While the Canadian Tulip Festival takes place throughout Ottawa in May, there is no shortage of permanent vistas open to the public later in the summer as well. Along the Rideau Canal and in a variety of other areas, visitors planning a trip to Ottawa can walk or cycle through some gorgeous venues.
If you’re planning to visit gardens located near some of Ottawa and Gatineau’s major attractions, make sure to consult the Garden Promenade. You’ll find the best garden sites organized by type and by geographical location, and also handy interactive routes and maps. It’s never been easier to explore beautiful green spaces in Ottawa!
Here are just a few highlights of Ottawa’s luscious garden sites showcased by the Garden Promenade:
Central Experimental Farm - Ornamental Gardens and Dominion Arboretum
This large farm is a great attraction featuring: the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum; the Dominion Arboretum, with a vast and massive collection of established trees and shrubs that sprawl across the grounds; Ornamental Gardens, which encompasses a variety of smaller themed gardens; the Fletcher Wildlife Garden; and many heritage buildings dating back to the 1880s. Located around Dows Lake (part of the Rideau Canal system), just south of downtown Ottawa, visitors can stroll or cycle through the grounds.
Major Hill’s Park
As visitors to Ottawa have a variety of sights to see in the downtown area, Major's Hill Park offers a welcomed respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. This site overlooks the Rideau Canal as it empties into the Ottawa River. Those interested in visiting Parliament Hill will be mere steps from the lush, quiet park. Visitors also enjoy the park for its gorgeous views of Sussex Drive, the ByWard Market area, the Parliament Buildings and the National Gallery of Canada while relaxing or picnicking after a day of shopping.
Stroll through the largest official residence in the capital - Rideau Hall, home to the Governor General of Canada. Explore the fabulous 79-acre heritage gardens, find shade under one of the 10,000 trees on its grounds, and have your camera ready when you come upon the inukshuk, totem pole, and arc of roses in the garden. Many trees have a little plaque explaining which visiting dignitary planted it and when. There are trees planted by John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, and many more. Note: Rideau Hall grounds are closed until further notice due to COVID-19. Visit the Rideau Hall website for the most current information.
A couple other sites worth noting that are beyond the Garden Promenade’s routes:
Mackenzie King Estate
Nestled in Gatineau Park, this historic attraction was once the home of Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and served as his inspiration for most of his life. Wandering the illustrious grounds, visitors will not be disappointed with what they find at the Mackenzie King Estate: there are not only lovely gardens, but fascinating and picturesque ruins and cottages that date back to the 1940s, and acres of grounds to explore on foot as well.
Maplelawn Historic Garden
The Maplelawn Historic Garden is located on Richmond Road in the west Ottawa neighbourhood of Westboro and is open from dawn to dusk during the spring and summer months. This establishment became a national historic site in 1989, as it is one of the only well-preserved, standing walled gardens in the nation, though Ontario used to be filled with this construction many years ago. Maplelawn provides a clear record of how European architectural and landscape ideas were transplanted to Canada. Visitors can experience what walled gardens were like in the 19th century, as this site is kept in top shape, especially since 1993 when a volunteer group committed to preserving all of the architecture and plants in the garden. Stunning lilac bushes, perennials, sugar maples, crab apple trees and hydrangeas are just a few of the plants and shrubs that grace the garden. The walled garden at Maplelawn is not only a rare example, but it is also exceptionally well preserved.
Enjoy visiting Ottawa's beautiful gardens and share your photos with us using the hashtag #MyOttawa!