What’s the best park in the world? According to TripAdvisors’ millions of users it’s Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The local favourite was recently voted “Best Park in the World,” edging out other urban respites like New York’s Central Park and Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens, thanks to 400 hectares/1,000 acres of lush forest that sit perched at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
The third largest urban park in North America, Stanley Park is dense with groves of cedar, hemlock and fir trees and almost entirely surrounded by ocean. An 8.8-km/5.4-mi pedestrian seawall hugs the park’s shoreline and offers ocean views at every turn, while everything from scenic beaches, quiet hiking trails and attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium lie in between.
It’s no surprise that the park attracts roughly 8 million visitors a year. We recently asked our Facebook fans to chime in with their favourite, must-see/must-do activities in Stanley Park. Now, the results are in. Here’s your guide to the “Best Park in the World”:
The number one thing to do in Stanley Park singled out by our fans? The seawall. A favourite of both residents and visitors alike, most take to this pedestrian and multi-use path for the stunning views and car-free access it provides.
• Don’t miss: Rent a bike and cruise around the seawall – it’s one of the best vantage points to see the city, offering spectacular views of Coal Harbour, the North Shore Mountains and English Bay. You’ll also spot Siwash Rock, a 32 million year old sea stack that is a distinct and not-to-be-missed landmark between Lions Gate Bridge and Third Beach.
Third Beach, Second Beach, English Bay – take your pick in Stanley Park. The oceanside setting means there are plenty of beaches to choose from. The fan favourite? Third Beach, located at Ferguson Point, is a naturally sandy outcropping surrounded by trees that make this a less-crowded – but still scenic – option.
• Honourable Mentions: Second Beach and English Bay were also in strong competition for top beach spot. Second Beach is a favourite of families, thanks to a heated pool (and a shallow kiddies area), a playground and picnic shelter. English Bay, at the foot of the city’s West End neighbourhood, is perfect for city dwellers who want quick access to the water and restaurants and shopping nearby.
3. Vancouver Aquarium
Sea otters, Pacific white-sided dolphins, crustaceans – this is where you come to view BC’s marine life up close and personal. The Vancouver Aquarium cracked the top 5 list as one of the must-see attractions in the park. What makes the aquarium so great? Accessible by transit or the seawall, educational and entertaining, plus kid-friendly exhibitions and programs.
• Don’t miss: The 4D movies! One of the more unique experiences at the aquarium include the 4D movies that feature a rotating selection of flicks, all while delighting movie-goers with taste, touch, smell and sound.
4. Totem Poles at Brockton Point
Another Stanley Park highlight of our fans? The totem poles at Brockton Point. Nine colourful poles carved by local artists around the province stand against a backdrop of thick, dense forest. The entrance to the park is as equally impressive: three beautiful red cedar portals welcome visitors to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people.
5. Rose Garden
No park would be complete without gardens and Stanley Park is no exception. Our fans loved the immaculate gardens, from the Rhododendron Garden to the Shakespeare Garden, seeing these blooms in their full glory are a must. The top overall spot for flowers? The Rose Garden – especially during spring when the heady scent of their petals fill the air.
Part of Stanley Park’s charm is its vast area – you could easily spend an entire day here and still not see everything. Here are a few honourable mentions by our fans (in no particular order): The Teahouse in Stanley Park, Lost Lagoon, Malkin Bowl for concerts and the network of hiking trails that criss-cross the park.
Did we miss your favourite Stanley Park experience? Leave a comment and let us know what you think should be added to the list!