By: Serge Guenette

The Tulip Festival


Following a winter that felt like it would never end, it might seem hard to imagine the Tulip Festival is already here but, believe it or not, the tulips are blooming!

The Tulip Festival is one of the biggest draws in the capital. Did you know it’s the largest of its kind in the world, attracting more than half a million visitors every year?

And it starts this weekend! The 67th edition of the festival runs from May 10 to 20 and has fun activities for the whole family including tours, entertainment and even fireworks — and much of it is free.

Unlike last year, festival programming this year is centered around Commissioners Park at Dow’s Lake, which is also where you’ll find Ottawa’s highest concentration of tulips: over 300,000 of them, according to Ottawa Tourism.

And, in case you were wondering, organizers say the festival is not affected by the recent flooding Ottawa has experienced.

Things to do

  1. Tulip tours: The Tulip Legacy Tour is a 30-minute guided tour where 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.

  2. Music: Live performances will take place throughout the festival. Highlights include:
    • Music and Beyond concert series in The Dutch Theatre, next to the Heritage Pavilion: Monday- Thursday, noon & 2 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., & 6 p.m.
    • Boardwalk Bands: Saturdays and Sundays (plus Monday, May 20) at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., & 5 p.m.

  3. Art: Watch local and regional artists as they create works of art among the tulip beds. (The artworks created will be for sale.)

  4. Tulip Plaza: Giant tulips, boutique and museum. Visit the Giant Celebration Tulip Garden to walk among five-foot-high handcrafted tulip sculptures, shop at the outdoor marketplace or inside at the Tulip Boutique, and see items showcasing the festival’s fascinating history at the museum.

  5. Heritage Pavilion: The Heritage Pavilion will take you back to Ottawa in 1945. Hear from people who experienced this period first-hand and who love sharing their stories. Plus, enjoy musical performances on the Dutch Stage. Other special performances like readings and film screenings will be held on the Heritage Pavilion Stage.

  6. Tulip Pavilion: 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 Dutch tulip fields.

  7. Fireworks: A fireworks show will be held at 10 p.m. Sunday, May 19, depending on the weather. Find your own spot along the Rideau Canal or buy a VIP ticket.

For the shutterbug

There are plenty of spots to photograph Ottawa’s tulips and Dow’s Lake is typically the best spot, but it’s also the most popular and likely to be even more so this year with all events concentrated at Commissioners Park.

A long lens will compress the flower beds into layers of colour. There are even small walkways opening in the middle of the beds for people to crouch down and pose in.

Away from Dow's Lake, Major’s Hill Park is a nice option, with the backgrounds of Parliament Hill and the National Gallery.

Less crowded would be the tulip beds anywhere along the Rideau Canal other than Dow's Lake.

Looking for more information about the festival? Check out