Things to Do in British Columbia - page 2
Come for the views at this 128-acre (52-hectare) park located at Vancouver’s geographic center – it’s the highest point in the city. You can look out over the gardens and grounds all the way to downtown and the North Shore mountains. Within the park itself, there are Quarry Gardens, former rock quarries now filled with flowers, shrubs, and other plants; an arboretum – the first to be established in Canada – with more than 1500 trees; and a Rose Garden that blossoms with many varieties of the flower. In spring and summer, you can browse the Painters’ Corner, where local artists display and sell their work. Seasons in the Park, a restaurant overlooking the gardens, serves lunch and dinner daily.
If you’re looking for more athletic pursuits, you can golf the park’s Pitch & Putt course, play tennis on one of the 17 public courts, or join the lawn bowlers at the Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club, which welcomes visitors several times a week during the spring and summer.
It’s hard to believe that this opulent Scottish-Gothic fairy-tale castle was built as a family home. Now open to the public, take a tour and pretend you’re in Bonny Scotland.
The four-story turreted castle was built in the late 1880s for Scottish coal millionaire Robert Dunsmuir. He died before the home with its 39 rooms was completed, but his family lived there until 1908.
A self-guided tour of this incredible property reveals its stained-glass and carved balustrades, rooms furnished with period details, and the lookout tower with fabulous views over the city.
Built overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbor, the British Columbia Legislature Buildings form an impressive architectural and historical landmark within a few steps of downtown. When the provincial legislature outgrew its former home, the provincial government hosted an architectural competition to build the new legislative buildings. Francis Rattenbury, a then 25-year-old recent arrival from England, won with his three-building neo-baroque style plans, but construction didn’t go without its woes; the project soared beyond its original budget, but the new British Columbia Parliament Buildings did open their doors in 1898.
The white marble, massive central dome, and lengthy façade combined to make an innovative and impressive monument for what, at the time, was a relatively young Canadian province. The building remains equally impressive, today, and a few new landmarks exist on its property.
One of the highlights on a visit to bucolic Stanley Park, as well as Vancouver itself, is a walk or bike ride along the famous Seawall Promenade. The 9km/5.5mi stone wall hugs the waterside edge, following the entire perimeter of Stanley Park and beyond, offering cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and inline skaters scenic vistas of forest, sea, and sky.
Starting from Coal Harbour, it winds eastward toward Brockton Point, then curves northwest along the Burrard Inlet, with views of the North Shore mountains across the water. Spaced at regular intervals along the walk are information panels that go into various aspects of Vancouver’s past. It’s education, exercise and eye-candy at the same time. After you pass Lions Gate Bridge, snake down the west side of the park, a perfect spot to watch the sun sink into the Pacific. After circling the park, the Seawall Promenade continues along Sunset Beach, on the southeast side of downtown, around False Creek.
Pedestrian-friendly Yaletown is Vancouver’s "little SoHo", a former red-brick rail terminal turned into a warehouse district lined with swanky New York-style lofts and chichi boutiques. The focal point of the modern-day yuppie enclave exudes a hip and inviting atmosphere - especially at night, when its sophisticated drink and dine spots are packed to the rafters with the city’s beautiful people checking each other out.
Walking along Yaletown streets provides a bounty of attractions. The neighborhood has plenty of pricey boutiques to window shops, art galleries to linger in, and lots of places to stop for lunch, coffee or a splurge-worth dinner. Some of the best seafood restaurants are here, as is Yaletown Brewing Company, where you can sample its home-brewed beer. If you’re curious about the area’s almost-forgotten rough-and-ready past, follow the old rail lines embedded in many of the streets and amble over to the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.
Located in Jack Poole Plaza in front of the Vancouver Convention Center, the Olympic Cauldron was built to commemorate the city's 2010 hosting of the Winter Olympic Games. The 33-foot-tall cauldron was constructed with steel and glass and was first lit as the Olympic torch made it's final run on the relay to B.C. Place Stadium for the opening ceremony of the games. Across the plaza from the cauldron is the Vancouver Convention Center, which was host to the media during the Winter Games and a key cog to the operations of the event. It's a fitting placement to commemorate the amount of work put into the event by the city of Vancouver. Today, the cauldron, which is back-dropped by stunning view of mountains and sea, has become a tourist destination in the heart of downtown Vancouver. However, the cauldron is only lit on days of special importance such as Remembrance Day or Canada Day.
The VanDusen Botanical Garden is a 55-acre botanical oasis in the center of Vancouver that showcases diverse plants from around the world. Not surprisingly, the garden is considered to be among the top public green spaces in North America. Among the rhododendron, magnolia and sino-Himalayan plants, you can also find plenty of art installations, such as beautifully carved totem poles and sculptures. Many visitors especially enjoy the cedar maze made up of 3,000 pyramidal cedars and if you get the chance, make sure to attend one of the seasonal festivals.
Inspired by the natural environment around it, the visitor center is unquestionably an attraction of its own. It has strived to meet the Living Building Challenge, which means that it isn’t only constructed in an environmentally conscious design that draws on natural forms, but also uses renewable resources and achieves net-zero energy consumption.
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The grand lady of Victoria, the Fairmont Empress Hotel was built in over-the-top French chateau style by the Canadian Pacific Railway company, opening in 1908.
Victoria’s first hotel is still the grandest, and one of the most highly awarded hotels in the country. Over the last 100 years, all manner of famous people have stayed here, including Edward Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth and Shirley Temple.
Taking afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is an experience not to be missed, complete with Edwardian style service, clotted cream, scones and pots of tea. Bookings are essential.
The style is more subcontinental colonial in the Bengal Lounge restaurant, where the menu features a curry buffet.
Arguably the most popular beach in Vancouver, Kitsilano a.k.a. ‘Kits’ Beach is packed during the long summer days – and beautiful all year round. Kits Beach has everything you’d want for a relaxing day at the beach: picnic areas, concession stands, tennis courts, basketball courts, and huge grassy patches perfect for playing Frisbee or fetch (or sunbathing, for those who might not want to fill their crevices with sand). The beach itself attracts volleyball players of all levels, who come from all over metro Vancouver for a game or three in the sand courts. Kits Beach faces out onto the Burrard Inlet with unparalleled views of the North Shore mountains, the Gulf Islands, and sometimes even the Olympic mountain range in the distance.
Chalk artists, buskers, horse-and-carriage rides, and walking tours: Victoria’s Old Town has enough attractions to keep the curious visitor occupied for an entire day. With many side streets and small squares to duck into, Old Town offers plenty of big shops and restaurants as well as smaller, independently owned boutiques and eye-catching street art. Old Town’s cobblestone streets wind together through alleyways where some of B.C.’s oldest and grandest architecture can be found. Curious pedestrians can begin at the Empress Hotel (Insider’s tip: For a truly spectacular experience, indulge in afternoon tea at the hotel, which offers a full English high tea.) and head down the Victoria Inner Harbour Walkway toward Government Street. When the weather’s nice, Government Street is lined with musicians and performers, in addition to the cafes, specialty shops, gift shops, and numerous pubs for the thirsty traveler.
Even if you normally give museums a miss, you won’t want to leave Victoria without dropping into the highly acclaimed Royal British Columbia Museum. From big-screen IMAX movies to the re-created First Peoples village, this imaginative and creatively curated museum will have you thinking and engaging with the past.
The First Peoples Gallery provides insights into life before the arrival of Europeans, while the Modern History Gallery vividly re-creates colonial life. In the Natural History Gallery, seals, grizzly bears and seabirds fill dioramas re-creating the region’s ecosystems. Big-screen films are screened in the on-site IMAX cinema.
The Emily Carr House was the childhood home of Canadian painter and author Emily Carr and had a long-lasting impression on much of her work. Today, it is an Interpretive Centre for Carr’s artwork, writing, and life.
Emily Carr’s work reads like an adventure. It carried her from remote native settlements throughout British Columbia to major cities like San Francisco, London, and Paris. But her childhood home continually appeared throughout all of her work, especially her writing. The house itself was built in 1863 and Carr called it home from her birth, in 1871, until she left to pursue artist training overseas. Her father’s death triggered ownership changes and, after years of passing through the Carr Family, the house was sold off. Although it was once scheduled for demolition, the house made its way back to the Emily Carr Foundation before being purchased by the provincial government and restored.
The Bloedel Floral Conservatory, or simply Bloedel Conservatory, is an indoor tropical garden and aviary in Queen Elizabeth Park. The space is divided into three climate zones and imitates the natural habitat and ecosystem of each. The tropical rainforest habitat showcases the deep jungle, where one hectare of forest contains more tree species than the country of Canada as a whole. The less humid climate of the subtropical rainforest habitat on the other hand is perfectly suited for fig trees, gnarly banyans and colorful orchids, and in the desert zone, succulents and cacti mesmerize the visitors with their prickly shapes. Nature and green spaces already have a relaxing effect on the body, but for those looking to lower their stress levels an extra notch, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory also offers a healing garden. Visitors are encouraged to touch the bark of the trees, smell flowers and use all their senses to feel the energizing effect intended.
For more than three decades, BC Place Stadium has been the premier venue for British Columbia’s athletics. Originally built for the 1986 World’s Fair, it played a major role in the Vancouver’s hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympics. In preparation for the event it was updated with a retractable roof that became the largest of its kind in the world. The large fabric rooftop is supported by cables, transforming the stadium for whichever weather conditions or event is present. Guests can remain covered during inclement weather, or be open to the sky (which is particularly beautiful on clear night.)
BC Place is home to the city’s two major sports teams, as well as the BC Sports Hall of Fame. The stadium is also host to the city’s largest community events. With over 1,000 digital screens and nearly 55,000 stadium seats, it’s one of the top sports arenas in Canada.
Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, the Vancouver Art Gallery is one of the most impressive collections of both historical and contemporary works in Canada. This extensive gallery contains over 10,000 different pieces of art and has a great focus on the local and regional artists, many of whom are of aboriginal decent. Among the most famous artists on display are Vancouver locals such as Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham. Moreover, the gallery also contains a substantial collection of the works of Emily Carr – perhaps British Columbia's most famous artist.
Like Emily Carr's work, most of the Vancouver Art Gallery's collection is geared towards art that has been inspired by the indigenous life style and culture in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. That said, there is also a significant collection of international works as well, including a series of important art from 17th-century Dutch artist Jan van Ravenstyn.
Stanley Park's biggest draw, the aquarium is home to 9,000 water-loving creatures - including sharks, dolphins, Amazonian caimans, and a somewhat shy octopus. There's also a small, walk-through rainforest area full of birds, butterflies, and turtles. Check out the iridescent jellyfish tank and the two sea otters that eat the way everyone should: lying on their backs using their chests as plates.
Beluga whales whistle and blow water at onlookers in the icy-blue Arctic Canada exhibit, while in the Amazon rainforest, an hourly rainstorm falls in an atrium filled with three-toed sloths, stunning blue and green poison tree frogs, and even piranhas. For a local perspective, check out the Pacific Canada exhibit, where you can see Pacific salmon, giant Pacific Octopus, Stellar see lions, and a Pacific white-sided dolphin.
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