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15 Tips To Help You Rock Your Time At The RBC Bluesfest In Ottawa!

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Canada’s capital city is gearing up to host one of North America’s most important music events – RBC Bluesfest 2016!

My love affair with the RBC Bluesfest started way back in 1997, and is still going strong!

RBC Bluesfest “The RBC Bluesfest is one of Canada’s largest outdoor music festivals and is ranked as one of North America’s most important music events.

Over the years, Bluesfest has grown to become the landmark event of the Ottawa summer and one of the top-ten music festivals in the world, according to Billboard Magazine. The ongoing love affair between the ‘fest and its fans continues to this day.”

Although the festival is known for highlighting some of North America’s best blues acts, the RBC Bluesfest is so much more than just the blues. No matter your taste in music, you are sure to discover music you love at this festival!

In fact, part of the RBC Bluesfest’s mandate is “to support and sustain the growth of emerging and diverse musical genres, including the Blues, World Music, Alternative, Rock, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Rap, Folk, Urban, and other forms of music that develop from time to time.”

RBC Bluesfest

The Blues Is Where It’s At

In past years I’ve seen so many great musical acts at the RBC Bluesfest: The Tea Party, Blue Rodeo, Sam Roberts, Nelly Furtado, LIVE, Our Lady Peace, and Styx, just to name a few.

Of course, the blues is where it’s at when it comes to a “blues festival”, and there is never a shortage of spectacular blues bands in the line up. Even blues’ greats like B.B. King have graced the stages of the RBC Bluesfest.

Organizers of the RBC Bluesfest know how to pick the right mix of acts to please everyone – no matter your age! The 2016 festival is no exception. With 5 stages, featuring over 200 acts, even the unknown acts will get you tapping your toes!

This year’s line up has me pretty excited: Billy Idol, John Fogerty, Duran Duran, Paul James, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Monkees, Brad Paisley, City And Colour, Colin Linden, Bryan Ferry, The Cult, Coleman Hell….and 188 more!

So to help you make the most of your RBC Bluesfest experience, I’m offering up some tips that I’ve learned from attending this fabulous festival!

RBC Bluesfest


1.   Water – On a sunny day in Ottawa, in July, it can get HOT – Smokin’ HOT! Standing in the middle of the festival grounds under the hot sun can make you swelter. You need to stay hydrated, so think about bringing your own reusable water bottles which you can fill at the festival filling stations. If you forgot to bring some, you can easily purchase, or find, water on-site. The last time I attended, I found a working water fountain inside the doors of the Canadian War Museum.

2.   Food – Fresh air, sunshine, great music, and lots of walking, will definitely make you hungry. You can bring your own soft-sided cooler filled with snacks or, try one of the many yummy multicultural foods at food stands set up within the festival grounds.

3.   Beer & Popsicles – Nothing cools you down better than a frosty beer and/or a tasty popsicle. Am I right? You’ll find plenty of both at the festival, so bring some cash for these tasty treats. Be sure to note the fabulous compostable beer cups made from corn – just one of the “green” ways the RBC Bluesfest minimizes, and manages, waste at the festival.

4.   Sunscreen – Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen! Sure, you may be able to find the odd bit of shade close to some of the stages at the festival, or under the odd tree by the side of the river but, the majority of the time you’ll find yourself standing out in a field under that hot sunshine. Forget it and you’ll regret it – later!

5.   Clothing & Shoes – Dress according to the weather – which likely means cool clothing for hot temperatures. When it comes to footwear, the festival is not the time to try out your new heels. Comfort is key. Wear shoes that will keep your feet happy while you are walking all over the festival grounds.

6.   Toilets – Inevitably, you’ll have to “go” at some point during your time at the RBC Bluesfest. No worries, the organizers have got you covered – literally! You will find plenty of portable toilets well-situated around the festival grounds. An added bonus – outdoor washing stations where you can wash your hands after!

7.   Lawn Chairs – Not into standing or sitting on the ground while at the festival? No worries. You can bring your own collapsible lawn chair. You’ll find row upon row of lawn chairs set up in front of each stage at the festival. Just make sure your lawn chair doesn’t make you miss out on Tip #12!

8.   Parking – The best way to travel to the festival is to take OC Transpo (especially now that you can ride OC Transpo free to the festival!). If you do wish to drive, parking on nearby streets is very limited, and you still have to walk a few blocks to get to the festival grounds. Want to be assured of a parking spot? You can purchase a parking spot at the Canadian War Museum Parking Garage.

9. Air Conditioning – Speaking of the Canadian War Museum, this great museum is located on-site, in the middle of the festival grounds. Festival attendees are allowed access to this building during the festival, and this air-conditioned building can provide welcome relief to those needing a respite from heat and humidity.

10.   Map & Schedule – You will be provided with an event schedule, and festival map, on-site when you arrive at the festival, however, it helps to have an idea where things are before you arrive. You can consult the RBC Bluesfest map to find out where the various stages are located, food and drink concessions, washrooms, etc.

11. First Aid Stations – The RBC Bluesfest takes the safety of its attendees seriously. If you need assistance for an injury, or assistance for things like heat exhaustion, you’ll find plenty of help at on-site festival first aid stations.

12. Just Dance! – Enjoy your time at the Bluesfest! If you love to dance…dance! With all the fabulous music you’ll be hearing, don’t be afraid to cut loose and move to the music!!

13. CDs/T-Shirts – Bring some cash or your debit or credit card with you to the festival. You just might want to purchase one of the fabulous t-shirts from your favourite performer, or a CD from a brand new act you’ve just discovered while attending the festival.

14. Autographs – One of the things I love about the RBC Bluesfest is the chance to meet the performers and get an autograph and photos with your favourite musicians. Many of the acts at the festival host autograph sessions after their performance. Don’t expect some of the best-known acts to do this, however, have a CD or photo handy – and your mobile phone – just in case one of your faves hosts an autograph session.

15. Rain – What happens if it rains? You get wet! Of course, you can bring a small umbrella with you to the festival, but sometimes, the best concert experience includes rain! I have a great memory of standing in a cooling rain shower listening to Sam Roberts Band at the festival one summer!

RBC Bluesfest

Here are a few additional tips, things you should consider bringing with you to the festival, courtesy of the RBC Bluesfest website:

What to bring:

  • Cell phones (they have charging stations!)
  • Soft-sided coolers; snacks
  • Sealed water bottles or empty reusable water bottles (they have filling stations!)
  • Small backpacks, bags, and purses. Small = not massive camping gear
  • Blankets and beach towels, sunscreen, hoodies or rain ponchos
  • Personal cameras without removable lenses. See Camera Policy for details
  • Small collapsible lawn chairs
  • Medication in its original packaging with matching photo ID
  • Umbrellas (small handheld ones – no patio, golf, or beach umbrellas please)
  • Baby strollers (for kids)

Come for the music but, don’t leave without checking out some of the Bluesfest’s on-site attractions!

The 2016 RBC Bluesfest is happening July 7-17th at Lebreton Flats in Ottawa. Just a short drive from Montreal, Kingston, and only 5 hours from Toronto, this festival is worth the drive! Get your tickets now!

For more information about the festival, be sure to like the RBC Bluesfest on Facebook, and follow the RBC Bluesfest on Twitter and on Instagram.






Disclosure: Canadian Blog House will be receiving access to the RBC Bluesfest in exchange for this post. All opinions are our own.




  1. December 23, 2016


    Planned to visit the festival but my work schedule changed at the last minute… And I’m still so sorry about it. Friends who had been there were just delighted. Not just because of good music but also because of the high level of organisation.
    Great that everybody who wants could follow this on Bluesfest Instagram page!
    The most I wanted to see the performance of Red hot chili peppers tour. They are planning a grand RHCP tour 2017 so I hope to get to their concert in NYC. They plan to visit Ottawa only in June. Too long to wait.

    • February 21, 2017


      Hope you get to the festival in 2017, Tyler, and I certainly hope you got to see RHC in NYC! We saw them for a short bit at the Bluesfest but, it was SO crowded there, we did not stick around too long. I had never see such a huge crowd at the festival as I did that night!

  2. June 10, 2016


    you’ve got a wonderful post. I love the list

    • June 13, 2016


      Thanks so much, wifimama! I’m glad you find it helpful! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. June 3, 2016

    Linda Cassidy

    great summary. I volunteered at the Bluesfest backstage over the past ten years. This year I am not but you have summarized the top 15 very well

    • June 3, 2016


      Thanks so much, Linda! Well I bet the volunteering was a great experience! Thanks for stopping by!

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