Spring into British Columbia

While easterly parts of Canada grip on to winter into May, spring arrives right on time in British Columbia. Snows retreat up the mountains to reveal greening valleys, clear coastline, burgeoning wildlife and the blooming buds of April and May.

For your vernal vacation, here’s a Top Ten of BC’s Spring attractions:

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (2-26 April 2020)

British Columbia Due to the moderate oceanic climate, BC’s west coast and Vancouver Island are legendary for spring flowers which flourish in abundance when higher altitudes are still snowbound. Vancouver’s cornered the market in cherry blossom, celebrating the pretty pastel profusion with events such as Bike the Blossoms and the Big Picnic beneath the blooms. In BC’s capital Victoria, dubbed ‘The Garden City’, cherry blossoms can appear as early as February, with other oriental blossoms following, creating a show of colour. More details

Northern Lights Festival

BC’s first Northern Lights Festival will be held in Fort Nelson (12-21 March 2020). A full lineup of concerts with Canadian artists, indigenous dance displays, marketplace, dogsled rides, culinary demos, snowmobiling and an overnight hot springs tour round out the experience – and, yes, it does include Northern Lights viewing during this peak time of the year.

Whale Watching Wonderland off Vancouver Island

British Columbia In March you’ll start spotting gray whales off the southern tip of the island where humpback whales will later frolic like giant gymnasts during their May migration to Alaska. Watch minkes at work all year round. And orcas – distinctive black-and-white killer whales – cavort in the cold coastal waters around Victoria starting in April/May. Guided excursions include commentary and interpretation but you can also view them from beaches and headlands. More details

The Rocky Mountaineer

Keep your eyes peeled for bears fresh out of hibernation this spring from glass domed carriages aboard a luxurious locomotive. Journeys across BC to Alberta launch mid-April, starting from Vancouver and heading towards the Rockies. Customizable to fit your needs, there are various hotel options for opulent overnight stops. Serving breakfast and lunch, onboard restaurants offer topnotch local foods, such as Fraser River salmon, accompanied by Okanagan wines. Outdoor viewing platforms maximize the forest, river, lake and mountain masterpieces. Add a couple of nights post-trip to explore some of British Columbia’s national parks or hot springs routes surrounded by the mountains. More details

World Ski and Snowboard Festival

Held at Whistler every April, this is the mountain model for end-of-season ski events everywhere. Launched in 1996, it is now North America’s largest festival of snow, offering snowsports, competitions from the couloir ski race extreme to big air, arts workshops and mountain culture, as well as the daily musical montage (15-19 April 2020). Spring is celebrated by another al fresco festival, GoFest (15-18 May 2020) when visitors can morph from wintersports to watersports, sliding on snow, golfing, biking, sailing or paddleboarding all in the same day. More details

Birds’ eye view of the Kootenay Rockies

Get a birds’ eye view of the Kootenay Rockies at the 24th annual ‘Wings over the Rockies Festival’ (11-17 May 2020). Held in and around the pretty lakeside town of Invermere, it’s a learning experience, focusing on birdlife during high altitude hikes. Explore heritage trails with inspirational guides, imbibe the luxuriant landscape and wildlife indigenous to the age-old area, learn about the early explorers who discovered the beauty and resources of the Kootenay Rockies, and benefit from the wisdom and anecdotes of adventurous speakers.

Wilderness Walks

British Columbia Take the Kettle Valley Rail Trail through orchards, farmlands, and the lovely lakelands of Kelowna and surrounding small towns. The 650km of walking and biking trails go from Hope to Castlegar, traversing the abandoned railway line in the soaring scenery of the Thompson Okanagan. Take to the trail on foot or in snowshoes should the last sprinkling of snow be on the ground, or cycle on a half-day guided tour to Myra Canyon Trestles, with 18 bridges and two mountain tunnels.

The Spring Okanagan Wine Festival

The Spring Okanagan Wine Festival (30 April – 10 May 2020) is the perfect platform to appreciate the Thompson Okanagan’s winning wines. With a full menu of educational presentations and tantalizing tastings, you can savour the sun, while drinking in the rolling hills and lakes and sipping selections from 70 wineries. These include newcomers Burnt Timber named for Kelowna’s 2003 forest fire and specializing in Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Bomberos and Cabernet Franc; Ricco Bambino Winery pioneering natural living wines crafted in concrete; and Rust Co. Winery where ancient vines are yielding exciting new wines. Launching this year are Phantom Creek EstatesCheckmate Winery and Lakeside Cellars near Osoyoos. Add on a wine trail trip with Okanagan Wine Country Tours or figure out your own tasting route via the verdant vistas of viniculture. More details

Wild Waves of Tofino

British Columbia Embrace the Wild Waves of Tofino, one of the world’s top year-round surf spots. Hugging the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, the temperate climate means you can often tout your t-shirts in spring. Tofino’s location within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve provides a myriad of hiking opportunities exploring the diverse ecosystems of the rainforest, rocky shores, lakes, rivers, mudflats and estuaries. Take in the Tofino Shorebird Festival, returning in late April, and keep a look out for whales. The 20,000 gray whales which migrate through the Clayoquot Sound, have inspired the Pacific Rim Whale Festival. After a hard day’s surfing or hiking, enjoy boat-to-table cuisine amid the artsy artisanal culture of Tofino town.

Vancouver Foodie Tour’s Authentic Asian Eats

Coming May 2020, this exotic epicurean excursion complements other tours around signature neighbourhoods such as historic Gastown, Downtown and Granville Island. There’s more guided gourmet debuting in 2020 including The Richmond Dumpling Trail Tour by Vancouver Food Tour. This samples six of the 20+ Richmond restaurants focusing on delectable dumplings – some crispy, others chewy, served with teas or beer pairings. More details

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Canadian Sky.

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Louise Hudson

Travel & ski writer

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