When Dr. Lee isn’t perfecting the smiles of her Vancouver and Coquitlam Invisalign and braces patients, she loves taking advantage of all of the amazing things Vancouver has to offer. One of her hands-down favorites is the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF).
The celebration is meant to unite the people of our diverse, multicultural city in appreciation of the fleeting beauty of the thousands upon thousands of cherry trees in full bloom. There are tons of things to do, ranging from concerts to picnics, to mark the season. The 2018 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival dates are April 3 through April 29.
To give you a preview of some of the things we’re most looking forward to, here’s the Evergreen Orthodontics guide to the must-see 12th annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival events. Note: It’s always a good idea to check the VCBF website before heading out to any event since some of the festivities have dates that are yet to be announced or are subject to mother nature’s whims!
- Do a Self-Guided Viewing of the Cherry Trees – The cherry blossoms are already blooming. You can start admiring them while you’re waiting for the festival to commence. There’s really nothing like watching the rain fade away as the city becomes awash in pink and white. Follow the Vancouver cherry blossoms maps to plan out your route. You can also go to the VCBF Blooming Now page to find out which locations are currently in bloom. If you’d rather go off the beaten path, explore the fantastic secret cherry blossom spots in Vancouver that Alexandra Grant of @tovogueorbust was kind enough to let us in on last season. Or, stick with the tried and true locations. You can’t go wrong with any of these:
- Queen Elizabeth Park – Queen Elizabeth Park is show stopping any time of year but there are several varieties of cherries there that bloom at different times, so you’re bound to encounter the spectacle.
- Nitobe Memorial Garden at UBC (1895 Lower Mall) – The Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia is a traditional Japanese “tea and stroll” garden and is often noted for being one of the most authentic in North America. It has beautiful cherry trees. If you can, take advantage of a tour.
- Stanley Park – Head towards the rose garden or the Japanese Canadian WWI War Memorial for rows of cherry trees.
- VanDusen Botanical Garden (5251 Oak Street) – If you won’t be at VanDusen for the Sakura Days Japan Fair, try to carve out some time to spend an afternoon there. They have 24 varieties of cherry trees!
- Burrard Street Skytrain Station (635 Burrard Street) – This is always a fan favorite since you’ll find a canopy of pink and white.
- Kitsilano – The Kitsilano neighborhood has a few popular cherry blossom spots, including along Yew Street, Cypress Street and Vanier Park that will give you plenty of photo ops.
- Tree Talks & Walks – This year’s Tree Talks & Walks will begin on Easter Sunday and will be held at the city’s most breathtaking and interesting parks and green spaces. No registration is required for the mostly free events; just show up with your boots and an umbrella. You’ll take in the cherry blossoms, get fresh air and exercise and learn something on these walks led by tree enthusiasts and experts.
This is what’s on the schedule for the 2018 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival:
- Easter Parade in the West End – Sunday, April 1, 1:30 to 3:30pm – This walk will meet in the West End at Burrard Skytrain Station (on Burrard on the corner that’s closest to the Hyatt Regency) and will be presented by Wendy Cutler who has been documenting the tree locations since the start of the festival. The event will begin with the singing of Easter Parade followed by a long walk.
- Cherry & Heritage Walk in Mandarin in Downtown Coal Harbour – Thursday, April 5, 10 to 11:30am – Joseph Lin, the director of the Green Club of BC, will lead this walk, which meets in the Hyatt Regency’s lobby (655 Burrard Street). Joseph is a wealth of information when it comes to street trees in Vancouver.
- Oppenheimer Park – Sunday, April 8, 10am to 12n (the date is subject to change, so stay tuned here) – Admire the “Legacy Sakura” trees that were planted in 1977 to mark the centennial of the first generation of Japanese who settled in Canada. The walk will meet at the field house on Jackson, on the park side between Cordova and Powell. It will be presented by Egan Davis, the award-winning Principal Instructor for the Horticulture Training Program at UBC Botanical Garden. You’ll learn the history of the trees, as well as several other points of interest around the park.
- VanDusen Botanical Garden – Saturday, April 14 and Sunday, April 15, hourly from 11:30am to 3:30pm – These walks will take place during Sakura Days. You’ll get a tour of the garden and its glorious cherry trees presented by volunteer guides from VanDusen. Meet at the guides’ table; walks will depart hourly. Admission to Sakura Days is required.
- Stanley Park – Sunday, April 15, 10 to 11:30am – Meet at the lower rose garden in Stanley Park (by the arbor) for a talk and walk led by Bill Stephen, the Park Board Superintendent of Urban Forestry. You’ll get a glimpse into the unusual, gorgeous plants and ornamental trees in the park’s Shakespeare Garden, along with a history of the park.
- Queen Elizabeth Park – Sunday, April 15, 3 to 4:30pm – This walk will depart form the parking lot (33rd Ave and Cambie) beneath the west end cherry trees. Alex Downie, Park Operations Manager, will guide you through the exotic and native trees at the arboretum in Queen Elizabeth Park.
- Oakridge/South Cambie/Riley Park – Sunday, April 22, 10 to 11:30am – Meet for the final walk of the festival at the Oakridge Skytrain Station (Cambie Street and West 41st Ave). Douglas Justice, Associate Director and Curator of Collections at the UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research, will highlight the late-blooming cherry trees, which also usually happen to be the most dramatic.
- Vancouver Sings One Song – Vancouver Sings One Song will be carrying on the cherry blossom singing tradition with a massed choir event on Tuesday, April 3 at Christ Church Cathedral (690 Burrard Street) from 6:30 to 9:30pm. Individuals, professional singers, groups and choirs of all ages and levels of experience will sing under the direction of Kathryn Nicholson and her vocal ensemble, Sound Eclectic. They’ll even be debuting the new original song, Cherry Blossoms For You & Me, which was composed by Tom Landa, a JUNO award-winning artist, and composer, Robin Layne. Registration to participate as a singer is closed but the audience is always invited to sing along from song sheets if you’d like to join in the joyful sound of Vancouverites belting out odes to the cherry blossoms. If you can’t make the massed choir event, you can sign up through March 30 to participate in the popup VSOS on April 5 at the Cherry Jam Downtown from 12n to 1:30pm, at the Big Picnic at Queen Elizabeth Park (the date is to be announced) or at the Sakura Days Japan Fair at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on April 14 from 11:50am to 12:20pm or April 15 from 2:25 to 2:55pm.
- Cherry Jam Downtown Concert – Get your live music fix and mingle under Burrard Station’s cherry blossoms at the Cherry Jam Downtown Concert. The extravaganza will set the tone for Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2018 . The free event will be held on Thursday, April 5 from 12n to 1:30pm at Burrard Skytrain Station’s indoor concourse (635 Burrard Street) and will feature local talent, performances of Vancouver Sings One Song with Sound Eclectic and readings of last year’s Haiku Invitational winning poems.
- Sakura Days Japan Fair – This VanDusen Botanical Garden Cherry Blossom Festival event is one of our favorites. For 2018, it’s scheduled for Saturday, April 14 from 11am to 7pm and Sunday, April 15 from 11am to 5pm at the garden (5251 Oak Street at 37th). This Vancouver Japanese festival will include Japanese tea ceremonies, culinary demonstrations, sake samples, Japanese food, singing and dancing performances, haiku readings, tree talks and walks, hands-on workshops to allow you to try your hand at calligraphy, flower arranging, origami and other Japanese art forms, and so much more. It’s truly the type of one-of-a-kind experience that makes Vancouver so special. Save money and skip the lines by purchasing early bird tickets online until April 13 at 11:30pm or in-person at the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre’s admissions desk during garden hours. Tickets will be available at the door as well.
- The Big Picnic – Find a seat on one of the pink metal mats under the Queen Elizabeth Park cherry blossom canopy and take part in the biggest spring picnic in the city. This lively, family-friendly event will be held at the park (33rd Ave and Cambie) from 12n to 3pm on a yet-to-be-determine date (stay tuned to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website for the date announcement, which typically occurs when blooming is in full swing). Though there are parking lots near the conservatory, taking public transit is recommended.
- Spring Lights Illumination – The Spring Lights Illumination is another amazing celebration of the Vancouver cherry blossoms in Queen Elizabeth Park (33rd Ave and Cambie). The date hasn’t been finalized yet but will be announced once the timing of the peak bloom is determined (keep an eye on the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website). The free evening event will be held from dusk until 10pm at the park and will feature the cherry blossoms illuminated by lights and multicolored lanterns plus art and entertainment. Pack dinner and have a picnic while enjoying the gorgeous view.
- Sakura Night Gala – This Stanley Park cherry blossom gala will be held on Sunday, April 22. The doors will open at 6:30pm and the standing dinner reception will be held from 6:30 to 9:30pm at the Stanley Park Pavilion (610 Pipeline Road). Sakura Night celebrates the cherry blossoms and Vancouver’s top restaurants with a delicious night of Asian-fusion cuisine. Attendees will even get the chance to taste Gabaron tea. This year will feature a new twist with wine pairings too. Ticket sales end on Wednesday, April 18 at midnight, so don’t delay. Proceeds will benefit the non-profit Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.
- Bike the Blossoms – The free Bike the Blossoms event will begin on the south side of John Hendry Park (Trout Lake) on East 19th Avenue, close to Marshall Street and will run from 11am to 1pm. The date is to be announced (check back here). Attendees will ride along the bike route starting at Trout Lake and then set out their petal mats for a picnic. Show up at 10am to sign a waiver or get it online and fill it out in advance.
- Enter a Contest – Each year, the festival includes the BC Blossom Photo Watch and the Haiku Invitational. They’re both the perfect excuse to use the cherry blossoms as inspiration for getting creative. To take part in the BC Photo Watch contest, share your best cherry blossom photos from April 3 through April 29 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtags: #TELLUSPureFibre and #vancherryblossomfest for a chance to win a grand price worth $500. You can submit as many photos as you’d like but be sure to tag the photo location, include both hashtags and keep the picture within British Columbia. The winner will be chosen on May 1 and announced here and on social media.
Submissions are also being accepted for the Haiku Invitational through June 1. The theme for the 2018 VCBF Haiku Invitational is “harmony.” Think about how you harmonize with nature and the people around you to inspire your cherry blossom haiku. The winning poems will be featured in next year’s festival and receive celebrity readings. Visit the VCBF page for inspiration, rules and instructions on how to enter. Happy cherry blossom season!