Corraled by the English Bay on one side and the Vancouver Harbour on the other, this stunning stretch of land was declared the city's first public park in 1886. Unlike most city parks, Stanley Park was not laid-out by a landscape architect, but instead, grew organically over the years. The rainforest forms the core of Stanley Park, with trees towering to a height of 76 meters (249 feet) and close to 100 years old, while the seawall hems the park's waterfront. Scattered throughout are monuments, landmarks and public art, as well as gardens with vivid floral displays and totem poles; a tapestry of varied habitats teeming with native wildlife that is held together by a network of trails. The park is also home to attractions like a miniature railway, the Malkin Bowl and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Stanley Park's Seawall is one of the most famous places for outdoor activities in Vancouver. The 5.5-mile (8.8km) concrete route circles the perimeter of the park, offering a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and mountains. The salty breeze fused with hemlock and cedar, immense open space, and surroundings rejuvenate even the staunchest of workaholics. Parents pushing strollers, joggers, walkers, cyclists, and rollerbladers traffic the pedestrian thoroughfare. Benches are placed along the way. The sandy beaches that lay just off the wall are ideal for picnics and naps.
Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park is a myriad of awe-inspiring sights rolled into one. This verdant retreat is the crown jewel of Vancouver's urban landscape, perched at the city's highest point, in full view of the North Shore Mountains and the city itself. The park is a diverse tapestry of luxuriant spaces, each a cornucopia of delights. At the Quarry Garden, the former wasteland has been transformed into a lush garden complete with a babbling brook and cascading waterfall, while the Rose Garden abounds in variously hued floral displays. Nearby, the Arboretum shelters a collection of native and exotic trees, interspersed with sculptures and public art by the likes of Henry Moore. The Dancing Fountain is another popular feature, as is the Painters' Corner where local artists can be seen working on picturesque landscapes, their original artwork on display. For the more actively inclined, the park also features sports facilities like tennis courts, mini-golf and lawn bowling.
Since 1973 the Cultch has been providing Vancouver with quality contemporary productions in the arts. The theater was actually originally a Methodist church, long since converted into the venue that it is known and loved. The Cultch also provides art programs for youth and hosts an annual youth arts festival. See website for more details.
Although it's safe, you will want to grip the rope as you step out on to the creaky wooden planks of Capilano Suspension Bridge, which provides a look at the glorious Capilano River raging down at 230 feet (70 meters). This popular attraction, situated at the park of the same name, isn't recommended for those who fear heights. Ten minutes from Downtown, the attraction includes a restaurant, post and gift shop and offers guided tours as well. All the park attractions are included in the admission price.
Occupying a sizable space in Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium offers unseen glimpses into the beauty of the marine kingdom with enchanting displays and a strong emphasis on conservation. Officially known as the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, this aquarium is divided into distinct spaces that feature aquatic wildlife from the Arctic to the Amazon. Nearly 58,000 creatures inhabit in this sprawling marine centre, from playful yet majestic Steller sea lions and genteel dolphins who dive through the air, to killer whales and African penguins. There is a touch pool for visitors to discover the magic agility that cownose and southern stingrays are blessed with. The aquarium also acts as the crusader of sorts for sea creatures, evident from its Ocean Wise program. Not only does it employ professional naturalists to interpret animal behavior, but also contains a living exhibit that illustrates the issues faced by marine life in the Georgia Strait.
Fondly known as the golf ball because of the glittery geodesic dome that sits atop it, this science center is a former Expo '86 pavilion. Today, it is a top family destination, offering educational, entertaining and interactive exhibits. Three main galleries explore the areas of biology, physics and music. A 3D laser show presents fun images. The biggest attraction is the OMNIMAX Theatre, which features science and nature films on one of the world's largest dome screens.
Brimming with a delightful vibrancy, Granville Island is a veritable haven of shopping, entertainment and culture located only a few minutes away from Downtown Vancouver. At the crack of dawn, water taxis can be seen ferrying across False Creek, bearing local wares and fruit crates ready to be sold at the Public Market. The Island's colour, warmth and jubilant personality are fed by each of the 300 businesses and vendors that inhabit its charming stretch. Whether it is the assortment of handicrafts, Aboriginal Art and locally curated souvenirs sold at its homegrown shops and galleries or the pull of culture on display at its performing arts venues, Granville Island saves something for everyone. Notable among its many landmarks is the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the Vancouver Theatresports League and the Granville Island Brewing Company.
Orpheum Theatre was built in 1927 and restored in 1976 to its former glory. Originally opened as a vaudeville house, it is now a beautiful, much-loved city landmark. Located in the entertainment district Downtown, it is the perfect venue for a glamorous night out on the town, offering a variety of concerts, musicals and ceremonies as well as being the home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre is a grand venue built by the city in 1959. Today, the Vancouver Opera and provincial ballet have made the theater their home. Performances include opera, ballet, musicals, plays, concerts, telethons and ceremonies. Patrons complement the grand atmosphere with more formal dress, so remember to don your dapper best. An art gallery and restaurant are also on site. Check website for more details on current and upcoming events.
After closing its doors in the mid-1990s amid protests from patrons and famous musicians, the recently refurbished and re-opened ballroom is making a bouncy comeback. Its dance floor lies atop tires that make everyone move. The 990-capacity venue, located in downtown, has a history of amazing performances ranging from Dizzy Gillespie and Tina Turner to Nirvana and the Clash, along with modern artists like Stereolab and the Flaming Lips. Its location in the entertainment hub makes it a perfect place to see a show before going clubbing. Call ahead for current event details.