Last Updated on May 13, 2022 by Nicole
Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia is a massive park almost entirely framed by the Pacific Ocean. It is 400 hectares in size (just under a 1000 acres) and sits right in downtown Vancouver. It is packed with things to do, like walking and bike trails, playgrounds, water activities, restaurants, and recreational sports’ attractions. It’s a local’s and tourist’s mecca that is waiting for you to discover whether you have a few hours, or a couple days to spare.
I have spent many, many days over the years enjoying Stanley Park both before and after becoming a mother of four children. For me, one of the best things about it is that there is so much to do for free – if you know where to look!
Here is a list of 10 of my favourite things to do. Like my article Granville Island: A Local’s Guide To The 10 Best Things To Do, they are either free or pretty inexpensive. Better yet, most of them will appeal to people of all ages.
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The Stanley Park seawall is a 5.5mi or 9km uninterrupted paved path around Stanley Park. It has stunning views of the park, the ocean, downtown Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains. I have been to over 65 countries and I have rarely seen another city with more beautiful views than from this path.
Rent a bike, tie up some inline skates, or simply stroll! Everyone is welcome on the Seawall. It is open all year round and completely free to use.
2. Second Beach Pool
Second Beach Pool is an enormous heated outdoor pool that is perched over top of the Seawall and the Pacific Ocean. It has a couple of waterslides suitable for toddlers or for thrill seekers of all ages. On one side, there is a sloped entry; on the other, there are swimming lanes for laps; and in the middle, there is tons of space for having fun. For a few dollars, you can spend a summer day laying by the pool, swimming or being mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery.
Just outside the pool, is a decent Concession Stand selling hamburgers and fish and chips. There are also vegan and other healthier options. Bring a picnic or buy lunch, you really can’t go wrong.
The pool is open from the end of May to September. There are other wonderful things to do in Stanley Park in autumn.
There are two main beaches in Stanley Park. They are Second Beach and Third Beach. As expected, Second Beach is just next to Second Beach Pool. It is small, but mere steps to the pool, two playgrounds, tennis courts and the Pitch and Park (see below). Third Beach is a 20 minute walk from Second Beach. Third Beach is larger and has lifeguards on duty in the summer months. Both have Concession Stands and picnic tables nearby.
Beaches are open all year round, although Concession stands and lifeguards (at Third Beach) are seasonal. They are free of charge to use.
Accommodation Near Stanley Park
With Stanley Park’s size and proximity to downtown Vancouver, choosing accommodation nearby would be an excellent decision. For fantastic choices at great rates, I would take a look at booking.com and the interactive map below.
Ok, maybe adults without children won’t be too interested in this, but there are several playgrounds in Stanley Park. One of the best is right next to Second Beach Pool. Take a break from swimming or laying about in the sun, and challenge yourself to some monkey bars!
These playgrounds are free and open all year round.
5. Stanley Park Pitch and Putt
Pitch and Putt is a 10 minute walk from Second Beach Pool. It is an 18 hole golf course with holes that range between 40 – 100 yards in length. The course is largely nestled under enormous trees and in between beautiful flower gardens (see below). For a couple of bucks, you can rent clubs or buy a golf ball or two. At $10 (USD) for a round (adults – less for youths and seniors), it is a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours enjoying the outdoors.
6. Tennis Courts
Just behind the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt are 11 tennis courts that are free for most of the year. In the summer months, six courts are operated as pay courts during certain hours. Those cost $11 USD per hour. You can book them a week in advance by calling the Stanley Park Pro Shop. Racket rentals and tennis balls are also available for purchase at the Pro shop.
There are three spectacular gardens at Stanley Park within walking distance of each other.
First is the Ted and Mary Grieg Rhododendron Garden located near the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt. This garden has approximately 4500 plants and is at its peak during the first two weeks of May. However, there is always something in bloom and to be discovered between May and September.
Second is the Rose Garden located near the causeway off of Georgia Street. There are approximately 3500 rose bushes. In addition to roses, other annuals and perennials bloom from March to October.
Third is the Shakespeare Garden which is located near the Rose Garden. This garden is made up of diverse trees that are mentioned within Shakespeare’s plays. Each tree has a plaque with a Shakespearen quote from a specific play.
All gardens are free and open to the public year round.
8. Stanley Park Train
A few minutes from the Rose Garden is the Train. The Stanley Park train is a replica of the Canadian Pacific Railway Engine #374, famous for pulling Canada’s first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the late 1880s. This 1.3mi or 2 km ride takes you on an adventure through trees, over trestles, and into tunnels.
It is open from April to the beginning of September, with special train rides during Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Single tickets for regular in season rides range from $2.50 – $5.00 USD (depending on age).
Every time I go to Stanley Park, I take the train, even now that my children are all teenagers or young adults. I think it is a timeless experience that takes you deep within the trees of Stanley Park. It is a lovely way to explore Stanley Park further.
9. The Fox’s Den (Splash Park) in Stanley Park
From the train, the Water Park is a 10 minute walk away. It is beside the Seawall, mere feet from the Pacific Ocean, with killer views of the North Shore Mountains and the stunning Lion’s Gate Bridge. It is open in June, July and August and it is free for everyone.
Nearby is a Concession stand and picnic tables. I can guarantee you from personal experience that if your child spots this enormous water park on your visit to Stanley Park, you will eventually end up with a wet, soggy, yet very happy child.
10. Totem Poles
If you walk around 15 minutes east from the Water Park, you will come to Brockton Point and the First Nations’ Totem Poles.
This is an outdoor collection of Totem Poles and art produced by a number of different First Nations groups that live all over British Columbia. It is a free exhibition and open all year round.
This is a magnificent introduction to First Nations art and culture. You can take some beautiful photos here. I highly recommend spending time admiring their craftsmanship.
Stanley Park has many wonderful activities that you can enjoy without breaking the bank. It is truly one of the most beautiful places, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You can also make Stanley Park part of a Vancouver 3 day itinerary.
For other Vancouver recommendations, please see:
- Granville Island: A Local’s Guide To The 10 Best Things To Do;
- My 5 Favourite Vancouver Beaches;
- Vancouver Airport with Kids: 7 Layover Ideas.
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Wow, beautiful images. It’s a wonderful place.
Thanks. It’s even better in person!
Stanley Park is one of the handful of things I miss about Vancouver! It’s such a beautiful part of the city! #WeekendWanderlust
Such amazing photos! So many things to do in the park…..love second beach pool near the ocean and close to everything else! Thanks!
I spent many days at Second Beach playground, on that beach and in that pool. On a beautiful day, I miss spending time there.
Nice article. That park offers so many different experiences. Truly one of Vancouver’s real gems.
I agree and I only mentioned my favourite free or inexpensive experiences. There are still so many more to see or do.
It looks like a great option to spend a weekend with kids when you don’t want to spend a lot of money and still have fun. The views are amazing and the idea of having access to several pools is simply fantastic. I’d love to visit and I know I’d spend a lot of time admiring the native art, the totems look areally interesting! Great post, thanks for sharing
Thank you. You are right. You would enjoy all the kids stuff, the views and the amazing Native Art on display. It is so large that even after a week, there would still be things to see and do in Stanley Park.
A friend of mine moved to Vancouver a few years ago, and I still haven’t managed to visit her. But she’s told me about how much she loves Stanley Park, and I hope that when I eventually get to go and visit her we will go there as well.
I hope so too. It is such a lovely place to spend some time, especially when you are in the middle of a city.
the picture of that little raccoon is literally SO CUTE, lol – thanks for sharing adding this to my Canada bucket list!
You are welcome!
I agree that Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s my fav. I love walking the seawall. The first time I was at Stanley park I rent a bike and toured around. I was able to cover more ground. I cant wait to go back!
I also love to ride a bike on the Seawall in Stanley Park. If you are short of time, that is one of the best ways to see everything.
I never been to Canada but it’s on my list! Thanks for sharing all these amazing suggestions, I will have to reference back when I go.
You are welcome. Hopefully you will get to come to Vancouver in the near future.
You had me at heated outdoor pool with an ocean view haha
I know, right??!! It is truly one of the most spectacular pools that I have ever seen and it is only a few dollars to spend a whole day there!
Vancouver is on my shortlist to visit, so definitely saving this. This looks like a park that everyone would enjoy. A heated pool by the ocean? Yes, please!!! Also, a garden if I need to recharge from the city? Yes!!! Thanks for sharing!
Yes, there are so many gardens and nature walks in Stanley Park. Everyone can recharge when they go there.
Stanley Park was a highlight of my time in Vancouver. The city views are fantastic and I liked watching the sea planes take off. I did take a through the rose garden and there was a wedding happening making it even more beautiful. I wish I had stayed at second beach for sunset and taken the train ride— next time!
I love watching the sea planes take off and land. I forget about what a treat that is for anyone who doesn’t live around water. I’ll have to add that to my list of things to do there that is free!
looks perfect… thanks for sharing beautiful list 🙂
You are welcome.