As the snow melts away each spring, the capital of Canada blooms into an array of beautiful colours thanks to its signature tulips. Known as the Godmother of all Ottawa Festivals,’ the Canadian Tulip Festival is the first outdoor festival of the warm weather season. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the festival is one of the largest and longest running celebrations in the city.

Each year, over 600,000 Canadian and international visitors are drawn to the Canadian Tulip Festival and its 30 public tulip gardens across Ottawa. Taking place from May 13 – 23, 2022, you can experience the gorgeous flowers both in person and through an immersive virtual experience.

Canadian Tulip Festival History

The Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates an international symbol of friendship and peace: the tulip. The tradition began in 1945, when the Dutch Royal Family presented a gift of tulips to Canadians following the Second World War. Ottawa soon became famous for its tulips, and in 1953 the festival was officially organized for the first time. The festival commemorates both Canada’s role in the liberation of the Netherlands and Europe as well as the birth of the only royal personage ever born in Canada, Dutch Princess Margriet.

The Netherlands keep the tradition alive by sending tulip bulbs to the Canadian capital each year as a symbol of international friendship. The National Capital Commission (NCC) maintains and designs the gardens and beds as the official gardener of Ottawa, and plants close to one million tulips for the annual festival.

Top Tulip Spots in the Capital

The best place to admire the array of beautiful flowers during the Canadian Tulip Festival is Commissioners Park. Located alongside the Rideau Canal’s beautiful Dows Lake, the park hosts over 100 varieties of tulips across its 30 beds each year. Commissioners Park also features a test bed where landscape architects test new tulips before planting them elsewhere.

Elsewhere, Major’s Hill Park is an exceptional site to experience the Canadian Tulip Festival. Here, the warm and vibrant yellow, orange, and cream tulips lie in close proximity to the scenic Ottawa River. Here, you can take in the beauty of the flowers alongside views of Parliament Hill, the National Gallery of Canada and the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.

Tulip Activities & Events

Beyond walking through Commissioners Park and experiencing the tulips yourself, the Canadian Tulip Festival also offers a number of events for attendees of all ages. Those looking to experience all the Canadian Tulip Festival has to offer can book a guided tours. For $10, a professional will explain the historical and cultural significance of the tulip varieties found throughout Commissioners Park.

This year the Canadian Tulip Festival is also hosting events at night. Tulip beds throughout Commissioners Park will be lit up when the sun sets, allowing for viewing late into the evening. The boardwalk will also glow under blacklight, creating an entirely new way to experience the beauty of tulips as they glow. The festival has also partnered with the National Film Board to create a Movies & Tulips program, where you can sit back and watch short films amidst the gardens.

Immersive Virtual Experience

Do you want to experience the festival before you attend? Then check out TulipTV, which brings the tulips to your home regular videos touching on everything from gardening news, tips, history, as well as musical performances. You can find TulipTV through the Canadian Tulip Festival website or on YouTube, where you can browse the videos available.

You can also head on a virtual stroll through the park using the Interactive Garden Map. Here, you’ll find photos of each type of tulip planted in Commissioners Park as well as information about the flowers so you can learn as you go.

Bring the Canadian Tulip Festival Home

Flowers are a great way to brighten anyone’s day With delivery and curbside pick up options available at locations across the city, you can order a bouquet of beautiful mixed tulips to bring the magic of the Canadian Tulip Festival home. You can also browse through the Tulip Boutique for handcrafted tulip-themed artwork and accessories, including wooden tulips, prints, clothing, and other festival merchandise.

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