Summer Festival Guide: Arboretum Music Festival

Where: Ottawa, Ont.
When: August 18-23

What it is: Festival season in Ottawa is bookended by Bluesfest in July and Folk Fest in early September. Both festivals feature big names with nothing to do with the genre they’re named after. Arboretum takes place in the middle of the summer, lives up to its name (there are lots of trees on the festival grounds) and features the perfect mix of established Canadian indie icons and up-and-comers. The previous two editions of the festival were in one location, but this year the festival has expanded to include more venues around downtown.

Eats and sleeps: If you’re a fan of being close to venues during festivals and like cool things then consider staying at the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel. You sleep in the cell of a former jail and are next to the main stage and festival venue Mugshots, a bar inside the jail. Other nearby options include Barefoot Hostel and Ottawa Backpacker’s Inn.

For the best shawarma in town, check out Shawarma Palace on Rideau St. Our advice however, is to stick with eats at the festival as some of Ottawa’s best chefs are participating in the festival. The Arboretum website also has a great guide for food in the city.

What to wear: Ottawa can be somewhat unpredictable, but better play it safe and prepare for some hot and humid days. Luckily there’s lots of shade around the outdoor venues as trees are plentiful. If you need to duck inside to cool off, cafes and shops are plentiful.

Headliners: The Constantines, Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars,  Chad VanGaalen

Mix Picks: Bosveld are an up-and-coming local band that have diverged from anything sonically that is happening in the scene.

Fresh Snow are an instrumental band from Toronto that take you on a new adventure every song. They were on the Polaris Prize long list this year but should have been on the short list.

Post-punk band Ought put on a weird and wonderful live show and are headed in the right direction.

Mix tip: Secret shows are all the rage at music festivals. Ottawa Showbox are presenting three secret shows on the main festival grounds on Saturday. It’s a good chance to find new music.

Listen: Check out our playlist on Rdio featuring songs from most of this year’s performers.

Matias Munoz of Ottawa Showbox gave us some sweet insider tips and helped us put this festival guide together. 

Photo of Ought: Supplied/Victoria Day

1 Comment

  1. So, last year I tried to get to the Arboretum Fest by biking to the Arboretum.

    I would suggest that perhaps it does not, in fact, live up to its name!

    (Otherwise, a great line up & reasonable price, good variety of venues – I’m into it, I’m just sayin’…Totally not “the arboretum” fest.)

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