Vancouver, British Columbia
By John McKiernan
With its picturesque outdoors, accommodating locals and mild climate, Vancouver is the perfect place to experience some of the best sports and activities on offer. If you are planning on using Vancouver as a gateway city into Banff National Park or one of the other gorgeous parks of the Canadian Rockies, why not stay for a few days to see what it has to offer?
The Stanley Park Seawall
Every good city needs a nice open space to do all the things that humans are meant to do. The Stanley Park seawall is a very popular stretch in Vancouver for cycling, jogging, walking and in-line skating. The seawall itself makes up only one part of the Vancouver Greenway Seaside Route, which runs along the shoreline for 20km. If you are fit enough to complete the whole route, you should see some interesting animal habitats, marshes, forests and fellow exercising sightseers. This route is particularly good during the summer months when the city’s many festivals and events bring colorful crowds to the seafront.
One of the best ways to see Vancouver must be cycling. Extensive bike routes cover the city, and rental bicycles, helmets and locks are available at various locations. Route maps are also available at bike rental and retail locations. One of the highlights for bike lovers is the Tour de Gastown in mid-July where the streets close down and cyclists can race through this historic area. Grouse Mountain also has some excellent trails for serious mountain bikers.
If you trust your feet more than the two wheels, Vancouver will suit you down to the ground. There are lovely paths around Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake or if you prefer the seashore then try Kitsilano Beach, Spanish Banks and Jericho Beach. If it is competitive racing you are after, there is at least one road race in and around Vancouver every month so start the training now! An annual highlight is the Vancouver Sun Run in April. It is the second largest 10km race in North America drawing around 50,000 participants every year.
Vancouver is a city of culture and arts and if your feet feel like dancing, there are plenty of opportunities. Robson Square is an open air/underground venue between the Vancouver Art Gallery and the law courts. During the summer, every Friday night, you can dance till the cows come home. You can watch, be taught or simply be swept off your feet by a smooth dance partner. The variety in dances is practically endless with something different every week. Not to be missed for dance aficionados.
There aren’t too many skate parks around so make sure you research before packing the board. There is a popular skateboarding park under the Skytrain tracks just off Pacific Boulevard. It is hard to find in an obscure location between GM Place and Chinatown. There is another skate park on Venables very close to La Casa Gelato, home to some of the most unique and delicious ice-cream.
For those who prefer their sports with a splash, Vancouver has numerous places to help you out. You can rent kayaks and canoes for respectable prices at Jericho Beach, English Bay and Granville Island. If you want to try something a bit different, you can sail or windsurf at Jericho Beach.
Kits Beach and Second Beach in Stanley Park have stunning outdoor pools with great views of the Canadian Rockies. The two most convenient indoor lap pools are at the YWCA at 535 Hornby St and at the Vancouver Aquatic Center at 1050 Beach Av, beneath the Burrard St Bridge.
There are plenty of ski locations around Vancouver including Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour. Of course the Canadian Rockies are only a short drive away where Banff and Jasper National Parks among others have some of the best skiing in the world. Snowshoeing tours are also available. Most of the tours end with a cup of hot chocolate or chocolate fondue for those chocolate lovers.
If you prefer to watch than play the sports, hockey could be a good choice. The minor league Vancouver Giants or NHL team Vancouver Canucks both make great options for an evening of sport. Soccer is also becoming more and more popular in Canada and Vancouver is represented by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Baseball, American football and basketball are all options also.