When you hear the word Hanami (cherry blossom viewing), you might think of Japan and its dazzling cherry blossoms. But there are other cities around the world that will wow you just as much with Hanami, minus the crowds. Vancouver and Shanghai make for two different options for celebrating cherry blossom season outside Japan.

O Canada!

Celebrating the centuries-old cultural tradition of Hanami is a pretty (literally) important symbol of friendship and community in the relaxed Canadian city of Vancouver. There are roughly 50 different kinds of flowering cherry trees to admire and more than 2,100 locations on Vancouver's festival map. Search by neighbourhood or cultivar and it will show you what's in bloom at the time of your visit.

Lush cherry blossom trees at the parks in Vancouver

The cherry blossom in Vancouver's parks comes in many amazing colours

Top spots to witness the cherry blossom

While the best blooms are likely to change year by year, there are some places that usually guarantee spectacular cherry blossoms annually. Try these top spots in the early morning:

  1. Queen Elizabeth Park - Beautiful pink blooms are dotted throughout the park and clusters can be found around the entrance at West 33rd Avenue.

Granville Island - For views of cherry blossoms along the water, head to the eastern edge of the Granville Island seawall at False Creek.

Have a petal picnic - Groups gather under the cherry trees at various locations in Vancouver to eat pre-ordered boxes of food on pretty pink blankets. These petal picnics are a fun way to get the family or friends together.

Tip:   To really have the blossoms to yourself, look for the smaller streets in the neighbourhoods away from the city centre. They're all on the map, but they won't have hordes of visitors crowding the trees. Lots of useful hints can be found on the festival map for photographers to take the best cherry blossom snaps!

To really have the blossoms to yourself, look for the smaller streets in the neighbourhoods away from the city centre

What else is there to do?

Spring in Vancouver is often sunny, but it can be chilly. Take a light jacket, but don't let anything deter you from being outside. When you're cherry blossomed out, there's lots more to do

For the sunbathers – The beaches are a Vancouver must in all weather, even in March and April. Head down to the family-friendly Kitsilano, where kids fly kites on the sand and adults watch from a string of cafes, restaurants and bars. Want a better tan? Wreck Beach is clothing-optional.

For the walkers– There's plenty of hiking in the mountains and forests surrounding Vancouver. Dog Mountain, Stawamus Chief and St Mark's Summit are just a few with staggering views. Longer hikes can make fun day trips or overnight adventures.

Hikers are rewarded with sensational views from the mountains around Vancouver

Vancouver is the perfect place for outdoor activities such as hiking up beautiful mountains

For the hungry and thirsty – Drinking and dining with a view is a peaceful way to relax after a day chasing cherry blossoms. For water views, try Provence Marinaside in Yaletown. To dine with North Shore Mountain views, try a place in the Vancouver Convention Centre, and for a multicoloured sunset view, try Beach Bay Cafe, opposite English Bay Beach.

Dining with a view in Vancouver

There are lots of places to dine with a view in Vancouver – it's simply a case of choosing the best one!

When is it?

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is from 30 March through 23 April 2017.

Getting there:

There are many airlines that fly from Changi Airport to Vancouver, mostly with one stop. Search for fare deals and book your flights via Skyscanner now!

Get a cherry blossom shower in Shanghai

Cherry blossoms adding beauty to Shanghai's parks

Shanghai comes alive with colour during cherry blossom season

Top spots to witness the cherry blossom

There are lots of great places to have those blossoms to yourself and snap a great sakura selfie in Shanghai. Try these pretty parks, but pick your visiting times wisely:

Gucun Park – There are over 60 different kinds of cherry blossom trees in this park (the biggest for blossoms in the city). But try to get there early.

Shanghai Botanical Gardens – You might have to pay to enter, but you'll find stunning cherry blossom varieties imported from Japan and around the world.

Lu Xun Park – You'll find live music and dancing, even enthusiastic exercise groups celebrating the blossoms in these public, landscaped gardens.

Gucun Park is a particularly pretty place to experiment with the camera during cherry blossom season. Likewise, Shanghai Haiwan Forest Park is famed for its 40,000 plum trees, which also blossom in March. Other places to explore with the camera are Century Avenue and Qinghai Road, which look a lot like parts of Tokyo, and the 3,000 acres of golden canola fields in Zhuanghang Town in the Fengxian District.

What else is there to do?

March and April are great months to visit Shanghai. The weather is generally warm with a nice breeze and bright sunshine, meaning there's lots to do when you're not looking at cherry blossoms:

For the nature lover – There are several large forest parks in Shanghai, perfect for walking, flying kites and even gathering for a waterside barbecue. Hire a pedalo or a tandem bicycle in Century Park.

For the culture buffs – Visit the Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai Grand Theatre and the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, all in People's Park – the site of the former Shanghai racecourse.

A snapshot of pristine Shanghai

There are lots of things to do in Shanghai when you've finished snapping the cherry blossom!

For the thrill seeker – Ride the world's fastest train, the Maglev. At 431 km/h, it hurtles you around at twice the speed of a theme park roller coaster! Meanwhile, if you feel like skiing without the snow, Dongping Forest Park offers grass skiing, as well as horse riding, rock climbing and paintball.

When is it?

Dates aren’t available yet, but usually the viewing period is around March.

Getting there:

There are several daily direct flights linking Singapore to Shanghai by Singapore Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Spring Airlines. Search for fare deals and book your flights through Skyscanner.

Whether you're heading to Canada or Shanghai, the cherry blossoms are waiting to amaze you. Pack your bags (and cameras) and head to one of these two beautiful blooming spots from Changi Airport.