Over the Victoria Day long weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, for the Canadian Tulip Festival. Here is my review of this annual event that has been taking place since 1953.
History of the Canadian Tulip Festival
The Canadian Tulip Festival is a tulip festival held annually each May in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The festival commemorates the sacrifice of over 7500 Canadian soldiers in the liberation of the Netherlands while celebrating the only royal personage ever born on Canadian soil, Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet, and the resulting gift of tulips from the grateful Dutch to all Canadians.
The festival is the largest tulip festival in the world, with over one million tulips on display across the city and an attendance of over 650,000 visitors each year.
The main location of the Canadian Tulip Festival is Commissioners Park, where over 300,000 tulips of different colours and shapes are on display. You can also see tulips in many other locations throughout the city, such as Major’s Hill Park.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is held every year in May, typically around Mother’s Day (the second Sunday of May) and Victoria Day Long Weekend. The timing makes visiting the Canadian Tulip Festival a perfect Mother’s Day gift or a long weekend getaway idea.
The weather was a bit chilly, but it didn’t deter us from enjoying the tulip grounds. Before the trip, I was hoping to see tulips with unusual colours and shapes, and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. Some tulips have multi-coloured petals. Some species have so many petals that they look more like roses, and some even have finely incised fringe on the edges of the petals. I love walking in this ocean of tulips.
Other tourist attractions
While you are in Ottawa attending the Canadian Tulip Festival, you may want to check out other tourist attractions in the city as well.
Ottawa is well known for its museums. A quick Google search returns more than 30 museums in the city. Among the most popular ones are the Canadian Museum of Nature, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian Museum of History (in Gatineau, Quebec, right next to Ottawa).
During this trip, I decided to visit the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and the Bank of Canada Museum.
Canadian Museum of Nature
The museum’s exhibitions and public programs are housed in the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, an 18,910 square metres structure. Inside, you can find dinosaur replicas, whale skeletons, an Arctic gallery, mammals, minerals, birds, insects, and flora. Some events and activities even feature live animals!
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
This place is more than a traditional museum. It is actually a working farm in the city that you can visit to learn about Canada’s unique agricultural heritage. I enjoyed meeting farm animals like horses and alpacas and visiting the cows in the dairy barn to learn how milk is collected.
Bank of Canada Museum
This is a smaller museum and admission is free. You can learn exactly what the Bank of Canada does and how it matters to you. You can see many different currencies across the globe and from different periods. The museum is also super modern and interactive.
The ByWard Market is a popular tourist attraction in Ottawa. It is the premier destination for shopping, dining, arts, entertainment and professional services for residents and visitors. This area averages 50,000 visitors per weekend in the summer months. It is home to both a local farmers’ market and artisans with many stands, as well as over 600 businesses.
The Rideau Canal is a 202-km long canal that links the Ottawa River with the Saint Lawrence River at Kingston, Ontario. It is North America’s best-preserved “slackwater” canal and the only one from the great 19th-century canal-building era that still operates along its original route with most of its original structures intact. You can enjoy a leisurely cruise along this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, and Parliament Hill is the home of the Parliament of Canada. It is therefore a must-visit tourist attraction if you are there. The buildings alone are beautiful enough for you to want to at least take some pictures.
If you are especially interested in politics, however, you can attend one of the guided tours, one for the Senate and one for the House of Commons. You can discover the history, roles, art and architecture of these important governing bodies of Canada.
Take the shuttle bus
The Canadian Tulip Festival provides a shuttle bus that takes you from several popular spots downtown directly to Commissioners Park. If you are not driving, I highly recommend that you take advantage of their shuttle bus service. It is more convenient than taking public transportation and less expensive than a taxi or Uber. The shuttle bus runs hourly during the week and every half an hour on weekends. The bus even has a stop at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, so you can pay a visit if you are interested in farm animals like me!
The Commissioners Park is a huge open space, so make sure you bring your sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun! Check out my comprehensive vacation packing list for all the essential items you should bring on your trip!
Check the opening and closing time of tourist attractions
Not all tourist attractions open and close at the same time. Some may not even open every day. It is therefore important to do your research beforehand, so you don’t arrive at a destination only to be disappointed.
Some museums even offer free admissions during specific times of the week, so doing research beforehand may also help you save money!
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Canadian Tulip Festival and Ottawa the city itself. I hope this review can inspire you to visit Ottawa, the capital city of Canada! Whether you are traveling alone or with family or friends, Ottawa is certainly a great destination you do not want to miss.