Every year in May, approximately 600,000 people gather in Ottawa for the Canadian Tulip Festival, the largest of its kind in the world. Over a million blooms of 50 different varieties will brighten Canada's capital city. While many visitors are drawn to Ottawa to admire their beauty, the festival is a celebration of the strong bond forged between Canada and Holland. 

Tulips Ottawa FestivalNeil Roberston

The Legacy

Although the Canadian Tulip Festival started in 1953, its origins date back to 1945 after Princess Juliana of the Netherlands presented 100,000 tulip bulbs to the city of Ottawa. It was a gift of gratitude for offering a safe haven to Holland's exiled royal family during World War II, as well as in recognition of the Canadian troops that aided in the liberation of their home country. Even after the war, Princess Juliana, who became Queen in 1948, continued to send thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada each year of her reign. This lasted until she abdicated her throne to her daughter in 1980. The tale of Princess Juliana's refuge and her generous gift of tulips is known as the Tulip Legacy, a popular tale told in Ottawa, especially during the Canadian Tulip Festival.

While the Tulip Legacy is the origin story, the festival was only founded after world-renowned photographer Malak Karsh fell in love with the flowers and urged the Ottawa Board of Trade to dedicate a city-wide event to them. While Karsh immortalized the flowers through photography, he also helped create what has grown to be the biggest tulip festival in the world.

Tulips OttawaNeil Robertson

Festival Highlights

The Canadian Tulip Festival is celebrated with flair each May in the Ottawa. From May 8th through May 18th, 2015 it will be celebrated with vigor as it also falls upon the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. In honour of this very special anniversary, an interactive World War II encampment complete with vintage vehicles of war and re-enactors will be hosted in Queen Juliana Park on May 9 and 10. 

Special celebrations aside, the Canadian Tulip Festival will host the traditional events that have made this festival a hit for 64 years. Festival activities kick off on May 8th with Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), featuring a commemorative public ceremony at the Canadian War Memorial to honour Canada's brave veterans. During the day, visitors can enjoy musical performances to suit all tastes in Commissioners Park. Swing by and take in some classical music among the blooms or to discover some of Ottawa's best local and emerging talent.

The Liberation Bar & Grill (located in Commissioners Park) also gets in the festival spirit with their annual International Friendship Stage. These music and dance performances serve to represent the diverse international community that calls Ottawa home.

Keep your eyes on the skies! On the evenings of May 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th Dows Lake will feature a floral-themed firework display.

Click here for the digital 2015-2016 Ottawa Visitor Guide

Tulips Ottawa Festival ParlaimentNeil Roberston

The Tulip Route

While the fireworks, music and performances create a festive atmosphere, the main attraction of the Canadian Tulip Festival proves time and time again to be the tulips. There are millions of blooms located throughout Ottawa in vibrant hues of red, yellow and purple, making the city the most colourful capital in the world during the springtime. Visitors to Ottawa will want to take advantage of the Tulip Route that weaves its way through the city and has the highest concentration of tulip fields. The route runs through Commissioners Park, down the shores of Dows Lake and along the historic Rideau Canal, Ottawa's own UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along this route, visitors are treated to over 300,000 tulip blooms; however, flower beds are found in public spaces across the National Capital Region.


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