Ready, set, celebrate: 17 Ottawa events for 2017

Ottawa will celebrate 2017 like no other city in Canada with a year-long parade of festivities, sporting events, cultural performances and once-in-a-lifetime attractions.

'Thinking big' is the theme of 2017

Expect bigger crowds, bigger fireworks, bigger everything for Canada's 150th year. (Ottawa2017)

It's time to gear up for a milestone year where the emphasis will be on big, spectacular and unique events.

From major sports events to one-of-a-kind spectacles, the capital's dance card is full of activities of every kind in a 12-month celebration of the nation's 150 birthday. Ottawa is rolling out the welcome mat, making sure that no matter what the season, there's something to enjoy — often for free.

New details, events and surprises are still to be announced, but here, in chronological order, are 17 highlights for the coming year.

1. Tennis, anyone? February

Ottawa will play host next year to Canada's first-round Davis Cup match-up, which may see tennis greats Andy Murray of the U.K. and Canada's Milos Raonic battle it out at Lansdowne's TD Place. The Davis Cup is an annual tournament that pits countries from across the world against each other. Tickets for the match are still available here.

Andy Murray squeaks past Milos Raonic at ATP Finals

7 years ago
Duration 0:58
Murray advances to the final of the ATP Finals, while Raonic will finish the season ranked 3rd

2. Red Bull Crashed Ice: March 3-4

Expect thrills, chills and spills when Red Bull Crashed Ice holds its Ice Cross Downhill World Championship on the locks of the Rideau Canal between Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier Hotel. It's an extreme winter sport that's a mash up of roller derby, speed skating and downhill skiing pursued by winter warriors racing at lightening speed. Free.

Ottawa 2017 Promo for Red Bull Crashed Ice

7 years ago
Duration 0:31
Red Bull Crashed Ice Competition in Ottawa March 3-4

3. March madness for Canada's game

Hockey is celebrating three major milestones in 2017: it's the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, the NHL's centennial, and the Ottawa Senators' 25th hockey season. The celebrations start March 9 with an exhibit of memorabilia, vintage equipment and more at the Canadian Museum of History. Hockey in Canada, More Than Just a Game, runs until October. And the museum will be the location for a March 15 gala to honour the Stanley Cup.

The Governor General David Johnston will welcome the Stanley Cup to Rideau Hall on March 17. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

The next day the famed cup heads to Rideau Hall, where it will sit beneath the official portrait of Canada's sixth governor general, Lord Frederick Stanley, who commissioned the trophy in 1892 before making an appearance at the Abderdeen Pavilion on March 17. The cup will be available for viewing (and selfies) at both Rideau Hall and Lansdowne Park.

And while we're talking about hockey, odds are good that the NHL will hold an outdoor game at TD Place at Lansdowne in December to commemorate the first NHL game played 100 years ago. Watch for an announcement in January.

4. Ottawa Rocks: March 27-April 2

The biggest stars in the Canadian music business are heading to the Canadian Tire Centre on April 2, but in the week leading up to the Juno Awards Ottawa's clubs will be swinging with of all kinds of tunes, as a wide array of contemporary national and local music makers play in venues across the city.

Buffy Sainte-Marie holds her awards at the Juno gala dinner held last year in Calgary. In 2017, the Junos will be held in Ottawa after a week of musical performances across the city. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

5. Rethinking Canadian art: May 

The National Gallery of Canada opens its brand new Canadian Galleries, an extensive journey through the country's creative history that aims to correct historical omissions and highlight a wide range of artistic expression. It's a huge exhibition with more than 1,000 works of art featuring marquee Canadian artists such as Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven and Alex Colville, but also work by Indigenous and contemporary artists.

The new Canadian Galleries at the National Gallery will showcase a larger of selection of Indigenous art, such as this work by Alex Janvier. (Alex Janvier)

6. Inspiration Village: May 20-Sept. 4

Stackable steel sea containers — the kind used to transport goods on ships — are the building blocks of "Inspiration Village", an artistic installation on ByWard Market's York Street. Sea containers are increasingly being reused as durable, cost-effective building materials, and  this project will house a series of free exhibits and performances showcasing Canada's provinces and territories.

Inspiration Village will be constructed from sea containers and act as a hub for art exhibits and performances in the ByWard Market. (Ottawa 2017)

7. A tunnel to the future: mid June 

According to the people behind Kontinuum, the Rideau Street sinkhole wasn't the only glitch that occurred during the construction of Ottawa's LRT. Turns out excavators accidently tapped into a tunnel into the future. That's the science-fiction premise behind the underground multimedia experience of light, sound and special effects created by Moment Factory for the Lyon Street LRT station. It's free to the public, and the first chance most of us will have to get a glimpse of a light-rail station.

Promo for Kontinuum- Ottawa 2017

7 years ago
Duration 0:46
Kontinuum- a multimedia underground excursion in Ottawa LRT Tunnel coming this summer.

8. Canada Scene at the NAC: June 15-July 23

The National Arts Centre will host 1,000 Canadian artists from across the country who are doing notable and creative work in music, comedy, theatre, media arts and literature. Some of the highlights include performances by Rufus Wainright and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and a new opera about Louis Riel.

By July 1, construction at the NAC should be complete and the arts centre will celebrate its grand, glass entrance at 1 Elgin (its recently adopted bilingual address) and a new public space. 

9. Happy 150th, Canada!: July 1

Canada Day festivities haven't been announced yet, but expect a sea of red and white, spectacular fire works and a star-studded concert on Parliament Hill to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. There are even rumours that Prince William and Kate will return to help us celebrate. Watch this space for what are sure to be exciting announcements about how we'll celebrate Canada's sesquicentennial.

Expect bigger crowds and bigger fireworks for Canada Day 2017. (Ottawa2017)

10. The story of Canada: July 1

The Canadian Museum of History opens the doors to its long-awaited, revamped Canada Hall. Unlike the previous Canada Hall, which told the story of Canada beginning with the arrival of the Vikings, the $30-million redevelopment spans 13,000 years from the earliest Indigenous people to the present. 

11. Picnic on the Bridge: July 2 (sold out)

An old-fashioned picnic with a twist: the Royal Alexandra Bridge is the setting for a summery outdoor meal. The bridge will be closed to traffic and covered with sod, providing a lawn-like setting above the Ottawa River. The idea caught the imagination of the National Capital Region, with the event selling out in hours.

The idea for a picnic on the inter-provincial bridge was so popular, tickets are sold out. (Ottawa 2017)

12. Dine in the Sky: July 7-22

If you didn't get a ticket for the bridge picnic but still want to dine in the sky, you're in luck. Sky Lounge employs amusement-park technology to hoist dinner guests 150 feet in the air for a bird's-eye view of the region, while sipping wine and nibbling  tapas — or even enjoying a full meal. Tickets are still available here.

Promo for Sky Lounge Ottawa 2017

7 years ago
Duration 0:24
Dine above the skies of Ottawa in July 2017

13. 17 'epic stunts' for 2017

Take a yoga class set to live music on a barge floating down the Ottawa River. Watch a 4D movie screened on a building rooftop. Impromptu performances in, err, public fountains. These are just a few events that will be part of "Ignite 150," billed as a series of 17 "epic stunts" that will take place throughout the region, throughout the year.

14. Monsters in the streets! July 26-30

A fire-breathing dragon and massive spider will roam the streets of downtown Ottawa in late July. Creations of La Machine, the famed French theatre production company, getting the giant — and frightening  —  human-controlled machines to the capital is considered a major coup for the Ottawa 2017 office. Next year will mark the first time the fire-breathing and water-spraying creatures will invade North America.

Promo for La Machine Ottawa 2017

7 years ago
Duration 0:19
France's La Machine bring their gigantic monster to Ottawa in July

15. Chaudière Falls alive with light and music: September-November

A soundscape evoking the heritage of the Algonquin people will accompany a multi-coloured light show that will put Chaudière Falls in a whole new light. The illuminating experience will include the story of the Indigenous people. A free event.

Chaudière Falls will be bathed in light and serenaded by sound in the autumn of 2017. (Ottawa 2017)

16. Canada Science and Technology Museum re-opens: Nov. 17

It seems all the capital region's museums and galleries have something to offer in 2017. But for the Canada Science and Technology, which closed its doors in 2014, next year will be extra-special as it will reveal its $80.5-million renovation on Nov. 17. Expect interactive, cutting-edge exhibits, as well old favourites such as the Krazy Kitchen and the vintage steam engines.

The science and tech museum will re-open its doors in November, and here's what the main entrance should look like. (Concept drawings courtesy NCC)

17. The Grey Cup: Nov. 26

Ottawa's Redblacks will be the defending CFL champs in 2017 and they'll be looking to repeat their glory on their home turf when the Grey Cup finals comes to TD Place in November. 

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris celebrates his team's Grey Cup victory in 2016. The Redblacks will be looking to defend their title in 2017 when Ottawa hosts the Grey Cup final. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)


Sandra Abma


Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at