Abbotsford Tulip Festival
I was on holidays driving west on the Trans Canada Highway (Number 1) from the town of Hope, roughly three kilometres before the Abbotsford city center turn off, when I noticed acres and acres of multi coloured flowers and bus loads of visitors walking the fields. I took the next exit and followed North Parallel Road to the parking lot. The huge parking lot was full, so I parked out on the street (North Parallel Road) for a few minutes. Looking at ten acres of tulips was stunning, something I have only seen on TV before this. I could not stop taking pictures of the people, families and their pets around the tulips.
The founder of this magnificent event is Alexis Warmerdam. Her grandfather, Peter Warmerdam came from the Netherlands and settled in the Fraser Valley in 1950. In 1974, Peter bought land on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford, next to the Trans Canada Highway.
Alexis started this event to celebrate the beauty of tulips and her Dutch heritage, as well as her family’s horticultural knowledge and farming experience. This first annual event was overwhelming for the Warmerdams. People stopped on the side of the freeway, mesmerized by the field of flowers. The Tulip Festival was very well organized for adults, kids and their pets. They had food trucks, covered picnic area, hay bale playground and a sandbox, on site flower market, and a U-Pick field to gather your own selection of tulips.
Truckloads of tulip bulbs are planted in October; their special variety bulbs are imported from the Netherlands for the Abbotsford Tulip Festival. The ten acres of tulips are planted on a rotation basis, meaning they will not plant on the same field for five years. They have enough acreage on their property that the festival will be held at the same location every year.
Dates for 2017 are the 10th of April to the 7th of May. Go to their web site for details www.abbotsfordtulipfestival.ca Try to plan your visit Monday to Friday, as on weekends the crowds increase from 11,000 to 13,000 per day. It is recommended that you go onto their website to purchase tickets, and this is a must if you want tickets for weekends and holidays. Ticket price weekdays from 9 am to dusk, Monday to Friday, is $8 for general admission, seniors and kids are $5 and children under 3 are free. Prices increase on weekends and holidays. All prices include parking.
The festival specializes in people wanting the ultimate family photo opportunity - including their pets. Local high schools in the area have made cutout photo boards in many different themes. Simply put your arms and head through the holes for fun and colourful images.
From one hour before sunrise to 9 am, photographers come from across Canada and the USA to capture the perfect morning light on the flowers and people. Admission rate for this is $15 from Monday to Friday (everyone is welcome to take their own photos). There are different rates for this service on weekends - check on line.
There is more family fun in Abbotsford. Two kilometers west is Family Fun Park on North Parallel Road, with mini-golf, go-carts, bumper cars, bowling, and pinball.
In the heart of Abbotsford, behind the Seven Oaks Shopping Centre, is beautiful Mill Lake. The lake was originally used for logging operations and had a sawmill. In the 1940’s, the Abbotsford Lions club bought the property. They removed the buildings and mill equipment, brought sand in for the beaches and planted grass around the lake turning this into a public recreation area. Mill Lake Centennial Park recreation area is 42 hectares surrounding
by paved walkways, playgrounds, wildlife and a big public swimming pool at the west end of the lake. Locals come to walk the trails and fish for rainbow trout and largemouth bass.
You can stay close by at the Royalwood Golf and RV Resort, which is 15 minutes east of the Abbotsford Tulip Festival travelling on the Trans Canada Highway. The 18-hole golf course has a restaurant, driving range and chipping green with 76 camping sites. 30 and 50 amp power with full hookups and Wi-Fi available.