When choosing a travel destination, many people struggle to decide between touring the sites of a bustling city, exploring the great outdoors in a natural wonderland, or lounging on the beach on a laid-back stretch of coast. For travelers who want a taste of it all, Vancouver ticks all the boxes. With sky-piercing towers, enticing neighborhoods, thousands of nature trails, and a bounty of beautiful beaches, Vancouver is an all-rounder that is sure to please all types of travelers.

In contrast to most metropolitan hubs, Vancouver offers stunning natural surroundings as well as a lively urban scene. Stanley Park tops the list of must-see outdoor spaces in the city, and with good reason: the 400-hectare public park is a natural playground for outdoor adventures. But there are more than 240 city parks to explore, from small green spaces to sprawling forest parks and parks fringed by blissful beaches. Travelers with kids in tow will be in seventh heaven.

Whether you’re looking for a simple seawall stroll in the heart of the city or a challenging cycle along forested trails, Vancouver has parks where you can partake in all sorts of pastimes. As a bonus, park users have permission to drink alcohol in several parks across the city—so there's an official sanction to enjoy an outdoor sundowner. Pack up a picnic and some ice-cold bevies, and enjoy the best city parks in Vancouver.

Totem poles at Stanley Park
Totem poles recall the original First Nations owners of forested Stanley Park ©Regien Paassen / Shutterstock

Stanley Park

Best park for all-around outdoor adventure

Known as the Central Park of Vancouver (but much larger), Stanley Park stuns visitors with its scenic waterfront, dense woodland and nature trails that sprawl through 400 hectares of coastal forest.

Located on the traditional, unceded territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples, Vancouver’s largest city park shines with cultural pride. The rich history of this low-lying headland is revealed by the totem poles that stand tall at the park’s edge, and a guided First Nations-led tour with Talaysay Tours is the perfect starting point for a day out in Stanley Park. As you explore, you'll learn about the past and present history of the people who first called this land home.

A stroll or bike ride along the five-and-a-half-mile-long paved seawall is another Vancouver must-do. Make a day of it with stops at sandy beaches, the Lost Lagoon nature sanctuary, and a dip in the heated outdoor pool at Second Beach, then catch a stunning sunset view from nearby Third Beach. Stanley Park also features multiple playgrounds, public gardens and some top-notch dining spots, as well as the Vancouver Aquarium—home to thousands of kinds of aquatic life.

Vanier Park
Views over water from Vanier Park ©Shutterstock / Chris LaBasco

Vanier Park

Best park for arts and culture

Home to the HR MacMillan Space Centre, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the Museum of Vancouver, and a lively program of festivals and cultural events such as Bard on the Beach – Western Canada’s largest Shakespeare festival – Vanier Park is a beacon for arts and culture enthusiasts. But museums and festivals aren’t the only draws for this popular city park.

Wide-open fields make this a great spot for kite flying, and the public boat-launching ramp is a great kickoff spot for water activities. A tranquil pond and walking path allow for quiet reflection and the park's broad, sandy beach makes for a great picnic stop at the center of it all.

Science World, Vancouver
Science World is just part of the appeal at Creekside Park ©Lissandra Melo/ Shutterstock

Creekside Park

Best park for active kids

Surrounding one of Vancouver’s top attractions, Science World, this park is great for small travelers. After exploring the universe in the indoor spaces of the science museum, head outdoors to play on one of the city’s best playgrounds. Don't want to play? Just sit back and admire the skyline and water views.

Grown-ups can hunker down under one of the shady trees and gawk at the iconic geodesic dome of Science World while kids navigate their way through the newly-built, nature-inspired playground, featuring a giant tube slide, a climbing tower, swings, and water and sand play areas.

Sunset at Ambleside Park
Watching the sunset from Ambleside Park ©Shutterstock / David Buzzard

Ambleside Park

Best park for dog walks

This waterfront park is the gateway to West Vancouver, and a favored destination for off-leash dog walks. Spectacular views of Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver set the scene for seawall walks, and there are 3.5 hectares of dog-designated space – from grassy fields to sandy beaches – providing plenty of room for furry friends to roam free.

Further along the seawall is the pet-free part of the park, with a beachfront playground for kids, a skate-park, a basketball court, and a concession stand for snacks. Ambleside Park is also home to a busy farmer’s market during the summer months, where visitors can pick up fresh fruit, prepared foods and locally-made keepsakes.

Macaw at Bloedel Conservatory
A friendly macaw at the Bloedel Conservatory ©Stephen Chung / Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth Park

Best park for horticulture and city views

The highest point in the city, Queen Elizabeth Park serves up panoramic views of Vancouver, framed by the majestic mountains that surround downtown. You've probably seen epic photos of the city skyline backed by forested peaks, and this is the place to snap them. The stunning view is protected by city law, but it's not the only draw to this sprawling park. 

Thanks to the Bloedel Conservatory, a striking dome filled with free-flying birds and exotic plants and flowers, the park has a become a popular destination for horticultural enthusiasts. Behind the dome is the beautifully landscaped Quarry Garden, featuring a collective of native and exotic trees surrounded by sculptures and colorful flora and fauna. It's a perfect place to stop and smell the roses.

To keep kids happy, pitch and putt, lawn bowling and tennis are also available. For something more sedentary, book a table for Seasons in the Park—an upscale dining experience that combines panoramic views with the best of seasonal West Coast cuisine.

Nitobe Garden at the University of British Columbia
Autumn leaves in the Nitobe garden at University of British Columbia. ©Lawrence Worcester / Lonely Planet

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Best park for an afternoon hike

With trails that loop through the rainforest, along the seafront, and around the boardwalk that circles bird-filled Camosun Bog, Pacific Spirit Regional Park is a favorite spot for joggers, hikers and cyclists. Covering more than 750 hectares, this green expanse of unspoiled nature connects the University of British Columbia (UBC) with the city. Whether you’re looking for a short, leg-stretching stroll through the trees, or a three-hour trek to explore hidden corners, the park is a hiker’s paradise.

Nude sunbathing is the norm at Wreck Beach, tucked away on the western edge of the park. After a slog down a series of steep steps, you’ll find independent vendors and a community of pants-free, fun-loving locals. You'll often see huge tree trunks that have floated down the Fraser River, trapped by the log boom to the south of the beach.

David Lam Park
Skyscrapers rise above Yaletown and David Lam Park ©Harry Beugelink / Shutterstock

David Lam Park

Best park for a waterfront stroll

Just steps from the shopping corridor of Yaletown in downtown Vancouver, David Lam Park is a lovely green expanse that provides a taste of the great outdoors amidst the hustle of the city streets. Views over False Creek are framed by the glass condo towers that transformed the neighborhood in the 1990s. Grab a takeout from a local cafe for a picnic on the grass, and contemplate the journey this part of Vancouver has gone through since it was picked as the site for Expo ‘86.

The park is also an ideal launch point for a seawall walk along the north bank of False Creek to Science World, passing stalking herons and intriguing public artworks. You can continue the walk around the east end of False Creek to Hinge Park, which is slowly being developed as a wetland reserve, and Habitat Island, whose rocky shore is great place to sit and soak up the sunshine. 

Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver
Kicking back on lovely Kitsilano Beach ©Kevin Miller / Getty Images

Kitsilano Beach Park

Best park for beach lovers

Often referred to as the 'Venice Beach of Vancouver', Kitsilano Beach Park is the city’s hub for summer action. Known to locals as Kits Beach, this scenic strip of sand is ideal for aquaphiles, with the longest swimming pool in Canada, a gradual-entry outdoor saltwater pool that runs for 137m beside the ocean. It's heated, and there are slides for smaller tots.

The park offers many ways to keep active—beach volleyball, outdoor basketball courts, and Vancouver’s largest fully accessible playground, featuring saucer swings, a sand table, and a rotating climbing frame. But for picnickers and beach bums, the big draws are the sandy beach, open green spaces and panoramic views of downtown Vancouver. It's a great place to lounge away a summer day surrounded by sun-loving locals.

Trout Lake, Vancouver
Trout Lake, a perfect place to unwind ©Shutterstock / lucasinacio.com

John Hendry Park (Trout Lake Park)

Best park for a lakeside picnic

Home to one of Vancouver’s biggest farmers' markets every Saturday in summer, John Hendry Park buzzes with a local East Vancouver crowd. A walkway circles tranquil Trout Lake – a natural lake fronted by a small beach at the center of the park – and expansive grass fields provide the perfect park setting for outdoor concerts.

Activities abound at the Trout Lake Community Centre, a civic-spirited, light-filled facility just west of the lakeshore. This is where locals gather for concerts, art shows, story-telling and other indoor and outdoor events, and next door is an NHL-sized ice rink (open August to April) and a large fitness center that welcomes drop-ins.

Dude Chilling Park

Best park for a hipster hangout

Named after a sign installation that was originally placed in the park as a prank, Dude Chilling Park is just as it sounds: a perfect park for chilling with friends. Formerly known as Guelph Park, the space is simple—a small stretch of trimmed grass that has become the centerpiece of community life in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver.

The art installation that inspired the park's name resembles a person reclining on a slope of the park; it's often surrounded by crowds of people picnicking, drumming, singing, and straight chillin’. As this is one of Vancouver’s approved parks for public drinking, you’re free to kick back with some local brews while people-watching; you'll soon understand why the park is loved fondly by locals.

You may also like:
Top neighborhoods to explore in Vancouver
How to get around in Vancouver
The best things you can do for free in Vancouver

Explore related stories

Man and women paddle stand up paddleboards through the Inner Harbour towards the Parliament Buildings. © Aaron Black / Getty Images RFC


A first-timer’s guide to Vancouver Island

May 8, 2024 • 11 min read