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Tulips Take On Ottawa

Updated: May 7

Tulip Festival

The harsh months of winter have left the people of Ottawa, Canada’s frigid capital city, looking for any sing of Spring. That first sign will come as Ottawa’s annual tulip festival kicks off next week, beginning May 10th and ending May 20th.  The festival is like many held in partnership with the Dutch government, such as in the Union Squares of San Francisco and New York City. In Ottawa, the tulips spread wide across Commissioner’s Park, beside Dow’s Lake.

Commissioner's Park & Dow's Lake


Historical Roots

Queen (formerly Princess) Juliana Today

The origins of the importance of tulips to the Ottawa community ties back to World War II. The Nazi invasion of the Netherlands forced Princess Juliana to flee, taking her two daughters with her. The three young women found refuge in Ottawa, where Juliana had her third child. To ensure that the new princess was of Dutch nationality, a part of the Ottawa Civic Hospital was declared to be Dutch soil. Once the Netherlands had been liberated, Princess Juliana sought to send gifts back to the city. Most note-worthy was a shipment of 100,000 tulip bulbs.


WWII Veteran at 2023 Festival

Since this first shipment, the Dutch government has sent tulip bulbs to the Canadian capital every year around WWII Victory Day (May 8th). The tulip festival was created in 1953, eight years later, to celebrate this continued gift from the Dutch.


Tulip View

The First Festival

The first festival was suggested by photographer Malak Karsh, who was enthralled by the beauty of the tulips sent by the Dutch. Karsh documented the first festival and is considered to have “immortalized the tulip.” In 2001, the tulip was designated at the official flower of Ottawa. This video shows some gorgeous views of the 2023 festival, which marked the 70th anniversary.

Tulips View


2024 Events

Blacklit Tulip

This year’s festival will have a plethora of events. From 10am to 8pm daily, there will be access to tulips of all kinds, both fresh-cut and bulbs. There will also be some daffodils, which guests are free to take. Starting at 8pm, there will be a night-time activity as well! Guests are invited to stroll Commissioner’s Park to see the Blacklight Boardwalk, which is a blacklight exhibit designed to depict how pollinators see flowers. Ottawa is home to the only blacklit tulip garden in the world.


Over 300,000 tulips are being prepared as we speak in Ottawa’s parks. Several hundred thousand people (from Ottawa, Canada, and beyond) are expected to attend the festivities. The views are sure to be gorgeous and bring the joyous feelings of the spring season!

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence

University Intern

(Photo taken at San Francisco's Union Square Tulip Festival)

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