Hello Spring! Well, almost summer now tomorrow…so I’ve got a few more hours to celebrate spring. (I’m a bit behind in my posts as per usual ha ha).
It’s my absolute favourite time of the year here in Ottawa. The weather is perfect and I’m constantly surrounded by these stunners…
My hometown is always beautiful, but spring here is simply show-stopping.
We just recently wrapped up our Tulip Festival which has taken place right here in Ottawa every spring for over a half a century! Every May, my hometown explodes in a rainbow of different colours as millions of tulips start blooming throughout the city.
More than 500,000 people flock to Ottawa from all over the world every year to check out the Canadian Tulip Festival. It’s quite a sight to behold.
If you’re a nature photographer (or flower lover) you’ll be in your glory here. But even if you’re neither, you’ll still enjoying gawking at the beautiful tulips. I rarely meet a tourist who isn’t impressed, really. It’s hard not to be…
You will probably be snapping pictures like a maniac, especially if you’re camera-happy like me. I’m from here (and have been to the festival a gazillion times, of course) but I still take a gazillion pics when I see views like this around town.
It’s easy to have Spring Mania when there’s so much colour everywhere across the city. Okay, we’re usually pretty happy at this time of year anyway because the snow is finally gone (YAY!), but the pretty flowers are definitely mood-boosters.
Even during an impending thunderstorm, you may be still taking pictures of the tulips instead of, say, running for cover. (I may or may not have been one of those people ha ha). But since I’m partial to storms and flowers, this was a combo I definitely couldn’t resist.
That sky looks pretty cool, albeit a wee bit scary as well. Okay, Okay, putting down the camera now and heading into the nearest building.
Believe it or not, our Tulip Festival is not just about showcasing a bunch of pretty flowers to lure tourists, there’s actually a heartwarming story about it. It all started because of the friendship between two countries: us (Canada) and the Netherlands.
During the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, the Dutch Royal Family fled for refuge to Canada and stayed right here in Ottawa. In 1943, Princess Juliana gave birth to her daughter, Princess Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
To ensure her daughter was born on ‘Dutch soil’, so she could later retain the right to the throne, a part of our hospital was proclaimed Dutch Territory.
As a gift of gratitude, the Royal family sent us 100,000 tulips, and as a result our beloved tulip festival was born.
To this day, the Netherlands continue to give our city 20,000 tulip bulbs every year. Which, of course, we showcase along the Tulip route for locals and tourists to enjoy.
How cool is that?
Even if you’re a local , you probably come to the Tulip Fest every year…or at least admire the tulips on your drive or bike ride across the city. It’s easy to do because they’re almost everywhere.
For a fun little throwback, here’s a couple of photos of myself as a youngin’ enjoying the Tulip Festival. This first one was taken when I was still in high school while on a date with my boyfriend at the time. Try not to laugh too hard at my incredibly teased hair (it was the late 80s so Hairspray was mandatory).
And here’s another fun pic taken a few years later (mid 90s) while at the Festival with my girlfriends. You’ll notice my hair is much flatter —sans the 20 tonnes of hairspray (haha)
And for some recent fun….these two photos were taken last year at the Tulip Festival with our little pooch. She got carried around a bit as it was quite hot (and she IS a Princess after all).
Since yesterday was Father’s Day, I thought I’d share a nice photo I came across with my dad (who has since passed away) when we went to the Tulip Festival with a couple of his friends a bunch of years ago. Seeing this photo of him yesterday made me smile as it was a bit of a tough day (Father Day and then it’s his birthday today, so a double whammy of memories flowing through me). But this brought back fun memories of our wonderful day at the festival together.
Behind them is a gorgeous ‘Tulip themed’ painting on display at the festival about a decade ago. I haven’t seen it since, unfortunately, but it was a beautiful piece of tulip-themed artwork.
If you’re coming to Ottawa for the Tulip Festival, you’ll find a bulk of the tulips in a few areas around town in what the city refers to as the ‘Tulip Route’. The best tulip spotting is in Commissioner’s Park near Dow’s Lake. In this area alone, you’ll find over 300,000 tulips planted here.
Most likely, though, you’ll be staying downtown, so Dow’s Lake is actually far away enough from the city’s downtown core that you’ll probably need a car or a bike (you can rent them downtown) if you want to check out the tulips at Commissioner’s Park.
But I recommend the bike ride as it’s a gorgeous ride along the historic Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). I’d say it’s about a 20 minute bike ride from Parliament Hill to Dow’s Lake, probably longer if you stop to take photos along the way (trust me, you’ll want to).
I also recommend stopping at our newly renovated Lansdowne Park (Ottawa’s relatively trendy and hopping ‘Glebe neighbourhood’) along the way to Dow’s Lake (it’s roughly at the halfway point) where you can check out our brand new venue for tulips, gorgeous tulip sculptures, and also live music and vendors set up within inside the iconic Aberdeen Pavillion (built in 1898).
The Tulip Sculpture garden inside the Pavillion is just gorgeous and it’s chock full of painted tulip sculptures from local artists.
This one of the Royal Couple sharing a kiss is my favourite! It’s absolutely stunning…
It’s pretty cool and definitely worth checking out if you’re here for the festival. You can also order a glass of wine or a beer afterward while enjoying some great music.
The other popular area to see lots of tulips is Major’s Hill Park, which is right downtown and close to the Parliament Buildings. Even better, you get to enjoy walking along the pathway which overlooks our beautiful Ottawa River (the province of Quebec is just on the other side).
If you’re thinking of coming to Ottawa for the Canadian Tulip Festival, next year (2017) will be a big celebration as our city is celebrating our 150th birthday!
The 72nd Tulip Festival will run from May 12th to the 22nd. Check out this page to get updates closer to the event if you plan to come. And let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help! 😀
** Note: This post is NOT sponsored by anyone (such as the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Tourism etc). It’s my own writing, research, experiences at the festival as well as photos. I did not get any compensation for this post at all. So you can be reassured it’s my own unbiased opinion on our festival. I’m from this beautiful city and many of my international friends and readers have been asking me for info on Ottawa and this event, so I thought I’d share it with you all.
Hope you’re all doing great and happy START of summer! To properly say goodbye to our Tulips, I decided to make a pie with fun tulip-shaped pastry on top. Pie and flowers? You just can’t go wrong with that combo, right?
Here are a few more spring pictures (mostly of flowers in bloom around town) to sign off my favourite season on the right foot. Man, I’m SO gonna miss Spring!
Thanks for reading, guys! Love, Dana xo