VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Guide

Two people sit on a bench in VanDusen Botanical Garden.

VanDusen Botanical Garden. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Sombilon Studios

VanDusen Botanical Garden is an island of green in the middle of Vancouver. It’s a gorgeous spot for photos, quiet reflection, and learning about the natural world at any time of year.

 

When to Visit

Laburnum Walk at VanDusen Garden

Laburnum Walk in spring. Photo: Destination Vancouver/VanDusen Botancial Garden

Spring is the most popular time to visit VanDusen Botanical Garden when the flowers bloom in a riot of colour. You can spot bold rhododendrons, delicate cherry blossoms, giant magnolias, and leggy tulips.

But Vancouver’s climate combined with careful planting means that the blooms extend into summer. That is one of the most fragrant times to visit as the roses and lavender start to blossom. In early summer don’t miss the spectacular Laburnum Walk.

Albert Camus said “Autumn is a spring when every leaf is a flower”, and that is definitely true at VanDusen Garden. In September the focus shifts from blossoms to golden fall leaves. The yellow Gingko trees are particularly spectacular.

It’s also worth visiting the garden in winter to see the carefully manicured plants dusted with frost. The highlight is the Winter Walk section on the east side of the garden. VanDusen Botanical Garden also transforms into a holiday wonderland thanks to thousands of lights during the annual Festival of Lights Event.

 

What to See

Family exploring the hege maze at Van Dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver

Family at the hedge maze. Photo: Tourism Vancouver / Sombilon Studios

VanDusen Botanical Garden is huge: it’s about 6 blocks wide by 4 blocks long and spreads over 22 hectares (55 acres) in the middle of Vancouver. Countless paths crisscross the garden, which contains over 7500 plant species.

Start your journey at the LEED Platinum-certified Visitor Centre. It has a great gift shop that stocks all kinds of books, gifts, homegoods, and gardening acessories. They also have seeds and plants for sale.

You can pick up a copy of the VanDusen Garden Visitor Map to find your way around the garden. Or just wander and see what you can discover. The garden is roughly divided into several dozen areas, with flora grouped by ecosystem or region and plantings changing with the seasons. To learn more about which plants are blooming during your visit, pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the visitor centre.

There are also a few spots that are popular with visitors at any time of year. Be sure to trek to the back of the garden to take on the Elizabethan Hedge Maze. Afterward, visit the nearby Stone Garden and waterfall. The pathways and bridges around Heron Lake and Livingstone Lake are another must-see location for many visitors.

 

How to Visit

You can book tickets online in advance at a small discount or purchase them at the Visitor Centre when you arrive. Prices vary by season and there are lower prices for seniors, children, and youth. Kids 4 and under are free.

There is free parking in a lot near the garden entrance on W. 37th Ave. It’s also easy to get there via the #17 bus from downtown Vancouver.

 

How Long to Spend at the Garden

A woman stops to take a photo at VanDusen Botanical Garden

Stopping for photos along the Laburnum Walk. Photo: Destination Vancouver/VanDusen Botanical Garden

The perimeter path around the garden is 1.3 km long and takes about 20 minutes to walk. But you’ll want to spend far longer than that, stopping to admire the plants, taking photos, exploring other walkways, and maybe stopping for a snack. You should plan to spend at least 2 hours in the garden but many visitors stay for a whole day.

 

Where to Eat

A plate of food at Shaughnessy Restaurant in Vancouver

Photo: Shaughnessy Restaurant

You don’t have to leave the garden to get a snack or have lunch. Stop in to The Garden Cafe inside the Visitor Centre for coffee, sandwiches, soups and more. You can also get an Afternoon Tea package or a picnic basket in the warmer months. If you want to linger over your meal, head to The Shaughnessy Restaurant for fine dining with great garden views. Their menu changes seasonally and includes dishes made with ingredients from the garden. You can also bring your own food and have a picnic on the Great Lawn.

 

Family-Friendly and  Accessible to Everyone

VanDusen is a great destination for people of all ages and mobility levels. The Visitor Centre and most paved garden paths are accessible for wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walkers, and baby strollers. You can find accessible washrooms in the Visitor Centre. Service dogs and working guide dogs are welcome, and attendants for visitors with disabilities are offered complimentary admission. The garden also has Sensory Support Kits that include tinted glasses and noise-cancelling earmuffs for neurodivergent visitors.

The garden is also very child-friendly. In most areas, you’ll have to stick to the paths, but the wide grassy lawns are a great place for kids to run and play. Kids will also enjoy exploring all the garden’s nooks and crannies to find hidden waterfalls, turtles in the ponds, and tunnels through the trees. The hedge maze at the rear of the garden is often the highlight for kids. VanDusen Garden also offers Family Programs with activities like storytimes and guided walks a few days a month.

 

Seasonal Events

Lights decorate the plants at the VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights.

VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights. Photo: Destination Vancouver/VanDusen Botanical Garden

No matter the time of year, you will always find fun events at VanDusen Botanical Garden. In the spring, enjoy the Sakura Days Japan Fair, which celebrates cherry blossoms and Japanese culture. In 2024, it runs on April 13 and 14.

Throughout the spring and summer, the garden hosts a variety of horticulture shows and events. Organized by local garden clubs, these events feature stunning home-grown plants often alongside a plant and seed sale.

Each winter the garden lights up with over one million twinkling lights as part of the VanDusen Festival of Lights. Wander the paths to enjoy the light displays and themed areas while you listen to festive music.

VanDusen Botanical Garden also offers courses year-round. These range from gardening workshops, to birding walks, to watercolour lessons and more.

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