Ottawa, IL - The Middle of Everywhere

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Summertime in Ottawa is full of exciting events and opportunities for everyone. Whether you’re having a get-together with friends, enjoying a day with the family, or needing some quality “me time,” Ottawa has got you covered! Here are just a few ways for you to experience all that Ottawa has to offer.

– Take a trip aboard the Sainte Genevieve

The Ste. Genevieve is one of Ottawa’s newest attractions. This charming riverboat offers the classic experience of a riverboat cruise, but reimagined for the modern era. Guests can book a wide variety of different cruises that will take you up or down the river. Sightseeing tours, lunch or dinner tours with a fully stocked bar, historical tours, and more are offered to any perspective voyagers! Plus, the food selection is curated from local businesses, so you can enjoy a meal and scenery that truly encapsulates what the area has to offer.

– Kick back and relax with Music in the Park

Music in the Park is a perfect opportunity to relax outdoors while listening to music. This free concert series fuses musical elements of classic rock, country, and contemporary that will make you feel as if you’re traveling through time. Located in historic downtown Ottawa, Washington Park offers the perfect backdrop for such a journey. Feel free to bring a lawn chair, lay out a blanket, or take a seat on a park bench. Aussem Dogs and other food vendors will be at every concert. The 2024 Music in the Park series takes place every Saturday from June 22nd to August 31st, from 6 to 8pm. Stop by city hall or the Visitors Center for the full list of artists and vendors.

– Events, events, and more events!

Here in Ottawa, we take our summers very seriously (but not too seriously). That’s why with our wide variety of summer activities, there’s something for everyone. Here is just a few possible choices for you to choose from!

  • We the People: A traveling museum exhibit comes to town on July 1st and will be holding a grandopening on July 6th. The Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn is generously sharing this exhibit with us. It serves to educate younger generations about the lasting impacts of 9/11. The centerpiece of the exhibit is two beams recovered from the north tower of the World Trade Center. They are complimented by the Talk-Back Star Table, which encourages children to think and communicate about about helping out their community. The exhibit will be available starting July 6th Monday – Friday | 8:30am – 4:30pm
    Saturday | 10am – 3pm until July 31st.
  • Drinkin’ with Lincoln: The lovechild of our famed Brewfest and Winefest, we introduce to you the inaugural Ottawa’s Brew Fest “Drinkin‘ With Lincoln” as part of Friendship Days at Washington Square Park! The festivities kick off on Saturday, July 27 from 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM and continue on Sunday, July 28 from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Enjoy two days of live music featuring performances by Dan Hubbard, 80s Bush, The Beatelles, Rosie and the Rivets, Aaron Kelly, and The David Hilliker Trio. Savor delicious food from vendors like Bertha’s, Flo’s, Dig Doug’s BBQ, Serna’s, Tony’s Tacos, Chicago Maine Lobster, and Yim Curry. Quench your thirst with a fantastic lineup of beer vendors along with a couple of wine vendors. Tickets are available for pre-sale at $20 for 24 tickets online or in person at City Hall and the Ottawa Visitors Center, or $25 for 20 tickets at the gate (credit card fees apply). Beer tastings are 2 tickets each or 6 tickets for a 16 oz pour, and wine tastings are 2 tickets each or 6 tickets for a 5 oz pour. Rumor has it Lincoln might be making a guest appearance- you don’t want to miss this!
  • Touch a Truck: On July 28th, the Illinois Valley Building Trades, the Illinois Valley Contractors’ Association and the Illinois Valley Labor Management Fund are providing a family friendly, completely FREE event for kids of all ages to explore their favorite vehicles. See, touch, interact with and learn about dozens of cool vehicles. Look inside, sit inside, and climb all over any of these unusual vehicles and talk to their operators!
  • Canal Day: On August 3rd, Step Back in Time. Welcome to Ottawa, Illinois for a day of fun-filled activities for the entire family to enjoy. This event is sponsored and brought to you by the following: Ottawa Canal Association, Ottawa Historical & Scouting Heritage Musuem, and the Reddick Mansion Association. There will be demonstrations, reenactments, and more to help you learn more about the I&M Canal and its impact.
  • National Night Out: On August 6th, Join our first responders for a fun filled night. Free food, free swim, and free goodies for all kiddos! Any questions about participating or donating to the event, please contact Stacey Mon-Fri 8a-4p at the non emergency number # 815-433-2131 ext 2322 or email sprindiville@ottawapdfd.org

– Take a hike! (No, really!)

No we’re not telling you to leave! We’re trying to say that Ottawa has a plethora of natural areas for any hiker, jogger, or casual stroller to enjoy.

  • I&M Canal: The historic I&M Canal was recently filled with water once more! The canal trail offers a scenic trek throughout the city and through some lush, natural areas. Along the trail you’ll be able to find bits and pieces of history- like the I&M Canal Tollhouse, the last of its kind.
  • River Walk: Ottawa’s riverwalk will take you along a gorgeous trail that features several notable areas. Our boat launches, public parks, and more await any wouldbe travelers. The riverwalk is full of picturesque sights any time of year!
  • Buffalo Rock State Park: Our local state park, Buffalo Rock has trails on the cliffside and through the woodlands. Both offer a great way to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Buffalo Rock also contains a playground, shelter, small campsites (no water or restrooms available), and a baseball diamond. No Buffalo Rock experience is complete without visiting the real life Buffalo on site! The animals are available for viewing daily.
  • The Dayton Bluffs Preserve: This natural area contains several unique trails that can almost make you feel like you’ve traveled to the past. The preserve is full of trees, vallies, and praries. It is also no stranger to history, as a Native American burial ground is on site. Dayton Bluffs is set to add future amenities throughout the years, meaning every trip will be a unique one!

– Heritage Harbor

The harbor offers vacation rentals, boat rentals, several pools, access to a marina, a restaurant, and so much more. They even hold a free, fun, and friendly weekly 5k community event. Walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate – it’s up to you! It is held every Saturday at 8:00am (May – September) & 9:00am (October – April. Heritage Harbor is open to the public, so everyone is invited to enjoy a waterside view!

Donna Reynolds
Author: Donna Reynolds

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