I adore summer in my hometown of Vancouver. But – confession time – my favorite time of year has to be the fall. The busy summer tourist season has waned, leaving space to walk, hike and bike about town on crisp, sunny days. If autumn is the perfect time to visit Vancouver, it’s also a fabulous season to enjoy the green heart and urban oasis of the city, Stanley Park.
When Expedia.ca asked me to share my favorite things about Stanley Park Vancouver, the challenge was trying to narrow down my very long list of things to see, do and enjoy. Stanley Park is a 1,000 acre urban oasis at the northwestern corner of the downtown peninsula. The Park sees more than 8 million visits each year, more than any other tourist destination in Vancouver. Locals and tourists alike love the Park for its nature trails, family-friendly attractions, and the popular seawall, all of which rank high on my own personal list as well.
Here are my recommendations on how to spend a fantastic autumn day enjoying the wonders of Stanley Park.
Start at the Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium is a big reason why Stanley Park is such a popular destination. Canada’s largest aquarium has been located here since 1956, and is a trove of aquatic animal and ocean life, with a mission of conservation through interpretation, education and marine research.
Pre-purchase your tickets online ahead of time to skip the long lines when doors open at 10 AM. Enjoy the morning exploring the impressive marine galleries, including Penguin Point, Canada’s Arctic, and Treasures of the BC Coast. Younger kids will love some time at Clownfish Cove, and everyone will enjoy visiting with the playful sea otters. Be sure to note their feeding time – it’s such a treat to watch them eat and play with their food.
Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour
Enjoy the colorful changing of the leaves from the vantage point of a horse-drawn carriage tour of the Park. This one hundred year old tradition provides a sedate and relaxing one-hour tour, filled with information about the park’s history and surroundings. The tours begin just south of the Aquarium. Horse-loving kids and family members will enjoy this unique way of visiting Stanley Park
Dine in the Park
Stanley Park is home to three unique dining spots, including one of my favorites, The Teahouse. The restaurant is beautifully situated overlooking English Bay, and offers a west coast menu that has several kid-friendly selections, including pizzas, pasta, and fish and chips. Weekend brunch is particularly popular with local Vancouverites, many of whom bring visiting relatives and guests for a delicious, wow-factor meal with a view.
Walk or Bike Around the Seawall
Do as the locals do, and spend the afternoon on the seawall. Bike, jog or stroll the beloved 8.8-kilometre (5.5-mile) Stanley Park Seawall. This paved pathway loops around the park, connecting it to downtown Vancouver and English Bay beaches. The flat pathway is an ideal route for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy city and mountain views, complete with an ocean breeze from English Bay and Burrard Inlet. Stroller and wheelchair-friendly.
Revel in the Views
Stanley Park and the Seawall are filled with sightseeing spots that also make for picture-perfect photo moments. Enjoy the reflection of a golden sunset off of the city’s high rises, looking southeast along Stanley Park Drive. Or capture the 1930s-era Lion’s Gate Bridge framed by the North Shore Mountains from Brockton Point Lighthouse (tip: also a great picnic spot), or Prospect Point.
There are many vantage points to please amateur or professional photographers. The stone statue of a Girl in a Wetsuit, seemingly floating in the water at high tide, is another popular photo stop. As is the First Nations totem pole display at Brockton Point. Some of the totems date back to the early 20th century, and are fine examples of Haida and Coast Salish carving work.
Ride the Halloween Ghost Train
To round out your day at Stanley Park, you must wait until the sun sets (around 6 PM or thereabouts), to experience an autumn-only park treat. From October 9 to November 1, Stanley Park’s famous Miniature Train is transformed into the Ghost Train, a popular Halloween tradition.
The Ghost Train takes those brave enough to venture on a mysterious journey into the nighttime forest, dressed up in the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve. This year’s theme is Horror Classics – visits from the graveyards of yesteryear. The classic night train rides includes a fourteen-minute experience with lights, sounds and live performances from Dracula, Frankenstein and the Phantom of the Opera. Boo!
(Note: If a nighttime visit is too intense for the younger set, matinees are available during daylight hours.)
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Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks Expedia.ca for its support.
Have you visited Stanley Park? What’s your favorite thing to see or do in the Park?