For many, May is the best month of the year in Ottawa. Not only because it is the month when springtime really arrives, but also because Ottawa cheers up with the blossoming of its emblematic flowers: the tulips, which are the stars of the most renowned festival in Canada’s capital.
If you’re new to Ottawa, prepare yourself to enjoy the sight of beautiful beds of colorful tulips in Ottawa’s public parks. The festival starts next week, running from May 14 to 24. Here, I will tell you where to find displays of tulips in and around downtown.
This year the Tulip Festival, which usually attracts more than 600,000 people in regular years, is going to be “local” due to the pandemic. That means it is aimed at residents of Ottawa. But if you’re from other places, you can watch the festival virtually. https://tulipfestival.ca/
Since I moved to Ottawa three years ago, I haven’t missed any of the tulip festivals. This year I have been checking on the tulips plants since they started to sprout at the end of March. I’m a big Tulip fan! If you want to know more about the festival and the history behind Ottawa tulips check this out: https://ottawaisnotboring.com/2021/04/06/the-tulip-festival-the-most-anticipated-event-in-ottawa/
Let’s start the tulip tour! Remember to avoid crowds, keep a two-meter distance and wear a mask if possible at all times.
Commissioners Park and Dow’s Lake
The best place to go see and admire the tulips is at Commissioners Park next to Dow’s Lake. There are some 300,000 tulips distributed in 30 beds. It’s the largest display of tulips in a single place in Ottawa.
The gardeners of the National Capital Commission (NCC) have planted some 100 varieties of tulips, from early bloomers to middle and late season tulips, so the site always has a beautiful display of the flowers during the whole month of May.
For me, the best spot to take Instagramable pictures is the point where the park ends just besides Lakeview Terrace street, because there are some cute old houses and in front of them two parallel beds of gorgeous tulips that are already blooming.
If you go to the other end of the park, walk toward the Dow’s Lake Pavilion and you’ll find more amazing beds of tulips.
Major’s Hill Park
The second best place to see the tulips is Major’s Hill Park and there are two locations. One of them is behind and around the statue of Colonel John By, that faces Parliament Hill. Every year the gardeners change the color of the tulips they plant in this sector, and this year the predominant color is purple.
The other nice area of tulips in the park is the one facing Mackenzie Avenue, where there are already magnificent beds of tulips in full bloom.
Rideau Canal Promenade
You can see beds of tulips all along the Rideau Canal while you ride your bike, or run, or go for a walk, or walk your dog. What a lovely sight: tulips and in the background the canal!
The tulips here are located in the Olympic Garden, which features the sculpture “Share the flame”, that commemorates the 1988 torch relay. Olympic flame tulips (yellow and red) decorate this charming place.
Other years I saw beautiful red tulips blooming in the lawn at the sides of Parliament Hill, but unfortunately due to the remodeling works, the front lawn is closed. The NCC has said it will add 32 portable planters on the main walk by the Centennial Flame.
I was there last weekend and I only saw some planters on the sidewalk in Wellington St and the tulips were not blooming yet.
The variety of tulips in Parliament will be “Canada 150” (white with red flames); “Fireworks” (yellow with red flames), and “Canadian Liberator” (red), according to the NCC.
There are tulips also in Confederation Park, which is the park across from City Hall. But it’s not a big display like in the places mentioned before. The tulips there are not blooming yet.
National War Memorial
There’s a small display of tulips in the National War Memorial, a monument to honor the Canadians who lost their lives in wartime. The tulips there are starting to bloom.
These are the spots to see tulips downtown or close downtown, but there are in total 30 places to see tulips in Ottawa and in Gatineau, like Rockcliffe Park, Rideau Hall, the Canadian War Museum, Sir John A Macdonald Parkway, among others.
In Gatineau you can see tulips at the Canadian Museum of History, Jacques Cartier Park, and Lac-des-Fées Parkway.
The Tulip Festival certainly is a time of celebration in the National Capital Region! Enjoy and take care!