UPDATED OCT 16, 2019
Yes, the natural beauty seen from the downtown core is world-renowned. Still, we have some pretty kickass urban green space if you need a breather from city life but don’t have time to venture into a forest proper. When you need an escape, remember these stunning parks in Vancouver.
Let’s start with the obvious: Stanley Park is Vancouver’s first, largest, and arguably most-loved park. Occupying the tip of the downtown peninsula, you’ve got a whole lot of Seawall, trails, and garden space to explore. Fitt Tip: Missed tickets to see your favourite band at the Malkin Bowl? Listen over the wall in the Rose Garden while you picnic in the best-smelling spot in the park.
Only a brave soul would swim at Trout Lake, but plenty gather around the water’s edge to walk dogs, run, hang out, and (because it’s near Commercial Drive) slackline. Most of the year, you can also eat your way through one of Vancouver’s best farmers markets. As for winter, the lake has frozen over in unusually cold weather — so join everyone in praying for a classic Canadian makeshift ice rink, usually reserved for our pals on the East Coast.
What started as a prank sign is now an officially recognized park name thanks to people freaking out when the city went to remove the installation. The park is a short walk from a handful of Main Street breweries and is home to free, daily yoga during the summer.
To be honest, we had to look up the name of the green space across from Beer Island. Named or not, this corner of Olympic Village offers boardwalks over hilly wetlands, open lawns, and an off-leash dog park for your city-strolling pup. Explore the beach and little spit of land that overlooks the downtown skyline, and—if you’re not worried about the cops stopping by—crack a secret beverage (at your own risk).
Talk about being hidden in plain sight. This lesser-known terraced green space is right across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, but you won’t find a better (and quiet) natural getaway in the middle of the city. Sneak up the steps towards the courthouse and wander the paths until you find a free bench.
Queen Elizabeth is likely Vancouver’s favourite park after good ol’ Stanley. QE Park is home to Nat Bailey Baseball Stadium, the Bloedel Conservatory (where you can get a sweet view of the city), a pitch-and-putt golf course, and disc golf for the more offbeat sportsmen.
Consider this BBQ central. Not feeling the grill-it-yourself? Grab a bite at the Jericho Sailing Centre — the beachfront cafeteria has an awesome patio to watch windsurfers and boats in the bay. After your meal, head into the park to escape the crowds and walk the trails that loop around the pond and turf fields.
Not exactly an oasis, but CRAB Park is still worth a mention for its proximity to Gastown and waterfront views of the North Shore. The park is tucked between the port’s huge orange cranes and the Waterfront SeaBus terminal — so, lots of industrial action to watch. The park’s acronym stands for “Create a Real Available Beach” and was meant to bring together diverse crowd — everyone from East Van fixie-riders to yuppie dog-walkers to people from Downtown Eastside who’ve come out to relax and enjoy the greenery.
Home to a seaside old-growth forest and some of the best, most millennial-pink sunsets in the area, Lighthouse Park is a must-visit. It juts out of West Vancouver to offer a network of seaside trails and rocky outcrops for swimming. Want to solve some problems? You’ll find some of the city’s most accessible outdoor bouldering routes here too.
The gardens are as manicured as the surrounding neighbourhood is grungy. Get a bit of traditional zen as you walk around the ponds, over bridges, and through historical buildings. Admission isn’t free but your ticket includes a tour, or you can always wait for the next seasonal event to pair your garden visit with some holiday vibes.
The crown jewel of Vancouver’s gardens, pay the money (treat yourself) and wander the lush floral paths, lily-padded ponds, and literally get lost in the hedge maze of Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. Plus, the cafe serves coffee and pastries (or high tea if you’re feeling fancy!).
The forest preserve is what separates Vancouver from UBC. And at over 2,000 acres, it’s by far the largest urban green space we’ve got. Head towards the university to explore the endless cycling, running, and horse trails, as well as the beaches that line it.
If you haven’t been to Deer Lake Park since your elementary field trip to the Burnaby Village Museum, consider this a reminder. The park is beautifully maintained, with paths and picnic spots tracing the lake and surrounding forest. Catch a show at the outdoor concert venue, and be sure to watch the calendar for summer festivals.
One of the few gems tucked into the industrial area between Olympic Village and West Broadway, Jonathan Rogers Park has space for a pickup game of baseball, a community garden, and a several groups of friends sharing a growler from 33 Acres up the road. Grab a coffee at Milano or sit on the hill where you can see the downtown skyline.
We grouped these parks because they run side by side around Kits Point in a three-for-one deal. Kitsilano Beach has all your sporting needs (basketball, volleyball, tennis, swimming pools) and the beach crowds. Round the corner to Hadden Park for a quiet in-between spot across the strait from the West End, or keep moving to Vanier Park for trim green space near the H.R. MacMillan Space Center and the Museum of Vancouver.