A list of summertime activities to do in Ottawa this summer 

Parents and kids build a sand castle on the beach.
Kitchissippi residents enjoy the return of summer weather at Britannia Beach over the May long weekend. Photo by Aaron Reid. 

By Hannah Wanamaker

A stroll down Ottawa’s streets in summer brings wafts of mouthwatering barbecue and the lovely smell of blossoming flowers. It’s also the season to beat the heat with a tasty treat or spend a day at one of Ottawa’s beaches. 

Not sure what to do? We’ve got you covered with everything from patios and festivals to sightseeing and some family-friendly adventures. 


Kitchissippi’s abundant summer market scene celebrates and elevates local artists, cuisines, and agriculture. 

To celebrate its centennial on July 10, the Parkdale Market has included additional celebrations for its growing community, says coordinator Tina Barton.

“It’s always existed as a public space, a neighbourhood gathering space, a market for shopping produce and handmaid Canadian goods. In recent years that’s expanded to include things like bread, prepared foods, arts and crafts, and on our Wednesday night markets, we do a lot of street food and music in the park,” she said. 

Barton said the July 10 market will have “extra special live entertainment,” and birthday activities to promote the spirit of the event.

The summer day markets host florists, hot food vendors, handmade clothing vendors, farmers, and entertainment. Farmers from across the city sell community-supported agriculture (CSA) packages, which are prepaid produce boxes that community members can pick up weekly from the market. 

Neighbours are also invited to Sunday morning yoga every few weeks in the park, led by an instructor from Wellington West’s PranaShanti Yoga Centre.

Market stalls outside of Wellington West’s Urban Art Collective.
Night Markets will again be held outside Urban Art Collective this summer. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Urban Art Collective is another Wellington West-based organization that elevates local artists and brings communities together. It is perhaps best known for its night markets held every Thursday in Hintonburg, which feature various vendors, food, and art. 

“We’re not just an art market,” said co-founder Lindsay Machinski. “We have everyone from artisans and makers and artists. There’s people that knit stuff and make jewelry, and there’s people who make salsas. There are stickers and clothing. Because it changes over weekly, there’s always a different rotation of people to meet.”

Another way the Collective highlights underrepresented and lesser-known art styles is through themed summer markets. Every other Saturday, people from across the city learn about and support youth, vintage, comic, and many other artists. 

“You don’t need to be an artist to be here. You just need to be here to be part of something,” said Machinski. 

That’s one of the reasons they created Disrupt, an annual urban art fest and market. Communities and artists from across the city collaborate on large street art projects for the people, she said. 

A group of people stand and dance in Parkdale Park.
Kitchissippi residents dance in Parkdale Park during the summer of 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.


Packed with local and international talent, Ottawa’s arts and cultures lineups will surely get you grooving and will brighten your day. 

Between June 13-23, Ottawa Fringe Festival will hold its 27th Local Theatre Testival downtown at the Ottawa Arts Court, with over 50 plays set to take centre stage. 

“Every year we see comedies, we see dramas, sometimes there’s circus shows. There are shows for kids, shows for adults only–it’s pretty wide-ranging,” said Harley Wegner.

Wegner has been directing, producing, and acting in local theatre festivals like Fringe for several years. Their play airing this summer, “So You’re Stuck in an Underground Bunker” is a silly portrayal of a queer friend group stuck in a bunker at the end of the world. 

“It’s based on COVID and focuses a lot on queer and trans joy and love, and it puts queer and trans people at the forefront,” she said. 

Themes in this year’s plays include psychics, The Satanic Panic, polygraph tests and much more. 

A progress pride flag is carried through the streets of downtown Ottawa.
Members of the LGBTQ2S+ community carry a large progress pride flag at Capital Pride in Aug. 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

To close out the season, Capital Pride is hosting its biggest festival yet. Held in late August, the festival commemorates the 1971 Queer Canadian We Demand Rally.

The festival kicks off Aug 17 by crowning a Ms., Mr., and Mx. Capital Pride at the annual pageant. 

Returning events include the street festival of 150 community groups, the weekend main stages featuring various artistic talents, family fun activities, and the parade, said executive director, Callie Metler. 

“This year we’ll be doing our drag extravaganza on the main stage, so that’s where you’ll see talent from far and wide–local and national talent,” stated Metler. “We’ll have the big drag performers alongside giving a platform to local drag performers.”

Metler added that party-goers can also look forward to the curated DJ lineups taking over the Somerset Stage, as well as the first-ever sober space with its own DJs and mixologists between August 23 and 25.

For youth and families, Melter suggests swinging by the family picnic at Hintonburg Park or the family zone during the main programming. Activities include face painting, bouncy castles, dancing with Monkey Rock, sitting in on drag storytime, and much more.

The festival comes to an end with a bang on Sunday, August 25, with the biggest pride parade in the province featuring over 250 groups and an expected 12 to 13,000 people. 

A group of gardeners pose in rows for a photo. A cherry blossom tree is in the distance.
A large group of volunteers takes care of the gardens at the Central Experimental Farm. Photo by Charlie Senack. 

A day at the farm 

Whether you’re looking to improve your green thumb or explore Ottawa’s natural beauty, the Central Experimental Farm has something for everyone. 

Director of gardens, Linda McLaren, and vice president, Dianne Caldbick, encourage people to explore nature’s cultural artifacts: the arboretum and ornamental gardens. 

“You can learn a great deal about our horticultural past as you walk through the gardens, and there is something of interest in every season,” said Caldbick. “It’s a lovely place to connect with nature and destress.”

While specialized tours of the grounds are offered throughout the summer, the farm recommends wandering at your own pace and referencing the online brochure on self-guided tours. 

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, a working farm within the Central Experimental Farm, offers tons of family-friendly fun. Fan favourites include petting the sheep,  learning about food in the demonstration kitchen, and becoming a soil scientist in the lab.

Paddle boats parked outside of Dow’s Lake.
Dow’s Lake is a perfect place to go boating this summer. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Summer fun outside of Kitchissippi 

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away, boat tours on the Rideau Canal are both beautiful and educational. Looking to stay closer to home? Boating equipment can be rented at Dow’s Lake — just a few blocks away from Preston Street.

Don’t want to set sail? The annual Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is held at Mooney’s Bay between June 21-23 with live concerts featuring local talent, refreshments from Beyond the Pale and many more vendors. Pop by with friends and family for some fierce paddling competition and sweet tunes, or with the kids to also check out the extensive play equipment. 

Looking for the full Netflix stand-up experience? The Great Outdoors Comedy Festival comes to Ottawa’s Lebreton Flats August 9-11. Invite your buddies or partner, buy your tickets, and laugh the night away under the stars. The event–taking place rain or shine–features an eclectic lineup of comedians including Tom Segura, Jessica Kirson, and Family Feud host Gerry Dee.

A short drive across the river from Kitchissippi is the Hot Air Balloon Festival from August 29 to September 2. Bring the whole family to Parc de la Baie in Gatineau to watch colourful balloons fly across the sky, and stick around for live entertainment, the amusement park, and fireworks. 

A group of people play a game of volleyball.
Beachgoers play a game of volleyball at Britannia Beach. Photo by Aaron Reid.

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