When it comes to weather, Vancouver gets shade from the rest of Canada. With the city’s mild winters giving way to an early spring, often 3-4 months ahead of our eastern cousins, it’s not hard to understand why. It’s a burden west coasters are willing to bear, especially when we can enjoy one of the loveliest natural displays on the planet – Vancouver cherry blossom season.
The city’s cherry blossom season is long, lavish and picture-perfect. Over 40,000 cherry tress bloom in Vancouver every spring, meaning that it’s impossible to miss the annual spectacle, or be unmoved by the sight of so much blooming beauty.
Tips to Enjoy Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Season
“Mist trailed through a garden pale beneath thinning branches, to merge here and there with the blossoms and yield a scene more beautiful than any autumn night.”The Tale of Genji
History of Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver
Vancouver’s original 500 flowering cherry trees were a gift from the mayors of Kobe and Yokohama in the 1930s, thanking the city for honoring Japanese Canadians who served in WWI. Vancouver’s climate has been ideal for cherry tree cultivation and is now home to 43,000+ blooming cherry trees. Taking a page from Japan’s world-famous ‘sakura’ cherry blossom displays and festivals, Vancouver has its own version which began in 2006.
City residents and visitors love blossom season both for its beauty and as a promising sign of spring. Vancouver’s blooming season is long, lasting from February into May, depending on the weather and cherry tree varietal. Blossom lovers have plenty of opportunities to find the perfect Instagram shot on a sunny spring day.
Some species of cherry trees bloom earlier than others, which is wonderful for an extended sakura Vancouver celebration in the city. You don’t need to know whether a cherry tree is an Akebono, Beni-shidare or Kanzan variety; just enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms in Vancouver this spring.
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Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
The Festival celebrates the city’s cherry blossoms in every imaginable way. From food to tea ceremonies, bike tours and haiku poetry, Vancouver’s citizens celebrate the city’s unique and spectacular seasonal phenomenon.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival has great resources for sakura season. Use its excellent Vancouver cherry blossom map to plan your route. Pick a neighbourhood or area to explore, then head out to enjoy the flowers.
Bike the Blossoms in Vancouver
Pick a city neighbourhood and bike through the tunnels of pink blossoms. You won’t need to search for parking and can easily pull over to snap some photos whenever the mood – or blossoms – strike. Pack a picnic or grab takeout from a local restaurant or café to make it full day trip outing.
- Fallen cherry blossoms can be slippery. Be careful when riding through “pink snow”, especially after it’s rained.
- If you stop for photos, be safe and pull over to let traffic pass.
- Many of these bike routes are in quiet residential areas. Be respectful.
Note: The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is not hosting its organized Bike the Blossoms ride in 2021. You can follow along its previous year’s bike the blossoms route at your leisure. Or use the City of Vancouver’s Cycling Routes Map to plan your trip.
Best Places to view Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver
Vancouver’s parks and gardens are ideal showcases for the beautiful trees, but you can spot pink and white blooms on many residential streets in the city.
Queen Elizabeth Park has several varieties of cherry trees (Akebono, Umineko and Pink Perfection) throughout the park. They bloom at different stages from early March to late April.
Stanley Park is home to to several displays, including some of the city’s earliest-blooming pale-pink petals at Lost Lagoon. While they may appear in a very mild January, spotting these cherry blossoms from mid-February into spring is more likely. There are also rows of blossoming trees near the formal rose garden, the Japanese Canadian WWI war memorial, and along the Seawall.
VanDusen Botanical Garden is home to more than 100 cherry trees, representing 24 varieties. (Book tickets in advance.)
On UBC Campus, visit the Japanese-style Nitobe Memorial Garden, which was designed to show off its cherry blossom trees in spring. (Book tickets in advance.) The campus is also home to rows of blooms on Lower Mall and at Regent College at the corner of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard.
The downtown Burrard SkyTrain station has a stunning canopy of cherry blossoms, as does Vancouver’s City Hall at West 12th and Cambie.
If you’re near the planetarium or the Vancouver Museum at Kits Park, Vanier Park is a great place to see the rare Star Cherry trees at their finest.
Walk or bike through the cherry blossom streets of any of the following blossom-forward residential neighbourhoods:
- Arbutus Ridge – West 22nd Ave from Arbutus to Carnarvon St.
- Douglas Park
- Fairview – off-Broadway bike route – along 7th Avenue
- False Creek Seawall
- Kitsilano – south side of West 6th Ave. from Arbutus to Yew St; also along West 1st Ave. west of Burrard
- Marpole (southwest Vancouver) – south of 70th Avenue
- Mid-town Ridgeway bike route – along 37th Avenue – through Dunbar and Queen Elizabeth Park
- Mount Pleasant
No matter where you choose to seek the blooms, enjoy springtime and sakura season in Vancouver.
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Photos: Claudia Laroye, Destination British Columbia