Canadian Tulip Festival

Tiptoeing Through the Tulips


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

As I mentioned previously, the Canadian Tulip Festival has three main event sites. They are located at Parliament Hill – Capital InfoCentre, Major’s Hill Park and Commissioners Park – Dows Lake. The Tulip Route runs between these 3 sites. The sides of the roads are lined with tulip beds. In fact, just about everywhere you look tulips are sprouting up in all their magnificent cavalcade of colours. We had already observed the flowers on Parliament Hill. It was now time to visit Major’s Hill Park. The park is located just behind the Chateau Laurier Hotel. It’s difficult to get to when you are driving (walking would have been much easier) and close-by parking is non-existent. We eventually found a parking spot, even after a very rude woman took a spot that we had been waiting for. Manners were not at play here! From our parking spot located in the Byward Market we walked to the park. The entrance to the site is defined by portable Festival archway. Located within the site were giant Tulip sculptures. Also located within the site were a number of tents. Unfortunately the event parts of the festival were not set to open until the weekend. It was disappointing, but we did get the flavour of what would be. Our next stop was the site at Commissioners Park – Dows Lake. To reach it you travel along the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. The Driveway runs parallel to the Rideau Canal. This is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada, especially at the festival time. Although the local residents would like everyone to drive fast (they don’t appreciate the scenery), most tourists like to drive slowly to take it all in. We took it all in! This site was set up with tents and food vendors much like Major’s Hill Park. Again it was disappointing because all the activities wouldn’t happen until the weekend. Although the Festival website and literature all indicate that the Festival takes place from May 4th to May 21st, the real family activities don’t start until May 11th.

Wish We Were There…

As I mentioned yesterday, we were too early to enjoy the full blown experience of the festival. We will certainly go back at a later time. If you are planning to stay over night, reservations, well in advance, are a must. This is a very popular event. The event guide says that they expect over 500,000 attendees and I can believe it. The Canadian Tulip Festival website (http://www.tulipfestival.ca/) gives a full description of everything that happens, but I wanted to give you my thoughts on what I would have like to have seen. The flowers are the main draw, but there are a lot of other great attractions. Here is a sampling of what we missed. At the Parliament Hill – Infocentre they were having a multi-media presentation on the Capital and its most beautiful displays of tulips. At Major’s Hill Park there will be “Artists in the Tulips”, “Music in the Tulips”, “Buskers in the Tulips” and an “Art Gallery and Tulip Boutique”. You can see photos of the set up in my next blog. Also at Major’s Hill Park, from May 11th to May 21st there will be an International Pavilion that will promote International culture, food, entertainment and ideas. Moving to Commissioners Park – Dows Lake, there will be a “Tulip Legacy Exhibit – Gift of Tulips” (some of the displays can be seen in my next blog) and like Major’s Hill Park, there will be “Music in the Park”, “Artists in the Park”, “Buskers in the Park” and an “Art Gallery and Tulip Boutique”. Traveling in Ottawa at any time can be quite the experience, but driving during rush hour and when there is a major event is next to impossible, especially if you don’t know your way around. During the weekends there will be a Tulip Shuttle that transports attendees from site to site. In addition to the above there are many partnership events and activities happening all over the city. Picking up a festival guide or studying the Festival's website will give you the whole picture. This is definitely a great festival to attend, but here are a few observations. I’d like to preface my comments by saying that I wasn’t there during the main part of the festival, so some of my thoughts may not exist. First I couldn’t see any handicapped parking spaces or for that matter drop off spots. They may be there, but they were not marked. Signage to the different sites is poor. For out-of-towners, like Judi and me, it would be next to impossible to find the different sites by car without asking for

Better Than Words…

The following photos will take you with us along the Canadian Tulip Festival Route, enjoy: