and church halls throughout the city. If wheels are more your thing, the Ottawa Classic and Custom Car Show (May 3 to 4) is the place to see glittering vintage vehicles—and find the supplies you need to restore one yourself.

Until May 11, you can catch the last days of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s fascinating exhibition, Frogs—A Chorus of Colours. See colourful frogs in beautifully recreated habitats, landscaped with waterfalls and plants. Entertainment for families includes arts and crafts activities and a three-hole frog-themed mini-golf course.

The Canadian Tulip Festival (May 9 to 19) kicks off the warm-weather festival season with 11 days of concerts, family activities, exhibitions and, of course, hundreds of thousands of tulips. You’ll find some of the most spectacular floral displays near Dows Lake, along the scenic parkways paralleling the Rideau Canal and in Major’s Hill Park.

The canal parkways are also a focus of the action during the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend (May 24 to 25), Canada’s largest multi-distance running event. Last year, more than 43,000 runners took to the streets for everything from a kids’ event and a 2K run to a full-length marathon.

After warming up with a good long run, you may feel like cooling down—and the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization) has just the thing: an exhibition simply titled Snow.Some 250 artifacts illuminate our love-it-or-hate-it history with the white stuff, and you can enjoy it until September 28. On May 30, the museum kicks off a year-long exhibition focusing on one of Canada’s greatest tragedies, the 1914 sinking of the Empress of Irelandin the St. Lawrence River. Eyewitness accounts and recovered items such as the ship’s bell bring the event to terrifying life.

The National Gallery of Canada will also be marking a sober centenary this year with its exhibition The Great War: The Persuasive Power of Photography (June 6 to September 1). The show looks at the use of photography as a tool of strategy and propaganda during the First World War. Elsewhere in the gallery, permanent exhibitions include hugely popular works by the Group of Seven and challenging pieces by modern artists.

Food, Music and Beer

A stone’s throw from the gallery, the ByWard Market is a magnet for visitors, with a farmers’ market, lively restaurants, independent boutiques and lots of clubs. Adjacent to the Market, the Rideau Centre shopping mall offers an ever-expanding selection of leading stores. And further afield, Westboro, Wellington Village, the Glebe and Old Ottawa South are all vibrant neighbourhoods worth a visit. The latter two are set to change quite a bit this summer, when Ottawa’s brand-new CFL team, the Ottawa REDBLACKS, and the North American Soccer League’s Ottawa Fury will start playing in the redeveloped TD Place stadium at Lansdowne Park.

Throughout the summer, the festivals continue. Fans of Dixieland, bebop and more can get their fix at the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival (June 20 to July 1), while Parliament Hill and surrounding streets are lively with free concerts by Canadian acts on Canada Day (July 1).

Hard on the heels of those two events comes the mammoth RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest (July 3 to 13), which has expanded far beyond its bluesy roots to showcase many of the top touring acts in just about every musical genre—past lineups have featured everyone from B.B. King to CAKE, Rush and the Black Keys. Later in the month, those who like their music on the quieter side flock to Ottawa Chamberfest, the world’s biggest chamber music event (July 24 to August 7).

Beyond music events, there’s something happening almost every weekend throughout the spring and summer. Highlights include Capital Pride Weekend (June 6 to 8), the Ottawa Fringe Festival of indie theatre (June 19 to 29), the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival (June 19 to 22) and the Ottawa International Busker Festival (July 31 to August 4). The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (August 29 to September 1), across the Ottawa River in West Québec, rounds out a packed spring and summer of festivities.

Oh, and as for the beer? Ottawa has plenty of local brews to slake a summer thirst, including Stock Pot Ales from the Wellington Gastropub and a selection of beers from Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company in nearby Vankleek Hill. And as well as porter, ale and IPA, Ottawa’s Kichesippi Beer Company also makes excellent old-fashioned root beer, ginger beer and cream soda, for those who prefer something non-alcoholic. What more do you need for a perfect weekend?

Travel Planner

For more details on what to see and do in Ottawa, go to ottawatourism.ca.

 
 
 
 
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