The world's largest tulip festival is back this month in Canada

More than 1 million bulbs will be on display!

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman
USA contributor
Canadian Parliament Building at Ottawa with full bloom red and yellow tulips in front
Photograph: Shutterstock

The largest tulip festival in the world isn't anywhere near the Netherlands; that honor goes to the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, which boasts more than 1 million tulips on display! 

The tulip festival bleeds into the city, with displays throughout the capital city that honor both the bright flower and also Canada’s role in the liberation of the Netherlands during World War II.

In fact, the Dutch royal family gave 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada immediately following the war in 1945. The gift also honored the birth of Dutch Princess Margriet in Ottawa in 1943 – her parents, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard, had fled to Canada when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. She is the only royal personage ever born in Canada and is currently eighth in line to the Dutch throne

Each year the Netherlands sends tens of thousands of bulbs to Canada in continuing appreciation for the harboring of the royal family, and these form the basis of the tulip festival displays.

This year, the festival celebrates 70 years with an innovative new exhibit: the chance to see tulips the way bees do. The Blacklight Boardwalk display involves 16 planters at Dow’s Lake Boardwalk. These flowers have been illuminated with black lights, which lets humans experience flowers a whole new way. Many patterns on flowers are only visible with ultra-violet light that often serve as ‘nectar bulls-eyes’ to bees. With the blacklight display, visitors will be able to see these otherwise invisible designs.

There will also be movies, food trucks, guided tours, tulip bingo, fireworks, and a nighttime tour called Ghosts of the Glebe (a neighborhood name) that focuses on the Canadian soldiers who didn’t come back from WWII. You can ride the Tulip Trolley between various tulip sites.

The festival was held virtually in 2020 and 2021; this is the first time it’s back in person since the pandemic began. It takes place May 13 through 23 and contains a mixture of paid and free events.

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