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How to enjoy the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival more

Collectively, your OttawaJazzScene.ca editors have attended the festival for more than 45 years. Over that time, we've noticed a few mistakes new listeners often make, and a few questions they often ask. So you don't have to learn from experience, or find someone to ask, here's some hints on how to enjoy the festival more.

Lineups

With more of the top jazz artists inside than out, it's not going to be the same jazz festival for fans this year. In particular, you'll need to be at concerts earlier and line up more.

If you have a Gold Pass, that only guarantees your spot at an NAC Studio or Fourth Stage concert if you're in line 15 minutes in advance. Don't be late.

If you need to get to two concerts in a row, you may be running real fast through the NAC! If the second concert is in the same venue, you will still have to line up again.

There is a park gate on the stage side of the park, near the Gold Circle tent, that leads you to a ramp that goes directly up to the NAC, and closest to the Studio entrance. This could save you precious time walking over.

If you only have a Bronze pass or a volunteer badge, you may not get into every inside concert you want to see unless you buy a ticket. Checking the Jazz Festival's online ticket page is a good way of judging demand: so far Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman, Vijay Iyer, and Christian McBride are the tickets most in demand.

It's probably best not to let your expectations get too specific: there's enough to see you should find something good to hear. Sometimes the surprises are the most interesting.

Security

For the remainder of the festival, you're still not officially allowed to take pictures or record video in the park or at concerts, but there won't be the intense level of security that you experienced for the Robert Plant concert.

Put your name on your pass

Label your Gold Pass or your Bronze wristband with your name and your phone number (for example, using an indelible marker). That way, if you drop it, it might get returned to you.

Outside, stay warm

Layering is your friend. It may be shorts weather in the afternoon and early evening, but at night, when you're sitting for several hours outside in the park, it  feels a lot colder than the advertised temperature, especially if it's damp. Bring a jacket or a sweatshirt or sweater, and sweat pants or a blanket to cover your shorts. You really can't enjoy the music if you're shivering.

Stay Dry

Ottawa weather at the end of June/beginning of July is unpredictable – even by the weather forecasters. You need to hope for good weather, but  prepare for rain. that means bringing an umbrella to huddle under in heavy rain, plus a water-resistant jacket and possibly rain pants (which can also keep you warm if it doesn't rain). Sitting on a lawn-chair also keeps you away from any soggy ground. Choose clothes that will dry quickly, if possible.

Stay Hydrated

On hot, windy days, you can get dehydrated and overheated without even realizing it. Bring a water bottle  and if necessary refill it at the water fountains in the Park or from the refrigerated fountains at City Hall. If it's hot and bright out, wear a hat, and get up and take a break in the shade. Drink regularly: heat stroke and lack of water can overtake  you without you realizing it.

Stay Fed

You can bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks for a nice picnic in the park, or buy from the park food vendors or local restaurants. Please remember to put any garbage in the cans provided. Otherwise a volunteer will have to clean up after you in the dark late at night when they'd really rather be listening to music or sleeping.

And remember the lessons of "Super Size Me": you can't stay healthy and full of energy if you just eat fries and fast food. Channel your mother and eat your veggies and fruit and other healthy food.

Don't get burned

If you're outside in Confederation Park in the afternoon sun, you need sunscreen to avoid getting burned – even if it's cloudy out.

Get enough sleep

There's no point in nodding off during a much-anticipated concert because you're sleep-deprived after five straight late nights.

Be Nice

  • Please don't smoke in the park: everyone's too close together.
  • Try to keep your chair in line with others so it's easy for others to get to their chairs.
  • Don't take more space for your chair than is reasonable. For popular concerts, assume that's really tight together.
  • Especially if you're really tall, try to place your chair so that you don't block the view of the fans immediately behind you.
  • Try not to bump others with your umbrella.
  • While the musicians are playing, don't talk on your cell-phone, and avoid talking to your friends, or do it at the back of the park.

Extra programs

In the park, ask at the Box Office tents for a printed program. Programs are also available at locations across Ottawa (especially music stores). You can also see the lineup at OttawaJazzScene.ca/news/2369-2011-ottawa-jazz-festival-lineup-whats-on . Don't forget the festival app. if you have an iphone.

Rental chairs

You can rent a chair for the night at the Souvenirs booth in Confederation Park (near the Laurier Avenue entrance). You'll be asked for $15. $10 will be refunded when you return the chair.

Lost and Found

Ask at the Souvenirs tent or the Box Office tent in the park.

Access to Concerts and the Park

Access to indoor concerts is generally about 30 minutes before the start, but lineups for popular shows can start an hour before that. Ticket-holders have first priority, followed by Gold Pass-holders, then Bronze Pass holders and volunteers. Access to the main stage area in Confederation Park starts at 4:30 p.m. or after the artists finish their sound  checks. There may be a line-up to get in the park to get the best seats.

No-no's

  • Do not bring your own alcohol. You can buy wine, beer, and cider in the park.
  • Do not bring dogs (except for seeing-eye dogs). The National Capital Commission doesn't allow them in Confederation Park.
  • Unless you have media accreditation, do not take photos, make videos, or record audio for main-stage or indoor concerts.

Staying on-line

The Festival says: "There will be WiFi but there's no guarantee it will work - we've brought it in for the last two years but it's very unreliable."

Washrooms

The porta-potties in the park sometime attract long lineups and can be unpleasant. A more comfortable alternative is the ground-floor washrooms at City Hall. Enter via the Laurier Avenue entrance. Immediately turn left and then left again, just past the elevators. To get to the handicapped washroom, turn left and then right.

Coffee

Several park food vendors sell coffee, but on cold evenings you may have a long wait. Several coffee chains have downtown locations:

  • Bridgehead (Queen at Metcalfe). Open until 9 p.m.
  • Starbucks (Elgin at Laurier, Slater at Metcalfe, Rideau at Sussex inside Chapters, Laurier and O'Connor) The Chapters location is open until 10 p.m.
  • Tim Horton's (Laurier between Elgin and Metcalfe, Slater at Metcalfe)
  • Second Cup (Slater at Metcalfe, Elgin at Lisgar)

Warning: some off-site coffee shops stay open until 9 or 10 p.m., but most close as early as 7 p.m., and earlier on weekends.

Fast Food

Downtown there are many sandwich shops and a fast food court at the Rideau Centre and World Exchange Centre, but some are only open weekdays during the day. Your best bet outside the park for a quick bite is the Rideau Centre food court, or the cluster of fast food shops on Bank Street near Slater. For a sweet tooth fix, we also recommend the Brownloaf Bakery and the Boko Bakery on Elgin Street south of Somerset (generally open  into the evening).

Ice-Cream

If the line-ups in the park are too long, you can try Pure Gelato (350 Elgin south of Somerset, or 71 William in the Market), Lois N' Frima's (71 George Street in the Market), or Piccolo Grande (55 Murray Street near Sussex in the Market).

Sit-down restaurants

There's a wide variety of sit-down restaurants fairly near the park. Most are clustered on or near Elgin Street, Bank Street, Laurier  Avenue, Somerset Street West, or in the ByWard Market. Some restaurants also feature jazz: see our Upcoming Shows listings.

Get away

Sometimes it's OK to admit that you're overloaded with sitting outside. Go and hear some of the jazz that's happening around the city! Check our listings for jazz and improvised music events all year long.

And enjoy yourself! The eleven days go very fast!

Did we miss something? Please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with your tips so we can make a great list.

    – Alayne McGregor