A Guide to the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa
The Canadian Tulip Festival takes place every year in Canada’s capital and it’s one of my absolute favourite times to be in Ottawa. This year Ottawa celebrated the 65th year of this festival and whilst I didn’t manage to catch the special ‘Canada 150’ tulips to celebrate 150 years of the Canadian Confederation (I had to fly home, booo), the whole city was in bloom as usual and it was fab.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is the world’s largest tulip festival, displaying over one million tulips across Ottawa each year in various parks and across the city. As well as tulips being dotted everywhere, there are live music performances, a tulip cafe, many exhibitions, lots of family friendly activities and even a firework display too. It’s an absolutely wonderful time to visit Canada’s capital and I’d highly recommend it!
I’ve now visited the Canadian Tulip Festival twice during my time in Ottawa so I’ve put together this quick handy guide so that you can easily visit too. Enjoy!
A brief history of the Canadian Tulip Festival
In 1945 (after WWII), the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulips to Ottawa as a thank you for sheltering Princess Julianna and her daughters during the three year Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during the war. During this time, Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa but the (ever lovely) Canadians decided to declare the hospital room as Dutch soil for the birth so that the Princess could still officially be born Dutch. Each year the Royal Family continues to send tulips to Ottawa and the Canadian Tulip Festival was born in 1953 as a great way to celebrate this relationship and the beautiful flowers. Now over 500,000 people from all over the world visit the festival each year – amazing!
Getting to the Tulip Festival
This year many of the festival activities took place at Lansdowne just off of Bank Street which is a super convenient location for most people to walk, cycle or use public transportation to get to. Whilst there is some parking available for the event, it is limited so I would recommend a different option if possible. If you decide to walk from wherever you are staying Downtown you can expect it to take about 40 minutes to reach Lansdowne. If you have the time, I would recommend walking down the canal for a slightly longer but much more scenic route :)
We decided to explore on two wheels so we rented bikes from Escape Bicycle Tours who were based at Lansdowne for the festival. (They were so based at their offices in Downtown Ottawa if you’re staying in that area).
When is it?
The Tulip Festival takes place every year for a few weeks in May, just as the city starts to finally escape the winter. The dates have actually already been released for 2018 so you can get planning already! Excitinggg.
The next Canadian Tulip Festival will be held on 11-21 May 2018.
How much does it cost?
As the main highlight of the festival are the beautiful tulips dotted around the city’s parks and green spaces, the majority of the festival is absolutely free. Woo woooo.
However, there are many events and activities taking place that do have a cost too so if you want to do more than just take a billion photos of pretty flowers in a beautiful city then I’d suggest checking out the official website.
Where to Spot the best tulip displays
So you’re going to the tulip festival to try and get some pretty Instagram worthy photos, am I right? I know I was! Well if you’re looking for the best spot to take some snaps then here are a few of my favourite places that I visited.
Let me know what your fave spot was in the comments below!
1 // Major’s Hill Park
Major’s Hill Park is an excellent place to view tulips as its located right in the heart of Downtown Ottawa. It’s about a 5-10 minute walk from Parliament Hill and as such it offers some great views of the Canadian Parliament buildings. It’s super easy to get to and a lovely place to chill out on a beautiful sunny evening.
If you fancy a bite to eat afterwards then it’s also super close to Byward Market and a whole bunch of great places to eat.
2 // Commissioners Park
Commissioners Park is one of the best places to go tulip hunting as it has the largest display in the city (over 250,000 tulips!). You absolutely must walk from one end to the other as not only are the tulips super pretty but the location is stunning too. Commissioners Park is located right next to Dow’s Lake so why not take a picnic and make the day of it? There’s plenty of green space to go around!
Not feeling like a picnic but fancy something greasy and delicious instead? Commissioners Park also had a bunch of food trucks and ice cream carts whilst we were there selling all sorts of goodies. Our favourite were the Beaver Tails, of course ;)
3 // Along the Rideau Canal
A walk or cycle along the Rideau Canal at any time of the year is a great way to spend some time. But during the Canadian Tulip Festival it is a perfect way to spend some time. Keep an eye out for all the little parks and green spaces along the way as you can be pretty certain that more tulips are lurking somewhere…
The nice thing about the tulips along the Rideau Canal is that you don’t even have to intentionally be heading to the tulip festival to spot some tulips here – you’re likely to see them anywhere you are walking.
4// Parliament Hill
Unfortunately the tulips on Parliament Hill were not yet out when I was in town but I am assured that this is an excellent spot! Parliament Hill is the perfect place to take some Instagram worthy shots of pretty tulips with the beautiful Parliament buildings in the background.
Got some spare time? Why not participate in a FREE tour of the Parliament buildings whilst you’re there? You can pick up your tickets from the ticket office just opposite. The views from the Peace Tower are worth it, seriously!
As you might be able to tell, I think that the Canadian Tulip Festival is a great time of year to visit Ottawa. I would one hundred percent recommend it if you get the chance!
Let me know if you have been before in the comments below :)
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OTHER CANADIAN ADVENTURES YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:
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