The Canadian Tulip Festival is joining forces with the Royal Canadian Navy for the Festival’s 71st edition in Commissioners Park, among 306,000 tulips at Dow’s Lake in Ottawa this May 12th – 22nd, 2023. Celebrating the Naval Reserve Centennial, the Festival will highlight the role brave citizen sailors played during the struggle for Dutch liberation in the Second World War.
Saturday, May 13th at 11:00 am the Festival’s Opening Ceremony begins with a Canadian Navy presence across the waters of Dow’s Lake. On land, Honoured Veterans, VIPs, and the public will be entertained by the lighting of the Canadian Remembrance Torch, and the National Band of the Naval Reserve as they parade down Queen Elizabeth Drive. The ceremony concludes with Navy League vessel Howard toting a landing craft with a vintage cannon and carriage onto the water for an official gun salute.
Blacklight Boardwalk is Back
At sunset, the free Pollinator’s Blacklight Boardwalk at Dow’s Lake comes to life. With over a thousand tulips displayed under Ultraviolet Light, this fun and funky attraction allows guests to experience the flowers through the eyes of a bee or butterfly from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm nightly.
At 9:15 pm on the Boardwalk, the new Sound & Light Show from Optimal Show Experience begins. Immersing the audience in the Battle of the Atlantic, this show tells the stories of HMCS Ottawa and HMCS Haida through the dramatic use of lighting, sound, and water effects.
“Ghosts of the Glebe” Theatrical Performance
Returning for its second season, “Ghosts of the Glebe” is a walking theatrical performance, with renowned Stage Director Riley Stewart and Chaotic Industry. A young Women’s Reservist (WREN) takes the audience on a journey back in time. Set in 1946, the Second World War has just ended and the tulips are blooming in Commissioners Park for the first time in Ottawa. Hear haunting stories of the WREN’s real-life naval reservists friends that gave the ultimate sacrifice on the sea. Shows are running nightly from 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm, tickets are $20 per person. Parental discretion is advised for children 12 and under.
Tulip Legacy Walking Tour
The Tulip Legacy Walking Tour explores over 30 breeds of tulips, as well as the romantic, royal story behind park features such as the Queen Juliana Gift Bed, and the meaning behind the “Man with Two Hats” statue. The tour is sponsored by Chartwell Retirement Residences, running daily from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, tickets are available on the tulip festival website for $10 per person, children 12 and under are free.
Ottawa Markets is hosting the Byward Mini-Market in the park with a selection of artisans offering handcrafted tulip-themed merchandise, from candle makers to metal workers. This is an excellent opportunity to shop locally for one-of-a-kind finds. The Tulip Team at Re/Max’s Tulip Boutique will be on-site with festival merchandise, cut tulip bouquets from Ottawa’s U-Pick tulip grower Green Corner’s Farms, and presales for the new Royal Canadian Air Force Centennial Tulip Bulbs for fall planting.
Chartwell’s Movies in the Park offers free showings of popular films at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm every day. Visit the Dutch Pavilion and War Brides exhibit, before trying out the interactive WRENS experience. Food trucks and concessions are available on-site.
Visit the Partners’ Plaza at Dow’s Lake Pavilion and rent kayaks and pedal boats, then get a temporary sailor tattoo from Parks Canada. Book bus and boat tours around the city, and purchase a ticket to Cobblestone’s Tulip Shuttle, heading downtown to the ByWard Market and select hotels, before returning to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and Dow’s Lake.
Explore the Greenspace
Partnering with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, as well as the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm, the Canadian Tulip Festival is excited to invite visitors to explore one of the most unique urban greenspaces in the country. The museum is offering correlated programming with its Soil Lab Garden and Soil Lab, which highlights the importance of healthy soils. Visitors can also explore the Aquaculture: Farming the Waters exhibition, which explores the innovation potential and challenges of farming seafood – not only on our coasts but across the country. Don’t forget to stop by the museum’s Demonstration Kitchen for a tasty treat during your visit!
For guests who park in the main visitor lot at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum, the 20-minute walk to the Festival Site is marked out along the spring blooms of the Lilac Walk and the Ornamental Gardens, then through the Dominion Arboretum (note the flowering magnolias and Rosybloom crabapples), to Dow’s Lake Pavilion. The Friends are having a Mother’s Day plant sale on Sunday, May 14th, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm, and offer walking tours of the Dominion Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens on specific dates as shown on their website, www.friendsofthefarm.ca.
No Victoria Day Fireworks
There will be no Victoria Day Fireworks display this year. “With a view to our sustainable development goals, we have decided to make the switch from a single 15-minute fireworks display to a free 10-minute sound and light show, every night for 11 nights.” explains Executive Director, Ms. Jo Riding. “Not only is this far more fiscally and ecologically responsible, but it also allows for a brand-new and incredibly exciting way to interpret the Canadian Tulip Legacy to even more guests,” adds Riding.
Road Closures & Parking
The public can expect road closures on both weekends of the Festival, on Queen Elizabeth Drive between Preston St. and Torrington Ave., Saturday, May 13th and Sunday, May 14th, as well as Saturday, May 20th and Sunday, May 21st from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.
The first weekend’s closure allows for the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, as well as Somersault’s Mother’s Day Tulip Fun Run, on Sunday, May 14th, which starts at 12:00 pm at Preston St. and Queen Elizabeth Drive. During the second-weekend road closure, VIA Rail’s Tiny Tulip Train will be running on Queen Elizabeth Drive, May 20th and 21st from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Accessible parking will be available on Dow’s Lake Road during the Festival. Paid public parking is available in the main visitor parking lot at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum on Prince of Wales Drive, on Champagne Ave. north of Carling, and Preston St. north of Carling. Dow’s Lake Pavilion is a ParaTranspo stop and is also available as a designated pick-up and drop-off area.
Canadian Tulip Legacy
The Canadian Tulip Legacy’s mission is to ensure the Canadian Tulip Festival remains free, as the tulips were given in gratitude to all Canadians. The Legacy is a nationally registered charity dedicated to educating future generations of Canadians about the cost of freedom, the importance of international friendship, and the meaning behind the Gift of Tulips. The public can support the Tulip Legacy mission through an annual tulip bulb fundraiser, donations in the park or online, or participating in the Adopt a Tulip Campaign.