Neither my husband or I had ever attended the Tim Horton's Ottawa Dragon Boat festival (despite our best intentions) but we decided this was going to be the year. The event starts on Friday evening and runs right through until Sunday night. Over the course of 2 and a half days there are multi-cultural activities and events, live music, roving entertainment, and of course, dozens of teams competing in the races. There's even a children's area, which this year included performances by an illusionist, Little Ray's Reptiles, Radical Science, and a visit from Spartacat.
This year the festival raised over $320,000 for several local charities, including the Sens Foundation, CHEO foundation, Bruyere Foundation, ArtsSmarts, The Ottawa Humane Society, University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, and Debra Dynes Family House.
We parked at Canada Post (for free) and then walked over to Mooney’s Bay (about 15 minutes). There are several off-site parking locations that are connected to the festival by OC Transpo Shuttle bus.
Clearly we missed out on a lot of the fun of the festival since we were there before noon and didn’t stick around for the beer tent or live music but we did partake in the family-friendly activities, which is what this blog is all about.
We started our day at Mooney's Bay beach, which is right beside a giant shaded play ground. The highlight for the boys was throwing sticks into the water and wading into the waves as they watched the boats race by. It was a great place to watch the races from: we could see the boats heading out to the starting line and then watch them race to the finish line. And because there are so many heats you don’t have to wait long for the action to start.
We strolled through the staging area where all the teams wait and line up for their turn in one of the massive boats. We wanted a closer look at the dragons! It was impressive to watch all the teams waiting in a huge line that snakes all through the staging area. Even the boys were silenced by all the cheering and singing as people prepared for their races.
The Kid's Zone featured bouncy castles, soccer equipment, a stage for music and shows, face painting, and balloons. Because the park turns into a veritable tent city for the weekend, it was nice to have a kid-friendly area that was fenced off and easily accessible to families.