Next to Winterlude, Ottawa’s Tulip Festival is one of the biggest draws in the capital, attracting more than half a million visitors every year. And it kicks off this weekend!

The festival, which has been running for 65 years, features 11 days of events, from Friday, May 11 through Victoria Day Monday on May 21. In between, more than 1,000 artists and performers can be found at 100+ activities and attractions clustered around four locations in the city.

Oh, and don’t forget more than 1 million tulips!

The venues

There are four main locations for events, each with its own theme:
* Lansdowne Park (arts & culture)
* Commissioners Park at Dow’s Lake (gardens)
* Garden Promenade (community)
* ByWard Market (urban experience)

Activities range from yoga and cooking to exhibits, boat cruises, educational activities, concerts, art workshops and more. You’ll need to check the schedules for each of the venues (see the links above) to find just what you’re looking for.

Best place to get that perfect photo?

While there are plenty of spots to photograph, we’ve turned to a pro for a bit of advice. Chris Mikula was a news photographer at the Ottawa Citizen for many years and has taken his share of tulip photos. Here’s what he has to say on the subject:

Dow's Lake is the best spot, but also the most popular. It can be very busy; think thousands of tourists all vying for the best photo spot.

A long lens will compress the flower beds into layers of colour. There are even small walkways opening in the middle of the beds for people to crouch down and pose in. 

Away from Dow's Lake, Major’s Hill Park is nice, with the backgrounds of Parliament Hill and the National Gallery.

Less crowded would be the tulip beds anywhere along the Rideau Canal other than Dow's Lake.

Chris has included a couple of his more recent tulip photos. These were taken last year while on a bicycle tour. Thanks, Chris!

What shouldn’t you miss?

Mother’s Day brunch: Gourmet brunch for the entire family at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. It’s a fundraiser for the Bruyère Foundation, with prices ranging from $12 for those 4 and under to $43 for adults. Get tickets here.

Tiptoe through the tulips: For real! A four-block by five-block art installation in the ByWard Market is billed as a way to get a fresh perspective on what it means to be out in nature.

Tulips & fireworks: Catch a fireworks display celebrating Victoria Day while sitting among the tulips at Dow’s Lake. While the holiday is on Monday, May 21, the fireworks display is set for Sunday the 20th.

Looking for more information about the festival? Check out tulipfestival.ca.