My Vancouver visit in 1990 was so filled with activities (including a David Bowie concert and a minor league baseball game) that I did not have time to visit Stanley Park. I have finally redeemed myself in 2004, and you should definitely put Stanley Park near the top of your to-do list.
This peninsula was named after Lord Stanley, the Governor General of Canada (1888-1893), who also lent his name to hockey’s illustrious Stanley Cup trophy. These 1,000 acres form the first public park in the city. You can ride the no.19 bus from Georgia Street into the park, but, for full effect, we strolled along the shoreline from Canada Place towards the veritable forest of trees within the grounds.
People can walk or rent a bicycle to complete the 5.5-mile circuit around the seawall promenade. For those with limited time, hop on the free trolley that circulates every 15 minutes during the summertime and makes 14 stops along the way. The driver points out the highlights during this 45-minute circle. You must see the gathering of colorful totem poles near Brockton Point; it is regarded as the most visited tourist spot in all of British Columbia. The expressions on these authentic totem poles crafted by the Kwagiulth people are beautiful and priceless. Stop by the nearby Brockton Visitor Centre (designed by Lubor Trubka Associate Architects) for locally crafted gifts and light snacks.
If you enter the park from the Coal Harbour shore, you will see the Vancouver Rowing Club, which hosts elite rowing squads. The sporting theme can be found all over the park, with cricket pitches, jogging and hiking trails, plus tennis, golf, and swimming. The statue of Canadian track star Harry Jerome sprints along the seawall promenade as does the "Girl in Wet Suit," a sculpture of a female figure lounging atop a rock that is akin to Copenhagen’s "Little Mermaid".
If one continues along the northern edge, you will climb up to Prospect Point. From the lookout plaza there is a great view of the majestic Lions Gate Bridge, reminiscent of the Chain Bridge of Budapest. You can relax or buy trinkets at the nearby cafe (there are other restaurants and snack shacks sprinkled throughout the park). The elevation will also allow you to appreciate the tall trees, including sequoias. Natural curiosities include the Hollow Tree, a bizarre, twisting tree-within-a-tree that you can walk through, and the 50-foot tall Siwash Rock.
Hiking trails lead to notable spots like the Vancouver Aquarium (the largest one in Canada), Beaver Lake, and Lost Lagoon with its fountain in the center. Kids can ride the Miniature Railway, pet animals in the Children’s Farmyard or stare at Canada geese near the Rose Garden. Watch for the clearly marked lanes for cyclists, in-line skaters, and walkers throughout the park (visitors on wheels are supposed to move in a counterclockwise direction). Enjoy the natural beauty of Vancouver at Stanley Park!