The best months to visit and enjoy festivals in Ottawa

Ottawa in many ways has been left out of the map where tourists favor cities like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City or Vancouver. Many people think that Canada’s capital isn’t interesting enough, and tourists often just spend no more than a day or a day and a half to visit Ottawa.

It doesn’t help at all that Ottawa has a reputation for being a boring city. But despite this outdated idea, the truth is that it’s a very beautiful city crossed by three rivers, surrounded by forests, with impressive historic buildings. It also hosts the famous Rideau Canal, a World Heritage Site since 2007.

So, if you’ve heard that Ottawa is just a “government town” that is not worth visiting, don’t pay attention to that. Some of these attitudes are decades old when Ottawa was really a town. Nowadays, it’s a city of one million people that offers a variety of festivals and events that are worth attending.

Basically, every season is good for a visit to Ottawa. No matter whether it is winter or summer, you’ll always find something interesting to see and to talk about.

Fall

Ottawa is a green city with vast areas of parks and forests, so that’s why it is not surprising that fall is an amazing time in the capital city that attracts hundreds of thousand of visitors.

The Fall Rhapsody — a sort of festival promoted by the city — is that special moment when vibrant and awesome colors take over the National Capital Region (Ottawa-Gatineau). This spectacular show of Mother Nature lasts just a short period of time.

In my experience, the best month to enjoy the fall in Ottawa is October, especially the first three weeks. It’s a time when the trees foliage colors — yellow, orange, and red — are at their peak and the trees haven’t lost yet most of their leaves.

Fall Rhapsody this year goes from September 26th to October 25th. On weekends during this time, the city offers free bus rides from Ottawa to the Gatineau Park so everyone can enjoy the magnificent fall scenery.

Check out the schedule: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/free-ncc-shuttle-during-fall-rhapsody

Winter

In winter, the best moment to visit Ottawa is during the Winterlude Festival, which is usually held during the first three weeks of February. This is one of the most popular festivals in the capital city, and it is aimed at making people leave their houses and enjoy some fun and exciting activities in the snow and cold.

Winterlude usually includes competitions and exhibitions of ice sculptures, live exhibitions of ice carving, family ice skating, colorful lights, and the Snowflake Kingdom, which is a snow park with lots of entertainment for children, such as ice slides and a zipline.

One of the hot spots during Winterlude is the Rideau Canal, which becomes the longest skating rink in the world at 7.8 kilometers. On sunny Sundays, the view of thousands of people skating in the canal is awesome. But if you don’t skate, no problem, you can walk.

While skating or walking in the canal, don’t forget to try a Beavertail with hot chocolate! A Beavertail is a popular fried dough pastry sold by the Canadian company of the same name that opened its first outlet in Ottawa in 1978.

Beavertails take their name from the shape of the pastry, which is like a long beaver’s tail topped with a variety of sweet or savory ingredients.

Spring

The best moment to visit Ottawa in spring is May, when the city hosts its famous Tulip Festival. Each year in May more than one million tulips blossom in the capital, decorating its public parks with beautiful colors.

The city claims that this festival, which lasts some 10 days, is the largest tulip festival in the world. The most popular places to admire the beds of precious tulips are Major’s Hill Park, Commissioners Park, Dow’s Lake, and Parliament Hill.

More than 600,000 people come to see the tulips during the two weekends of the festival.

The origin of the festival goes back to 1945 when the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for having sheltered Princess Julianne during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in World War II.

During her time in Ottawa Princess Julianne gave birth to Princess Margriet in 1943 at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Later on, Canadian forces played a key role in the liberation of the Netherlands.

In gratitude, the Dutch government has sent tulip bulbs to Ottawa every year making the capital city famous for its tulips. In 1953 the city organized the first Canadian tulip festival.

Summer

There are many festivals in Ottawa during the summer, but the most known and popular is the Bluesfest, held in July for approximately 10 days. It’s an outdoor music festival that originally focused on blues music but which in recent years has featured mainstream pop, hip hop, reggae, and rock.

Bluesfest is nowadays the largest blues festival in Canada and the second-largest in North America. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of the Bluesfest was canceled, which was certainly a hard blow to Ottawa’s tourism industry.

Some 300,000 people attended the Bluesfest in its last edition in 2019.

So, as you see, the best months of the year to come to Ottawa and enjoy its most popular festivals are February, May, July, and October. Not only will you have a good time exploring the city, but you’ll also have the chance to feel the vibes of its most renowned festivals.

What is your favorite time of the year in Ottawa? Have you attended its festivals? Feel free to leave a comment and share your experience. Take care.

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