Tulip Festival in Istanbul, Turkey

Tulip Festivals Around The World: Where To See The Best Displays

Tulip festivals Istanbul, Turkey

Have you ever been to a tulip festival? Have you ever looked over a sea of bright, bobbing heads in blocks of colors drenched in spring sunshine?

Tulips are one of the most popular flowers in America and other northern countries – where they are among the first flowers to hale the welcome signs of warmer weather coming. Ever since the Dutch made an art form out of tulip plantings, tulips have been popular wherever there are strong Dutch roots.

But do you know tulips actually come from the Middle East?

The Fascinating History of Tulips

Tulips were originally grown in the Ottoman Empire, which is present-day Turkey. There’s still a tulip festival in Istanbul every spring!

The flower was brought into Holland in the 1500’s and a man named Carolus Clusius. He wrote the first major book ever written about tulips in 1592. After that, tulips became so popular that people started to steal tulip bulbs from his garden regularly.

In the 1600’s, along with some of the art the world holds most dear – like paintings from the Dutch Old Masters Vermeer and Rembrandt – the tulip grew in popularity. People made paintings and held festivals in honor of the tulip. At one point, tulip bulbs became so expensive because of their scarcity that they came to be used as currency!

The Netherlands and Tulips

The Netherlands, commonly referred to as Holland, is still known for its tulips. There they are cultivated, along with many other flowers, for sale. You can still find many places in Holland full of fields of tulips and celebrate many tulip festivals.

There is a tulip museum and gift shop in Amsterdam, located just across the bridge from the Anne Frank house.

The most famous Dutch tulip festival is the Keukenhof annual tulip festival, located just south of Amsterdam in the town of Lisse. This festival is full of many spring flowers, too, not just tulips. Grape hyacinths, special varieties of tulips – like the black and the pink and blue fringe – and an indoor area for orchids are what make Holland’s tulip festival unique and special.

Keukenhof tulip festival - Deep Root Aeration Tubes | Rootwell

Keukenhof annual tulip festival

This festival runs from late March to late May every year. The selection of flowers you see will differ according to when you come. As this is a popular tourist attraction, it’s always a good idea to buy tickets online ahead of time to avoid the lines.

The Canadian Tulip Festival

Many Americans know that New York was originally a series of Dutch colonies called New Amsterdam. Tulip festivals are still popular wherever Dutch roots are strong, like Holland, Michigan in the United States and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Canadian Tulip Festival

Canadian Tulip Festival

There’s an interesting story associated with the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. During the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War II, the Dutch royal family escaped to Ottawa.

Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in 1943. Because of the special circumstances, the Canadian government declared that land to be extraterritorial so the princess could retain her Dutch citizenship.

Every year since then, the royal family has sent a gift of tulip bulbs to Ottawa. This year, Ottawa’s tulip festival runs from May 12-22 and has over a million blooming bulbs in public areas. The most notable of these displays is in Commissioners Park, which has 300,000 blooms at its peak.

Tulip Festivals in the U.S.

In the United States, there are many Dutch settlements and therefore many tulip festivals all over the country. Right around the time the Dutch were painting all those great paintings and becoming obsessed with tulips, they were also settling in colonies in the New World and establishing lines of trade. The first settlers brought tulip bulbs with them to the colonies – the first of which was New Netherland which was then taken by the British and re-named New York.

Albany, New York Tulip Fest

Albany, New York, is home to a Tulip Fest celebrating its Dutch heritage. This year, 2017, it is being held Mother’s Day weekend – May 13 & 14. Come see the United State’s oldest Dutch colony with over 100,000 tulips in bloom, musical performances by national artists, a tulip queen coronation and court luncheon, the royal tulip ball, children’s activities and much more!

For a touch of authenticity, girls in traditional Dutch clothing kick off the celebrating by a scrubbing (you read that right!) of State Street.

Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival

Tulips along street in Holland, MI

Tulips along street in Holland, Mi

Further west, the biggest tulip festival in the United States is Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan. Holland boasts almost 5 million tulips planted in city parks and along roads.

You can look at the Tulip Tracker to find accurate predictions about when the tulips will be in full bloom on the website, but they are generally in bloom in late April or early May.

Tulip Time this year is May 6-14. In Holland, MI you can get a quaint taste of Dutch heritage on the shores of Lake Michigan. There is Dutch dancing every day throughout the city, performed by locals dressed in period costume.

In addition, there is a traditional Dutch Marktplaats, or marketplace with tastes, sights and sounds of 19th century Holland. There are many other activities to attend if you want to experience Dutch culture outside of Holland itself.

There are also many other typical American carnivals, arts and crafts fairs, and musical performances by modern artists. The city of Holland outdoes itself every year. This is a regional treat not to be missed!

Mt. Vernon, Washington: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

On the West Coast, there are tulip festivals in Washington and Oregon. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is held in the Skagit Valley of Washington. It is 60 miles north of Seattle and 70 miles south of Vancouver.

The tulip festival office is located in Mt. Vernon, Washington and you’ll find several area farms and wineries covered in fields of tulips which also offer crafts, treats, and activities for all ages. Mt. Vernon is host to the Kiwanis Salmon Barbeque, which has become a staple of the tulip festival since the 1980’s when the festival began, and a street fair which runs April 21-23. In addition, there are many, many more activities and events at this beautiful festival.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Woodburn, Oregon: The Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest

The Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest is a small festival held in Woodburn, Oregon at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. It happens March 24-April 30 this year and boasts 40 acres of tulip fields to delight the eye. This is a great festival for one-stop fun and it features wine tasting, art and cooking classes, a fun run for people and dogs, wagon rides, food, and of course, fresh flowers galore!

Take Away

No matter where you are this spring, you are sure to be near a local tulip festival! Or, take a trip and see a new place! From the growing fields of the west coast, to the historically connected Dutch settlements further east, there’s nothing more refreshing than to be surrounded by those bright, bobbing blocks of color this spring.


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