Tulips on Two Wheels: Two self-guided tours

Ottawa’s annual Canadian Tulip Festival is one of our favourite times of year to get out on our bikes and enjoy the city (although to be fair we have a lot of favourite times of year to do that!). To celebrate, we’ve prepared a couple of fun self-guided tours so that you can enjoy the festival on two wheels.

This year, for Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, the Canadian Tulip Festival, running from May 12-22, promises to be as beautiful as ever. There is no better way to take it in than on two wheels, since almost all of the main tulip sites are accessible via Ottawa’s pathway network, allowing you to easily pedal to the petals!

Photo 1
A bed of tulips. (Simone Rivers)

To help you along, we’ve put together a couple of Tulips on Two Wheels self-guided tours you can do to make sure you take in as many petals as possible. One of the tours is more aimed at adults and the other is aimed at families with kids.

What you can expect on both tours

  • Entirely on car-free pathways and low-traffic streets
  • Bike parking options
  • Minimal hills
  • Great for people of all ages with all kinds of experience levels riding bikes

Tulip tips

  • Start from any point, do as much or as little of the route as you like
  • Do the routes in either direction, though clockwise may be preferred if you’re doing the entire 15 km loop
  • If you’re using OC Transpo’s rack and roll, consider starting your tour at Bayview, since it connects nicely to the Trillium Pathway.
  • Because of the flooding of the Ottawa River Pathway below Parliament Hill, we have provided an alternate route to use in case the pathway is still flooded. Be sure to check the status of the path before you head out and don’t pass the barriers on the pathway if they are set up.

Tulips and Tots on Two Wheels

There are lots of family-friendly activities planned at Tulip Festival and bikes are a great way to get between these. The main spots for families are at Lansdowne and Commissioner’s Park but we’re suggesting a few other stops to keep the young ones (or just the young at heart!) entertained and happy.

This route is about 15km for the whole tour, which might be a bit long for our littlest bike buddies, but you can do any portion of it on its own.

This route is intended for families with kids on bikes or in bike seats or trailers. One part of the route isn’t accessible to trailers, so we’ve mapped a detour option for that part of the tour or you can just skip it altogether.

Photo 4
A tot enjoying the tulips on his two wheels. (Simone Rivers)

Route highlights

  • Commissioners’s Park: over 250,000 tulips!
  • Gelatini Gelato or Art-is-In Bakery for treats
  • Canadian War Museum for tulip beds and a green roof with a view
  • Parliament Hill for fantastic tulip photo opportunities
  • Ottawa River pathway – tulip season is also the season to spot fuzzy goslings and ducklings
  • Major’s Hill Park – Parliament as your photo backdrop
  • St. Luke’s Park Playground, in case the kids need to burn off some energy (or you need a break)
  • Landowne tulip gallery (and playground): lots of amenities and exhibits here

Flooding Note: As the Ottawa area has experienced some flooding lately that will impact part of the route as proposed here (that passing along the Ottawa River Pathway below Parliament Hill), we’ve provided an alternative route if the pathway remains flooded. In that case, use Flood Route.

Tulips and Tots on Two Wheels – Regular Route
Tulips and Tots on Two Wheels – Flood Route

Tulips and Tipples on Two Wheels

This 14km self-guided tour is a great way to see the main sites and beautiful colours of the tulip festival with a few stops for a drink and a bite to eat along the way, close to the route. You can do the whole tour or just a portion of it.

Route Highlights

  • Commissioners’s Park: over 250,000 tulips!
  • Art-is-In Bakery for treats or The Moonroom (after 5) for small plates and cocktails
  • Canadian War Museum for tulip beds and a green roof with a view
  • Mill Street Brew Pub for refreshments
  • Tulips at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories
  • Parliament Hill for fantastic tulip photo opportunities
  • Major’s Hill Park – Parliament as your photo backdrop
  • Tipples at The Manx or The Lieutenant’s Pump
  • Landowne tulip gallery: lots of amenities and exhibits here
  • Refreshments at the Arrow and Loon pub

Flooding Note: As the Ottawa area has experienced some flooding lately that will impact part of the route as proposed here (that passing along the Ottawa River Pathway below Parliament Hill), we’ve provided an alternative route if the pathway remains flooded. In that case, use Flood Route.

Tulips and Tipples on Two Wheels – Regular Route
Tulips and Tipples on Two Wheels – Flood Route

Tulip Festival fireworks

A bike is also the best way to get to and from the Tulip Festival fireworks, which take place on May 21st at Lansdowne. Park your bike in the ample bike parking at Lansdowne and enjoy the fireworks (you’ve even brought your own seat!). One of the best parts of the fireworks is riding home with everyone else afterwards (don’t forget your lights)!

Guided tours with Escape

If a guided tour is more your thing, check out Escape Bicycle Tours’ guided Tulip Bike Tours.

(Header photo by Cassandra Fulgham.)