In 2013 TripAdvisor asked people to name the best park in the world and Stanley Park came in first. That didn’t surprise me. Stanley is not just an urban park, it’s a major tourist destination.
The triangular peninsula that is now Stanley was a military reserve and also a logging site for 20 years in the 19th century. In 1888 it became a park, which means it celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2013. Its protected 1,000 acres has returned largely to forest with mostly fir, hemlock, and western red cedar. The western red cedar is British Columbia’s provincial tree. This giant grows the largest in diameter of all trees here, and it often becomes hollow as it ages but continues to grow.
If this sounds like California’s Redwoods, it’s because they share the same genus. However, the western red cedar has better structural integrity so it flexes in storms. This is a benefit on an exposed peninsula where in 1962 Hurricane Freida toppled 3,000 trees in Stanley Park. One of Stanley’s attractions is The Hollow Tree seen above. This thousand-year-old native, possibly the oldest on the peninsula, lost its top. By 2008 it was leaning dangerously, so the Park Board decided to lay it down and provide interpretive information. However, citizens rebelled so it was stabilized instead and turned into a monument.
Other Stanley Park attractions include the Lost Lagoon Fountain from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, some elegant First Nations totem poles, and an almost 14 mile long seawall that is a very popular scenic walkway. You won’t find zoos and museums in Stanley because most landmarks were stopped in 1937 so it could be kept natural with, now, half-a-million trees.
The Vancouver Aquarium, the largest in Canada, is an exception to the rule, opened in 1956, and is Ruth and my favorite attraction. Its stars are 2 beluga whales, Qila and Aurora. If you’re around children, you probably know the ear candy song “Baby Beluga”. VA’s Kavna inspired it.
The Lion’s Gate Bridge, Canada’s Golden Gate, takes an obscene number of cars to North Stanley every day, soars above the Park’s mid-section, and requires a warning. If you’re going north through Vancouver with plans to visit Stanley, make sure you’re in the right lane on Georgia Street. If you’re not, you’ll end up on the LGB and, while inventing a few new curse words, you’ll lose at least an hour correcting for this. I know because I’ve done it. The other irritation is parking. Take plenty of loonies, one dollar coins sporting a loon, and toonies, 2 dollar coins, for Stanley’s parking meters. From April to September, it costs $3 per hour to park in the Park or $10 for an all day permit. From October 16 to March 31, it’s $2 per hour and $5 per day. Don’t let this keep you from enjoying this prize winner.