Ottawa Bluesfest is a music festival that takes place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada every year. It started as an event solely showcasing blues music, but now there is an equal emphasis on other musical genres like hip hop, rock, reggae, and pop.
The festival began in 1994 as a small music event held in Major's Hill Park. In 1996, the Mitel corporation came on board as a primary sponsor. Ottawa Bluesfest has changed venues within the community over time to accommodate the growing crowds. The festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2003 and attracted over 220,000 people from all over the world.
Artists like Clarence Clemons, John Hiatt, Kanye West, Los Lobos, B.B King, Dixie Chicks, Lady Gaga, Blake Shelton, Dr. John, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foo Fighters have performed at Ottawa Bluesfest in the past.
Thanks to its continued success, Ottawa Bluesfest has grown into a prominent blues music event in Canada and is well-known across North America. In addition to promoting international music artists, proceeds from the festival go toward developing a number of music education initiatives in the Ottawa area. With the Ottawa River nearby, travelers will enjoy adding this event to any RV road trip.
You can select General Admission Day passes, Multi-Day passes or VIP passes. There are various VIP sections to choose from for Ottawa Bluesfest. The prices for tickets start from 60 USD for a General Admission Day pass to over 600 USD for the VIP Club Full Festival Pass.
The tickets are cheaper the sooner you buy them after the start of sales. Once one tier sells out, the next tier will open up for purchase. Children under the age of 9 can enter for free and discounted rates are available for students and young adults. For more information on tickets and pricing, take a look at the festival website.
Summer driving in Ottawa is usually enjoyable and less tricky than in winter. The festival is held at LeBreton Flats Park in downtown Ottawa and is walking distance from Parliament Hill. Driving to the festival grounds may be tricky in a larger vehicle, so park your big rig at your campsite and make your way to the event using public transportation.
Be prepared with passports and documentation for each member in your group before crossing country borderlines. Ottawa sits just along the province border between Ontario and Quebec; keep an eye on road and weather alerts for both regions throughout your trip.
There is very little street parking around the venue, and many of the roads are closed at night. It is prohibited to park your RV on the street. The closest parking option is the underground parking garage of the Canadian War Museum where parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but remember to note the dimensions of your camping setup. Parking may also be found at a few offsite lots which are a 10-14 minute walk away from the venue.
Festival pass holders can ride to and from the venue for free on buses operated by OC Transpo, Ottawa’s public transport agency. Typically the festival organizers also tie-up with a ride-sharing service to offer discounted rates to attendees. Another option is to use one of the local taxi facilities.
Onsite camping or overnight parking is not permitted at the festival venue. Fortunately, there are a number of RV parks and campsites in the Ottawa region.
Travelers to the area will find several campgrounds to choose from within a 40-minute drive, and the facilities available will depend greatly on the size and location of the site. The privately run sites tend to be larger and have additional facilities like full hookups, onsite convenience stores, and even cafes. There are also more affordable ‘back to nature’ campsites. It’s a good idea to carry a supply of “loonies” (one-dollar coins) to pay for the services easily.
Bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, carts, or other personalized motorized vehicles will not be allowed inside the festival grounds. Patrons with disabilities will be allowed to use assistive devices and wheelchairs. Parts of the natural terrain of the site can be challenging to navigate by wheelchair. Assistance will be provided by members of the accessibility volunteer team (A-Team) if needed.
Summer weather will be in full swing, so it’s an excellent opportunity to bring out all your fun, warm weather clothing. Go with classic festival attire like denim cut off shorts and band-related t-shirts. Add a final bit of flair to your outfit with a great pair of sunglasses or a stylish hat.
Some items that can come in handy are sunscreen, binoculars, and a portable charger. It’s a good idea to carry a collapsible chair or a lightweight blanket so you can avoid being on your feet all day. A small amount of food and soft-sided coolers are allowed, so take a few snacks to keep your energy up.
Acquiring a sunburn while on your trip is not something most people wish to experience. So make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat. Ensure that you drink lots of water to stay hydrated and enjoy the festival till the very end. Drinking water stations will be available throughout the venue.
Most campgrounds in the area permit campfires, and you will be able to use a portable grill for cooking. Firewood and basic groceries are available on site at some campgrounds, but these locations may be limited in their offerings. Always check if there is a burn ban in effect in the Ottawa area before lighting a flame. Local authorities may take action if an outdoor fire is lit when a burn ban is in effect.
You’ll come across so much more than delicious Poutine in Ottawa. If you’re on the lookout for good food, there is plenty of culinary exploring to do in Eastern Canada. From upscale fine dining establishments to casual eateries, you’ll find great food at every budget. There are also some great microbreweries and cafes to check out.
Ottawa Bluesfest welcomes vendors selling snacks, meals, and beverages. Make sure you try some of the delicious food on offer, like the fish tacos, vegan rice bowls, vegetable spring rolls, and corn dogs. There will be alcoholic beverages like beer, cocktails, and wine on sale as well.
Preventative measures have been put into effect in recent years to provide a safe environment for guests. Guests will not be able to enter and exit the festival grounds at will per the festival's no re-entry policy. Bags will be checked at the entrances, and you’ll also be required to go through a metal detector.
The festival takes place outdoors and will go on rain or shine. If bad weather is expected, preparations will be made accordingly, and alerts will be issued on the festival’s social media pages. Ottawa city officials may also issue road and weather alerts, so be sure to check for these before starting on your trip.
Paramedics and first aid responders will be on site to provide medical assistance to anyone who needs it. Service animals are permitted, and bags or equipment specifically required for medical purposes will be allowed into the festival. Members of the accessibility volunteer team will be available to provide support and assistance to patrons with disabilities.