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 this west coast city, be sure to check off these great things to do in Stanley Park, Vancouver, from your list.
Things to do in Stanley Park, Vancouver
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.
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.
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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
Eat in Stanley Park
Stanley Park is home to three unique dining spots, including one of my favorites, The Teahouse. This 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 the Stanley Park 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.
Take a Talasay Talking Trees Tour
Discover Stanley Park with a local Indigenous guide on Talaysay Tours Authentic Cultural and Eco Experiences tour. The Talking Trees Tour in Stanley Park is led by a Squamish First Nations guide who shares the ecological practices, ancient and contemporary history, stories, legends, and Indigenous ways of living.
As the tour group winds through Stanley Park and to Beaver Lake, the cultural ambassador highlights how the trees and plants of the Pacific Northwest have been harvested for food, medicine, and technology for thousands of years. The guides point out local plants that were harvested by Skwxu7mesh Uxwumixw — Coast Salish people. From the drooping hemlock to the Grandmother cedar, curled ferns, and skunk cabbage, each plant and tree has its own distinct story.
Soak 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 Stanley Park Train
The family-friendly Stanley Park Train runs all year round, but is particularly festive in October and December. From the beginning of October to November, 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.
During December’s Holiday season, the brightly decorated miniature train brings all the festive joy of Christmas on-board as it chugs through the dense green forest in time with familiar seasonal carols and displays.
(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?