Named the World’s Top City Garden by National Geographic, Chinatown‘s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a cultural oasis in downtown Vancouver.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden
Built in 1986, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden features beautiful pavilions, covered walkways, a jade green pond with koi fish, and a collection of 150-year-old miniature trees. It’s a small intimate garden – so ideal for people who don’t want to do a lot of walking – and a recommended place to visit (especially if you take the guided tour).
Located at 578 Carrall Street in the heart of Chinatown, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden is wheelchair-accessible and family-friendly, with entry including a scavenger hunt for children.
Complimentary Guided Tours
Informational brochures on the gardens are available, but the way to get the most from your experience is to enjoy one of the free guided tours.
In the summer the tours start about once every hour, and in other seasons they run just a few times per day. The tours take up to about 45 minutes and are interesting, informative and highly recommended. If you skip the tour, you’ll miss out on a lot.
Admission to the Garden
Sun Yat-Sen Garden is open daily at the following times (except for Mondays from November to April, as well as Christmas Day and New Year’s Day when it’s closed):
- SPRING: May 1 – June 14 from 10 am to 6 pm
- SUMMER: June 15 – August 31 from 9:30 am to 7 pm
- AUTUMN: September 1 – 30 from 10 am to 6 pm
- WINTER: October 1 – April 30 from 10 am to 4:30 pm
Admission to the garden costs adults about $14, seniors $11 and students $10 (with ID if age 17+). Children age 5 and under are free. A family rate for two adults and up to three children under age 17 is also available for around $28.
Note: Rates are sometimes higher in the busy season (from May to September) and lower in the non-peak season (from October to April).
For more information on the garden, see the vancouverchinesegarden.com website.
Special Events at the Garden
A number of special events take place at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden over the course of the year. They include Chinese New Year activities in the late winter, the Lanterns in the Garden event, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in the fall and the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival around Christmas time.
Chinese New Year Events
At the Temple Fair each year typical activities include Chinese storytelling, crafts, tea tasting, live music and lion dancing. There are also usually half a dozen or so vendors selling artisan products.
The event is usually by donation (with $5 being the minimum suggested amount) and it runs from about 10:00 or 11;00 am until 4:00 pm.
In 2020 activities at the Temple Fair included tea tasting, craft activities and Chinese calligraphy demonstrations. There was also storytelling, a couple of market vendors, live music and lion dancing.
Lanterns in the Garden
Also around Chinese New Year, the venue has hosted the Lanterns in the Garden festival which showcases the lantern artwork of a famous Chinese artist. The event ran for about three weekends in 2017 and featured lantern displays, live music and other festive activities. It was highly recommended.
(Note: the Lanterns in the Garden event doesn’t take place every year. It did happen in 2017 and 2018, but not in 2019 or 2020.)
Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden takes place in September and includes pretty lights and live entertainment. There is also tea to sample, moon cakes to eat, and sometimes even opportunities to try on traditional Chinese clothing. Admission to the event is usually by donation.
In 2019 the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival took place on Friday, September 13th, from 5:00 until 9:00 pm. Admission was by donation (with $5 being the hoped for amount). Activities included a tea poetry contest, Chinese tea-tasting opportunities, moon cake demonstrations, lantern-making crafts and live music.
Below is the schedule from 2019. 2020 details will likely be similar.
- 5:00 to 9:00 pm – Tea Poetry Contest (where guests can enjoy tea and compose poetry)
- 5:00 to 9:00 pm – Hanfu and Lantern Photo Stations
- 5:00 to 9:00 pm – Chinese Lantern Making (where materials can be purchased)
- 5:00 pm – Guzheng Music Performance
- 5:30 to 6:30 pm – Tea & Art
- 6:00 pm – Guzheng Music Performance
- 7:00 pm – Guzheng Music Performance and Mooncake Demonstrations
- 8:00 pm – Guzheng Music Performance and Mooncake Demonstrations
In addition to the above, Gongfu tea-tasting opportunities took place every 20 minutes or so.
Click Mid-Autumn Moon Festival for details about the event.
Winter Solstice Festival
The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival takes places on December 21st at Sun Yat-Sen Garden most years, as well as at various other venues. The event features live music, fire performances, lantern making and illuminations around the garden.
(Note: the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival has taken place at the Garden for a number of years, but not in 2018. It also doesn’t take place there in 2019).
Other Garden Events
For information about other festivals and events at the garden, including special exhibits, check out the Garden’s Website.
Tips to Enhance Your Experience
Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your visit to the garden.
TIP #1: Be sure to take the free guided tour – it’s this that makes Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden especially interesting and worth paying to see.
TIP #2: If you want to save on admission, visit during the last 30 minutes of the day when the cost is half price (or at least it has been in the past). It means missing the guided tour, which we don’t recommend missing, but the garden is a small place so if you skip the 45-minute tour then 30 minutes is probably close to enough time if you rush.
TIP #3: Another way to save money is to use a coupon from the Entertainment Coupon Book which can be purchased through dozens of local charities in autumn or online throughout the year.
TIP #4: If you are a senior and resident of BC, show your BC Gold Care Card and get in free at any time of day on the third Wednesday of each month. (Note: this used to be the case and may or may not still be.)
TIP #5: The attraction is pretty and worth visiting any time of year, but best times to visit are during the summer, late spring and fall, as well as during special events.
TIP #6: There is Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park. They are next to each other, but they are not the same. The first costs money to see, includes a guided tour and is both part indoors and more authentic. The second is a public park that’s free to explore. They complement each other and are both worth checking out.
For more information about the attraction, see the Garden‘s website.
If you like Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, other places you might be interested in visiting include Stanley Park, VanDusen Botanical Gardens and UBC’s Japanese Nitobe Memorial Garden, the first of which is free and the last of which is the most similar. The buildings and garden at Richmond’s International Buddhist Temple are also beautiful (and they are free to see).
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