Oh, beautiful Vancouver! Sitting on the edge of British Columbia, Vancouver is blessed with more natural beauty than I could ever imagine. The city revealed charm wherever we looked. Surrounded by mountains and lavish forests to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Vancouver is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.
Ranked worldwide as one of the Top 10 best cities to live in, it was no surprise to verify how clean the streets, parks, and beaches are. Talking to locals, we heard how blessed they felt by the pleasant weather, consequently enjoying almost year-round outdoor activities. As we were approaching Capilano Suspension Bridge, the bus driver proudly announced that Vancouver celebrates diversity. Similarly, the hotel receptionist assured us that Vancouver is safe, walkable, environmentally friendly, and welcoming.
As outdoor lovers, here are two easily accessible places our family explored while touring this beautiful Canadian city. In other words, Vancouver is a must see.
Bike at Stanley Park
No trip to Vancouver is complete without a visit to Stanley Park. Larger than New York City’s Central Park, this 1,001-acre public stretch is mostly surrounded by waters from Vancouver Harbour on one side and English Bay on the other. Offering stunning views, the Park fascinated us with both natural and man-made attractions, as well as the abundance of recreational activities. Indeed, Stanley Park is the right destination not only for leisure, but also for culture and adventure.
How to explore
How to explore the massive area will depend on everyone’s time and strength. Parking lots and street parking are available throughout Stanley Park. That said, if time is short, a quick drive through may be the best choice. As bike lovers, we opted to rent bikes from English Bay Bike Rentals, just a few blocks out from the park. Offering outstanding customer service, the bike shop made us happy with our choice.
The Seawall, one of the most praised attractions in town, is a 5.5-mile long paved pathway around Stanley Park, used by locals and tourists for strolling, jogging, cycling, running, and skating. As we biked around we stopped, not only to appreciate fantastic views but also to explore. We stayed for hours.
The totem poles
At the totem poles collection, we made our first stop. Being peculiar to the northwest coast of British Columbia and lower Alaska, we learned how important totem poles were for the British Columbia Indians. Poles were not idols, nor were they worshipped. Each carving on each pole had a meaning, and they would tell a real or mythical event of the family who owned it.
Along the way, more surprises. The views of the downtown skyline and Lions Gate Bridge were incredible. The further we biked, the more Stanley Park revealed itself though giant trees, monuments, gardens, wildlife, lagoons, and sculptures. When the time came for a small bite, we stopped at Teahouse in Stanley Park, and despite the unimpressive tea selection, the full menu and a large variety of wine satisfied us.
Locking our bikes at one of the several bicycle parking racks along the path, we hiked on one of the many marked trails in the park. Most of the area is still heavily forested and we were astonished by the size of the century old trees we walked by. Breathtaking and magnificent scents came from the lush vegetation along with sounds of birds chirping near and far.
As we moved forward, we approached an open, manicured area where the Hollow Tree, also known as ‘Big Tree,’ stands. Considered a monument to the original forest of giants, Big Tree’s trunk is estimated to be approximately 1,000 years old – presumably, the oldest tree in Stanley Park.
Although Stanley Park was conveniently located near downtown, we had the feeling of being miles away. After spending approximately four hours exploring, we realized we could easily hang out there all day.
Vancouver Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
The suspension bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is more than just an intriguing crosswalk above Lynn Valley. Located in a gorgeous 27-acre park, a 10-minute ride north of downtown Vancouver, the area offered a wide range of activities that kept our family entertained for hours. Immersed in a journey filled with history, nature, fun, and adventure, we had nothing less than a real blast.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet (137m) long and 230 feet (70m) above the canyon. It was obviously frightening for some people to cross this wiggling footbridge. As we watched folks holding tightly onto their friends or on the rope-secured walls, we made our own way across. Despite the height, we found the walk to the other side of the valley exhilarating. Surrounded by breathtaking views of giant trees, cliffs, and the Capilano River below, our excitement overcame the fear
Once we reached the other side, the adventure continued. A treehouse-like construction supported seven suspension bridges that reached approximately 100 feet above the forest floor. Linked by platforms, the pathways led us through nature, ponds, and cabins. The further we walked, the closer we got to the bluffs. Meanwhile, a scavenger hunt motivated our daughter to be a rainforest explorer and learn about the local fauna and flora.
Back on the other side, we rambled on the Cliffwalk that follows the contours of the canyon. Going up and down on the steps of this narrow pathway, we strolled on a semi-circular platform while staring down at the Capilano Canyon and River below. We stood on the glass-floored platform, strolled through gardens, and learned how every small change we make to conserve water has a direct impact on the world.