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Showing winter the door

Courtesy Canadian Tulip Festival

Canadian Tulip Festival
Canada’s capital city comes alive each May during the Canadian Tulip Festival, an 18-day event that features dozens of events and millions of flowers.

“The Canadian Tulip Festival is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year,” said Brent Gorman, the festival’s marketing and media manager. “The festival celebrates the gift of the tulips that was given by the Dutch royal family for harboring their people during World War II. The gift was 100,000 flowers, but now we have 3 million that bloom in Ottawa each year.”

Visitors will find more than 50 varieties of tulips planted at locations throughout the city. One center of color is Commissioner’s Park, located along a lake and canal that have been classified as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The park has 25 flowerbeds, with a collection of about 300,000 blooming tulips.

Other parks have entertainment programming throughout the festival, including major headlining musicians and other arts performances. An international pavilion features dance, food, songs, clothing and crafts from countries around the world.

Although the flowers are concentrated in a few key locations, many businesses and institutions throughout the city find ways to celebrate.

“We’ve expanded our footprint to a lot of other areas in the capital that have tourist interests,” Gorman said. “We have unique partnerships with artists that create topiaries throughout the capital.

“We also have our Five Foot Tulips, about 150 fiberglass tulips that we spread around the city to animate the area. Every hotel has one, as well as many parks and restaurants.”

Cactus League Baseball
We know them as the “boys of summer,” but major league baseball players first take to the field well before summer begins. Spring training has long been a rite of baseball. Today, the Phoenix area attracts many big-league teams each spring, along with thousands of visitors who go out to see them in preseason play.

The teams that train in Arizona, and their nightly scrimmages, are known as the Cactus League.

“March is a big month for spring training,” said Douglas MacKenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have 15 teams that play out here, just as many as the whole state of Florida. The teams are 30 minutes or less from each other, so you can see two games a day if you want to.”

The pace of spring training allows groups to combine some leisure time at an area resort with afternoons and evenings at the ballpark. Teams typically meet and practice at their private facilities in the mornings, giving tourists a chance to play golf, have a spa treatment or visit other attractions.

Then in the afternoon, the teams make their way to the small stadiums in the area, where they often have meet-and-greet sessions with fans and take batting practice before the games begin.

“The players will arrive and sign autographs,” MacKenzie said. “You need to be there about an hour and a half before the game to see them practice. They’re very accessible and into signing autographs. You can keep balls from the field and get lots of souvenirs.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.