Each year in May, the Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates the return of spring by showcasing over a million tulips across Canada’s capital region. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe. The 67th edition of the festival running May 10 to 20, 2019, has fun activities for the whole family including tours, entertainment and even fireworks – and much of it is free!
Get inspired with the below highlights of this year’s event, and then visit the official Canadian Tulip Festival website for complete festival programming.
The festival programming this year is centered around Commissioners Park, where you’ll find Ottawa’s highest concentration of tulips: over 300,000 tulips in dozens of varieties! Stroll along a one-kilometre (over half a mile) pathway lined with dazzling displays of blooms. Commissioners Park is located at the picturesque Dows Lake section of the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that winds its way through downtown Ottawa. Access to the park and to all the on-site festival pavilions is free!
For the ultimate tulip experience, purchase a ticket for a Tulip Legacy Tour. During this 30-minute guided tour, you’ll learn about horticulture as well as the festival’s history as you roam through the gardens at Commissioners Park.
Or explore on your own with the Digital Garden Tour. Simply download the festival’s GrowIt Mobile App to your device and enjoy!
The visual feast of colourful flowers will be heightened by beautiful live music! Musical performances will take place in Commissioners Park throughout the festival. Some highlights include:
- Music and Beyond concert series in The Dutch Theatre, next to the Heritage Pavilion: Monday to Thursday at 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.; Friday to Sunday at 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- Boardwalk Bands: Saturdays and Sundays (plus Monday, May 20) at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.
Art in the tulips
Watch local and regional artists as they create works of art among the tulip beds in Commissioners Park. The resulting art will be available for purchase in the Tulip Boutique located at the Tulip Plaza.
Tulip Plaza: Giant tulips, boutique and museum
Follow the Tulip Boardwalk to the Tulip Plaza at Dows Lake Pavilion. Visit the Giant Celebration Tulip Garden to walk amongst five-foot high handcrafted tulip sculptures and shop at the outdoor marketplace.
Head inside to browse art, flowers, bulbs and festival merchandise in the Tulip Boutique.
Stop by the museum space to see items showcasing the festival’s fascinating history – the event not only showcases the tulip, but it celebrates and remembers Canada’s role in the Liberation of the Netherlands in WWII. For a brief overview, visit our webpage .
Heritage Pavilion: People, performances and food
The Heritage Pavilion will take you back to Ottawa in 1945. Hear from people – including veterans – who experienced this time period first-hand and who love sharing their stories.
In addition to the musical performances taking place on the Dutch Stage, other special performances like readings and film screenings will be held on the Heritage Pavilion Stage.
You can also shop for authentic items from the post-Second World War era, take a break on the outdoor patio, and purchase some food and beverages from the on-site gourmet food trucks.
Tulip Pavilion: Garden workshops and virtual voyage
Celebrate Ottawa’s official flower at the Tulip Pavilion through visual displays and garden workshops.
And try the new virtual reality installation which takes you on a journey through the legendary Tulip Fields in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A spectacular fireworks show will take place at Dows Lake at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 19 (weather permitting). Choose your own viewing spot along the Rideau Canal or purchase a VIP ticket which provides access to a special area on the Tulip Boardwalk, including seating and a licensed bar.
Whether you prefer to walk, bike, bus, cruise or fly, check out our suggestions on the best ways to experience glorious tulips in Ottawa.
For details on public transportation and parking, visit the festival website.
If you can’t get enough of tulips, you’ll be happy to know that the flower also beautifies other sites throughout Canada’s capital. Check out our list of top places to photograph beautiful tulips in Ottawa.