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5 Ways You Can Still Enjoy the Canadian Tulip Festival This Year

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The annual floral celebration will be in full swing this May, with a few pandemic‑safe adjustments.

Every spring, the Ottawa tulip festival transforms the nation’s capital into the one of the world’s largest public tulip displays with more than one million blooms. The celebration started out as a gift from the Dutch people to Canadians for hosting the Dutch royal family during the Second World War and for Canada’s role in liberating the Netherlands. In the years since, it has become an annual tradition of international friendship.

Jo Riding, the executive director of the Canadian Tulip Festival (the event’s official name) believes it is important that the tradition continues, bringing moments of joy during the pandemic, as the original event did after the war. “It's always a surprise to me how much these tulips and their stories mean to people,” she says.

For its 69th anniversary this year, the Ottawa tulip festival will look different – but the show will go on, building on last year’s virtual‑only event. From May 14 to 24, 2021, Ottawa residents can look forward to seeing the flowers in person by way of a socially distanced strolling experience. Following Ottawa Public Health guidelines, attendees will be required to wear a mask, stay two metres apart and use hand sanitizing stations positioned throughout the grounds. Travel to the festival is discouraged, so national and international tulip‑lovers are asked to stay home and enjoy the Ottawa tulip festival through the many virtual experiences being offered this year.

Here are five ways to take in the season’s most magnificent tulips from anywhere you are:

April 2, 2021
A toddler walking by a patch of red, yellow and white tulips
  1. Walk, bike or bus to the tulip festival —

    The main grounds at Commissioners Park along the Rideau Canal's Dow’s Lake will have a spectacular 300,000 tulips in bloom. Ottawans who live close to the 1.2‑kilometre‑long main grounds, or one of the other 30 planting sites across the Ottawa‑Gatineau area, can walk, bike or bus there and get free admission to stroll through the tulip fields in person. (Cyclists are asked to walk their bikes through the gardens.)

A field of pink and white tulips
  1. Bring a piece of the festival home —

    Visit the online Tulip Boutique to purchase fresh‑cut pink‑ or purple‑striped Rembrandt Blend tulips grown in the Netherlands available for curbside pickup at various locations across Ottawa. If you’re outside the Ottawa region, you can still shop tulip‑themed merchandise such as T‑shirts and water bottles, or handcrafted pieces, including cute tulip‑themed candles and wooden displays.

A multicolour field of white, yellow, red, orange, pink and purple tulips
  1. Attend a virtual walk —

    Visit the festival’s official website where you can book a Zoom tour with a personal tour guide. You will  also find  360‑degree garden tours, live check‑ins and aerial photography of 27 out of the 30 different gardens and more than 130 types of tulips. There is even an interactive garden map, featuring photos of each type of tulip and where it’s planted in Commissioners Park.

A closeup of a pink, orange and yellowed hued tulip
  1. Tune into TulipTV —

    Check out the YouTube channel TulipTV to meet the new Canadian Tulip Festival Board, listen to their curated “Music and Tulips” playlist and learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the festival and Canada’s role in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Patches of red, yellow, orange and white tulips
  1. Start collecting your own bulbs —

    Prepare for the 70th anniversary of the Ottawa tulip festival in 2022 – the Platinum Jubilee – by purchasing tulip bulbs for your own garden. You can pre‑order a selection of classic bulbs, available to be shipped nationwide, such as the World Friendship Tulip, the Canada150, the National Velvet and more.