Over on the western peninsula of Vancouver lies the world-famous Stanley Park, the largest of its kind in North America. No trip to this city would be complete without stopping by the park to bask in its amazingly clean environs. Seriously, it’s like there's some kind of magical underground garbage-removal system that sucks any trash down underneath the ground into some oversized trash receptacle to be emptied weekly. The views are killer, the aromatic blooming flowers stimulate your sense of smell, and the extensive system of trails and paths makes spending an entire day here entirely feasible.
Yes, there’s lots of history to the park. But I really don’t want to get into all of that here--I’m sure if you want to read up on all the specifics of this fabulous park, you’ll have no trouble finding that information elsewhere. There are oodles of picnic areas, basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds, etc., but when I headed over here, the one thing I really wanted to do was rent a bike and make the trek around the park via the expertly planned out Seawall Walk, a paved double path with enough room to accommodate rollerbladers, joggers, walkers, and bicyclists.
I walked to the park from downtown and stopped on the way at Bikes N’ Blades, 718 Denman Street (604/602-9899), to rent a bicycle for a few hours. The guys there were very cool, and I think I paid something like C$3 an hour for a bike that put mine back home to shame. I felt like I was pedaling a chariot descended from heaven. Helmets are "required" in Vancouver, but I declined the offer and didn’t catch any flack from the pleasant policemen whom I intermittently encountered on the Seawall. Yeah, I could get hurt if for some reason I wiped out, but hey, at least I’d look cooler doing it than if I were wearing a helmet! Yes, that’s me, Mr. Fashion-Conscious. By the way, the cost of a bike rental also includes a lock.
If you enter the park at Denman Street, the whole trek around the park is around 9km and is mostly flat. The cool breeze coming off the water was invigorating, and the views of the bay, North Vancouver, and the surrounding mountains were, for lack of a better word, awesome. You’ll probably be snapping photos left and right, doing your best to emulate Cindy Sherman, albeit with different subject matter. Just make sure that you ride on the correct side of the path, or the locals will be quick to point out you’re wrong (their way of assuring you that they’re not a tourist). You’ll get caught up in the views and want to see what’s around the next corner, but don’t forget to stop at a prime vantage point to sit and soak it all in while relaxing on one of the many waterfront benches.