If you and your family want to make the most of Canada’s 150th celebrations this summer, some of the loveliest places to visit are city parks. Whether you’re looking for a fun spot for a picnic; a place for the kids to run around and burn off some excess energy; or a refreshing retreat into nature – these parks offer something for everyone to enjoy, right in the heart of the city. Here are some of the coolest things to enjoy at four parks across Canada:
Stanley Park, Vancouver
There is lots to discover at Vancouver’s Stanley Park, Vancouver’s first and largest park, a national historic site that’s situated in a 400-hectare rainforest and home to the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest aquarium. At Second Beach, there’s an outdoor heated swimming pool (open until mid-September) featuring a sloped entry and gradual depths, as well as separated lanes for lap swimmers.
If you’d rather stay dry, biking, rollerblading or walking on the seawall overlooking English Bay will give you dramatic views of water and mountains and if you’ve left your ride at home, you can rent bikes by the hour. When you’re ready for a break you can stop at Prospect Point for ice cream. Or, if you’d prefer an even more relaxed way to sight-see, why not take a horse-drawn tour of Stanley Park, or hop on the Stanley Park Train Ride, a two-kilometre ride that’s one of the park’s most popular attractions.
During the summer, Theatre Under the Stars is a great way to enjoy musical theatre in a stunning outdoor setting. You can bring a picnic with you, for a memorable evening out in the park. In 2017 the shows are Mary Poppins and The Drowsy Chaperone, with performances starting in July. And if you can’t visit without learning, you’ll love that Stanley Park Ecology Society offers a wide range of public educational programs aimed at families, including easy walking tours.
High Park, Toronto
Toronto’s largest public park, covering 161 hectares, High Park has much to delight youngsters of all ages, and adults too, with a mature oak forest, pond, and lots of walking trails. Migratory birds stop by High Park in spring and fall; other birds that frequent the park include swans, cormorants, geese, ducks, owls and many others.
High Park’s mini-zoo is home to bison, llamas, deer, peacocks, and the zoo’s famous capybaras – named Bonnie and Clyde, due to the duo’s well-publicized escape from the zoo last summer. (Bonnie and Clyde now have three young pups). Related to guinea pigs, capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, and hail from South America. Zoo admission is free.
High Park also offers baseball diamonds, soccer fields and tennis courts; and the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground.
When everyone is all played out, you can enjoy one of the park’s many picnic areas, or grab a bite to eat Grenadier Café, which features lovely views of the park’s gardens, with an outdoor ice cream parlor, dining room and cafe.
Landsdowne Park, Ottawa
Bordering Ottawa’s historic Rideau Canal, Lansdowne Park is a great family destination. While this isn’t a huge park, at 18 hectares, it is one of Ottawa’s best parks for families, featuring lots of places for play and relaxation, such as a fully accessible play space for children, basketball courts, civic gardens, a water plaza, and 800 trees, including an heirloom apple tree orchard.
Lansdowne Park also offers a wide variety of special programming. During the summer, local artists perform on Sunday evenings at the Aberdeen Pavillion. On Monday evenings, Lansdowne’s Great Lawn screens family-friendly movies.
And foodies know there is nothing like a good farmers market! The Ottawa Farmer’s Market is open at Aberdeen Square during the summer; everything at the market is grown, made or baked within 100 kms of Ottawa.
Mount Royal Park, Montreal
Mount Royal Park is an urban oasis, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City. Covering nearly 200 hectares and featuring picnic spots, lookouts with super views and an extensive network of walking trails, it’s perfect for exploring nature.
Being Montreal, arts and culture abound in the park. Musical Sundays at Mount Royal Park take place during the summer months through October, with concerts at the Mount Royal Chalet, a French Beaux-Arts and Arts & Crafts inspired building. Presented by Les amis de la montagne, the concerts feature some of Montreal’s most promising young artists. After the concert, you can take a 20-minute guided tour of the Chalet, in either French or English. Admission is free.
Jacqueline Louie is a Calgary-based freelance writer and a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada.
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