It may seem cliche but when visitors ask me what there is to do in Vancouver the first item on my list is Stanley Park. I’m not talking renting some rollerblade or a tandem bicycle, doing the seawall then having ice cream in English Bay (although that is pretty fun). My idea of Stanley Park may be slightly different and so I present my Top Five things to do in Stanley Park for 2010.
In 1940 the first performance of Theatre Under the Stars took place at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. Since that time some of the most recognizable names in music history have graced the same stage. While Vancouver’s climate isn’t always favourable to outdoor performances, managing to catch a show on a starry oceanside evening surrounded by giant cedars is definitely worth it.
Upcoming concerts this season include Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem, Metric and more. Theatre Under the Stars is still going strong presenting Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as Singin’ in the Rain this summer.
Tip: You can either drive in past the Rose Garden (following the signs to park) or take the #19 bus all the way into the park. You can also leave the car downtown (or at home) and take a stroll along the seawall to get to Malkin Bowl.
While the seawall is the most-beaten path around the park there are several that will lead you alongside rippling creeks, around towering firs, past beaver-chewed branches, and over to some amazing lookouts this summer.
Some of my favourite trails are the North Creek Trail (where I once fell off a giant log and into a pile of mud. Lucky for me John got it all on camera), Bridle Walk (it cuts through most of the park and can get you all the way up to Prospect Point), and the Beaver Lake Trail (a nice urban oasis where you can watch birds or float planes cruise overhead).
Tip: On a warm summer’s day leave the car at home and walk through the park to get to Third Beach. Take the Rawlings trail around the perimeter until you see the signs for the beach. You can also cut through on the Lees Trail, Lovers Walk, or Tatlow Walk.
Bonus Tip: The 30th annual Run for Light by BC Blind Sports takes place May 28th on Stanley Park trails and the seawall. This fun run is at night with glow-sticks making for a really unique experience for participants and spectators alike.
The Vancouver Aquarium
After re-visiting the Aquarium in recent years I have come to discover that it is far more than a place to watch playful otters and graceful jellyfish. The regularly host educational programs for kids, workshops on ecological issues, or special holiday-themed events.
The dolphins and belugas are popular attractions however their presentations are not strictly for entertainment and there is no jumping through hoops. The shows are brief and introduce the audience to the marine mammals, talking about how they arrived in the Aquarium (through rehabilitation or rescue) and how their species is dealing with environmental impacts within our oceans.
You’ll probably learn quite a bit while still being able to play around in a tide pool, spot giant frogs, and get creeped out by the wolf eel. A recent edition is the 4D theatre which is currently showing Planet Earth: Shallow Seas.
Tip: Around the back of the Aquarium near Painter’s Corner there is a gated walkway that will take you down and around some of the Aquarium’s pools. This is not an entrance to the facility but a neat (on the cheap) sneak peek.
The Nature House
Located in the old boathouse on Lost Lagoon, the Nature House is operated by the Stanley Park Ecology Society. It’s a great place to look out on the lagoon and bird watch as swans, cygnets, ducks and seagulls vie for your attention (or your lunch). Inside, there are interactive displays featuring information about some of the plants and wildlife in the park.
Tip: The Stanley Park Ecology Society hosts monthly events that start out at the Nature House. The next one is a Creatures of the Night Bat Walk on May 6th at 7:00pm. The program is free an open to all ages.
Get to know Pauline
When you visit the Nature House you’ll also see a tribute to Pauline Johnson, one of my personal heroes. She is the one that gave Lost Lagoon its name and re-told many First Nations stories to English audiences (such as the legend of the Lions).
From one of my posts about her:
“Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) was the child of a Mohawk chief and an Englishwoman and as a writer and poet, she traveled across North America and England giving readings of her work and performing on stage. She retired to Vancouver and continued to write for the Province basing her articles on stories shared by her friend Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish people of North Vancouver. In 1911, to support Johnson who was terminally ill and not wealthy by any means, a group of friends organized the publication of her stories under the title Legends of Vancouver… …She was even commemorated on a postage stamp in 1961 â€” being the first aboriginal-Canadian, first woman (other than the Queen), and author to ever be honored in this manner.”
Tip: After you learn about Pauline at the Nature House walk over to Ferguson Point and visit her memorial, which was built in 1922. It’s tucked away before the turn off to either the Teahouse or Third Beach.
There’s plenty more to explore in Stanley Park, from Pitch & Putt to lighthouses, however this is simply the “Top Five” so I’ll leave it at that. A complete list of Park events for 2010 is available online.
Should you have a suggestion for my next Top Five location (either around Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, Southern BC, or BC) please feel free to do so in the comments.