When you're visiting Vancouver, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city is the famous Stanley Park, which attracts more than eight million visitors a year. Stanley Park is the true heart of Vancouver, an emblem of the city's passion for nature and the importance of public outdoor spaces in city-dwelling lives, offering a variety of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy year-round.
Traversing the 8.8-kilometer (5.5-mile) Seawall that circles the Stanley Park (and extends into downtown Vancouver) is one of the most famous things to do in Stanley Park. No matter what the weather, there will always be people walking, jogging, rollerblading, or cycling along this scenic, paved pathway, which makes a complete loop around the park's coastline and boasts fabulous views of the city, northern mountains, and Lion's Gate Bridge.
Although you cannot rent bikes or rollerblades inside the park itself, there are a number of great rental shops nearby including Bay Shore Bicycle & Rollerblade Skate Rentals along Denman and West Georgia Streets.
When it comes to things to do at Stanley Park, walking through majestic cedars and firs is more commonly thought of than stopping to smell the flowers, but that doesn't mean there aren't gorgeous gardens there, too. The park's three must-see gardens are the Stanley Park Rose Garden, the Ted & Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden, and the pictorial carpet bedding at Prospect Point, the highest point in the park.
All gardens in Stanley Park are free to enjoy (as is the rest of the park) and are open year-round. However, the best time to visit the gardens is during the spring or summer, and the peak bloom season for Vancouver is sometime between late-March and April as well as June through October.
The Seawall isn't Stanley Park's only walking trail; in fact, there are over 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) of forest trails winding through the park's dense foliage, offering hikers and walkers a quiet, more secluded getaway.
These walking trails, which are covered in bark mulch for easy navigation, are free to use and open throughout the year. For a special treat on your adventure, be sure to check out the "monument trees"—the oldest and biggest growths in the park—along Siwash Rock Trail, Third Beach Trail, and the Lake Traill north of Beaver Lake.
While Stanley Park is home to a wide variety of monuments, none are as popular as the British Columbia First Nations totem poles that are on display at Brockton Point. In fact, these totems are the most-visited tourist attraction in all of B.C.
While there are many of these totem poles in museums and cultural centers across the region, the ones set up at Brockton Point are from all over British Columbia: four are from Alert Bay on Vancouver Island and additional pieces are from the Queen Charlotte Islands and Rivers Inlet on the central coast.
Brockton Point is located in the eastern corner of Stanley Park, which you can access either by walking down the forest trails or by parking along Stanley Park Drive directly in front of the totems.
The largest aquarium in Canada, the Vancouver Aquarium has been a resident of Stanley Park since 1956 and is definitely one of the top things to do in Stanley Park. Home to 70,000 creatures, including Beluga whales, dolphins and fish from around the world, the Aquarium is a leader in aquatic conservation and offers a wide variety of educational programs for all ages.
The Vancouver Aquarium is located just five to 20 minutes from downtown (depending on transportation method) at 845 Avison Way inside Stanley Park; multiple lots are available for parking along Pipeline Road and Avison Way. The aquarium is typically open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours on the weekends and during special events; though it may be closed for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
The Stanley Park Miniature Train is one of the best things to do in Stanley Park for younger kids: the mini train carries its passengers through the forest on winding tracks, over trestles, and through tunnels on a two-kilometer (1.2-mile) wilderness journey.
The Stanley Park Miniature Train Depot is located off Pipeline Road in Stanley Park, near the Vancouver Aquarium. You can ride the Miniature Train over the summer (late-June through early-September), or at special holiday events during the year, including the Halloween Ghost Train and the Christmas-themed Bright Nights. Rides are available from June 17 through September 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
If you're looking to get a little wet during your summer vacation to British Columbia, Stanley Park has a variety of water activities available at its two beaches.
Vancouver's Second Beach and Third Beach are both parts of the southern coastline of Stanley Park. Beautiful throughout the year, the beaches really come to life in the summer. Additionally, Second Beach's heated, fresh-water pool is open from Victoria Day to Labour Day each year, and kids can run through water geysers and canons at the Variety Kids Water Park, open late-May to Labour Day.
Stanley Park's Lost Lagoon is one of its most famous landmarks. This beautiful body of water is located just inside the park's main entrance off Georgia Street and is a sanctuary for many types of birds and animals. Enjoy discovering the Lost Lagoon yourself, or visit the Lost Lagoon Nature House--one of the lesser-known things to do at Stanley Park--to learn from the experts. Operated by the Stanley Park Ecology Society, the Nature House functions as an ecological "gateway" to the park, providing lots of fun, interactive ways to learn about Stanley Park's flora and fauna.
Participate in Sports and Recreation
Sports and recreation lovers will find so many things to do at Stanley Park they won't know where to begin. Among the many offerings:
- Stanley Park Pitch & Putt Golf Course
- Brockton Point Cricket Club
- Royal Vancouver Yacht Club
- Vancouver Rowing Club
There are also 17 free, public tennis courts at the Beach Avenue entrance to the park, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis; six of the 17 become pay-courts during the summer season.
Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) has been a summer tradition in Stanley Park since the 1940s and involves musical theatre performances held outdoors at the park's Malkin Bowl. Each season brings two big musical productions; previous seasons produced acclaimed versions of "Oklahoma!," "Grease," and "Annie Get Your Gun."
Most performances take place in July and August; the 2019 season will feature productions of "Newsies" and "Mamma Mia!" The Malkin Bowl is located off Pipeline Road in Stanley Park near the miniature train and aquarium; paid parking is available within a short walking distance of the outdoor amphitheater.