A Park-Lover’s Guide to Vancouver

Grassy oases.

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If Vancouver’s known for anything, it’s nature. As tourist guides are always sure to mention, this is a city that offers beaches, mountain biking, skiing, and hiking—perhaps even all in the same day. But some of Vancouver’s best outdoor experiences can be found in its quiet parks and public gardens.

Of course, certain spots get all the glory: sweeping Stanley, regal Queen Elizabeth, cheeky Dude Chilling. As iconic as these favourites are, Vancouver offers so many more grassy oases, each special to the neighbourhoods they call home.

Almond Park: Tucked away on the side of a steep hill near Tenth and Dunbar, this park is small, lush, and densely wooded. Often, it’s empty enough to have a private conversation here completely undisturbed. Climb up the dramatic stone steps, past flowering trees that droop under the weight of their blooms, and gaze out over the blue hills of West Vancouver.

Tatlow Park: Just a couple of blocks down from The Naam at 4th and MacDonald, a rock-lined creek crossed by small wooden bridges runs through Tatlow. There’s history to this spot: in 1969, it was the city’s very first film location, for a Robert Altman murder mystery. The movie was a box office failure, but Vancouver would have many chances to find silver screen glory in later years.

Andy Livingstone Park: Despite its Gastown location, Andy Livingstone Park is reminiscent of a Zen garden. Pick up tasty avocado rolls from nearby T&T Market, then follow the waterfall and rocky stream to the top of the hill. It’s the perfect recharge after browsing the area’s many shops.

Granville Loop Park: A clever use of often-forgotten space turns the area beneath Granville Bridge into its own destination. To enter the park from 5th and Granville, cross a geometric fountain with wide stone steps and water tumbling from a concrete arch. Granville Loop’s unique layout creates multiple recreation areas to choose from, including a playground, grassy hills, and benches beneath a flowering arbor. Visit this park after an appointment at one of the nearby hair salons, perhaps with a croissant from Beaucoup Bakery.

Mount Pleasant Park: With a fragrant flower garden and plenty of trees for shade, Mount Pleasant Park is ideal for taking a break from antique shopping and patio hopping on Main Street. Not to be missed is the basketball court, which was transformed by local artist Scott Sueme—using no less than 260 gallons of paint—into a massive abstract mural. A small skate park and playground make this public space a hub for the entire local community.

Jonathan Rogers Park: Jonathan Rogers is a welcome lull just below the liveliness of Broadway and Main. It’s so close to Milano Coffee Roasters and 33 Acres Brewing that when the weather’s good, one should take these tasty provisions to go; order an Americano from Milano and a pizza from the 33 Acres food truck, and enjoy them al fresco while admiring the gorgeous views of downtown as dogs frolic across the green.

Robson Park: Directly off Kingsway and Fraser, Robson Park is prime people-watching territory on a sunny day. It features a community garden, small playground, and tennis court, with a colourful mural that makes for great photos. Pick up an iced latte from Matchstick Coffee or tacos from Sal y Limon and lounge on the grass among groups of young bike-riders, admiring the charming hangout that this area has grown into.

Mosaic Creek Park: A hidden gem on Commercial Drive, this tiny park is surrounded by colourful old character homes and is packed with flowers and a free-form play area. However, its defining feature is the intricate raised mosaic that meanders through the grass. A community art project, it was completed in the mid-1990s by over 500 local volunteers. Spend some time admiring its design—there are a few secrets waiting to be told to those who know where to look.

Trout Lake Beach/John Hendry Park: Vast enough to spend the day at, Trout Lake offers everything one could want from a city green space: baseball diamond, playground, summer Saturday morning farmers’ market, off-leash area for dogs, and even miniature beach. Any pastoral experience the heart desires, from sitting on a pier over the lake covered in lily pads to unwinding under the shade of a willow tree, can be found here. John Hendry functions as a gathering place for all of Commercial Drive, and not only because of its beautifully designed community centre, which includes a gym, ice rink, preschool, and more. Grab bread and charcuterie from one of the Drive’s Italian delis and enjoy a festive picnic.

These parks are just a fraction of the public green spaces woven throughout the city. So, when meandering within the different neighbourhoods of Vancouver, keep an eye out—there’s probably a lovely patch of grass somewhere close by.


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July 24, 2018