The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in April most years and features a Japan Fair and other blossom-themed events.
In 2021 it celebrates its 15th anniversary. Some years the festival begins in March, but in 2019 it ran from April 4th to 28th. 2020 dates were going to be from April 2nd to 26th, but most events were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, because of COVID-19, the festival plans to feature a series of virtual online events. Exact details are to be confirmed.
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Cherry Blossom Festival
In celebration of spring and the blossoming of cherry trees, there are events throughout Metro Vancouver most years including a Cherry Jam Concert downtown, Nights of Light at Queen Elizabeth Park, Sakura Days Japan Fair at VanDusen Garden and more.
It’s a great event, as acknowledged by the Canadian Garden Council which named it Canada’s Garden Festival of the Year Award winner a few years ago.
Cherry Jam Concert at Burrard Station
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off most years with a Cherry Jam concert at the Burrard SkyTrain Station.
In 2020 the event was scheduled from 12:00 to 1:30 pm on April 2nd and 3rd. Due to concerns about the coronavirus, however, the event for 2020 was cancelled. 2021 dates and details are to be confirmed.
The Cherry Jam event usually includes Taiko Japanese drumming, song, dance and other musical performances, and the reading of haiku poetry.
It’s not a huge concert, with typically only a couple hundred spectators, but it’s a great little event and recommended if you are downtown at the time.
See Cherry Blossom Festival Cherry Jam Concert for more information.
Cherry Blossom Nights of Light
The Nights of Light was going to be a new Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival event. It was to make its debut on Friday, April 12th, in 2019, but unfortunately it was cancelled. This event did not happen in 2020 either.
Similar to the Spring Lights Illumination Night from past years (which was also cancelled for 2019), Nights of Light was going to be a free multi-sensory event at Queen Elizabeth Park featuring music and light displays.
For more information click Nights of Light.
Spring Lights Illumination Night
In 2019 the Spring Lights Illumination Night was going to take place by the Japanese Monument in the middle of Stanley Park (between the Miniature Train venue and the Vancouver Aquarium) on April 11th, 12th and 13th. This particular event was cancelled for 2019, however, but will hopefully take place again after 2020.
The Stanley Park location was going to be a new venue for the event and it was set to be one day longer than in previous years. The last few years the event has taken place over the course of just two nights and, not at Stanley Park, but at Queen Elizabeth Park instead.
In years when it does take place, a few thousand people attend and the lights and blossoms are amazing.
Note: the date each year is subject to change at the last minute depending on the weather and state of the cherry blossom blooming. Whatever the final date, however, the event typically involves a beautiful light display, performing artists and people with their picnics.
For more information, check out Spring Lights Sakura Illumination Night.
TIP #1: Dress warmly and arrive early to find parking and enjoy a stroll and the evening views before the show.
TIP #2: Double check the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website before going to an event as they have a habit of changing plans due to the weather. In the case of the Spring Lights event in 2019, however, the event was cancelled well in advance for other reasons.
Sakura Days Japan Fair at VanDusen Garden
In 2020 the Sakura Days Japan Fair was going to take place at VanDusen Botanical Garden on the weekend of April 18th to 19th. That didn’t happen, however, due to concerns about the coronavirus. Hopefully the event is able to return in 2021.
Each year Japanese anime comic art is featured and celebrated at the event, and there is a Japanese tea ceremony to experience, Japanese food for sale and sake to sample. There are also usually workshops for the public on things like origami (Japanese paper folding art), calligraphy, and ikebana (Japanese flower arranging art).
The cost for the Sakura Days Japan Fair typically depends on whether you are a member of VanDusen Garden and whether you purchase your tickets in advance. In 2020 adult admission was going to range from between about $9 to $14 for adults, depending on when and how tickets were purchased. Ticket prices were going to be the same as the year before, which was nice.
See Sakura Days Japan Fair on the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website for more information.
The Big Picnic at Queen Elizabeth Park
The Big Picnic is a free cherry blossom-viewing event at Queen Elizabeth Park that was scheduled to happen on Saturday, April 11th in 2020, between 12:00 and 4:00 pm. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and instructions by the provincial health authority to cancel all events involving gatherings of 250 or more people, the event again did not take place. Hopefully the Big Picnic happens in 2021.
“Hanami” is the Japanese traditional practice of gathering with friends and family in parks under cherry trees and admiring the blossoms while eating and drinking. “Hana” in Japanese means “flower” and “mi” means “to see.” The Big Picnic is a celebration of “hanami”.
Queen Elizabeth Park is located on West 33rd Avenue just off Cambie Street. If and when the event happens again in the future, arrive early if you can to find parking, especially if it’s a sunny day. Also, take your own picnic, lawn chair or a tarp or something to sit on. Food is also available for purchase and there is free family-friendly entertainment.
At the Big Picnic event in past years there was live entertainment with groups like the Vancouver Morris Men Dancers. There were also free outdoor sessions of yoga and around 3 food trucks, including one from McDonald’s giving away free coffee and hot chocolate. The 2021 event will likely be similar.
In total, at the event, between around 500 and 1000 people are on site at any given time. So it’s not a huge event, but it is free and a fabulous time to check out the park’s cherry blossoms.
For more information about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom’s outdoor “hanami” event, click Big Picnic.
Sakura Night Gala in Stanley Park
The Sakura Night Gala is a standing-only dinner reception at the Stanley Park Pavilion at 610 Pipeline Road in Stanley Park. In 2020 it was scheduled to take place on April 23rd, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus. The event was set to run from 6:00 until 9:00 pm and it’s usually a popular event with a “pink tie” dress code.
At $150 before taxes and online fees, tickets were not inexpensive. In 2019 cost $175 though, so 2020 would have been cheaper than it was before. It’s a fundraising event, however, and the ticket price included a tax-deductible charitable donation to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.
Although the dinner took place on May 5th in 2019, ticket sales ended earlier in the week. If you wanted to go, you had to make sure to buy your tickets before the deadline (which was April 30th in 2019)!
At the Sakura Night Gala some of Vancouver’s top Japanese chefs prepare a selection of fancy dishes.
Click Sakura Night Gala for details about the event and to buy tickets.
Bike the Blossoms Cycle Ride in Vancouver
Bike the Blossoms is a free event that happens towards the end of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival season. In 2019 it was going to take place on Saturday, April 27th, between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. It was rescheduled, however, for Saturday, April 20th, due to the state of the cherry blossoms (which were blossoming earlier than expected).
In total, the ride was about 10 to 12 km in distance.
Although free, participants in the Bike the Blossoms event needed to fill out a waiver form. Waivers were available online and could be printed and brought with you to the event on the day. Alternatively, participants were encouraged to arrive at least an hour early to fill out the form on site.
The bike route varies slightly each year, but always starts on the south side of John Hendry Park near Trout Lake at East 19th Avenue. That’s just a short walk from the Trout Lake Community Centre which is located at 3300 Victoria Drive.
Some years the Bike the Blossoms event does a loop and finishes back at John Hendry Park. Other years, like in 2015 and 2016, it ends at Queen Elizabeth Park. In 2017 the bike ride finished back at Trout Lake. The route for 2020 is to be confirmed.
See the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website for more details.
Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver
The Lower Mainland has thousands of cherry trees all over the region, and never is this more obvious than in the spring when parts of the city turn beautiful shades of pink. Japan donated hundreds of cherry trees to the City of Vancouver in the 1930s, and to this day we benefit from that generous gift.
There are various different types of cherry trees, and they all bloom at slightly different times.
Depending on the date, best places to see the cherry trees include Stanley Park, VanDusen Garden and outside Burrard Station, but there are trees bursting into bloom throughout the region during much of March and April.
In most years, some of the earliest concentrations of cherry blossoms start to show up around Burrard Station in downtown Vancouver and in Kitsilano in various areas (including around West 4th and by the Vancouver Space Centre). The entrance to Stanley Park, by the southern end of Pipeline Road, is also one of the first places in Vancouver to see large numbers of pink trees each season.
For more details about the event see the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website.
For information on other events taking place this time of year, check out our April Calendar.
Depending on the season, some of the Lower Mainland’s best places to see cherry blossoms in the spring include the following parks:
- Stanley Park (in Vancouver)
- Queen Elizabeth Park (in Vancouver)
- Ambleside near Millennium Park (in West Vancouver)
- Deep Cove (in North Vancouver)
- Deer Lake Park (in Burnaby)
- Minoru Park (in Richmond)
- Rocky Point Park (in Port Moody)
- Bear Creek Park (in Surrey)
For other ideas on places to explore outdoors, check out Vancouver’s Parks and Places in Nature.