Each year, the Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates the return of spring by showcasing over a million tulips across Canada’s capital region. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe.
In 2017, the festival is celebrating its 65th edition as well as Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation under the theme One Tulip, One Canada. Beyond the tulips, there are family activities, live entertainment, fireworks, and more. Here are some highlights:
Commissioners Park is home to the highest concentration of tulips – over 250,000 of 60 different varieties – along one kilometer of flower beds and pathways. The park is located along the picturesque Dows Lake section of the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that winds its way through downtown Ottawa. During the festival, Commissioners Park also features family-friendly live entertainment, interpretive signage as well as guided tours.
You’ll find more colourful tulip beds in Major’s Hill Park, near the Fairmont Château Laurier and the ByWard Market neighbourhood, and at many other sites across the city, including in front of Parliament Hill!
Canada 150 tulip
In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, over 200,000 specimens of a special red and white tulip called the Canada 150 tulip will bloom in public places throughout Ottawa.
Entertainment, activities and more
In addition to Commissioners Park, festival programming is taking place at additional sites, including:
- Lansdowne and Glebe neighbourhood: As the primary festival venue this year, this area located between downtown Ottawa and Commissioners Park will feature indoor and outdoor spaces with photography exhibits, workshops with artisans, family-friendly and international live performances, a café and special events (don’t miss the fireworks on Sunday, May 21)!
- ByWard Market area: This bustling neighbourhood will feature tulip-inspired art installations, workshops and animation.
- Garden Promenade: New in 2017, the festival and the Canadian Garden Council are collaborating to offer visitors a self-guided or escorted tour of public gardens. Sites include Rideau Hall (home of the Governor General of Canada), the Central Experimental Farm, Parliament Hill, as well as gardens in Gatineau, Quebec. Enhance your experience by participating in special activities such as yoga in the tulips!
For detailed programming info and updates, visit the Canadian Tulip Festival website.
A festival with deep historical roots
Ottawa’s connection to tulips dates back to World War II, when the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Ottawa—Princess Margriet was born here in 1943, her hospital room declared Dutch soil for the event! Canadian troops also played a pivotal role in liberating the Netherlands. At the end of the war, the Royal Family sent a thank-you gift of 100,000 tulips (and continues to send tulips every year, even to this day!). The Canadian Tulip Festival was established in 1953 as a way of celebrating this gift. The tulip is Ottawa’s official flower.
The first Canadian Tulip Festival was led by the Ottawa Board of Trade, at the suggestion of world renowned photographer Malak Karsh. Karsh is considered the founder of the Festival and his photographs have immortalized the tulip.
Got a great pic from this year’s festival? Enter our Ottawa in Bloom photo contest and win one of 3 great prizes!