The best parks in Vancouver offer free fun and outdoor activities for all ages. There are scenic parks, parks with great hiking trails, parks where the dogs can run free, and parks for kids. Some are world famous, like Stanley Park, but many are local favorites that you won't see on tourist lists of Vancouver attractions.
At the top of any list of parks in Vancouver is the city's world-renowned Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver. It's a natural rainforest that touches the ocean right in the midst of the city. There are so many free things to do in Stanley Park: biking or walking the seawall, nature walks on the park's miles of forest trails, exploring the Stanley Park gardens, or visiting the totem poles. You can also eat in Stanley Park at one of its three restaurants, all with outside seating and a backdrop of the forest or ocean.
Situated in the heart of Vancouver, Queen Elizabeth Park is also the highest point in the city, boasting spectacular views of the downtown skyline. It's one of the best parks in Vancouver for gardens, and the free quarry gardens are in bloom virtually year-round and are truly spectacular. The park is also home to the "dancing fountains" (at its top), the Queen Elizabeth Pitch & Putt, and lots of open, green spaces for playing ball or just laying on the soft grass.
Located just 15 minutes from Commercial Drive in East Van or about 25 minutes northeast of downtown Vancouver, Lynn Canyon Park is one of the best parks in Vancouver that doesn't have a high tourist profile. Beloved by locals, this (semi-)hidden gem has a free suspension bridge, walking and hiking trails, waterfalls, and a natural swimming pool. And they are all surrounded by trees that are 80 to 100 years old. One caveat: Lynn Canyon Park is not accessible to wheelchairs, strollers, or people who have mobility issues.
One of the best parks in Vancouver for dogs and kids is John Hendry Park, locally referred to as Trout Lake, in East Van, just south of Commercial Drive and within walking distance of the Commercial SkyTrain Station. Situated around Trout Lake, the park includes trails for walking/biking/pushing strollers around the lake, an off-leash dog park on the north side, and a sandy beach and playground on the south side. Plus it has lovely views of the northern mountains.
Located near the University of British Columbia, Pacific Spirit Regional Park is an ideal destination for running, cycling, and hiking. Its extensive cycling/hiking trails offer some of a gorgeous Pacific Northwest scenery in the city; you'll marvel at views of the dense forest and rugged beaches. If you have a full day to spare, you can combine a trip to Pacific Spirit Park with an exploration of the top attractions at UBC. First-time visitors can pick up a map and visitor guides at the Park Centre at 4915 West 16th Avenue.
Dude Chilling Park
Yes, that really is its name! Situated in the hipster Mount Pleasant neighborhood, this little green oasis was originally called Guelph Park but the name was changed in 2014. Back in 1991, a sculpture called Reclining Figure was erected and locals began referring to him as a 'chill dude'. In 2012 local artist Viktor Briestensky erected a Dude Chilling Park sign that looked identical to the official Vancouver Parks Board's sign. It got taken down but after a petition was signed by locals, the park was officially renamed two years' later.
Sunset Beach Park
Sunset Beach is a popular destination, especially in the summer, but the green space behind the beach is equally as popular with locals looking for a place to play a game of soccer, meet friends and soak up the sunshine. Grab a drink from the concession stand and spread out on the grass - on a very hot day you might see someone bringing a slip N slide for everyone to slide down the hill.
Kitsilano's Vanier Park is a large expanse of waterfront grass (and beach) that is home to attractions such as the Museum of Vancouver, H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and events such as Bard on the Beach and the International Children's Festival.