Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa

When you think of Spring, I’m sure that flowers come to mind. Spring in Canada also brings back the annual Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. This year was the 70th anniversary of the festival – the tulips have been a gift and tradition of gratitude and friendship from the Netherlands since 1945.

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I love the history and story behind the Tulip Legacy – during WWII, the Dutch nation was occupied by the Nazis. Princess Juliana (Queen Juliana from 1948 to 1980) escaped to the United Kingdom and then Canada during this time. It was in Ottawa in 1943 that she gave birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet – the only royal personage to be born in North America. Thousands of Canadians also took part in the liberation of the Netherlands during the war. After she returned to the Netherlands after the war, Princess Juliana sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada and a tradition was born. These bulbs have been planted in the gardens in Ottawa ever since then and a festival is held for almost two weeks in May every year.

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This year, the festival had its run from May 8 to May 18. My family and I decided to go during the Victoria Day long weekend (May 17 to May 19). It was the end of the festival and the long weekend, so there was quite a crowd in the gardens and around the city. We were wondering if we missed most of the tulips form when they were in full bloom. I would consider going a little earlier next time during the festival season if possible.

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When you think of tulips, typically the colours that come to mind are the red, pink, and yellow. But there are actually many different varieties of the tulip and a lot more colours than I expected as well. I thought the white and dark purple tulips were so different. It was also an interesting to see the tulips with both the white and purple.

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We took the Tulip Shuttle for a Tulip Toonie (Canadian two dollars) to get from Commissioner’s Park to Major’s Hill Park. The line was long, the traffic was awful, and the shuttle only comes every 30 minutes, but it was definitely the best option to travel between the tulip gardens during the busy weekends.

The stretch of red and pink tulips were my favourite at Major’s Hill Park. The colours were so bright and inspiring, with the Parliament Hill buildings in the near distance (although there’s quite a bit of renovation and construction happening there at the moment).

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Without a doubt, it was a good weekend excursion with the family. Ottawa is a 4.5 hour drive from Toronto – it’s definitely possible to do a day trip but I would suggest staying one night at least so you’re not too drained from the drive. It’s also nice to be able to get a nice dinner while in town as well.

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