Days are getting longer. Rains are giving way to blue skies. On city streets, pink and white buds are starting to appear on branches that have been bare all winter.
All of which can only mean one thing: the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is right around the corner. Each spring, some 40,000 ornamental cherry trees planted along the streets of Vancouver burst into vivid colour. This year, the seasonal spectacle is being commemorated with more than three weeks of cherry-themed concerts, fairs, bike rides and even barges, March 24-April 17.
Here’s a look at 5 can’t-miss events for the 2016 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival:
Get down at the Cherry Jam Downtown Concert: The festival kicks off with a free lunchtime concert in the heart of downtown at the Burrard SkyTrain station. Find a spot under the blossoms and watch as an international lineup offers an ode to the season. Performers include the taiko drumming troupe Vancouver Okinawa Taiko, as well as the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra String Quartet and the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble. March 24 from noon-1:30 p.m. at the Burrard SkyTrain Station indoor concourse; free
Marvel at the psychedelic Sakura Illumination: The cherry trees at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park are always a highlight of blossom season. But imagine all those lush blossoms lit up with an elaborate display of multicoloured projections. As part of the Sakura Illumination, local artists use LED and patterned video lights to illuminate the cherry blossom canopy in breathtaking ways. Enjoy hot tea while soaking up the changing colour projections. March 26 from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. at Queen Elizabeth Park; free
Experience the Sakura Days Japan Fair: The lush grounds of Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden are the setting for this weekend-long celebration of Japanese culture. Join along on guided tree walks through the gardens, enjoy Japanese food and sake, take part in calligraphy and origami workshops and more. At this year’s festival, guests can also experience the special ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony. April 9-April 10 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at VanDusen Botanical Garden; $14 adults; $11 youth and seniors; $9 kids 3-12
Go on a two-wheeled tour with Bike the Blossoms: Streets across Vancouver are transformed into swirling seas of red, pink and white blossoms during the spring. The best way to soak it up? On a group bike tour, of course. This unique adventure starts near Trout Lake and pedals its way through the Commercial Drive neighbourhood all the way to Main Street and then finishes up at Queen Elizabeth Park. April 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., starting at the south side of Trout Lake Park; free
Behold the Blossom Barge: For the tenth anniversary of the festival, organizers have gone a little over the top. This year, a barge loaded with 40 cherry trees in full bloom will be pulled on a ceremonial circuit around Vancouver. It departs Crab Park on the morning of April 16, motoring past Canada Place (where there’s a special viewing station), Stanley Park, English Bay and Science World. The barge moors at Granville Island April 16-April 17 for a weekend full of free music and cultural performances. Finally, it makes its way back home on April 17, accompanied by a flotilla of First Nations canoes, dragon boats, rowers and more. April 16-April 17 at various locations; free
Check out the full lineup of events on the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website.