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Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa, Canada

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Article author: michael
Cover Image for Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa, Canada

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If you’re familiar at all with Canada, then you’re likely somewhat familiar with our winters. They can be long, cold, and full of snow, depending on exactly what part of Canada you’re in.

As a Montrealer, I can tell you that the winters here get really frikkin’ cold! And the snow … well, if you love winter sports, then you’re in luck. If you’re like me on the other hand, other than Christmas, winter is long, dark, cold, and somewhat depressing! So when spring starts to show its face, it’s a realllly welcome sight for me!

May in particular is one of my favourite months, because most of the slush that was left over from the snow is gone, the trees are coming back to life, and some of the early foliage starts to bloom. In fact, the flowers that bloom in May are not only gorgeous, but smell abso-frikkin-lutely amazing and fill the air with a wonderful fresh sweetness! 😊

Now, I’m not actually a flower-lover, or know much about them, but I do appreciate how they bring some really nice colour to the landscape. My wife, on the other hand, goes nuts over flowers. So when she found out about the Ottawa Tulip Festival, she wouldn’t stop asking me when we could go see it!

Canadian Tulip Festival Info

  • Address: Commissioners Park, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Hours: Daily 10:00 - 22:00 for the duration of the festival in May
  • Time needed to visit: 1 to 2 hours
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • Official website: tulipfestival.ca
  • Official Facebook page: facebook.com/CanadianTulipFestival

Brief History of the Canadian Tulip Festival

The festival began with a special gift. The Royal Family of the Kingdom of the Netherlands took refuge in Ottawa during the Second World War, and Her Royal Highness, Princess Margriet was born here in 1943. Two years later, Canadian troops played a key role in liberating the Netherlands. In gratitude, the Dutch government has sent Canada a gift of tulip bulbs every year since 1945, inspiring what has become the Canadian Tulip Festival.

The original tulip donation from the Dutch Royal Family in 1945 consisted of 100,000 tulip bulbs. Later, Princess Juliana (who would become Queen Juliana) sent another 20,000 bulbs in 1946, and then promised to send 10,000 bulbs every year after that. Ottawa became famous for its tulips, and in 1953, the Ottawa Board of Trade organized the first Canadian Tulip Festival. Since then, the festival has grown to over 3 million tulips, and is the largest tulip festival in the world!

Despite the festival’s popularity however, in 2006, due to debts of around $750,000 CAD, the festival filed for bankruptcy. It was rescued by David Luxton, the CEO of an Ottawa-based company, and in 2007 was reorganized under new leadership.

In 2019, the festival changed leadership again, with the focus on bringing the festival back to its roots of history and horticulture. The festival was also moved to a single location at this point, Commissioners Park, which is where it is still held today.

The Tulip Festival

If you’re like me, your image of a tulip is probably something like in these sculptures we saw at the festival below:

Tulip Sculptures

Little did I realize before arriving at the festival however, that tulips come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colours! I was really surprised to see all the different types of tulips that exist, and how different they can look from one another.

As noted above, the festival is held at Commissioners Park, which is located on the shores of Dow’s Lake in Ottawa. The park is a beautiful place to visit in its own right, and is a popular spot for locals to go for a walk, jog, or bike ride. It’s also a popular spot for photographers, as it offers some really nice views of the lake, and the surrounding area. The layout of the park also makes it a great place to hold the tulip festival, as it’s easy to walk around and see all the tulips.

I also noted that entrance is free, but there are paid tours offered by the festival if you’re interested in the specifics of the varieties of the tulips on display. You can get more info on what’s offered on the official site.


We entered the park somewhere around the middle of the tulip beds I think, although I didn’t really take note of the exact road.

Note: Speaking of roads, if you drive there like we did, the street parking fills up fast! So you may have to hunt a bit for parking on the residential streets near the park. Pay close attention to the parking signs though, as some of the streets are permit only, or only allow parking during specific times.



I wanted to look for where the tulip beds started, but after walking for a bit, and us having arrived there around noon, we decided to stop first at one of the picnic benches in the park to eat some lunch.

Picnic lunch

We brought our own food and snacks, but there are a few food trucks and vendors around the park, so you’ve got options if you get hungry but didn’t bring your own food. There are also a few restaurants nearby, but they’re a bit of a walk from the park.

After lunch, we continued our walk around the park, and I was really surprised at how far the tulip displays went on! I mean, I knew there would be a lot, but I didn’t expect there to be so many different varieties and beautiful colours!




Commissioners Park covers an area of over 8.95 hectares, and while the tulip beds don’t cover the entire park, they do cover a large portion of it. So if you’re planning to visit, make sure you wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!



Weather-wise, Ottawa is similar to Montreal, so in May, it can be a bit chilly, especially if it’s windy. So make sure you bring a jacket or sweater, as it can get a bit cold if you’re not moving around much.


Oh, and another beautiful site in May, of which there are several in the park, are the crabapple trees! They’re absolutely gorgeous, and the smell is amazing! 😊
Mind you, once they finish blooming and the actual “crabapples” start to grow, they’re not so nice to look at, and the smell is … well, not so nice either! 😂

Crabapple trees

While we were at the park, I think we pretty much saw the majority of the tulips, however there are more tulips in other parts of the city. You can find a map of where they are on the Official festival map. The map also contains info on where to find other points of interest, like the War Brides exhibit, the Canada Agriculture & Food museum, the Dominion Arboretum, and more.

We spent a good 3 and a half hours at the park, and by the time we were done, we were pretty tired, and our feet were sore! We also had about a 2 hour drive back home, so we decided to call it a day, and head back home.

First though, we grabbed some soft server ice cream from a food truck at the park! 😋

Ice Cream!


If you’re in or near Ottawa in May, I highly recommend checking out the Canadian Tulip Festival. It’s a great way to spend a day, and the tulips are absolutely gorgeous! 😊
There’s also a lot more to do and see in Ottawa besides the Tulip Festival, like the Parliament buildings, the Rideau Canal, Byward Market, and the Canada Science & Technology museum which we visited a few weeks prior.

So if you’re planning a trip to Ottawa, you can easily spend a few days there, and see a lot of what the city has to offer.

Until next time,
michael 😀

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