Garden hopping is a thing in Vancouver, and one of the best places to tiptoe through the tulips, as well as by fountains, sculptures and real-time local painters, is located at the highest point in the city at 500 feet above sea level.
Queen Elizabeth Park spans nearly 130 acres with indoor/outdoor gardens, including an arboretum with 1,500 Canadian trees and the Bloedel Conservatory with more than 200 free-flying exotic birds—all just 15 minutes from downtown. The conservatory offers a colorful backdrop for tai chi classes or cocktail parties for up to 150 attendees. Groups can then hop on over to Seasons in the Park for a fine dining experience above the trees that includes views of the park’s oriental-inspired North Quarry Garden and its arched bridge, not to mention stunning lake and mountain views.
One of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America can be found at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Among its booty of spoils, the UBC Botanical Gardens’ Nitobe Memorial Garden offers a Japanese “tea and stroll” experience, or a traditional tea ceremony followed by a stroll among myriad flowering trees, azaleas and irises. In between meetings, groups will also find numerous workshops and cultural performances year-round—ranging from horticultural and botanical watercolors workshops to opera and tea and dance performances among the magnolias.
Another must-do here for up to 25 attendees is a tour across the Greenheart TreeWalk canopy walkway, a series of narrow aerial trails that soar 50 feet above the forest floor. Greenheart has an adjacent meadow that is regularly used for events, but the fetching Roseline Sturdy Amphitheatre, offering tiered seating for up to 250, is a hot spot for events.
Wendy Surkan, meetings and conventions sales manager for Tourism Vancouver, elaborated on how it’s increasingly the green carpet that rolls out to meet attendees.
“In recent years, groups have become more interested in the luxury of nature at their doorstep and fresh and healthy dining options and activities that get them outside and enjoying the beauty of Vancouver. Whether that means cycling the Stanley Park seawall, enjoying a locally sourced meal or joining a guided walk though one of the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, delegates can take advantage of the city’s natural opulence and rich culture.”
A 15-minute drive north of downtown will bring groups to Grouse Mountain for guided snowshoe and fondue or igloo team building experiences, two of many creative after-dark excursions available in the area. There’s a lot to do here—whether exploring caves, a GPS-led Alpine adventure or taking in 360-degree views from the top of a wind turbine. Meeting and event space caters to groups of 15 to 500. Top choices are The Observatory, a fine dining restaurant overlooking the city, and the Hiwus Feasthouse, where the stories of a Squamish elder unfolds and where attendees drum, dance, sing and paint a team canvas inspired by indigenous spirit animals.