At the beginning of every May, Ottawa hosts a wonderful spring festival all about tulips. These beautiful, colorful flowers begin to bloom all over the city, welcoming spring, warm weather and outdoor festivals. The Tulip Festival began in 1953 to celebrate and remember the roll Canada played in liberating the Dutch after WWII. During the war, Canada provided safe haven for the Dutch Royal family while German Nazi’s occupied the Netherlands. Following the war, the Dutch Princess Juliana presented Canada with 100,000 tulip bulbs as a thank you for protecting her and her family.
Now every May, just when the warm spring weather is at its peak, the leaves are finally starting to come out and all the flowers are blooming, Ottawa show cases these beautiful florae by planting over a million of them in various locations all over the city. The main attractions are located at Commissioners Park on Dow’s Lake and along the Rideau Canal. Many people head straight to Dow’s Lake, where there’s a pavilion with 3 restaurants (open year round), vendors and performers set up in Commissioners Park.
The festival, which is the largest of its kind in the world, lasts 10 days over 2 weekends and is a wonderful way to spend some time outside with your family or loved one and explore the city. I recommend starting downtown in the Byward Market so you can explore Parliament hill and some of the downtown first. Then head to one of the many bike rental companies and pedal your way along the canal to Dow’s Lake. There are tulips planted all along the canal and you’ll have great views of this World Heritage site. Once you reach Dow’s Lake, take your time wandering among the thousands of colorful flowers planted neatly in the park.
Various events take place in the park during the festival so check the web site before you head down to see what’s on the schedule. There’s everything from children’s performers to live concerts, buskers and arts and crafts to workshops and night time fireworks.
The Tulip Festival is one of my favorite festivals put on by the city, especially after enduring a long and cold Canadian winter. For me, it signifies spring time, warm weather, drinks on the patio and a beautiful summer to look forward to, filled with outdoor adventures.