The world is suddenly gazing at Vancouver, newly designated host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. But simmer down. Games-related construction won't kick into high gear for a while...
VANCOUVER, B.C. The world is suddenly gazing at Vancouver, newly designated host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. But simmer down. Games-related construction won’t kick into high gear for a while yet, and the visiting hordes are years away. No reason not to enjoy your annual lazy summer visit perhaps with a new twist.
Almost every time I visit the city, I get stuck in the same, very pleasant Stanley Park rut. I stay at a hotel next to the thousand-acre downtown park. I walk the park’s Seawall waterfront path; sit on one of its beaches to watch the sun set; eat at a restaurant in the park.
Stanley Park is one of North America’s spectacular urban playgrounds and deserves to be a magnet for visitors and locals.
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On several recent visits to Vancouver, however, I managed to drag myself off to other attractions. All turned out to be enjoyable places to spend an hour or two or three. Think about adding one of these stops to your next trip north:
Queen Elizabeth Park
For park lovers like me, Vancouver has the right stuff. Besides Stanley Park, it’s full of neighborhood parks and lovingly maintained public gardens, with Queen Elizabeth Park one of its floral showpieces.
The hilltop park, a 15-minute drive south of downtown, has sweeping views of the city; meticulously maintained gardens; a tropical conservatory; and an elegant restaurant.
What were once rock quarries on the 500-foot-tall outcropping have been lushly planted with flowers and shrubs. Short paths wind down the steep slopes of the quarried-out hill and through sun-drenched clearings and shady woods in the 130-acre park.
You won’t be alone at Queen Elizabeth Park, especially on weekends when carloads of locals and busloads of tourists pour in, fighting for parking spaces (especially scarce this summer since a reservoir and parking area in the park are being renovated).
Brides in filmy white gowns pose at the park’s hilltop promenade, with downtown high-rises and the 4,000-foot peaks that edge the city rising behind them. Kids run their hands over a sinuous Henry Moore sculpture on the promenade. And everyone sweats in the Bloedel Conservatory, a steamy, glass-domed tangle of tropical plants and birds.
To really indulge in the views, book a table at the elegant hilltop Seasons Restaurant in the park. Try to nab one of the patio tables; if it’s not a toasty summer evening one of the outdoor gas fireplaces will ward off the chill.
If you’re a baseball fan, head to Nat Bailey Stadium at the foot of the park. The Vancouver Canadians team, an Oakland Athletics’ minor-league team, is based at the classic outdoor stadium, which was built in 1951. Home games began June 21 and the most expensive seat is around $10. Or if you’re feeling more active, there’s a pitch-and-putt golf course in the park.