How to enjoy Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Season

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Vancouver’s cherry blossom season is one of the prettiest times of the year. The city’s cherry blossom season is long, lavish and picture-perfect. Over 40,000 cherry trees 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. Here’s how to enjoy Vancouver’s cherry blossom season.

vancouver street lined with cherry blossoms

Tips to enjoy Vancouver 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 is ideal for the cultivation of cherry trees and plum trees, 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 this time of year, both for the beauty of the cherry blossoms and as a promising sign of spring. Vancouver cherry blossoms bloom over a long period of time, so it’s a challenge to pick a best time for viewing.

The blooming season can last from February into May, depending on the weather and cherry tree varietal. Blossom lovers have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the magic of springtime, and find the perfect Instagram shot on a sunny spring day.

Some species of ornamental 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.

white van parked under cherry blossom trees vancouver

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Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the city’s cherry blossoms with a wide variety of cherry blossom-themed events. From food to tea ceremonies, bike tours, haiku poetry, and traditional Japanese festivities, Vancouver’s citizens love to enjoy and celebrate the city’s unique and spectacular seasonal phenomenon.

The Festival has great resources for locals and visitors to enjoy the full bloom of sakura season. Use its excellent Vancouver cherry blossom map to view blooming cherry blossom locations. Pick a neighbourhood or area to explore, then head out to enjoy the flowers. 

The Big Picnic

As part of its annual celebration, the Festival hosts The Big Picnic at David Lam Park every year. The park is one of the best spots to view 100 Akebono cherry trees coming into bloom in a spectacular setting. The event invites cherry blossom enthusiasts to set up blankets for a picnic in the park under the cherry blossoms, and enjoy a great line-up of local talent on the Cherry Jam Stage. There are also fun and interactive arts activities and workshops.

Sakura Days Japan Fair

The Festival’s Sakura Days Japan Fair celebrates all things Japan, from Japanese food, performances, to arts and culture. The event takes place at the Vandusen Botanical Garden, where activities will take place both indoors and outdoors.

There will be food vendors, traditional Japanese tea ceremony, taiko drumming, theatre performances, and even a chance to sample premium sake. The Fair takes place in April.

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.

Tree Talks and Walks

Tree Talks & Walks are guided tours led by local experts that focus not only on cherry trees but also the other trees that make up the city’s ecosystem. It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and parks, to better understand how our trees play a vital role in our city, and to appreciate the city’s natural beauty. The talks and walks are in partnership with the Vancouver Park Board.

Biking tips for cherry blossom viewing

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival organizes an annual Bike the Blossoms ride. 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 bike rides.

  • 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.

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. 

Stanley Park is home to to many outstanding cherry blossom 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 mid-April’s peak time 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.

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 early May.

VanDusen Botanical Garden is home to more than 100 cherry trees, representing 24 varieties. Be sure to book tickets in advance during this busy festival time.

On UBC Campus, visit the UBC Botanical Garden and 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. 

In downtown Vancouver, Burrard Station has a stunning canopy of cherry blossoms, as does Vancouver’s City Hall at West 12th and Cambie.

Near the Vancouver Museum at Kits Park, Vanier Park is a great place to see the rare Star Cherry trees at their finest.

Blossoms in Vancouver neighbourhoods

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

Claudia Laroye
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