UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Yes, the natural beauty seen from the downtown core is world-renowned. But what doesn't get talked about enough is how impressive our urban parks and green spaces are. Here's a friendly reminder that Vancouver's parks department is crushing it.
We'll start with the obvious. Stanley Park is Vancouver’s first, largest, and, we'd argue, most-loved park. Occupying the tip of the downtown peninsula, you’ve got a whole lot of Seawall, trails, and garden space to explore. And if you missed tickets to see your favourite band at the Malkin Bowl, you can listen over the wall in the Rose Garden.
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 every year we cross our fingers 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. It's all thanks to the amount of people that freaked out when the city went to remove the installation. But the best part about this park (in our opinion) is that it's 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 crack a secret adult 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, and we have yet to find a better (or more 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.
We'd say Queen Elizabeth is likely Vancouver’s favourite park, after Stanley Park, of course. It's 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. There's also a handful of really nice picnic areas and paved pathways that we enjoy walking along on a slow Saturday afternoon.
Consider this BBQ central — no matter when we go, there are always people hanging out and grill out. Not feeling up to grilling-it-yourself? Grab a bite at the Jericho Sailing Centre. The beachfront cafeteria has an awesome patio where you can 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.
Alright, so this place isn't exactly an oasis. But, it's worth a mention because of 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. And, fun fact: the acronym stands for “Create a Real Available Beach” and was meant to bring together diverse crowds — everyone from East Van fixie-riders and 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 with epic views and rocky outcroppings for swimming. Want to solve some problems? You’ll find some of the city’s most accessible outdoor bouldering routes here, too.
Ask anyone — this is the crown jewel of Vancouver’s gardens. You have to pay a fee to get in, but we think you'll consider it worth it once you've spent hours wandering the lush floral paths, enjoying the lily-padded ponds, and getting lost (literally) in the hedge maze. 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. We've yet to see a park that's more beautifully maintained, and it features paths and picnic spots tracing the lake and surrounding forest. Catch a show at the outdoor concert venue, and be sure to keep an eye on 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 little bit of everything. We're talking a pickup game of baseball, a community garden, and 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, grassy green space near the H.R. MacMillan Space Center and the Museum of Vancouver.
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