Photo credit: Spencer Finlay / Flickr
Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
Thanks to over 40,000 cherry trees lining the streets of the city, crowds of visitors arrive in Vancouver each spring to celebrate the clouds of light pink blossoms that dominate our neighbourhoods during the season. Running from the end of March through to mid-April each year, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival offers a cultural calendar full of opportunities to capture their beauty, including a line-up of arts events, community bike rides, cherry blossom viewing tours and traditional Japanese festivities.
If your primary focus is to see as many cherry blossoms as possible, the festival offers a few options. Visit their site for a regularly-updated list of the best viewing spots and a map of the 2,100+ areas across the city where ornamental cherry trees are planted. The Japanese say “there is no stranger under the cherry tree” and there’s no better way to enjoy the blossoms with like-minded people than by joining one of the Petal Picnic viewing parties that happen in parks and gardens across the city. You can even pre-order specially-themed box lunches for your picnic.
Grab a bike and join the Bike The Blossoms ride, a free group tour that starts out by Trout Lake and winds through a few of Vancouver’s blooming neighbourhoods awash in petals. Led by one of the Vancouver Park Board’s arborists, the route changes each year but has included neighbourhoods such as Mount Pleasant, Strathcona and Riley Park. Or lace up your walking shoes to take part in the Tree Talks & Walks program with guided walks to see blossoms, and evening talks to learn more about these magnificent trees. The walks actually start before the official festival kick-off to include some of the neighbourhoods that are planted with early-blooming varieties, so it’s best to check the VCBF site for dates and times.
The celebrations offer something for everyone, young and old, from the most casual get-together through to spectacular events to toast nature’s seasonal display. Part of the Canada 150 celebrations, the Spring Lights Illumination at Queen Elizabeth Park is a two-night event with projected light displays illuminating the cherry blossoms, along with dance, music and digital art telling the story of our city and our multicultural heritage. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the park while you take in the displays. Prior to the event, the public is invited to a series of lantern-making workshops throughout February and March, led by the festival’s artists.
The Sakura Night evening reception in Stanley Park brings together some of Vancouver’s best chefs for Asian-fusion dishes during a grazing-style dinner. You’ll want to dress up for this event – it has a “pink tie” dress code! The Sakura Days Japan Fair at VanDusen Botanical Garden is a great opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture among the blossoms, with traditional tea ceremonies, sake sampling, haiku poetry readings, and workshops where you can try your hand at origami, calligraphy and more.
But the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is about more than just looking at petals; it’s also about taking artistic inspiration from them. Each year, the festival kicks off with the free Cherry Jam Downtown Concert–a musical homage to the season featuring dance groups, bands and the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra performing under the fluttering cherry blossoms at Burrard Station. For those that have found their own inspiration among the snowy petals, the festival offers a Haiku Invitational competition and a BC Blossom photo contest that’s open to everyone.