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Things We Love About Ottawa: Banners on Confederation Boulevard

The Ontario banner by Alex Cameron. Photo credit: NCC.

When walking or driving along Confederation Boulevard, look skyward to see some stunning art. Every summer, the National Capital Commission installs banners along this ceremonial route to pay tribute to the Canadian experience. This year’s banners feature the works of 13 Canadian artists who have captured the personality and beauty of this country’s landscapes, with each banner commemorating a province or territory. Images range from people on the beach in New Brunswick to the mountainous terrain of British Columbia and everything in between. Past banners along this stretch of road have showcased flowers, flags, symbolic landmarks, and architecture unique to each province or territory, while commemorative banners have recognized important anniversaries and milestones in Canada’s history. Most recently, the banners honoured the 400th anniversary of Québec City (2008), as well as the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (2009), and the Canadian Navy Centennial (2010). The current banner series will be on view until mid-October, so make sure to keep an eye out for these colourful works of art that tap into what it means to be a Canuck.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for July 22 to 24

Elaborate costumes are part of the fun at Odyssey Theatre.

Friday, July 22
Odyssey Theatre‘s annual Theatre Under the Stars production celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Players take to the stage of an open-air theatre to present The Fan by Carlo Goldoni – a comedy about misconceptions, gossip, meddling, and intrigue. The real joy, though, comes form the fantastical costumes worn by the actors, the bizarre masks, and the stunning set.

Classic flicks, recent blockbusters, and family films are all on offer at the Centretown Movies Outdoor Film Festival, which kicks off this weekend and runs until Aug. 13. Give date night a lift by grabbing snacks and laying out a blanket on the grass of Dundonald Park. Every Friday and Saturday night the festival will screen a movie at 9pm, starting with Eat, Pray, Love and Despicable Me.

Saturday, July 23
People from all communities are invited to Festival Haïti en Fête, a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of Haiti. Highlights include a Caribbean band and other local and international performers, children’s activities, Caribbean food, a barbecue, a soccer tournament, and more. The event begins on Friday night with a dance party, followed by entertainment and sports for the family on Saturday (and another dance party Saturday night!), plus cultural sports and activities on Sunday.

The Urban Art Show is a juried event showcasing the original offerings of local artists and artisans. This year’s show puts emphasis on the “urban” element, with photography, new media, graphic design, live graffiti art, a DJ, an interactive art tent in conjunction with the Ottawa Art Gallery, and more. (more…)

Hot Dining: Sushi in the ByWard Market

There's something for every taste at Wasabi.

Wasabi’s elegant dining room is a resplendent oasis in the bustling ByWard Market. With more than 300 items on the menu at this Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, deciding what to order can be a challenge. We suggest their signature shrimp-tempura roll, or the original Spezza Salmon Special conceived by Wasabi-frequenter — and Ottawa Senators’ player — Jason Spezza. Relax in a booth, or schmooze in the lounge, but be sure to stroll past the sushi-creation station where you can see the experts craft each delicious piece. 41 Clarence St., 613-241-3636.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for July 15 to 17

The Lion King comes to Ottawa. Photo credit: ©Disney, photo: Joan Marcus.

Friday, July 15
It’s opening weekend for Lion King, the Disney adventure that has been part of childhood memories ever since Mufasa told Simba about the circle of life. More than 40 actors bring the African tundra to life in the Tony Award-winning Broadway version of this story about the animal kingdom, which is on at the National Arts Centre from July 14 to Aug. 7. Listen for classic songs like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John and Tim Rice, as well as tunes exclusive to the theatrical production.

Ottawa-born comic John Hastings records his first DVD this weekend at Yuk Yuk’s @ The Prescott. Wouldn’t it be cool to be a part of the career of an up-and-coming stand-up comedian? One who started his career doing improv at Nepean High School? Working in Montreal for the past five years, Hastings has been nominated twice as the XM Canada’s Next Top Comedian — in fact, he’s the only person to be nominated twice — and won the Just For Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition last year. Fingers crossed he does his bit about his stint as a telemarketer (check it out on his website) when he performs on Friday and Saturday night.

HOPE Volleyball Summerfest takes over Mooney's Bay. Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism.

Saturday, July 16
Each year, more than 25,000 players and spectators head to HOPE Volleyball Summerfest to bump, smash, and dig their way to v-ball glory (or just to cheer and check out some hard bodies). With this year’s concert line-up featuring Tokyo Police Club and local band The Balconies, as well as a verified attempt to name 2011 the “Largest One Day Volleyball Event in the World” by The Guinness Book of World Records, this is sure to be one heck of a party. And with proceeds going to local charities, you can feel even better about your day of fun in the sun. Registration for playing is sold out, but spectators are free to watch (non-registered participants must purchase a wristband to access the HOPE amphitheatre for concerts, $25). (more…)

Hot Shopping: Flip Flops by Gisele

The Hot Sands collection.

You may not have grown up on the beaches of Brazil like Gisele Bündchen, but now you can feel like you did with the glamazon’s Hot Sands collection of flip flops by Ipanema. These colourful sandals are made with unique anatomic soles that mold to the feet, plus they come from 100 per cent recycled materials. Slip on a pair to make the streets of Ottawa your catwalk. $35-$40; $30 for kids and babies. Available at Town Shoes in the Rideau Centre, 50 Rideau St., 613-233-4554, and St. Laurent Centre, 1200 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-744-8884.

Hot Attraction: Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill

Stunning visuals highlight Canada's story. Photo credit: NCC/CCN.

This summer, Parliament Hill is the site of a powerful and fascinating performance about the physical, historical, and cultural landscapes of Canada in the Sound and Light Show: Mosaika. The Peace Tower and Centre Block make a formidable projection screen at 143 metres long and six storeys high. Music, narration, and stunning visual effects outline the people, values, and achievements of our nation. Bring the whole family, a blanket or some lawn chairs, and settle in for an unforgettable journey through this free, nightly, one-of-a-kind show.

The Bluesfest Experience

Hot summer sun, thousands of cheering fans, and five outdoor stages make for a spectacular concert-going adventure. Here is WHERE’s day-by-day walk through of some of the 2,000 blues, R&B, soul, gospel, pop, world, and rock musicians taking the stage at this year’s Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest.
By Misa Kobayashi.

Tegan & Sarah

Opening day of the festival kicks off with a bang (as it should!) with the 13-piece psychedelic indie band Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Beloved Canadian duo Tegan and Sara follow up with their catchy folk-rock, playing at the same time as the The Flaming Lips (who put on a heck of a show last year).

Today offers an awesome sequential line-up between two of the main stages. First up is the reggae-influenced pop of Canadian band Bedouin Soundclash on the MBNA Stage, followed by the hip hop and live instrumentation of The Roots (now the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) on the Claridge Homes Stage. After that, head back to the MBNA Stage to close down the night with the laid back, acoustic funk of singer/songwriter Ben Harper.

Our top three picks for today offer totally different sounds. Check out the rock and roll boogie of The Sheepdogs; this Canadian band is one of two unsigned acts in a Rolling Stone competition who are vying for the magazine’s cover and a recording contract. Girl Talk is also playing, pumping out dance tracks that sample hit songs, which have made him a leader in the mash-up generation. The Steve Miller Band rounds out the night with fan favourites like “The Joker.”

Wanda Jackson

Start off with a performance by Wanda Jackson, the 70-something Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and “Queen of Rockabilly,” whose famous fans have included everyone from Elvis Presley to Jack White. We also recommend the sexy, bluesy rock and roll of The Black Keys.

Starting today at noon, the festival boasts a line-up of shorter shows in a variety of genres, giving you a great bang for your buck and a sure fire bet you’ll discover someone new to add to your iPod. Big names for the evening performances include Erykah Badu and The Tragically Hip.

Grammy Award-winning Peter Frampton lights up the stage with his incredible guitar skills. His stop at Bluesfest will serve up songs from Frampton Comes Alive!, which is one of the top-selling live records of all time. Equally nostalgia-inducing are the ’80s pop anthems of Huey Lewis & the News.


Weekend Roundup: Special Canada Day Edition

In honour of Canada’s 144th birthday, we’ve rounded up an assortment of activities that get you in on the action, whether you’re looking for one day, or a whole weekend, of fun. Happy Canada Day!

Parliament Hill is just one place to celebrate Canada Day this weekend. Photo credit: NCC/CCN.

Friday, July 1
Everyone knows downtown is the place to be if you want to be in the thick of things, and everyone should experience Canada Day on the Hill at least once. Today, some of the highlights include the pageantry of the Changing of the Guard, the noon show, featuring the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, plus musical acts from across the country, and an evening show with plenty of live entertainment. Major’s Hill Park and Jacques-Cartier Park are good places to take the family, with activities that include a VIA miniature train, kite flying, an outdoor sculpture gallery, an international village, a Great Canadian Chicken BBQ, dance classes, fireworks, and — we can’t even believe we’re saying this — so much more!

Located right downtown, the National Arts Centre will be hosting an array of activities that are fun for the whole fam. If you need a breather from carousing on Parliament Hill, head here for some free fun that includes storytelling, breakdance performances by Culture Shock, music by the NAC Orchestra and 250 choiristers, plus entertainment by the Ottawa Stilt Union.

Earning a visit on the Royal Tour, you know the Canadian War Museum has serious cred. While Wills and Kate will stop by here on July 2 for a private function for veterans, there’s plenty of fun programming to be had on Canada Day for the country’s grand fete. Activities include military marches and highland tunes with the museum’s “wandering piper,” temporary tank tattoos for the kids, lectures about battlefield medicine, and more. Even better? For today only admission is free.

The National Gallery of Canada sure knows how to throw a party: Local ogranization Fresh Beat will be pumping up the jams on the plaza with techno and house music in the outdoor amphitheatre. This day of electronic music will feature well-known DJs from the region, such as Akash, Yan Larouche, Dr. Phil, Martin Diotte, Chris Falardeau, Jason Jesse, and Steve Martin. Also on site will be a barbecue and gelato, plus it’s the perfect place to grab a prime seat for the fireworks show at 10pm. (more…)

Hot Date: Canada Day Gets the Royal Treatment

Canada Day on Parliament Hill. Photo credit: NCC/CCN.

If there was ever a year to head to the capital to celebrate Canada Day this July 1, this is it! Not only is there a jam-packed line-up of entertainment (Sam Roberts and Great Big Sea being two names of note), but also the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be taking part in the noon show on Parliament Hill as part of their first official overseas trip as newlyweds. Other activities happening throughout the day at Major’s Hill Park and Jacques Cartier Park include dance performances, a slam-dunk show, kite-flying, and a DJ party, topped off with the spectacular fireworks show at night. So don your red and white clothes, paint a maple leaf on your face (whether you’re Canadian or not), and get ready to wish Canada a big, royal 144th birthday.

Hot Attraction: Sparks Street Mall

Sparks Street Mall. Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism.

With Sparks Street Mall getting extra attention with the International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off (taking place now until June 26), it’s time to give this unique outdoor mall its due. Just a block away from Parliament Hill, Sparks Street Mall is a bustling pedestrian haven. With boutiques, patio cafés, and restaurants, the five-block promenade has something for everyone. Sip a local brew on a patio and enjoy the predominant public art displays, or find that unique treasure on a shopping expedition. Keep your schedule open to make a trip here during the International Busker Festival from July 28 to Aug. 1.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for June 24 to 26

The International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off on Sparks Street.

Friday, June 24
Meat lovers, prepare yourselves: The International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off is back for another year at Sparks Street Mall. Running June 22 to 26, this all out meat festival serves up chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and ribs, all slathered in an array of tasty, tangy sauces. Crowds descend on the mall at lunch time (beckoned by the smell), so head on over (with napkins in hand) for lunch, dinner, or just a snack. Teams from Canada and the United States compete for the top rank of best rib choice, best rib sauce, best chicken choice, and best chicken sauce.

Saturday, June 25
Just when you thought Ottawa couldn’t get any more festivals, FeverFest was born. This brand new independent music festival in Old Ottawa South will showcase a diverse crop of immensely talented Ottawa musicians. Headlining the event is the Goodluck Assembly, and you can also expect the “2009 Online World Beatboxing Champion” Julia Dales (who’s performed for Ellen Degeneres), The Murder Plans, the White Wires, ACRES, Monobrow, Brendan Flynn and the Terrible Liars, and Winchester Warm.

JF Robitaille plays the Raw Sugar Café.

In advance of JF Robitaille‘s debut LP Calendar (which comes out July 5), the Montreal singer/songwriter’s making the rounds at stages in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. He performs tonight at Raw Sugar Café. His style is perfect coffee house music — straddling the line between sweet and melancholy, folk and pop — which has earned him supporting sets for names such as Julie Doiron, The Dears, and Sean Lennon.

The Once Upon a Slam Finals are tonight, with the top eight story slammers from the year competing for the crown and to be named the first-ever Ottawa story slam Grand Champion. For those unfamiliar with “slams,” they are open sign-up competitions where the performers tell a narrative within a certain time limit (no reading from a paper!), and are scored by members of the audience. Ottawa’s monthly story slam series is held the fourth Friday of every month at the Mercury Lounge, and it all comes down to tonight when the top story slammers go head to head. (more…)

Hot Art: Caravaggio Comes to Canada

Photo credit: Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi Da), “The Musicians", 1595, oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

From June 17 to Sept. 11, “Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome” will be showing exclusively in Canada at the National Gallery of Canada. The major exhibition explores the artist’s unique and provocative style and showcases works from the Baroque period that will debut for the first time in this country. The exhibit also displays pieces by other great European artists whom Caravaggio influenced. His tableaux, painted during his time in Rome, are inspired by mythology and religion and will be hung beside the art of his followers.