Canadians love their outdoors! Considering how cold and inhospitable it can get in winter with many cities groaning under the weight of snow for a couple of months of the year, it’s no wonder they enjoy the opportunity to feel the sunshine on their faces and breeze in their hair. Similarly, when visitors are looking for things to do in Vancouver, it makes sense to look to the outdoors.
Vancouver parks are simply outstanding places to be. The City of Vancouver is the only Canadian municipality that has an elected park board and this authority operates 24 community centres with arenas, playing fields and swimming pools, 240 parks, three championship golf courses and incredible destination gardens.
Visit one of the world’s top Urban Parks in Vancouver
Vancouver’s Stanley Park sprawls over a massive 404 hectares and with more than 10,340 ‘excellent’ and 2,709 ‘very good’ reviews on TripAdvisor, it certainly has an enormous fan base among locals and visitors alike. The park attracts around 8 million visitors annually, all of whom are drawn to different elements that make up its personality.
In summer, Stanley Park is loved for its water park where frolicking in the crystal clear pools in the sunshine is the order of the day. Little ones adore the enormous water cannons, canyons and geysers placed throughout the ankle deep wading pool and for older people, a waterslide, heated outdoor pool and 80m lap pool are well frequented. Those who prefer natural waterways will enjoy Second Beach, Third Beach and English Bay (or First) Beach, the latter with plenty of facilities for fun and convenience.
Then there are the lakes including the freshwater Beaver Lake and man-made Lost Lagoon. The Vancouver Aquarium – Canada’s largest – is housed at Stanley Park and hosts over 70,000 sea animals such as sea otters, anacondas and beluga whales. Visitors can go behind the scenes and meet the animals as well as learn more about them.
Hiking enthusiasts adore Stanley Park for its seemingly endless array of trails over 27 kilometres. There is even a wheelchair accessible route – Ravine Trail – which takes visitors from the picturesque Seawall through to Beaver Lake Trail.
When hunger bites, there are three main outlets to select from. The Teahouse offers fine dining in an al fresco setting and showcases salmon as its signature dish. Stanley’s Park Bar & Grill boasts an enormous patio where 200 hungry folks can graze on burgers, beer and wine and look out over the gorgeous rose gardens. At Prospect Point Café, sandwiches, salads, burgers and seafood dishes keep visitors beautifully fed and includes an express café for those not wishing to linger because there’s too much else to see and do.
Sports lovers heavily utilise Stanley Park because of its excellent facilities, not the least of which is the par-54, 1200-yard golf course which is free of hazards and is stunningly planted with a signature Rhododendron Garden. There are also 17 tennis courts, a lawn bowling club, rowing club and Brockton Oval Athletic Fields, established in 1891 and still used today.
Stanley Park offers a never-ending assortment of things to do in Vancouver’s lushest environment.
A Vancouver park for Flower Lovers
There are travellers of all types in this world. Some will traverse the planet to spot a rare bird in a deep jungle while others will escape to a remote desert to drink camel milk with Bedouin nomads. For those who have a profound love for all things floral, Queen Elizabeth Park is considered Vancouver’s ‘horticultural jewel’. Situated at 152 metres above sea level, the park is the highest point in Vancouver so views of the cityscape from here are incomparable.
When the flowers are in full bloom, the perfume fills the air, making it a complete sensory experience. Don’t forget to take along your hay fever medication if you’re visiting at such times, however! In Vancouver in spring, 40,000 cherry trees come alive with pink and white blossoms everywhere you look. The park itself is home to numerous varieties of cherry trees which make their presence known between early March and late April.
The spectacular Rose Garden is situated on the south-western perimeter. It contains countless rose varieties and the Saskatchewan-developed Parkland and Explorer rose hybrids can be found here.
Originally an open face rock quarry from which rocks were extracted to build the city’s first roadways at the turn of the twentieth century, Queen Elizabeth Park’s future was altered when the BC Tulip Association suggested the creation of sunken gardens. Quarry Gardens is a much-loved attraction in the park even today.
The park features loads of activities with a disc golf course, tennis courts, pitch and putt golf course, lawn bowling club and tai chi. There is an arboretum that boasts around 1,500 trees from throughout Canada as well as some exotic species. Some of the trees are more than 60 years old.
A fascinating item of trivia is that a number of episodes of the long-running TV series Stargate SG-1 were filmed in Queen Elizabeth Park.
The Bloedel Conservatory on the grounds is a heritage-listed glass dome that houses exotic birds, tropical ecosystems and a healing garden.
Keep an eye on the Weather Conditions
When the weather is fair and mild, Vancouver is a glorious place to be outdoors. However, when the chill of winter bites, snow can be a problem for those in transit. Though the city is not one of those hardest hit by metres of deep snow, in Vancouver it can be quite wet which is ideal for icy road conditions. It’s important to be mindful of this fact so that if you are travelling in or out by road or air, you allow plenty of time for delays and cancellations. Obviously, your travel insurance* will come in very handy if you are held up or your plans are thrown into disarray as a result of weather.
The trick to planning things to do in Vancouver is to look at the weather conditions expected for when you are there. The closer to your dates, the more accurate the forecast will be so keep an eye on the Government of Canada’s weather information website and you’ll have all you need to know!