Heading into the glorious month of July, how many of you are actively avoiding checking your bank balance? Anyone doing that delicate dance where you keep swiping your debit card in reckless abandon, wondering which transaction will finally spit back the dreaded 'declined' message?
Trust me, I get you. We all got overly ambitious about patio drinks in that first week of warm weather. We all thought it was fine to hit up Pure Gelato twice a week, or buy your friends a round because you're just a good human being.
Not to worry, though because we've done the unthinkable: found things you can do that are both free, and fun. I get that you might be skeptical; 'free' and 'fun' rarely, if ever, appear in the same sentence. But I assure you, it can be done; give your wallet a break, dry your tears, and indulge in some seriously enjoyable experiences, sans cash.
1. Take part in the Coors Light Games at Cabin on Canada Day
If you've done downtown Ottawa on Canada Day in the past, you know how bars unfortunately hike up their prices for drinks and door cover. If you're fed up with this kind of unfair treatment, head to The Great Canadian Cabin for some beer-infused games. Register in advance to secure your spot.
2. Watch the free concert on Parliament Hill for Canada Day
Without a doubt, the Hill is the place to be on Canada Day. Us Ottawans sometimes take for granted how lucky we are to live in Canada's capital on this special day, and there's no reason not to take advantage of it. Hang out at Parliament Hill and listen to some great Canadian acts to celebrate.
3. Or see the free concert at Major's Hill Park on Canada Day
This is my personal favourite spot to watch live music on Canada Day. It's a little less packed than Parliament Hill, and overall, it's a more intimate concert experience. The performers here, though lesser known than on the Hill, are just as talented and worth your time.
4. See and experience Ottawa's Indigenous communities in Major's Hill Park on Canada day
If you're downtown, it's not all about the shows and fireworks; there are real opportunities to engage with something exciting that you might not see every day. This includes Indigenous groups, particularly the Algonquin peoples, who will be showcasing their traditional dance, dress, drumming and other cultural actives in Major's Hill Park during the day.
5. Visit any national museum at no charge on Canada Day
Anyone who thinks museums are uncool has never been to the beautiful Museum of Nature, or seen any exhibit at the Museum of Civilization. If you've been looking for a chance to visit some of these museums but haven't had the time or money, Canada Day is the perfect opportunity. You don't have to spend the whole day there, but if you're on your way downtown, it's worth a quick stop off.
Facebook (Museum of Nature)
Facebook (Museum of Civilization)
Photo cred - Arlington Five
6. Attend the Working For Food open house at Arlington Five
Arlington Five is the trendiest coffee shop in Ottawa right now, so this free event is a great chance to get acquainted with this place if you haven't already. A group called Edible Ottawa will be showcasing photography from artists associated with the Working For Food project - a great way to support a good cause and see some beautiful art. Check it out on Wednesday, July 6th.
Photo cred - The Puzzled Pint
7. Bend your brain at a Puzzled Pint event
Trying to do a challenging puzzle while sober is difficult enough - try it after a few beers, and you'll see why this event keeps people coming back again and again. The Puzzled Pint runs these events every second Tuesday at various bars in the region; try it out on Tuesday, July 12th.
Photo cred - mckennabebee
8. Have a picnic at Nepean Point or on Victoria Island.
These two spots are some of the most beautiful places in the city, and if you haven't had a chance to really hang out there yet, July is the perfect time to do so. Be a tourist in your own city and take cheesy photos at either of these locations.
9. Check out some local art galleries.
While the National Art Gallery is always an awesome place to visit, tickets can get pricey depending on what is on display. However, smaller, local galleries offer free admission, such as the Karsh-Masson Gallery. Different, new art collections are always in rotation, so look into something you might like and go for it.
10. Relax on the beach at HOPE Volleyball Festival (rather than actually playing)
Honestly, I do this every year and every year, I have a great time. While playing on a team can be fun, just the atmosphere of the festival, which you can take in for totally free, is enjoyable on its own. Stroll around, cheer on your friends, or lie back on the sand, and you'll be just as much part of the action as the person volleying next to you. Hit the beach July 16th.
11. See the new 'Northern Lights' show at Parliament Hill
Starting on July 9th, the Parliament Hill sound and light show will feature a new edition known as 'Northern Lights,' an homage to all things that make this Northern nation great. If you've never been to any of the sound and light shows, this is a great opportunity to be awed by this totally free spectacle.
12. Try salsa dancing on Spark's Street
On July 6th, the Capital Street Food Association and Salsa @ City Hall are teaming up to bring you the perfect twosome there could be: food and salsa dancing. Food, you have covered, no problem. But salsa dancing? That's to be determined. While the delicious eats from the food trucks aren't free, attending and trying salsa is - it's time to bring out your best moves.
13. Go to an outdoor movie screening.
This is honestly one of the best things about summer in Ottawa. We're lucky enough to have Centretown Movies, which screens films in various parks throughout the city, as well as the radio station Majic 100.3, which also facilitates outdoor screenings. Not sure where to start? The movie Zootopia is being screened at the Kitchissippi Lookout in Westboro on July 22nd - sounds like the perfect Friday night, if you ask me.
14. Do karaoke at Britannia Beach.
On July 20th, for one night only, you can make a total idiot of yourself for free. Sounds like exactly what you're looking for, right? Right. When it comes to good, solid entertainment, karaoke never fails. Join Daisy Train Karaoke at the beautiful setting of Britannia beach for a night that will make you cringe at yourself for years to come.
15. Do yoga on Parliament Hill.
Are you tired of hearing about yoga on the hill yet? Me too, and I haven't even participated. All jokes aside, a list of free things to do in this city wouldn't be complete without mentioning this Lululemon community event. The classes are for all levels, so don't worry if you're a beginner. And if you mess up, so what - when else will you get to make a fool of yourself directly on the property of this country's head government buildings? The next session is Wednesday, July 6th.
16. Play pool at the Cue'n Cushion
Two options here depending on how broke you truly are: you can go inside and watch your friends play, which is free, or pay a nominal fee of $2 to actually shoot some pool. If you choose the former option, no judgement - this list is meant for you, after all. This pool hall and bar sits right above the nightclub Babylon, and the relaxed ambiance is perfect for a low-key Friday night.
17. Get a sailboat ride for free at the Aylmer Marina
Ok, so I know that Aylmer isn't technically in Ottawa, but it's about the same distance from downtown as Orleans, so let's be real here. Besides, this free event is just too good to pass up. As part of the "fête du nautisme" (boating festival) taking place this month, on July 9th and 10th, officials at the Aylmer Marina will take you on their supposedly famed sailboat called the "Namastar". It's the perfect way to pretend you're rich and fabulous while you're actually broke and looking for a quasi-vacation.
18. Hang out at the Ottawa Lebanese Festival.
Cultural festivals are always a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening. But let's dispel one common, frustrating myth: you do not need to be Italian, German, Irish, or in this case, Lebanese, to attend a festival honouring a specific culture. These events are about celebrating heritage, tradition, and community, and everyone is welcome. Alright. Rant over.
The Lebanese festival is a great time, from the incredible food, performances, and fun atmosphere, this is definitely worth your time. It's from July 20th-24th, and admission is free, but, unfortunately, the shawarmas are not. Either way, the ambiance itself is something to marvel at.
19. Do some paint therapy on Parliament Hill
If you've never tried paint therapy or don't know what it is, now is the time to try it. This free event on the hill takes place on July 24th, and all you need to do is show up - organizers will have all the paint supplies you need. Not only is this a fun way to get out of your comfort zone, but it supports a great cause: encouraging awareness about mental health and art therapy.
20. Be a part of Bytown Days
This event, beginning on July 30th, is the perfect way to close out the month. Bytown Days are centred around a celebration of the Rideau Canal, the pride of Ottawa and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There will be heritage talks and tours, boating events, entertainment, and most importantly, food. Embrace what makes Ottawa great, pose for a cheesy tourist photo, and take advantage of this annual festival.
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