The Canadian Tulip Festival is my favourite festival in Ottawa! There are lot of places in the world with fields of tulips and spring festivals. Ottawa is one of many destinations around the world that erupts in colour every spring, but it is the story of how the tulips came to be there which makes Canada’s tulip festival particularly unique.
Whether you’re local to Ottawa or just visiting, exploring Ottawa during the Tulip Festival is a must! This quick and handy guide includes all of the best Ottawa Tulip Festival locations to see tulips, the history of the festival, and a few tips for Ottawa and other events happening in the city during the tulip festival.
Canadian Tulip Festival Dates: May 10 – 20, 2019
The Ottawa Tulip Festival Guide
The Story of the Ottawa Tulip Festival
In 1943, the Dutch Royal Family was in Ottawa. World War II was raging, and the family had come to Canada for safety. During her stay in Canada, Princess Juliana was to give birth to a daughter, who would be named Princess Margriet.
It was important to the Royal Family that the Princess be born only as Dutch Citizen. Canada offered a solution, and declared the maternity ward of the Ottawa Civic Hospital Dutch territory for the birth. On that day, a Dutch flag was raised above Parliament. The Princess was born on Dutch territory in the heart of Ottawa, and inherited only Dutch citizenship.
In 1945, the grateful Royal Family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa. Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs the following year, and requested that a festival be held. 10,000 bulbs followed every year after.
Ottawa became famous for it’s beautiful tulips, and in 1953 the first official Canadian Tulip Festival was held. The tulips were originally planted in large bunches of one colour, so as to be visually pleasing from the road as people drove by. Today, the beds are a multitude of colour, and thousands of people come to walk among them every year – including you! Read on for the best places to see the tulips.
Ottawa Tulip Festival Locations
There are so many beautiful locations to see the tulips! Officially, the Canadian Tulip Festival is held at Commissioner’s Park by Dow’s Lake. This is where the events and festivities take places. However, there are several other places around the city where you can see tulips and enjoy some time outside.
Major’s Hill Park
Major’s Hill Park is my favourite Ottawa Tulip Festival venue because from here, you can see Ottawa’s most iconic buildings. The Parliament Buildings, the National Art Gallery, and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier are all visible from Major’s Hill Park, and look their best when framed by tulips!
There are some smaller beds and flower boxes full of tulips on and surrounding Parliament Hill. Go for a walk from Major’s Hill Park to Parliament Hill. On your way, you will find tulip beds at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and in flower boxes lining Wellington Street.
Dow’s Lake is the main location of the Ottawa Tulip Festival, also known as Commissioner’s Park. The Tulip Pavilion, Heritage Pavilion, and food trucks can all be found here. This is also where you find some of the biggest and most impressive tulip beds!
The Rideau Canal is lined with beds of tulips on either side. Go for a walk, or rent a bike to explore the whole length of the canal stopping to see the tulips as you go. Some of my favourite tulip beds can only be seen by strolling along the canal!
Rideau Centre Rooftop
If you’re looking for a more secluded location to enjoy the tulips, make your way up the roof of Rideau Centre. There is a well-maintained garden on the roof and a few beds of tulips that bloom during the festival every year.
Tulip Festival Tips
There’s more to the Canadian Tulip Festival than just seeing the tulips! Check out the many events and activities that are on during the festival to make the most of your time exploring.
Tulip Legacy Walking Tour
Love history? Register for the Tulip Legacy Walking Tour, which takes place at the Dow’s Lake festival location. The walking tour is $5 per adult and you will learn more about the Tulip Festival’s history, and some other important landmarks in the area. Register here.
Garden Tour Mobile App
New in 2019, the Canadian Tulip Festival now has an app that offer s digital garden tour! Enjoy a complete, self-guided tour of the festival on your phone by downloading the app now.
Music, dance, art, and more will be happening during the Canadian Tulip Festival at the Tulip Pavilion and Heritage Pavilion at Dow’s Lake. Make sure to check out the schedule so that you can take part in some fun activities!
Victoria Day is the last day of the Canadian Tulip Festival, and there will be fireworks! Make your way to Dow’s Lake to see them. I go every year, they’re always fantastic!