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What to Do Ottawa

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

musicandbeyond.ca

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

ottawabluesfest.com

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

chamberfest.com

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

ottawabuskerfestival.com

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

arboretumfestival.com

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.

Indulge: His, Hers, Ours

BY NICOLINA LEONE

Le Nordik

In the hot and cold baths at Nordik Spa-Nature, you’ll float away into a world of relaxation.

Even on vacation, it can be hard to shake the busy urban lifestyle. So many things to see, to do, to try, to eat, to buy. We forget the need to unwind, to enjoy a quiet afternoon, to pamper ourselves. Luckily, many establishments in Ottawa offer an opportunity to do exactly that. Whether you want to glam up for a night out or enjoy a relaxing massage — be it alone, with friends, or your loved one — don’t forget to make time for the most important part of your stay: you. 

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A Bug’s Life at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Beautiful photographs of beetles are on display at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Beautiful photographs of beetles are on display at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Beetles: they’re tiny, diverse, and stunningly beautiful. Their patterns and colours change from one carapace to the next, and Beetles Close-Up gives visitors a detailed look at this phenomenon through 18 large-scale photographs of specimens from the Canadian Museum of Nature’s collection. Created by a museum entomologist, the photographs are so intricate it’s possible to see individual hairs on each beetle’s leg — hairs that help scientists determine which species a beetle belongs to. On display at the Canadian Museum of Nature until September 2016. —Amy Allen
•Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod St., 613-566-4700. nature.ca
Map and reviews

Women’s Work at the Canadian War Museum

 

World War Women examines the contributions that women made to the war effort during both World Wars.

World War Women examines the contributions that women made to the war effort during both World Wars. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada, PA-108043)

Historically, men have been the ones fighting on the front lines, but that doesn’t mean women didn’t also play a role in global conflicts. In the First and Second World Wars, they sold stamps to raise money for the war effort, served as nurses in Europe, and worked in munitions and supply factories. The wars allowed them to prove their capabilities to themselves and to a society that tended to underestimate them. World War Women looks at some personal stories, including that of Molly Lamb Bobak, who served as a war artist during World War II, and Dorothy Linham, who won the coveted title of Miss War Worker in 1942. On at the Canadian War Museum until April 3. —Amy Allen
•Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, 1-800-555-5621. warmuseum.ca
Map and reviews

Blue Rodeo Gallops Into the Capital

Iconic Canadian band Blue Rodeo rolls into town on February 14. (Photo: Heather Pollock)

Iconic Canadian band Blue Rodeo rolls into town on February 14. (Photo: Heather Pollock)

FEB. 14 With a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, 12 Juno Awards to their name, and more than three million records sold worldwide, Blue Rodeo is without a doubt one of Canada’s most enduring bands. Their alt-country rock songs are unmistakable — songs like the melancholy “Try” and the foot-tapping “Till I Am Myself Again”, which propelled them to the top of the charts in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They stop in Ottawa at the Canadian Tire Centre as part of their cross-Canada tour. —Amy Allen
•Canadian Tire Centre, 1000 Palladium Dr., 613-599-0100. canadiantirecentre.com

Reworking the Classics: 2Cellos

More commonly known as 2Cellos, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser put unique twists on classical and contemporary music.

More commonly known as 2Cellos, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser put unique twists on classical and contemporary music.

FEB. 14 Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, the duo more commonly known as 2Cellos, met in their teens when they studied music in Croatia. At the time, they often competed against each other in music contests, and many saw them as rivals. But in 2011, when their paths crossed again after years of working in different cities, they decided to team up. Their cello version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” went viral when they uploaded it to YouTube, and they’ve been selling out stadiums with their unique take on pop songs and classical music ever since. —Amy Allen
•National Arts Centre, Southam Hall, 53 Elgin St., 866-850-2787. nac-cna.ca
Map and reviews

Comic Art in Large Scale

Mathew Reichertz's Garbage follows a man's interactions with his neighbours after a mysterious couch appears in front of his house. (Mathew Reichertz, Garbage, page 5 (2014), oil on Polystyrene, 8 x 6 feet. Courtesy of the artist; Mathew Reichertz, Garbage, Page 10 (2014), oil on Polystyrene, 8 x 6 feet. Courtesy of the artist.

Mathew Reichertz’s Garbage follows a man’s interactions with his neighbours after a mysterious couch appears in front of his house. (Mathew Reichertz, Garbage, page 5 (2014), oil on Polystyrene, 8 x 6 feet. Courtesy of the artist; Mathew Reichertz, Garbage, Page 10 (2014), oil on Polystyrene, 8 x 6 feet. Courtesy of the artist.)

The setting is a North Halifax neighbourhood. Leaving his house in the morning, a man discovers that a white couch has been placed anonymously on the curb outside his door, which sets off a series of encounters (some pleasant, other less so) with his neighbours. Mathew Reichertz’s Garbage, a large-scale comic book that blurs the line between narrative and art, explores the unhealthy relationships that sometimes occur within communities, and how simple communication can reveal the goodness in others. On display at the Carleton University Art Gallery until April 3. —Amy Allen
•Carleton University Art Gallery, St. Patrick’s Building, 1125 Colonel By Dr., 613-520-2120. cuag.carleton.ca
Map and reviews

Warm Winter Jazz

Juno Award-nominated artist Carol Welsman performs at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

Juno Award-nominated artist Carol Welsman performs at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

FEB. 4 TO 7 Two pianos, two keyboards, and a drum kit — these are the tools Mouse on the Keys use to create their haunting, jazz-influenced, experimental music. Based in Japan, the trio blends aspects of rock and roll with the gentler strains of classical, jazz, and funk. They’re just one of several bands performing at this year’s Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival. Other names, many of them from Ottawa, include John Geggie’s Journey Band, Montréal Guitare Trio, The Chocolate Hot Pockets, and Juno Award-nominated chanteuse Carol Welsman. —Amy Allen
ottawajazzfestival.com

Gallery Highlights Early Canadian Snapshots

Mirrors with Memory shines a light on early Canadian photography. (Thomas Coffin Doane, The Molson family brewery after the fire, Montreal, Quebec, 1858, daguerreotype, Library and Archives Canada.)

Mirrors with Memory shines a light on early Canadian photography. (Thomas Coffin Doane, The Molson family brewery after the fire, Montreal, Quebec, 1858, daguerreotype, Library and Archives Canada.)

Invented in the early 1800s, the daguerreotype is the prototype for photography as we know it today. Images were captured on a sheet of polished, silver-plated copper, allowing each detail to be preserved with pristine clarity. For the first time in history, humans could create images of themselves — and the world around them — as they really were. In Mirrors with Memory: Daguerreotypes from Library and Archives Canada, a series of landscapes and portraits of regular citizens open a window into Canada’s early days. On display at the National Gallery of Canada until February 28.
•National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Dr., 613-990-1985. gallery.ca
Map and reviews

Winter Wonderland: Winterlude

BY AMY ALLEN

The 38th edition of Winterlude, Ottawa's celebration of ice and snow, runs from January 29 to February 15. (Photo: Canadian Heritage)

The 38th edition of Winterlude, Ottawa’s celebration of ice and snow, runs from January 29 to February 15. (Photo: Canadian Heritage)

In many cities across North America, winter is a time when people stay indoors, but not so in Ottawa. Winterlude is the city’s annual homage to all things ice and snow. This year, it runs from January 29 to February 15.

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Happily Never After: Matchstick at the GCTC

A lighthearted musical with dark undertones, Matchstick chronicles the life of a woman who is married to a very notorious man.

A lighthearted musical with dark undertones, Matchstick chronicles the life of a woman who is married to a very notorious man.

JAN. 21 TO 31 A girl from a poor country meets a boy from the land of opportunity. They fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. That’s how the story always goes, right? In the case of Matchstick, not so much. Told through music, the play unravels the true-life tale of a woman who discovers she has married “one of the most hated men in the world.” As for the man’s identity? You’ll just have to see the play to find out. Part romance, part musical, part dark historical drama, Matchstick deftly walks the tightrope between comedy and tragedy. —By Amy Allen
•Great Canadian Theatre Company, 1233 Wellington St. W., 613-236-5196. gctc.ca

Hidden History: The Diefenbunker

(Photo: Diefenbunker: Canada's Cold War Museum)

A truly unique museum, the Diefenbunker is a National Historic Site of Canada. (Photo: Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum)

Buried deep underground in Carp, a community nestled in the west of the National Capital Region, the Diefenbunker (now Canada’s Cold War Museum) was built in the midst of the Cold War with the intention of housing the prime minister (at the time, John Diefenbaker, for whom the facility is fondly named) and other important government officials in the event of a nuclear attack. The bunker was decommissioned in 1994, but it’s since been given a second life as a museum. The interior has been faithfully preserved, giving visitors a sense of what it must have looked like in the 1960s. Special events and tours take place here regularly; see the museum’s website for more information. —Amy Allen
•Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, 3929 Carp Rd., Carp, 613-839-0007. diefenbunker.ca
Map and reviews