Vancouver’s Stanley Park–1,000 sprawling green acres in the heart of Canada’s third-largest city–is one of the world’s great urban oases, like Central Park in New York or the Tuileries in Paris.
A national historic site, it’s named for Lord Frederick Stanley, Canada’s Governor General in 1888 when the park opened. (For trivia buffs: the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup also bears his name.)
How much do Vancouverites love this park? When a violent windstorm devastated much of its forestland in December, 2006, locals dug deep to pay for its restoration–a project completed in 2009.
Like nearby Granville Island, Stanley Park is one of those rare attractions that belongs to everyone.
Here, residents and tourists cross paths, and fleet-footed fitness buffs fly past moony couples and nannies pushing sleeping babies in strollers.
Highlights include the Vancouver Aquarium; the Rose Garden; Lost Lagoon; the Miniature Railway; Malkin Bowl outdoor theatre; Siwash Rock; Brockton Point totem poles; Prospect Point lookout; and the Second Beach pool, playground and pitch-and-putt.
The scenic seawall that rings the park is roughly 10 km (6 miles) and should be on the must-do list of every visitor. Bring a camera: the ocean and mountain views are postcard-worthy.
It takes about a hour to go ’round on a bike or rollerblades, and another hour or two to do the loop by foot or wheelchair. For a more intimate experience with Mother Nature, get off the seawall and into the quiet forest trails that criss-cross the park.
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Plan at least a half a day to explore the park and longer if you’ve got the time. Bring a picnic or visit one of the park’s concessions or restaurants.
>>Click here for a printable map of Stanley Park.
Getting to Stanley Park:
By transit: Take any of the West Vancouver Blue Buses running west along Georgia Street and get off at Denman Street, near the entrance to the park. Or, take the #19 TransLink bus right into the park. Keep your transit receipt and get $2 off admission to the Vancouver Aquarium inside the park.
>>More on transit in Vancouver here.
By foot: It’s an easy and pleasant walk to the park from downtown. Head west along Georgia, north on Denman, or follow the seawall that rings much of the city. If you’re downtown, you can join the seawall at the foot of Burrard or Thurlow, near the Vancouver Convention Centre.
By bike: One of the most enjoyable ways to explore Stanley Park is by bike. For about $6/hr you can rent a suitable bike from shops along Denman St. in the West End, or along the Coal Harbour seawall near the convention centre. The easiest way to get to Stanley Park is via the bike path along the seawall, or the bike lanes along Georgia or Dunsmuir Streets. (Note: bikes must travel in a counter-clockwise direction only around the Stanley Park seawall.)
By car: If you must drive, be warned that Georgia Street, which leads into the park, is a major commuter artery that clogs easily and often. As well, pay parking is in effect year-round; be sure to buy hourly or daily tickets at pay stations throughout the park.
By tour bus: Several tour bus operators offer full-service and hop-on/hop-off tours of the park.
Photo: Tourism Vancouver