Where to experience cherry blossoms in Vancouver this spring

by Megan Jones

Do cherry blossoms dominate your social media feeds in March and April? Do you take a different route home in springtime just so you can walk beneath aromatic clouds of pink and white? You’re not alone. Vancouver’s obsession with cherry blossoms is annual, and stems from many different places – some argue the blossoms remind us that the rainy season is over (phew!), while others take from Japanese culture, viewing the stunning sakura as symbols of the ephemeral beauty of the living.

No matter how you feel about these crowd-pleasing canopies of colour, you can enjoy them in a variety of ways each spring in Vancouver. From floral festivals to cherry blossom themed desserts, read on for a guide to experiencing these eye-catching, emblematic blooms in March and April. {Photo credit: Jessica Napier)

Where to experience cherry blossoms in Vancouver this spring

Take a neighbourhood walk – and don’t forget your camera

These Vancouver neighbourhoods are known for their robust cherry blossom displays.

  • Mount Pleasant: Mount Pleasant is known for its cafés, record shops and indie boutiques — but in springtime this hipster enclave is crowded with tourists and locals anxious to snap the blossoms. Head to 10th Avenue, between Main Street and Cambie Street, to view lush, full trees that create canopies over the street. Further up Main, Queen Elizabeth Park is home to dozens of trees plus manicured lawns for picnickers.
  • Marpole: Tucked away by YVR airport, on the Vancouver-side of the Oak Street Bridge, this unassuming residential neighbourhood boasts hundreds upon hundreds of the most beautiful, mature cherry trees in the city, unbeknownst to many. These blossoming beauties line nearly every street between Marine Drive and 49th Avenue.
  • Kitsilano: Combine your cherry blossom obsession with a visit to this ultimate West Coast hood. Grab your beach blanket and spend a day in Kitsilano, a yoga-friendly hood where gorgeous cherry blossoms mingle with salty ocean air, lifestyle boutiques, vegetarian restaurants and healthy juice bars.
  • Stanley Park and the West End: In the early 1930s, two Japanese leaders presented the Vancouver Park Board with 500 Japanese cherry trees for planting at the Japanese cenotaph in Stanley Park. The gift honouring Japanese Canadians who served in WWI has since grown into breathtaking symbols of love, beauty, loss and respect. Nearby, Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood is a walkable labyrinth of residential streets that are blanketed with pink and white blossoms in March and April.

Check out the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Founded in 2005, Vancouver’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival is a highly anticipated celebration, taking place from March 30 – April 23, 2017. From light displays to live music in locations across the city, here are a few highlights of the 2017 event:

  • Sakura Night: Held at the Stanley Park Pavilion, Sakura Night pairs the city’s best Japanese eats with its most beautiful cherry blossoms. It’s a classy, “pink tie” evening bash not to be missed. Tickets range from $100 - $150. Sunday, April 2, 6:30pm
  • The Big Picnic: Queen Elizabeth Park will host this free, community event that brings locals together under the blossoms for live music, food and non-alcoholic beverages. Communal “petal mats” for resting and eating on encourage conversations between strangers. Saturday, April 1, 12pm
  • Spring Lights Illumination: Also hosted in Queen Elizabeth Park, this beloved evening event illuminates blossoming trees with image projections and multi-coloured lanterns. Dinner picnickers and amateur photographers are welcome at this free, luminous event. March 31 – April 1, Dusk
  • Workshops: Affordable, community-based workshops start as early as February, and often include hands-on activities such as crafty lantern building and inspired haiku writing. And the best part? Your creations will become part of displays during the festival for all to see. Dates and times vary
  • Sakura Days Japan Fair: Experience the culture, sights, smells and tastes of Japan – the birthplace of the cherry blossom festival – inside Vancouver’s historic VanDusen Botanical Garden High points include sake sampling, performances, live music and Japanese tea rituals. Early-bird tickets range from $6.50 for youth to $12.00 for adults. Saturday, April 8 and Sunday, April 9, 11:00 am both days

Savour a delicious cherry blossom inspired treat

Each year, local restaurants, bakeries and cafes catch the cherry blossom spirit, presenting creations inspired by the glorious blooms. Favourites include:

  • Lucky’s Doughnuts whips up a limited-edition sakura doughnut for springtime enjoyment. Expect pink frosting and bean curd filling, among other unexpected delights.
  • Minami Yaletown offers a sakura themed menu during the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival — complete with a sakura cocktail and sakura-infused dessert!
  • MARKET by Jean Georges at the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver serves a five-course tasting menu adorned with cherry blossoms and other seasonal Japanese treats.

In Vancouver, where Japanese influences and cherry trees abound, there’s certainly more than one way to enjoy the spring blooms surrounded by community. Try a few (or all) of the ideas on this list, and you’re bound to have an Instagram-worthy experience this cherry blossom season.

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