As the Canadian capital, Ottawa offers a good mix of historical sightseeing and scenic attractions along the banks of the Ottawa River. Beyond the old buildings and neo-Gothic landmarks such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral and Parliament Hill, Ottawa offers a calendar of festivities that make it an attractive destination in any season. 

    Ottawa’s festivals are spread throughout the year. From the frozen wonderland that the Rideau Canal transforms into in the winter, to the spring scenes of tulips in bloom in the city’s beautiful urban parks, you can choose the time of year that suits you best. Let our guide to Ottawa’s seasonal celebrations help you.




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    Each year, the Canadian capital celebrates its snowfall with one of the nation’s biggest festivals, known as Winterlude. The festival attracts thousands to its fun activities and attractions. One big draw here is skating on the frozen Rideau Canal, which turns into the world’s largest rink every winter. You can also check out the magnificent ice and snow carvings crafted by competing sculptors. Winterlude’s mascots are the 4 members of the Ice Hog Family who bring cheer to kids during the festival.

    Location: Queen Elizabeth Dr, Ottawa, ON, Canada

    Phone: +1 613-283-5170


    photo by Michel Rathwell (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Canadian Tulip Festival


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    If you visit Ottawa around the month of May, just in time for spring, bright and motley tulips will add a dash of colour to your travel memories. This is the season of the annual Canadian Tulip Festival. For the best views of the tulips, you can head down to the city’s beautiful urban parks. Commissioner’s Park by the scenic Dow’s Lake may be one of your best bets here. Another good option for tulip admiring is Lansdowne Park by Rideau Canal.

    Location: Queen Elizabeth Dr & Preston Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada

    Phone: +1 844-878-8333


    photo by John Talbot (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Ottawa International Children's Festival


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    Usually held in May or June, the Ottawa International Children's Festival is a great occasion to bring the kids to Ottawa. It hosts fun and educational programmes including theatre, dance, and music. Various venues to hit during the festival include the grounds of LeBreton Flats Park, as well as the Canadian War Museum, and the National Arts Centre. Besides young Canadian artists, the children’s festival also features international art groups representing different art forms and cultures from around the globe.

    Location: LeBreton Flats Park, Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Ottawa, ON, Canada


    Ottawa Fringe Festival


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    The best time to witness quirky and experimental shows in Ottawa is during the annual Fringe Festival. The Ottawa Fringe Festival usually takes place in June and it showcases a range of shows and attractions over 10 days. Various stages at the closely-knit venues around the downtown area play host to performances. These include the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Arts Courts Theatre. Fun and exploratory, the performing artists, selected through a lottery, get to display and perform whatever they choose.

    Location: 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6E2

    Phone: +1 613-232-6162


    photo by Devan M (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival


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    The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival takes place each June, with thousands of paddlers and tens of thousands of spectators descending upon Mooney’s Bay (between Rideau Canal and Rideau River). Besides the main highlight of racing dragon boats, the occasion also features a host of arts and cultural events. You can expect free concerts throughout the 3 days of festivities, along with Chinese dragon and lion dance troupe performances, as well as fundraising events to support local charities. 

    Location: 2960 Riverside Dr, Ottawa, ON K1V 8N4, Canada


    Canada Dance Festival


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    Dance enthusiasts, choreographers, and dance companies congregate in the capital every June for Canada’s major annual dance festival. The festival presents the nation’s best in contemporary dance. During the festival you’ll get a chance to see spectacular performances that showcase the most current dance trends, as well as diverse cultural expressions of this most physical of art forms. The National Arts Centre regularly serves as the main festival venue.

    Location: National Arts Centre, 1 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5W1, Canada

    Phone: +1 613-947-7000


    photo by 2017 Canada Summer Games (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Canada Day


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    The nation’s capital is fittingly an excellent venue to experience the revelry of Canada’s big birthday on the 1st of July. Canada Day marks the anniversary of the British North America Act, the legislation largely responsible for the creation of Canada as a new nation in 1867. Expect a host of outdoor festivities, carnivals, and concerts, together with spectacular air shows and fireworks throughout the day and evening across the city. Parliament Hill is a good choice for a memorable backdrop during the Canada Day celebrations.

    photo by mrpolyonymous (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Ottawa Chamberfest


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    The annual festival of orchestra and choir known as Ottawa Chamberfest usually comes around between July and August. It aims to promote live classical music in the capital, presenting around a hundred concerts each year. During these summer months, various halls and churches around the city, such as Rideau Hall and Saint Brigid’s Church, serve as concert venues. Over the years, the festival has grown in popularity and has become one of the world’s largest music festivals of its kind. 

    photo by Cweisbrot (CC0 1.0) modified


    Ottawa International Animation Festival


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    Moviegoers and those with an interest in art and film may want to visit the capital in September for the Ottawa International Animation Festival. What started as a biennial festival in 1975 has become one of Ottawa’s major annual festivals. Overseen by the Canadian Film Institute, the festival presents some of the world’s latest breakthroughs in animation technologies, with a line-up of quirky and captivating independent animation shorts. It also rewards the creative minds behind the craft, with awards ranging from ‘Best Script’ to ‘Best Sound’ and ‘Best Design’. Screenings and side parties are held at various venues in the city.


    CityFolk Festival


    • Families

    Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park plays host to the city’s annual folk music festival known as CityFolk. Presenting live music and dance performances on various open stages, the festival normally runs for 5 days. If you’re a family with kids, the Bluesfest School of Music and Art usually hosts their special KidZone, where you can enjoy performances dedicated for young audiences. Around the Aberdeen Pavilion, you can find mini bazaars of arts and crafts alongside all sorts of musical acts.

    Location: Lansdowne Park, 452 Queen Elizabeth Dr, Ottawa, ON K1S 3W7, Canada


    photo by Cindy Funk (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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