Stanley Park - Vancouver
Activity:If you have only one afternoon to spend in Vancouver, take your family to Stanley Park. You can't go wrong. Stanley Park is the grand daddy of all parks in Greater Vancouver. Known around the world, and why shouldn't it be...a beautiful 1000 acre park that's almost smack dab in the middle of Vancouver.
I suggest you start off by doing a loop around the park. You can either drive, or if you're feeling energetic, try walking. If speed is your thing, you can rent a bike or rollerblades at stores near Georgia and Denman Street. It's about six miles around (vehicular traffic flow is one way, and counter clockwise in direction). By circling the park you'll see many of the landmarks. Let me take you on a short tour. As you enter the park from Georgia Street you'll see the rose garden to your left. It doesn't look like much unless the roses are in bloom. There is, however, a small playground tucked in behind it, as well as a dining pavilion. On the water side you'll see the beautiful English looking building that houses The Vancouver Rowing Club, and Coal Harbour, where you may be lucky enough to see a seaplane land.
About 100 yards beyond the Yacht Club you'll see some parking lots. Originally these were used by people visiting the zoo, which is now dismantled. This is also where you turn-off for the Vancouver Aquarium and Brockton Oval, a small sports complex. About a quarter mile further you'll see naval reserve base HMCS Discovery to your right. It's stationed on Deadman's Island which reportedly was a native Indian burial ground at one time. A bit further are the totem poles to your left. These are worth a stop, not just to look at the totem poles, but also to take a picture of the city. Get your camera out because Hallelujah Point has an outstanding view of the city. As you venture further you'll see a big cannon parked inside a cage. Apparently they did this because the Engineers at U.B.C. kept stealing it for a prank. This is the famous Nine O'clock Gun which you hear boom every night at, of course 9 o'clock.
Once you round Brockton Point you'll find a change of scenery. Instead of city landscape you'll see big piles of sulphur against a scenic backdrop of mountains. Welcome to the North Shore. The connector is The Lion's Gate Bridge, the closest thing we've got to The Golden Gate Bridge. The seawall is dotted with various points of interest. The one I like is the mermaid lounging on the rock. My wife has a different point of view. About halfway between Brockton Point and Prospect Point is Lumberman's Arch. In the summer they have a water park going here and a concession stand. Prospect Point has a spectacular view of North and West Vancouver. It also has a nice cafe if you feel like having a snack or lunch. I've never eaten here, but it always seems busy.
The west side of the seawall has three swimming beaches. The first you'll come across is Third Beach. I always remember it for the weird rocks you can see when the tide goes out. Second Beach is popular with families. It has a wonderful outdoor swimming pool, equipped with slides and a special tortoise slide for the little ones. When the kids get tired of swimming you can take them to the playground, or go for a stroll around Lost Lagoon. Just cross the street and follow the paved walkway; it'll lead you to the Lagoon. If they like animals, your kids will love the Lagoon. Bring plenty of birdfeed for the ducks and the racoons seem to like just about anything. You'll have an audience within minutes. If you want to see skunks, you'll have to go at dusk. My wife and I once counted about forty skunks. If you have a racquet handy, tennis courts are close by, and so is a pitch-and-putt golf course.
If you skip all these attractions and stay on the seawall, you'll get to English Bay, another swimming area. This beach is popular with singles. For some reason Mary never wants to go here. She says I should be out of the stage anyway where I'd want to look at young voluptuous females in string bikinis. The cluster of apartments behind English Bay are called The West End. It has one of the highest densities in North America. The last beach on the strip is called Sunset. It has a huge indoor swimming pool called The Aquatic Centre. Behind the Aquatic Centre is a small ferry dock, where you can catch a boat to Granville Island. It takes only five minutes. Across the water you'll also see Vanier Park. If you're lucky you'll see some huge colourful kites with people actually riding on them.
By this time you'll be ready for a snack. I suggest you walk back to Denman Street and hit one of the many coffee bars or eating establishments dotted along it. If you stay on Denman, you'll eventually get back close to the entrance of Stanley Park.
If you'd rather look at trees, there are plenty of trails to hike along inside the park. It also has a miniature train and farmyard for children. At Christmas time the train and farmyard are decorated in festive lights. We went a few years ago and the decorations were a little stale. But apparently the Vancouver Firefighters did a complete overhaul and made it quite spectacular. Everyone I knew that went said it was worth going.
Age group:All ages
Expense rating:Free except parking and attractions like miniature train.
:What I like about Stanley Park is that you can do about a hundred different activities there: feed squirrels, climb trees, watch a killer whale show, ride on a horse-drawn carriage are just the tip of the iceberg. If you're a family of many interests, Stanley Park is a sure bet.
:Parking can be tight, especially on weekends. Some of the attractions like the Aquarium also get busy. So does the seawall. People were actually colliding into each other as they circled the seawall. The Parks Board now has strict rules as to where you can rollerblade and bicycle around the seawall.
Details:Located at the very west end of Georgia St.
Phone (604) 257-8400 for more information. Website: www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/parks/parks&gardens/stanley.htm
Educational highlights:Stanley Park is the perfect place to ponder the wonders of Mother Nature. Hemlock and cedars towering above you, the ocean where life began, squirrels storing their nuts, baby ducks scurrying after their mother--really you can't miss. Plus The Aquarium has every type of fish you can think of and alligators! If you've ever wondered what a piranha looks like, you'll see one--behind the glass. There's a lot of boat traffic as well. Everything from huge tankers and cruise ships to speedboats and seadoos.
Fun for the adult?:My wife and I like going to Stanley Park because we know there's plenty of opportunities for having fun. If we plan on going swimming and it gets cold we go for a hike, or if someone gets tired we feed the ducks, or if it rains we go to The Aquarium. If we have energy to burn we cycle the seawall, but if we're feeling tired we just drive. When everyone is tired and hungry, you have lots of eating places close by. My wife can have her coffee, the kids get an ice-cream, and I go for a malty beverage (Good Luck!).