Ottawa, ON, Canada

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Ottawa events in May, June, July and August

October 6th, 2007 · 2,319 Comments


Jam packed with things to do, May is when the capital really kicks into full swing! The May weather is great, and daylight saving’s has come into effect, so the bright day light is to die for! Nothing beats this time of year with everyone out in their gardens, BBQ’s ready to go, and the first official holiday of summer with May 2-4 (24th of May long weekend) just around the corner. Who cares about work, let’s get outside and play!

Starting the Spring season is of course the beautiful Tulip Festival. This usually runs for a couple of weeks, but when the tulips are in bloom depends a lot on the weather – it really can vary by about 2-3 weeks.  Sometimes the frost hangs around and means a shorter Tulip Festival. But you can usually count on a good selection of tulips to be up (or still up), in the first half of May.

Two of my favourite areas are the big multicoloured flower beds on the Quebec side of the Champlain bridge, and then by Island Park Drive, heading towards the Experimental Farm. They are just stunningly beautiful there.

The month of May really is terrific for the outdoors in Ottawa, as every weekend has something scenic to do.  The annual Ottawa Flotilla (lots of boats going down the river), is worth checking out at least once, and if you’re into fitness, or the cause, May is host to the National Capital Race Weekend .

On a fit, but much less competitive note,  this month is also when they usually shut down parts of the Ottawa River Parkway on Sundays to let people walk and bike along, enjoying the views and fresh air, without the hassle of cars; great idea, and bags of fun.

But, without a doubt the two coolest events of May have yet to be mentioned – one specific to Ottawa, the other, a much more national event – the Great Glebe Garage Sale, and May 2-4 weekend!

The Glebe Garage sale is worth going to, even if rummaging through other people’s junk isn’t your think.  With the Glebe being such a nice, posh neighbourhood, there are loads of good quality things up for grabs, and virtually everybody in the neighbourhood puts their stuff out for sale.  Whether it’s vintage goods, lost antiques, new technology and toys that have been replaced by the latest version (and definitely a bit of crap here and there), the day is a relatively inexpensive outing, that offers loads of laughs and conversation with friendly Ottawans.  Love it!

May 2-4 weekend speaks for itself – the first national holiday of Summer for Canadians, so grab yourself a 2-4 (24 bottles/cans of beer), and hit the cottage/lake/backyard with your friends and simply enjoy the day off. It’s the one holiday that everyone chills out on, so act like a local, and grab a bottle and warm up the BBQ!

Ottawa International Children’s Festival. This is a festival of performing arts for childrens and their families that happens for 5 days annually at the end of May.  See their website for details.


June is another awesome month in the capital, as the festive atmosphere carries over, and we can all see the upcoming warm and relaxed summer holidays just ahead.  Not only does June have the longest day of the year, coinciding with the official first day of summer, it also sees a significant influx of tourists and visitors coming to the city, everyone from foreign tourists, to our friendly American neighbours, to the hordes of school children on their end-of-the-year school trips.  (And of course, Ottawa’s Houses of Parliament officially shuts down for their Summer break this month, so there’s a lot less action on the Hill).

That being said, if you’ve never seen it, June marks the start of the Changing of the Guard ceremonies on Parliament Hill, usually every morning, 10-ish, I think.  It’s a bit of hoopla, with traditional pomp and circumstance, but worth checking out at least every couple of years.  See their red uniforms and swords, as they switch around for the cameras. After all, it’s not every city that can offer a daily parade of guards with nice hats, and fancy uniforms, doing an elaborate routine on the grass.  It’s a spectacle to be sure.

A lot less formal, but still elaborate and fancy is the annual Dragon Boat Race that takes place this month. too.  The boat race offers several categories for competitors to row in, but don’t worry about entering a team in, it’s a fantastic show just from a spectator’s point of view.  Vivid colours, incredible boats, the inspired team uniforms on some groups, and the odd team with face painting to further intimidate their opponents. Bottom line – the Dragon Boat race is wicked fun!

Other events going on – Fringe Festival (an up-and-coming artist’s haven), with very affordable (sometimes free) shows taking place non-stop for about a week, usually downtown. Plus, the famous Jazz Festival begins – with incredible, established musicians taking to a multitude of Ottawa venues, attacking the city with their unpredictable rhythms and enchanting melodies. I’d highly recommend the Jazz festival, as in the past, the line-up has been top-notch, with the likes of James Brown, and Diana Krall.

Hey, and if nothing else, June signals the end of school – Hurray! Let those 8 brilliant weeks of summer begin!


Canada Day kicks off this month with fireworks, literally.  Nothing beats celebrating our country’s birthday in the capital.  There’s usually great weather, and a crazy amount of events to pick from.  I would stay on (or near) the Hill for most of the day. Basically, if you can get a parking spot, or take the bus in, once you get there, stay put.  You are one lucky so-and-so.

Favourite must-sees/must-dos: dress modestly or over-the-top in red-and white (don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen), start the day people-watching from Major’s Hill Park with either a Beavertail or Tim-Bit to go with your cup of Tim Hortons coffee; enjoy the ambiance of the often shy Canadian pride that’s everywhere, on this one day of the year, grab a blanket and a bit of grass, and picnic on the Hill, with the Eternal Flame and Peace Tower as scenery. Then, enjoy the free French, English, and Inuit entertainment on the main stage, with top Canadian acts performing (including in the past Nelly Furtado, Susan Agulkuk, Avril Lavigne and Roch Vosin), take in the official speech from the Prime Minister, and most importantly, stay for the phenomenal fireworks at dusk – simply breathtaking! Canada Day – hands-down – it’s the best event of the summer!

Also this month, Bluesfest begins – a festival that used to honour its name with top Blues artists headlining the event, but now is much more of a generic music festival (still getting top acts though, and they still have one stage dedicated to blues performers), lasting usually 10-14 days.

Passes are definitely worthwhile if you plan to take in a couple of shows at Bluesfest, but the real trick here is to check their official website about volunteering for free tickets – visit, or look in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper; check about a couple of months in advance, when they usually advertise for volunteers. If you get accepted, they ask you to volunteer for a few shifts (2-4 hours long) and in return you can attend the day’s performances for free.

If you volunteer for multiple shifts, or get asked to help in a higher responsibility position, you can also get a free pass for the entire event.  Worthwhile if you’re a local with some flexi-time at hand, though the passes aren’t expensive when you think of what your average concert ticket costs nowadays.  And of course, if modern or blues isn’t your musical taste, there’s always the Chamber Music Festival, which is at the end of the month, start of August.

I think the only other staple event of July is the Hope Volleyball Tournament, which takes place in Moonies Bay every summer.  It raises money for charity, and is quite a party.  Competitive, Corporate and Recreational divisions ensure there’s a spot suitable for every team and it’s just a great time to socialize, meet some new people, BBQ with friends, swim (for the brave), and enjoy the sun.   If you’re not BBQ’ing, there’s a great spot for sandwiches on Hog’s Back and Riverside (it’s in the corner shop).


Like every glorious month of the Canadian summer, August begins with a Holiday Monday – can’t beat it! As with any official day off, we all (or should!) be flocking to the lake/cottage/river/beach to enjoy the sun, and play a little Frisbee, kick the soccer ball, or get in that quality family time.  If you haven’t roasted marshmallows this summer yet, try to squeeze in the campfire on this holiday!

Without a doubt the main event in August is Ottawa’s Super Ex!  For someone who’s never been, it’s like a small-town fair, mixed with a music festival, crossed with a midway (carnival)! It’s got everything from livestock and a petting zoo, to concerts every night (free with that day’s ticket, or a pass), and loads of themepark rides, games and carni food!

Super Ex is one of those events that you probably wouldn’t schedule in as a tourist, but ask anybody in the area (from Pembroke to Cornwall, from Napanee to Smiths Falls), and they would all know Super Ex as the quintessential, end-of-summer event.  Check it out.

There’s two festivals in August that are also popular, but on different levels – Greekfest and Folkfest.

Greekfest is accessible to everyone, with loads of people in costume, and the main attraction being a giant buffet of Greek food, with traditional music playing in the background. Oopa!

What could be better than authentic souvlaki, served up a few miles from home? Except for Folkfest, which isn’t just for the left-over hippies, there’s actually some cool talent that holds up in the city for the string of affordable concerts.

Last but not least, if you’re into the rainbow scene, the Pride Parade takes place in August, so check out the entertaining, colourful, and creative participants as they confidently walk through the downtown streets of the city.

Be proud in Ottawa!

Tags: Events       

2,319 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Fara // Jul 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    There is Sounds and Lights festival (fireworks) August 2-16 2008.

    For kids, there is Day out with Thomas Engine starting from August 15 .

  • 2 Dawne // Jan 19, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Hi there,
    I’m just wondering how I can get in contact with a person who develops this website. We would like to add our Festival to the list of Festivals that happend in May. We are the Ottawa International Children’s Festival. This is a festival of performing arts for childrens and their families that happens for 5 days annually at the end of May.
    our website is