At the beginning of every May, my home city of Ottawa hosts a wonderful spring festival all about tulips. These beautiful, colorful flowers begin to bloom all over the city, welcoming spring, warm weather and outdoor festivals.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is definitely something to see for yourself if you’re visiting the Ottawa area, or even if you live here! I hope this quick guide will help you plan your visit to see these beautiful flowers and enjoy spring time in Ottawa.
The Canadian Tulip Festival began in 1953 to celebrate and remember the roll Canada played in liberating the Dutch after WWII. During the war, Canada provided safe haven for the Dutch Royal family while German Nazi’s occupied the Netherlands. Following the war, the Dutch Princess Juliana presented Canada with 100,000 tulip bulbs as a thank you for protecting her and her family.
To commemorate this event, every May Ottawa show cases these beautiful flowers by planting over a million of them in various locations all over the city.
When & Where
The festival, which is the largest of its kind in the world, lasts 10 days and occurs over 2 weekends. The exact dates change from year to year but the festival usually occurs near the beginning of May to mid-month.
The main attractions are located at Commissioners Park on Dow’s Lake, along the Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill and throughout the Byward Market. Many people head straight to Dow’s Lake, where there’s a huge display of tulips. In Commissioners Park you’ll find vendors, performers and children’s activities. At the nearby Dow’s Lake Pavilion, you can sit down at one of the 3 restaurants or rent a kayak, canoe or paddle boat for a paddle around the lake.
How To Enjoy The Festival
This is really up to you and it depends on how much of the city you want to see. To enjoy the full tour, I recommend starting downtown in the Byward Market. Here you can explore the market, Parliament hill and Major’s Hill Park.
Ottawa is filled with wonderful bike paths so if you’re up to it, head to one of the many bike rental companies and grab some wheels. Starting downtown, pedal your way along the Rideau Canal to Dow’s Lake. There are tulips planted all along the canal and you’ll have great views of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Once you reach Dow’s Lake, take your time wandering among the thousands of colorful flowers planted neatly in Commissioners Park.
Various events take place in the city during the festival, so check the web site before you head out. There’s everything from children’s performers to live concerts, buskers and arts and crafts to workshops and night time fireworks.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is one of my favorite festivals, especially after enduring a long, cold Canadian winter. It signifies spring time, warm weather, drinks on the patio and a beautiful summer to look forward to. The festival is a wonderful way to spend some time outside with your family and explore the city.