Skip to main content

Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver

Linda Crampton is a writer who lives in Greater Vancouver. She enjoys walking and likes to take photographs of her discoveries.

A green-winged macaw (also called a red-and-green macaw) at the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, British Columbia

A green-winged macaw (also called a red-and-green macaw) at the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, British Columbia

The Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park

The Bloedel Floral Conservatory is a beautiful botanical garden covered by a plexiglass dome and filled with exotic plants and birds. It's located in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. The conservatory contains three climate-controlled habitats—a tropical rainforest, a subtropical rainforest, and a desert. It's a wonderful place to explore and to photograph.

The park surrounding the conservatory is also a lovely place for plant lovers. Queen Elizabeth Park is famous for its two attractive gardens created on the site of a former quarry. It contains other attractions besides the quarry gardens. The conservatory and the park combine to make an enticing area for visitors to Vancouver and for residents. Unless otherwise stated, the photos in this article were taken by me during my visits to the area. I always have a camera with me when I visit the park and the conservatory.

The map above shows that the VanDusen Botanical Garden is located in the vicinity of Queen Elizabeth Park. According to the City of Vancouver website, the walk from the park to the garden takes nineteen to twenty-four minutes, depending on the starting point, the route, and the walking speed. The website of each attraction should be consulted before a visit, especially while the coronavirus is a problem.

The conservatory as viewed from a quarry garden

The conservatory as viewed from a quarry garden

A Beautiful Location in Vancouver

Queen Elizabeth Park is located on an elevated area known as Little Mountain and is 128 acres in size. The top of Little Mountain is the highest point in the city of Vancouver. The "mountain" is 498 feet tall and gives park visitors an interesting view of Vancouver, neighbouring communities, and nearby landmarks.

For many people, the highlights of Queen Elizabeth Park are the conservatory and the beautifully landscaped gardens in the former quarry. The gardens are popular sites for weddings and are free to visit. The park also offers an arboretum, a rose garden, sculptures, recreational activities such as lawn bowling and pitch and putt, and a restaurant.

Bloedel Conservatory is located at the top of Little Mountain. Nearby is the Seasons in the Park restaurant, which gives diners a scenic view of the smaller quarry garden as they eat. Once people have finished exploring the conservatory or eating in the restaurant, they can walk a short distance down the slope into the gardens to add to the enjoyment of their visit. The gardens can be seen from the top of the mountain, so people who are unable to walk up and down slopes can still enjoy their visit to the park.

The Floral Conservatory

The idea for Bloedel Conservatory was conceived around the time of Canada's centennial in 1967. The conservatory was opened in 1969. It was named after Prentice Bloedel from the MacMillan Bloedel forestry company. Prentice donated 1.4 million dollars towards the construction of the conservatory, the plaza beside the conservatory, and the fountain in the plaza. The rest of the money was provided by the provincial government and the City of Vancouver.

The dome over the conservatory is 140 feet in diameter, 70 feet high, and covers an area of almost a quarter of an acre. It's made from more than 1,400 plexiglass panels in 32 different sizes. The frame of the dome consists of extruded aluminum tubing.

The conservatory contains more than 500 types of plants and more than 100 birds. Most of the birds are free flying. The area is a photographer and nature lover's dream and is packed with interesting sights.

An Attractive and Interesting Plant Collection

Bloedel Conservatory Birds

A large part of the fun in visiting the Bloedel Conservatory is to bird watch. A visitor can see many kinds of birds almost as soon as they enter the conservatory.

The smaller birds fly freely through the dome and seem very happy. They are also very confident around people. In fact, they are so confident that visitors sometimes have to watch their step as a bird lands on the path in front of them. Feeding stations are set up very close to walkways so that people can watch the birds and take photographs.

The larger birds (parrots and cockatoos) seem to spend much of their time walking and climbing over their perches, although they also get personal attention from staff members. According to the Friends of the Bloedel blog, the big birds were either donated by people who could no longer care for them or came from a sanctuary for abandoned birds. They all have names. Several of them have learned to talk. The birds frequently speak to visitors.

Dome Problems

In 2009, plant and bird lovers got a scare when it was announced that the Bloedel Conservatory was closing and that the dome would be dismantled. The plexiglass panels making up the dome were forty years old. Cracks were forming in the panels, although the roof wasn't dangerous. The Vancouver Park Board said that they couldn't afford the cost of the necessary repairs or the annual cost of maintaining the conservatory and voted to close it.

The Friends of the Bloedel organization rose to the challenge of protecting the conservatory. They raised funds to keep it in operation and also proposed that the VanDusen Botanical Garden take over the running of the conservatory. This garden is located not far from Queen Elizabeth Park, as shown in the map above. The park board then reversed their decision to dismantle the building.

Orchids in the Conservatory

Renovation of the Dome

The Bloedel Conservatory was renovated in 2014. The renovation was a major job. The birds and plants inside the dome had to be protected during the project, and the conservatory had to remain open to the public. Scaffolding was erected around the outside of the dome, as can be seen in the last photo in the sequence below. Netting was put in place inside the dome before any panels were replaced. This stopped the birds in the conservatory from escaping and also stopped wild birds from entering. In addition, the netting caught any debris that fell on the dome. The renovation began in January 2014 and finished in August of that year.

Exploring Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver

Gardens in Queen Elizabeth Park

For most people, the quarry gardens are probably the main attraction in Queen Elizabeth Park. The bigger garden contains more flowers, but the smaller one is also attractive. The large garden contains a stream and a waterfall. The smaller one contains some lovely oriental designs. Though the big garden is beautiful and very popular when the flowers are in bloom, the smaller one is worth visiting as well.

The park contains other interesting things to see. It's the site of Canada's first civic arboretum, which is found in the north section of the park. The arboretum contains trees from across Canada as well as some from other countries. The lovely rose garden is located in the southwest part of the park. It was created in 1967 to celebration Canada's one hundredth birthday.

An unexpected discovery in the larger quarry garden

An unexpected discovery in the larger quarry garden

Public Art and a Dancing Fountain

The park contains public art as well as plants. One of the works of art is Photo Session, a sculpture that shows a man photographing three people. The four individuals in the sculpture are life sized and are made of bronze. The sculpture was created by J. Seward Johnson, Junior. It's been placed at an attractive viewpoint in the park, as shown in the collection of photos above. I often see someone standing by a figure in the sculpture as they pose for a real-life photo.

A relatively new work of art in the park is entitled Love in the Rain. It was created by Bruce Voyce. The work depicts four wire couples, each located under an umbrella. Human couples are invited to add a padlock to the sculpture to "lock in their love". Many people have taken advantage of this invitation.

Watching the Dancing Waters fountain (sometimes known as the Dancing fountain) is always enjoyable. The fountain is located on the plaza beside the conservatory and frequently changes in appearance. Jets of water shoot up to different heights in a seemingly random pattern. The jets are controlled by a computer program. 85,000 litres of recirculating water produce the 70 jets. The fountain plaza is located on top of Vancouver's main drinking water reservoir.

In spring and summer, artists create new works at the Painters Corner in the park and then sell the paintings to the public.

Visiting the Park and the Conservatory

The main entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park is on Cambie Street at West 33rd Avenue, but the park can be accessed from other areas as well. Visitors can reach the park by car or by public transit. Pay parking is in effect.

TransLink runs the Greater Vancouver public transit system. Their website has a useful trip planner that lets a traveller enter their starting address and their destination and then tells them what bus or SkyTrain to catch. SkyTrain is a light rapid transit system. Visitors can take the train to the park, though they will have to walk from the station to the park. This isn't a hardship for someone with normal mobility.

Bloedel Conservatory is open every day of the week and operates all year round (except for Christmas Day). This schedule should be checked before a visit in case it has changed. The conservatory contains washrooms, which are located in a recessed area behind the plant display. A small gift shop is located at the entrance. It's not necessary to pay an entrance fee in order to visit the shop. The building is wheelchair accessible.

The admission prices for Bloedel Conservatory shown below were current at the time when this article was last updated. The latest entrance fees can be found at the City of Vancouver website. A link to the site is provided in the "Resources" section below. Checking the website before a visit is a good idea in case any special conditions are in effect. As mentioned above, entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park is free.

Admission Prices for the Bloedel Conservatory

Various passes and membership plans are available in addition to single admissions. Admission costs sometimes change and should be checked before a visit.

Age of VisitorAdmission Price

Adult

$7.20

Senior (Ages 65 and older)

$5.05

Youth (Ages 13 to 18)

$5.05

Child (Ages 5 to 12)

$3.60

Children 4 and under

Free

A close-up view of an orchid at the conservatory

A close-up view of an orchid at the conservatory

Two Beautiful Places to Visit in Vancouver

It's wonderful that both the Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park will be around for the foreseeable future and that tourists and residents alike can enjoy their beauty. Both sites are enjoyable to visit throughout the year. Most of the flowers in the park are absent in winter, but the evergreen plants are still attractive. In addition, a summer environment can still be found in the dome. A spring to early fall visit to the area will reveal the best of both worlds, with beautiful flowers present in both the conservatory and the park.

Resources

  • The latest information about Bloedel Conservatory (including admission fees) can be found at the City of Vancouver website. The site also has information about Queen Elizabeth Park.
  • The TransLink trip planner is helpful for people who want to travel by public transit.

Questions & Answers

Question: What are the names of the plants in this article?

Answer: The first set of plants in the article includes coleus, orchids, bromeliads, Christmas cactus, a flamingo lily, and other plants. I've added captions to the photos. The conservatory contains over 500 types of plants. They are beautiful to see, but most aren't labeled (or they weren't on my last visit). I'll add more photos and captions as I continue to explore the collection.

© 2014 Linda Crampton