Vancouver: Places to Explore

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Stanley Park

A 1,000-acre wilderness park, only blocks from the downtown section of a major city, is a rare treasure. Vancouverites use it, protect it, and love it with such zeal that when it was proposed that the 120-year-old Hollow Tree be axed due to safety concerns, citizens rallied, raised funds, and literally engineered its salvation.

The fact that Stanley Park is so close to the city is actually all thanks to the Americans—sort of! In the 1860s, because of a threat of American invasion, this oceanfront peninsula was designated a military reserve, though it was never needed. When the City of Vancouver was incorporated in 1886, the council's first act was to request the land be set aside as a park. Permission was granted two years later and the grounds were named Stanley Park after Lord Stanley, then governor general of Canada. The only military vestige is Deadman's Island, a former burial ground for local Salish First Nations people and early settlers; the small naval installation here, HMCS Discovery, is not open to the public.

Vancouverites make use of it fervently to cycle, walk, jog, Rollerblade, play cricket and tennis, and enjoy outdoor art shows and theater performances alongside attractions such as the renowned aquarium and Klahowya Village, a summer aboriginal cultural village.

When a storm swept across the park's shores in December 2006, it destroyed close to 10,000 trees as well as parts of the perimeter seawall. Locals contributed thousands of dollars to the clean-up and replanting effort in addition to the monies set aside by local authorities. The storm's silver lining was that it cleared some dead-wood areas, making room for the reintroduction of many of the park's original species of trees. It also gave rise to an unusual ecological arts program in which ephemeral sculptures have been placed in various outdoor locations. Made of natural and organic materials, the elements are constantly changing the look of each piece which, over the course of its 24-month "display period," will decay and return to the earth.

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