Spring is one of the best times to visit the city of Vancouver, when the weather begins to warm up and bring Vancouverites out of winter hibernation but before the crowds of tourists arrive in the summer. The season brings greater access to outdoor spaces that offer hiking, biking, kayaking, and other recreational activities, as well as beautiful blooming gardens. Whale watching is a popular thing to do in the spring, and some of "Rain City's" most beloved annual special events take place, such as the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. If you are heading to Vancouver in March, April, or May, the whole family is sure to enjoy the trip.
Smell the Flowers at Vancouver's Best Gardens
One of the best things to do in Vancouver in springtime is reveling in the return to life the city's best gardens (some of which are free). Enjoy roses in late March through April at the Stanley Park Rose Garden; revel in cherry blossoms at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, usually in April; and see the seasonal rhododendrons flourish at Stanley Park's Ted & Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden. For lush greenery and blooms throughout the season, head to the Quarry Gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park and the always lovely VanDusen Botanical Garden.
If you want to venture further afield, Victoria on Vancouver Island is only a 30-minute flight or a 90-minute ferry ride away. The city is home to many public gardens, including the world-famous Butchart Gardens, which is a delight at any time of year but especially in the spring.
Delve Into Color at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
For many, the soft pinks and whites of the more than 40,000 cherry trees blossoming every April mark the start of springtime in Vancouver. The annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, held for several days each year in April, celebrates the blooms with activities for all ages, including a concert in downtown Vancouver's Burrard SkyTrain station. Mini-events at venues across the city also take place, including the free Bike the Blossoms gathering starting at the south side of John Hendry Park (Trout Lake) and the Sakura Days Japan Fair in VanDusen Botanical Garden, which features traditional Japanese food, performances, and cultural arts.
Play Outside (Again)
It may still be raining, but with more light in the afternoon and evening and the weather not quite as cold, spring means it's time to get outside again to do some hiking, biking, camping, golfing, and kayaking. As soon as the sunshine arrives, you'll see Vancouverites rollerblading and biking along the Seawall and people planning outdoor adventures.
There are plenty of places to explore within a few hours of the city, from the later-season hiking trails of Whistler to a short stroll through the rainforest at Lynn Canyon Park, which features an exciting suspension bridge and lovely waterfalls. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and pack warm waterproof layers if you're planning an overnight adventure.
Watch the Whales
Whale watching season runs from roughly April to October for Vancouver (and nearby Vancouver Island), and seeing some of these huge creatures is one of the best things to do in the spring. Visitors may spot gray whales (usually in April and May), orcas, and a wide variety of other sea mammals in Vancouver. You might also get lucky and see nesting eagles and foraging bears on the shore.
Whale watching tours run from Granville Island, Coal Harbour, and other locations, and tour companies use boats such as Zodiac high-speed vessels and covered boats. Most boats head out into Howe Sound toward Vancouver Island and the waters close to Victoria. The confluence of the Fraser River and the Pacific Ocean near the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond is often a rich wildlife-spotting area, as whales gather there to feed on the fish and other sea life attracted to the area. Tour companies include Vancouver Whale Watch and Wild Whales Vancouver.
Enjoy a Day Trip to B.C. Wineries
British Columbia's premier wine region is in the Okanagan Valley, which is about a four-hour drive from Vancouver. Thankfully, you don't have to travel quite so far to taste some of the region's best wines. There are plenty of wineries within just a couple of hours of Vancouver and even a few bodegas right in the city center.
One of the best areas to explore is the Fraser Valley, about an hour outside of Vancouver by car. This fertile region along the Fraser River is especially known for organic fruit farms, which winemakers take advantage of to create fruity blends. Maan Farms in Abbotsford uses berries and rhubarb in its wines, while the Fort Wine Co. in Langley specializes in sweet wines from local cranberries.
About two hours from Vancouver you'll find the Fraser Valley, with wineries, breweries, and farm shops. Most are open all year, but confirm before you head out. Check out the award-winning Old Yale Brewing in Chilliwack, where 15 beer varieties are on tap. In Abbotsford, Nature's Pickin's Market features fresh produce from local farms, including berries, apples, and other road trip snacks. Enjoy a meal from their deli, with great views of Mt. Baker from the patio in back.
Regional transit is not very extensive, so a rental car will help you make the most of the attractions. Don't drive if you are planning on drinking; instead, use a Rideshare App or take a cab. Guided tours of the region are also available; check out Destination BC for information.
See Wildlife at Charming Deep Cove
Deep Cove in North Vancouver is one of Vancouver's most scenic attractions and one of the highlights for nature enthusiasts. It's also one of the most accessible, only 20 minutes from downtown by car and just across the Burrard Inlet near North Vancouver. The region is loved for its scenic beauty and wildlife such as sea lions, seals, and eagles, all of which can be seen in a day of hiking.
How you visit depends on the weather and personal preference. For later season visits when the days are warmer, visitors can rent a kayak to explore the area by water. Otherwise, hike the 25-mile (41-kilometer) rugged Baden Powell nature trail from Burrard Inlet in Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. For an easier walk, try the 4-mile (37-kilometer) Cates Park gravel paths along the water and through the forest, where you can see First Nation totems and a canoe.
Inside the area known as Deep Cove is a small town with the same name, a cute seaside village with boutiques, a theater, galleries, and a selection of local restaurants.
Go to Maplewood Farms With the Kids
To see about 200 domestic farm animals from goats and horses to donkeys and rabbits, head to Maplewood Farm—the last remaining farm on Vancouver’s North Shore—for a nice spring outing. Hold and feed bunnies, chickens, and ducks; watch a cow milking demonstration; go on pony rides (starting in April and requiring a reservation at least a month in advance); take self-guided tours; eat in a covered picnic area; and buy some fresh products grown at the farm to bring home.
Throughout March, the farm is open every day of the week except Mondays. Beginning in April, it's open seven days a week.
Stroll Around Granville Island
A great activity for a spring day is to visit Granville Island, the popular international tourist attraction and 37-acre island located on False Creek, an inlet in the middle of Vancouver with views of downtown. Stroll the colorful market to see about 300 businesses, including restaurants, shops, and theaters, as well as the beloved Granville Island Public Market, where you'll find delicious foods sold by more than 50 vendors.
While Granville Island has a milder climate than Vancouver, it does get windy, so grab a windbreaker for your fun day out. Awnings and covered walkways will help you stay mostly dry in case of a rainy day.
Explore Historic Chinatown
Vancouver's Chinatown, one of the biggest in the whole Western Hemisphere and the largest in Canada, definitely warrants a day to walk around. The approximate borders are Hastings Street to the north, Taylor Street to the west, Georgia Street to the south, and Gore Street to the east.
The safe, pedestrian-friendly Vancouver Chinatown, which came to life in the late 1800s, is a great spot to eat authentic Chinese food and check out historic monuments and nightlife. Shop for clothes, groceries, souvenirs, toys, and even fancy Chinese antiques. One unique destination is the Sam Kee Building at 1 East Pender Street, called the narrowest building in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records—the width varies by floor, but in some parts, you can't even extend your arms without touching both walls.
Drive the Scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway
Spring is the perfect time to take a gorgeous drive, soaking up views of the ocean and mountain ranges along Highway 99, known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The route takes about an hour and a half from downtown Vancouver to the ski town of Whistler, and it easily falls into the group of the most scenic drives in all of Canada.
Visitors can glance at lovely waterfalls and even golf a bit north of Porteau Cove at Furry Creek Golf and Country Club, which boasts views of islands, mountains, and the ocean.
Along the way, whether you're heading north or south, learn about the local First Nations tribes of the area by stopping at some Cultural Journey interpretive kiosks. There are seven of them along the route that highlight important sites to the Indigenous Squamish and Lil’wat tribes, so you can add some cultural context to your scenic day out.
Take in the Tulips
Springtime brings a plethora of color to local fields during the Chilliwack Tulip Festival (also known as Tulips of the Valley). The Tulip Festival lasts about three to five weeks depending on conditions for the specific year, but you can also see daffodils and hyacinths throughout the spring. Chilliwack is just over an hour outside of Vancouver and the peak tulip bloom usually starts in early or mid-April and lasts until early May.
The festival has fun components like kids' coloring contests and crafts plus a festival store that sells fresh-cut and potted tulips, hyacinths, photo cards, and more. When you get hungry, you find food trucks parked nearby on weekends to refuel before exploring more of these vibrant gardens.
Eat Spot Prawns
Late spring is the time to enjoy the short-but-sweet spot prawn season around Vancouver. These tasty little crustaceans begin appearing on menus around the beginning of May and are only available fresh for about six weeks, after which they're frozen to enjoy later and export around the world.
The annual Spot Prawn Festival is held at Granville Island every May, where you can either buy some directly from the boats that fish them or order them already prepared to enjoy on the spot. Local stalls in the market and restaurants around the island serve them up in all kinds of creative styles, from spot prawn pea soup to savory spot prawn Korean pancakes.