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Photos: Hannah Manning

Where to enjoy the Canadian Tulip Festival—05.10.19 to 05.20.19

By Hannah Manning on May 10, 2019




With record setting cold temperatures and snowfall, it’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to warm, sunny days. The Canadian Tulip Festival, featuring one million tulips, 100 varieties, 120 flower beds and 30 locations, is just what the doctor ordered.

For anyone concerned that the cold might affect the festival, no worries: the National Capital Commission plants early, mid-season and late-blooming tulips to extend the tulip season. They even have an interactive map to help find tulips in bloom.

A friend recently asked what’s the deal with Ottawa and tulips, so for anyone new to town, here’s a quick recap:

During WWII, Dutch Princess Juliana and her family were forced to flee as the Netherlands was invaded. They came to Canada and lived in Ottawa throughout the war. In 1943, the Princess’ third child was born at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa. A portion of the maternity ward was temporarily declared to be extraterritorial by the Canadian government; thus ensuring the princess was born in international territory, retaining her right to the throne.

Following the war, the Netherlands sent 100,000 tulips bulb to the capital as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for the role Canada played in the liberation of the Netherlands. The tradition continues and each year the Dutch Royal Family send tulip bulbs to Canada.

According to Canadian Heritage, these bulbs are planted in two locations in Ottawa. One flower bed is at the Ottawa Hospital, Civic Campus, paying tribute to the birth of Princess Margriet. The other is the Queen Juliana Gift Bed in Commissioners Park. The tulips planted in these beds are in shades of pink and purple – Juliana’s favourite colours. To learn more about the history of the Tulip Festival, you can visit the new Heritage Pavilion in Commissioners Park.

The Canadian Tulip Festival has been celebrating the tulip, an international symbol of friendship and peace, since 1953. Since that time, the festival has grown, with even more tulips, events, and activities. The tulip has even been named Ottawa’s official flower.

Flame coloured tulips at Olympic Garden.

Here are some spots around town to enjoy the tulips. Be sure to keep an eye out for some of these especially photo-worthy tulips chosen by the NCC team.

Commissioners Park and Dow’s Lake
Commissioners Park is home to a stunning display of 250,000 tulips across the park’s 30 flower beds. The annual Victoria Day fireworks take place on Dow’s Lake Sunday May 19.

Major’s Hill Park
Overlooking Parliament and the Ottawa River, Major’s Hill Park is a great spot for a picnic and a stroll through the tulips.

Parliament Hill
Centre Block may be closed to visitors, but the gardens at Parliament are coming alive with colour as tulips bloom.

Olympic Garden and Lansdowne Park
Located at the edge of Lansdowne along the Rideau Canal, the Olympic Garden features flame coloured tulips surrounding the bronze statue of the Olympic torch.

Maplelawn Garden
Located in Westboro, the garden at Maplelawn is a rare example of a 19th century walled garden. The garden is open from dawn to dusk for visitors to enjoy the tulips.

Canadian Museum of History
Across the bridge into Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is home to a one-of-a-kind tulip that blooms in a variety of colours, year after year.

The Canadian Tulip Festival runs May 10-20, 2019. For more information, visit the festival’s website.