OTTAWA -- The 69th Canadian Tulip Festival is underway, and for the second straight year, the event will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Residents are asked to avoid seeing the tulips in-person unless they live in the area, but still, many are heading to parks to view the blooms across the capital region.

The sun is shining, the weather is warm and thousands of tulips are in full bloom across Ottawa. On Friday, which marks the start of the Canadian Tulip Festival, many people took advantage of the picture-perfect day to snap a photo of the tulips at Commissioners Park, near Dow’s Lake.

Like many others who visited the gardens, Greg Reed and his family drove to the area, despite the provincial stay-at-home order which asks residents not to travel unless it is for essential reason.

"You don’t get this anywhere else," says Reed, whose family moved to the city last year. "We obviously have to be cognizant of the situation we are in right now. We have to be safe, we have to be smart and I think everybody should be responsible for their own safety."

There are signs tucked beside flower beds reminding those who are at the park to maintain physical distance and to wear a mask when distancing is not possible.

However, the main Canadian Tulip Festival event is online. The virtual experience provides tours, live views of parks, shopping and games. While the organizers had to scramble last year to move the festival online, they have had a year to hone the festivities.

New this year, Tulip Fest can deliver the real-life tulip experience to your door. They are selling bouquets, which start at $20, available for delivery or curbside pickup at five locations across the city. Tulip Festival executive director Jo Riding says they are fresh-cut from local farms and there are more than a 1,000 bouquets available.

"But that’s only going to last another week," say Riding. "The enthusiasm for our flowers and the sign of spring, it’s something that really brings a lot of joy in a time that could use a little happiness."

The website also sells tulip bulbs to plant at home. There is also a boutique, featuring 10 artisan shops that sell all-thing tulip. 

"It’s incredible stuff! We’re talking glasswork, woodwork, candles, you name it," says Riding, adding that TulipTV is back for another season. "We are premiering new content every day for the 11 days of the festival, including Tulip Tunes. My favourite that have stories about war heroes and war brides who came across the ocean."

Tulips budding along Queen Elizabeth Drive have been doing so for 75 years. A token of gratitude from the Dutch royal family for having sheltered the future Queen Juliana and her family for three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

The Canadian Tulip Festival runs until May 24.