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Summer Fun Guide: Take a Bite out of Toronto


R&D_Lobster Chow Mein_Image by Allison Woo

R&D’s Lobster Chow Mein. Photo by Allison Woo

The expansive St. Lawrence Market is packed full of specialty food items and made-to-order meals. St. Urbain Bagel is known for its Montreal-style bagels, which are baked fresh daily, are best hot out of the oven with a generous dollop of cream cheese. The peameal bacon sandwich from Carousal Bakery has been a market staple for over 30
years and is well worth the line up. Or, if you’re extra hungry, bite into a hearty deep-fried veal and eggplant sandwich at Uno Mustachio Sandwiches.

Join The Culinary Adventure Co. for a guided tour of some of the city’s most exciting neighbourhoods. Learn about the history and heritage of Chinatown and Kensington while enjoying everything from Mexican tortas to dim sum; adults $79, kids $59. Savour Toronto (1-855-472-8687; savourtoronto.com) offers a Best of the West tour for a taste of the hip and trendy dining scene along along Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue; $75.

Treat yourself with Tasty Tours, which offers two excursions: The Kensington Market Sweet & Savoury food tour includes food samples from Chinese and Latin American eateries; $49 adults kids ages 7-12 $35, children age 7 and under free. Enjoy the chocolatiers around Trinity Bellwoods Park while learning about the history of chocolate and a chocolate-making demonstration in Toronto’s Ultimate Chocolate tour; $39 adults, kids ages 7-12 $25, children age 7 and under free.

Toronto’s vibrant dining scene is flourishing with world-class chefs, unique restaurant concepts, and innovative menus. Below are some dining highlights to whet your appetite.

 MasterChef Canada winner Eric Chong, along with one of the competition’s judges, Alvin Leung, has created a “modern Canadian Asian” menu at R&D. Dive into dishes like fried chicken with glazed cronuts, and venison spring rolls, complimented by intriguing drinks like the 510 Caesar made with garlic and shiitake-infused vodka. Chef Rob Gentile is known for his attention to detail and his obsession with using the freshest seasonal ingredients for his authentic Italian cuisine; try the hand-made pasta at Buca to find out what the fuss is about, or stop by Bar Buca for small sharing plates and a nightcap.  —Karen Stevens




Buskerfest: What You Need to Know

By Chris Lackner

There are 25 reasons to attend Ottawa’s best street party.

The Ottawa International Buskerfest (July 28 to Aug. 1) is celebrating its 25th anniversary with 25 acts.

This free Sparks Street festival attracts street performers – musicians, acrobats, contortionists and more! – from Canada and around the world. We spoke to Brian Wilson, the festival’s producer, and The Checkerboard Guy, aka David Aiken, for an inside scoop on this year’s fest:

Pyromancer performs at Buskerfest.

Pyromancer performs at the Ottawa International Buskerfest.

Brian Wilson, producer:

Q: What makes the festival special?

A:  Buskerfest is Ottawa’s most accessible festival. Crowds of every demographic can come down to Sparks Street and watch world class, family-friendly Busker shows that are full of circus, comedy, magic, music, juggling, contortion — right at street  level. There is no ticket price for the festival; patrons are encouraged to “pay what you can” into the buskers’ hats at the end of the show.

Q: What will surprise visitors about the festival?

A: The Buskers and Burlesque show is ALWAYS full of surprises… as are all of the group shows where performers collaborate with other performers, and showcase their best routines.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s festival?

A:  We have booked festival favourites from the past 25 years, and even the festival producer (myself) and technical director will be getting out to do a few shows. In the 25 acts for 25 years theme, we’re celebrating collaboration. Performers will be getting together and putting on once in a lifetime shows that are not to be missed! A couple of acts not to miss are last year’s People’s Choice Award Winners Throw to Catch. They’re wacky characters with some of the biggest circus stunts ever performed outdoors! Pyromancer, aka “the flaming fart guy,” will be back from the Netherlands with his family-friendly fire spectacle. Don’t miss the physical comedy and shenanigans of Glenn Singer “Horseguy.” His career has spanned over four decades with shows all over the world.

The Checkerboard Guy, the capital’s comedy-juggling superhero:


The Checkerboard Guy performs at the Ottawa International Buskerfest.

Q: What is the most surprising thing about your performances?

A: When something I never planned happens in the middle of a show. I had a guy ride his Harley into the middle of my show once; I’ve had a child volunteer more or less stop the show to discuss the meaning of life and, without question, some of the best jokes in my show have been reverse engineered to feel spontaneous based on smart remarks that have been yelled out by hecklers. I welcome the opportunity to play and wallow in the unexpected surprises that my audience throws at me. These surprises keep me on my toes whether I’m juggling seven balls, climbing up a free-standing ladder, or juggling dangerous objects on top of a seven-foot unicycle of death. All of the props, and all of the routines, are about creating a connection with a group of strangers and turning them into an audience who are encouraged to contribute to the show in both expected and unexpected ways.

Q: What is the secret to being a good busker?

A: Charisma, showmanship and the ability to convince people to watch your show, and then pay for the memory of the show they’ve just seen. It’s almost a form of hypnosis when a good performer captures the imagination of a crowd, takes them on a journey, and then convinces them to buy the ticket for that journey as the voyage ends. Crack that formula and you’ll have success as a busker!

Q: What other buskers are you looking forward to experiencing at the festival?

A: Gazzo and Lee Ross — two old school buskers and long time friends! That being said, I’m really looking forward to catching any of the new acts that I haven’t seen before. I’m still very much a fan of the art form, and have an appreciation for anyone who’s willing to take a stab at making it as a busker.

Marc Cain Comes to the CF Toronto Eaton Centre


Marccain EC 3261

Marc Cain is now open at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, as well as in Montreal, Quebec City, and Calgary.

When upscale German company Marc Cain entered the Canadian market last fall, it first debuted in Montreal and Quebec City, followed by Calgary. This spring saw the opening of the brand’s premier freestanding boutique in Toronto. Known for its tailored feminine looks with fun details and prints, the newest location at CF Toronto Eaton Centre carries the Marc Cain Sports and Essentials lines. The former consists of athleisure looks for women on the go, while the latter is all about classic looks and a muted palette.

—Linda Luong Luck

Chamberfest: What You Need to Know

By Chris Lackner

The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival is filled with unexpected delights. Yes, there will be classical music small ensembles – but also street music, electronic music, children’s shows, jazz, multimedia, and medieval chants. 

We spoke to the Chamberfest’s artistic director and one of it’s star local performers for an insider’s scoop. The festival runs July 21 to Aug. 3.

Te Amo, Argentina at Chamberfest.

Te Amo, Argentina at Chamberfest.

Roman Borys, artistic director:

Q: What makes the festival special?

A: When someone first attends a Chamberfest concert, they immediately become aware of the amazing chemistry that occurs between our audience and our artists. This is in part due to the beautiful and intimate venues, but mostly it has to do with the fact that people in this community have become addicted to the personal and dynamic nature of live music performance when it’s presented by world-class artists. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to welcome listeners for whom live music performance is as important as their next meal, and they like nothing more than to have new friends join them in the experience!

Q: What will surprise visitors about the festival?

A: There are very few festivals in the world that aspire to present the breadth of music that we do. While we focus on music made by small ensembles, one can be sure to hear everything from medieval chants to string quartets and turntables. Yes, there will be classical music – but also street music, electronic music, children’s shows, jazz, multimedia… It’s incredible, and it’s exciting to engage with on both sides of the stage – musician and audience. There’s something anyone can be a part of at Chamberfest.

Gryphon Trio performs at Chamberfest.

Gryphon Trio performs at Chamberfest.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s festival?

A: I’m thrilled that this year we’re focussing on how both contrasts in culture and women contribute to music. That’s so inspiring to me, both as an artist and as a music lover. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how that plays out in our late-night shows, which we call Chamberfringe. These concerts are presented in a licensed, cabaret environment: they’re an opportunity to watch truly varied, high-calibre artists – from scratch DJs to classical improvisers to dancers – work together to really experiment with music before the audience’s eyes.

Miriam Khalil, soprano

The Ottawa-born singer performs July 30.

Q: What is your favourite thing about Chamberfest?

A: The variety of Chamber music concerts and the proximity to the musicians. It is so intimate and immersive and you can’t help but become involved in the music making. Also, there is something for everyone; classical, fusion, contemporary, interdisciplinary, vocal, instrumental, I could go on and on but you should just go and experience it for yourself.

Miriam Khalil performs at Chamberfest. Photo by Nikola Novak.

Miriam Khalil performs at Chamberfest. Photo by Nikola Novak.

Q: Where is your favourite performance venue in Ottawa?

A: The Astrolabe Theatre. It is an outdoor amphitheatre behind the National Gallery. At night it becomes quite magical with the Ottawa river behind it and beautiful views of the Parliament. I have performed there in the past but my most memorable memory there is years ago when Cesaria Evora did a concert there. It was out of this world.

Q: What is the most surprising thing about your profession?

A: The relationships you form with your colleagues and the respect and support you have for one another.

Q: What other local acts would you recommend at Chamberfest this year?

A: It’s an amazing line up this year but one concert that I can’t wait to hear is Constantinople by Christos Hatzis (Aug. 2). It is a beautiful fusion of Eastern, Western, contemporary, religious and secular music. It’s quite haunting and really moving.

Q: What is your favourite song to sing in solitude (or in the shower)?

A: “Dream On” by Aerosmith and anything by Whitney Houston.

Where Ottawa’s Take:

Best Bets: A musical tribute to the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada (July 22). Presented in partnership with the Capital Ukrainian Festival (p. 40), the concert will be headlined by Toronto’s Gryphon Trio, along with guests Russell Braun (baritone), Monica Whicher (soprano), Graham Oppenheimer (viola), and Ottawa choir the Ewashko Singers. Their performance includes choral works by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Te Amo, Argentina transports audiences to South America (July 24); Celebrated soprano Marie-Josée Lord stars in Femmes (July 21).

Local Lesson: The late-night shows of Chamberfringe feature more surprises than Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets.

Fantastic Creatures on Display at the Aga Khan Museum


AKM_Marvellous Creatures_Cup_B

A whimsical creature decorates a cup from mid-late 17th-century India.

TO SEPTEMBER 11TH Animals—real and imagined—from legends, fables and classic literature, embellish manuscripts, and adorn everything from textiles and ceramics to jewellery and glass at the Aga Khan Museum’s new exhibit, Marvellous Creatures: Animals in Islamic Art. Among the items on display are a silver-gilded vase from 6-7th-century Iran. Discover these beings, and their part in art and history, through seventh to 21st century works from the Middle East, North Africa, and India.

Get Your (Prix) Fixe of Toronto Dining with Summerlicious


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Kasa Moto’s Summerlicious menu items include Lobster Miso Soup, Shichimi Arctic Char and Strawberry Shortcake, among others.

TO JULY 24 Summerlicious returns for the 13th year, enabling patrons an opportunity to dine at some of the city’s premier establishments. The city-wide celebration encompasses more than 200 restaurants, with each creating three-course prix fixe menus for lunch ($18 to $28) and dinner ($28 to $48). Returning favourites include Canoe, The Carbon Bar, and Chase Fish & Oyster Bar, while Ufficio, Kasa Moto, and Beaumont Kitchen are new to the program. Spots fill up fast at some of the most popular restaurants, so make sure to make reservations ahead of time.—Karen Stevens

Get Set for Summer: Family Time


LeviathanJuly7-2 copy

Take your family for a ride the Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland this summer.

The Toronto Zoo is always a hit with kids of all ages. Home to more than 5,000 animals from more than 450 species, there’s an extra special reason for a visit: the arrival of eight new animals, including two giant panda cubs named Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, four white lion cubs, an Indian rhino calf, and Juno the polar bear cub. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is likewise a popular destination for families to explore nine different galleries featuring more than 13,500 sea creatures such as jellyfish, octopus, pufferfish, stingrays and more.

Would-be architects and designers can let their imaginations run wild at Legoland Discovery Centre, where they can build their own race cars and test its aerodynamics, or be inspired by a recreation of Toronto’s landmarks completely in the brick form. Ever wonder what happened with Emmett and his friends after The Lego Movie? There’s a new 4D movie exclusively that catches up with Wyldstyle, Unkitty and MetalBeard. Learning and play go hand-in-hand at the Ontario Science Centre through its interactive exhibits on astronomy, geology, nature, human anatomy, technology, music and more. Currently, a special travelling exhibit, The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is on display with experiments, challenges and touchable specimens that delve into the oddities associated with Ripleys, from how illusions work to how to swallow a sword safely.

Getting to Centreville Amusement Park is part of the fun; the picturesque ferry ride over to the Toronto Islands is bound to get everyone in the mood for a day of rides like bumper boats, twirling tea cups, and the log flume. The attraction, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, also boasts a petting farm with the likes of an alpaca, llama, pygmy goat, and a mini donkey and pony. Thrill seekers love the rides at Canada’s Wonderland, which counts the country’s tallest and fastest roller coast, Leviathan, among its 200-plus attractions. There are more tame rides at Planet Snoopy and Kidzville for wee ones, plus a 20-acre waterpark. New this year are two interactive rides: Flying Eagles for little ones and Skyhawk for adults, who can make 360 degree turns from 135 feet up in the air.

EAT Combine an activity with a meal at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, as knights on horseback joust before King Don Carlos and Princess Catalina in an epic battle. The King’s favourite meal—chicken, potatoes, corn, and tomato soup—is served as guests watch the clash between the East and West sides.

The scope of Pickle Barrels menu is enough to make it a family-favourite—there are several hundred items on the menu ranging from grilled cheese and chicken fajitas to pasta and French toast—ensuring that even the fussiest of eaters can be appeased. Step back in time at The Old Spaghetti Factory, which is chock-full of vintage details including a 100-year-old carousel and even a streetcar that you can dine in. The fare is classically Italian with offerings like lasagna, ravioli and spaghetti with meatballs. More upscale Italian fare can be found at Terroni—and a more fitting environment for older kids—with crispy, thin crust pizzas, panini sandwiches and pastas; there’s also a patio for al fresco dining at their original Queen West location.—Linda Luong Luck

Get excited for summer with these other action-packed itineraries:

Get Set for Summer: Cheer on the Hometown Team

Get Set for Summer: Culture Vultures


Ottawa Summer: the A-Z Guide

By Chris Lackner

Know your ABCs. Our A-Z guide spells out Ottawa’s best summer attractions and activities.

A — Art: The National Gallery of Canada. Come for the giant spider sculpture, stay for the dynamic art — and the Picasso. Until Sept. 5, The National Gallery of Canada’s treasured collection of Picasso’s line drawings is being exhibited. Picasso: Man and Beast takes viewers into the psychic labyrinth of Picasso’s mind, presenting — for the first time in almost 60 years — the artists’ works around such themes as love, lust, animal urges and violence.

The National Gallery of Canada.

The National Gallery of Canada.

B – Bonnechere Caves: 50 million years old and waiting for you to explore in Eganville!

C – Casino du Lac-Leamy: Win, lose or draw, stay for the entertainment and dining options, including Le Baccara and Arôme.

D — Diefenbunker: An underground Cold War museum and the “world’s largest escape room.” 

E – Eco-OdysséeWakefield’s water maze; encounter beavers instead of Minotaurs.

F – Central Experimental Farm: Includes a tropical greenhouse, wildlife and ornamental gardens, and a 64-acre Arboretum.

Ottawa's Central Experimental Farm.

Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm.

G – GreekFest: Ouzo, spanakopita and the zorba dance, anyone? From Aug. 11-21. 

H – The Hill: Explore Parliament with guided tours of Centre Block and East Block. 

I – International Chamberfest (July 21 to Aug. 3) + International Buskerfest (July 28 to Aug. 1): Chamberfest offers intimate, beautiful venues with great acoustics and even better variety. Yes, there will be classical music small ensembles – but also street music, electronic music, children’s shows, jazz, multimedia, and medieval chants. As for Buskerfest, this free Sparks Street festival attracts street performers – musicians, acrobats, contortionists and more! – from Canada and around the world.

Parliament Hill offers guided tours.

Parliament Hill offers guided tours.

J – Go directly to Ottawa Jail Hostel: Boo! Tour the ghostly former jail as part of a Haunted Walk tour. 

K – Kayaking: Dow’s Lake Pavilion rentals also include canoes and paddleboats. 

L – Leamy Lake Park beach: Who new Ottawa-Gatineau was a beach vacation? This sandy Gatineau haven is one of the many places to beat the summer heat. For Where Ottawa’s complete area beach guide, follow this link to sand and sunshine.

M – Market: Hot spots include the ByWard Market Square and the resto patios of Clarendon Court.

The Nordik Spa in Chelsea, Que.

The Nordik Spa in Chelsea, Que.

N – Nordik-Spa Nature: Spa time at the edge of Gatineau Park!

O – Ottawa Champions: Take yourself out to the ball game for this optimistically-named minor-league team.

P – Lansdowne Park: The new destination for entertainment, shopping and dining anchors the Glebe, one of Ottawa’s trendiest hoods. 

Q – Quest (for quarts and pints). Brew Donkey delivers you to the suds with craft brewery tours.

R – Rideau Hall: Tour the home and workplace of Canada’s Governor General; special events include Storytime for children on Fri and Sat afternoons. 

Rideau Hall's Tent Room.

Rideau Hall’s Tent Room.

S – Soccer. The Ottawa Fury FC hopes to kick and head its way back to the North American Soccer League championship game, where they narrowly lost in 2015. Join some 24,000 fans at the revamped TD Place alongside the Rideau Canal. Stay for food, shopping and entertainment in Lansdowne Park and neighbouring streets in the Glebe.

T – Star Trek: Beam down to the Starfleet Academy Experience or beam up franchise anniversary coins from the Royal Canadian Mint.

U – Upper Canada Village: Time travel to the 1860s, but don’t stay for the winter. 

V – Velogo: The capital and its stunning bike paths are best explored via pedal.

W – Westboro: Come for pedestrian-friendly shopping, stay for the beach.

Little Ray's Reptile Zoo is a wild experience for all ages.

Little Ray’s is a wild experience for all ages.

X… marks the spot for Pirate Adventures on Mooney’s Bay, and picnics at nearby Hog’s Back Falls.

Y – Free Yoga on Parliament Hill (noon on Wednesdays). Twist your body, leave truth twisting to politicos.

Z – Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo: A snaky experience.

Get set for Summer: Cheer on the Hometown Team



Cheer on José Bautista and the rest of the Blue Jays this summer at the Rogers Centre.

The Toronto Blue Jays are arguably the hottest sporting ticket in town, and everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon early this year to root for 2015’s AL East champions. Don’t miss the star-studded lineup at the Rogers Centre, which includes José Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Marcus Stroman.

The city’s major league soccer team, the Toronto FC, and the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, both call BMO Field home. Though the TFC have been playing here since 2007, this is the Argos’ inaugural season. Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco is the one to watch when the TFC play on the pitch; last year he won the MLS Golden Boot, making him the first TFC player to hold the honour. The Argos welcome back quarterback Ricky Ray, who sat out most of the 2015 season due to a torn labrum, while kicker Lirim Hajrullahu is new to the roster.

If you’re counting down the days to when the puck drops, then head to the Hockey Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to Canada’s game. The coveted Stanley Cup is here, as is a replica of the Montreal Canadiens dressing room. Interactive exhibits let you be part of the action, like a shoot-out against a computer-simulated version of Jonathan Bernier or calling the action on classic games in the TSN/RDS Broadcast Pods.

EAT Hockey fanatics won’t want to miss surrounding themselves with The Great One’s personal memorabilia at Wayne Gretzky’s The namesake restaurant of the former Edmonton Oilers player is a casual spot for burgers, pizza, poutine, and family favourites like Grandma Gretzky’s meatloaf.

 Can’t get tickets to the game but don’t want to miss any of the action? Real Sports Bar & Grill doesn’t disappoint with its 39-foot-long big screen and 199 additional televisions. Nachos, burgers, ribs and wings—choose from 10 different sauces including suicide and spicy jerk—can all be washed down with more than 126 beers on tap. Not to be outdone, Shark Club  at Yonge-Dundas Square boasts a 15-foot big screen, 57 TVs and a 90-foot sports ticker with menu offerings like the double-fisted burger.

Fans of European “footie”—soccer to us Canucks—needn’t miss a match at The Football Factory, where screens line the walls as well as in the booths if you prefer watch something else. Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub offers an upscale fan experience with classic Canadian pub fare alongside bistro offerings, while watching nationally-televised games. —Linda Luong Luck

Get Set for Summer: Culture Vultures



Thong Sandals. Oil on canvas by Marco Sassone.

The Second City  returns with The Best of Second City, a rousing combination of some of the funniest sketches from the company’s past 50 years. Families can enjoy Superdude and Doctor Rude, a superhero story with a twist based on audience participation. Matilda the Musical is another family-friendly production, which opens July 5, while Shakespeare in High Park presents Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Well on alternating nights in scenic High Park.

For centuries, plants—particularly flowers—have been the inspiration behind the creation of beautiful textile designs. Bliss: Gardens Real and Imagined, on now at the Textile Museum of Canada, highlights the pervasive use of floral motifs across cultures, from intricate Persian carpets to handmade quilts. The Bata Shoe Museum commemorates Italian heritage month with a selection of oil paintings by American-Italian painter Marco Sassone. His Boots and Other Works illustrate the artist’s love of fashion and footwear, from worn out boots to party shoes.

Film buffs won’t want to miss the Hitchcock/Truffaut: Magnificent Obsessions double retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox, which starts July 7. Featuring more than a dozen films by each director, the series highlights their similarities and includes Alfred Hitchcock classics like The Birds, and Vertigo, alongside François Truffaut films like Jules et Jim and The 400 Blows.

EAT Experience the flavours of the Middle East, North and South Asia with Mark McEwan’s flavourful menu at Diwan, while taking in the gorgeous grounds of the Aga Khan Museum. After working up appetite at the Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario, visit Frank for a bistro-inspired menu amidst installations by Frank Stella. Moviegoers can dine at Luma, located at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. —Karen Stevens


Ottawa Summer Festivals: Know Your ABCs

By Chris Lackner

Get an education in culture. From acrobats to buskers, and blues to classical, learn how Ottawa sizzles in July and August. We also talk
to festival architects and artists for an insider’s scoop, and highlight all the must-see performances.

Marc Djokic performs at Music & Beyond. Credit: Shayne Gray.

Violinist Marc Djokic performs at Music & Beyond. (Credit: Shayne Gray)

Music & Beyond

July 4 to 17


Quick Study: Beyond is the key word. This classical music and multi-disciplinary arts festival melds music with everything from visual art and drama to poetry, comedy, circus and dance. It entered the summer festival fray in 2010 and quickly distinguished itself.

Grade A: Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman (July 10) is a force of nature. Christopher Plummer presents Shakespeare and Music (July 8 and 9) on the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. The actor performs favourite scenes and sonnets backed by the festival orchestra. Music & circus combo: Hebei Acrobatic Troupe.

Measha Brueggergosman performs at Music & Beyond.

Measha Brueggergosman performs at Music & Beyond.

Local Lesson: The primary venues are downtown churches and concert halls, so you can escape the summer heat with a sonic and visual treat.

RBC Bluesfest

July 7-17

Lebreton Flats


MonkeyJunk perform at Bluesfest.

MonkeyJunk perform at Bluesfest.

Quick Study: This multi-genre, multi-stage festival offers the size, scope and star power of Bonnaroo or Coachello, but sets them steps away from downtown amenities like hotels, restaurants and public transportation. With an all-star lineup of Canadian and international acts, B is for breadth.

Grade A: Peter Bjorn and John (July 7) serve as Swedish ambassadors; The Lumineers (July 9) serve up hos and heys; Billy Idol (July 7) brings wisdom; The Decemberists bring whimsy (July 13); MonkeyJunk bring the blues (July 14-17).

Billy Idol performs at Bluesfest.

Billy Idol performs at Bluesfest.

Local Lesson: The 3-day pass ($119) is ideal for weekend tourists. Best advice? Wander. The best concert experiences are typically found on the smaller, less crowded stages —where you can often land a front-row view. For the adventurous, the refreshing water of Westboro Beach is an 18-minute bike-path away.

Ottawa International Chamberfest

July 21 to Aug. 3


Te Amo, Argentina at Chamberfest.

Te Amo, Argentina at Chamberfest.

Quick Study: Intimate, beautiful venues with great acoustics and even better variety. Yes, there will be classical music small ensembles – but also street music, electronic music, children’s shows, jazz, multimedia, and medieval chants. 

Grade A: A musical tribute to the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada (July 22). Presented in partnership with the Capital Ukrainian Festival, the concert will be headlined by Toronto’s Gryphon Trio, along with guests Russell Braun (baritone), Monica Whicher (soprano), Graham Oppenheimer (viola), and Ottawa choir the Ewashko Singers. Their performance includes choral works by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Te Amo, Argentina transports audiences to South America (July 24); Celebrated soprano Marie-Josée Lord stars in Femmes (July 21).

Gryphon Trio performs at Chamberfest.

Gryphon Trio performs at Chamberfest.

Local Lesson: The late-night shows of Chamberfringe feature more surprises than Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets.

Ottawa International Buskerfest

July 28 to Aug. 1


Pyromancer performs at Buskerfest.

Pyromancer performers at Buskerfest.

Quick Study:  This free Sparks Street festival attracts street performers – musicians, acrobats, contortionists and more! – from Canada and around the world. True to the busking tradition, patrons are encouraged to “pay what you can” into the Buskers’ hats.

Grade A: Double down on summer heat with Pyromancer (aka “the flaming fart guy”) or the circus acrobatics of Pancho Libre. The fest’s 25th anniversary will be marked by 25 acts!

Checkerboard Guy performs at Buskerfest.

Checkerboard Guy performs at Buskerfest.

Local Lesson: Sparks Street has its share of eateries, but top-tier pubs and fine dining are a short walk away on Elgin Street, the Byward Market, and Bank Street Promenade.

Arboretum Music Festival

Aug. 17-20


Quick Study: On its fifth anniversary, the late-season sonic showcase plants new roots at Ottawa’s City Hall. The inclusive outdoor and indoor festival offers olive branches to local artists, chefs and craft brewers with special events, vendors and venues.

Noise rockers METZ perform at Arboretum Fest.

Noise rockers METZ perform at Arboretum Fest.

Grade A: Jeremy Gara (Arcade Fire’s drummer), California art-house rapper Mykki Blanco, noise rockers METZ, New York rapper Junglepussy and Canadian rock royalty in the form of Sloan. The band pays tribute to the 20th anniversary of their seminal album, One Chord to Another; that’s guaranteed to bring out “the good in everyone.”

Sloan perform at Arboretum Festival.

Sloan perform at Arboretum Festival.

Local Lesson: City Hall’s outdoor space is intimate and convenient — ideal to host a festival village and multiple stages. This is the fest for new discoveries; showcase venues around the city offer a must-do scavenger hunt of the city’s live music scene.

Unlock the City: Your Hotel Concierge Can be Your Key to a Great Trip



Carolina Avaria photo by Nicholas Lachman

Carolina Avaria, photo by Nicholas Lachman

Carolina Avaria, chef concierge of the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville, says that concierges are “front line superlative service providers who are ready to assist with any request. Nothing (unless illegal or unethical) is unreachable for an experienced concierge.Although the most common requests she and her peers receive are for restaurant recommendations, purchasing tickets and returning forgotten teddy bears, your concierge is ready and willing to assist with any request no matter how big or small. Among some of the more wild requests she’s heard being fulfilled: filling tubs with champagne and even jelly beans for proposals, buying bespoke presents for pet parrots, shipping breast milk overnight, and organizing a bullet-proof limousine.

“We pride ourselves on making the impossible seamlessly be possible,” says Avaria, who is also the President of Les Clefs d’Or Canada, an elite group of concierges who are easily identifiable by the golden keys worn on their lapels.

This year, Les Clefs d’Or Canada celebrates its 40th anniversary as a valued chapter of Les Clefs d’Or UICH (Union Internationale des Concierges d’Hôtels). Worldwide there are more than 4,000 members representing Great Britain, Denmark, Hong Kong, Brazil, UAE and Israel among more than 40 other nations. In Canada there are 152 members, along with professional and corporate affiliates, which proudly includes Where Toronto.

To become a member of this prestigious organization doesn’t happen by chance; it requires commitment through a rigorous process that includes an invitation from an existing member along with at least five years of hotel experience. Potential candidates must then attend monthly meetings for a year, then go through a three-month long test, write a national exam and do a presentation in front of regional members who then vote on the member’s qualifications, with the final decision being made by the executive/national board.

The golden keys represent the organization’s global contacts, allowing them to reach out to fellow concierges around the world to assist local guests with whatever they might need. “We are your key to everything,” says Avaria. “Our motto ‘In service through friendship,’ ensures that our keys open doors for you.”

So how does a guest develop a relationship with their concierge? It can start even before you’ve left home according to Avaria, who suggests calling or emailing your concierge in advance, who can make recommendations depending on the nature of your trip, and even help with transportation from the airport. And be sure to let them know if you’re in town to celebrate a particular occasion—they might be able to provide a complimentary touch.

And once you’ve arrived, just visit the concierge desk. “You have a dedicated friend in the lobby,” says Avaria. “Even if you have researched the city, plan a five minute stop in the lobby on your first day with your concierge.” Expect them to ask you what you like to do, and from there they’ll be able to “lay out the city for you according to your preferences, layering in our local knowledge and not-to-be-missed gems.”

And finally, “Once our guest, always a guest,” says Avaria. If you’ve left something behind or visited a great restaurant that you wanted to recommend to your friends at home but can’t quite remember its name, your concierge is there to help.

To learn more about Les Clefs d’Or Canada, visit lesclefsdorcanada.org.