Stanley Park, springtime, Cherry Blossoms, Vancouver

Top family picnic spots in Vancouver

Stanley Park, springtime, Cherry Blossoms, Vancouver

A family takes a stroll in Stanley Park under cherry blossoms. It’s also a great spot for a picnic at this time of year. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Tricia Edgar Outdoors Columnist

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — This city might be known for its rainy days, but when the sun comes out Vancouver is a glorious place. The sun doesn’t set until 10 pm or later and the weather is typically warm with a gentle cooling breeze off of the Howe Sound. In the summer, Vancouverites and visitors to the city can enjoy dining outdoors. Vancouver’s abundance of urban parks means that you’ll never be short on family picnic spots, even when you’re in the centre of the city. Here are a few of our favourites.

1. Stanley Park

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s green gem. It runs around the western edge of the city, greeting cruise ships that sail in and out of Burrard Inlet. Drive eastward across the Lions Gate Bridge and you will enjoy the iconic Vancouver experience, cruising into the green of the park before you move into the traffic of the downtown core.

Stanley Park is perfect for families. It houses the Vancouver Aquarium, the Stanley Park Ecology Society, and First Nations heritage sites such as Siwash Rock. You can walk around Lost Lagoon or lounge on the grass in one of the many open spaces.

For families, one of the most strategic picnic locations is the big, beautiful grassy area that’s perfectly situated between the aquarium, the miniature train, and the water park. If the tide is low, you can also go for a walk on the beach. What could be better?

Where to Eat: On the tourist trail? Head downtown to Chinatown for the morning and pick up some steamed buns from the New Town Bakery. Stop off at one of the markets for lychee nuts, dried fruit, and deliciously sticky desserts.

2. Vanier Park

Vanier Park is a picnic spot in the hub of the city. It’s also a great place to make a spectacular entrance. Take one of the tiny ferries that scoots across False Creek, and walk ashore at this busy park that faces Vancouver’s scenic West End. If you’re in the downtown area, find the ferry on Sunset Beach behind the Aquatic Centre. There is also a dock in Yaletown at Quayside Marina at the foot of Davie Street.

If you’re looking for a picnic spot that’s close to Vancouver’s tourist attractions, the park is ringed by two wonderful museums: the HR MacMillan Space Centre and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. In the late spring to early fall, families with older children can also enjoy a Shakespeare matinee at Bard on the Beach, followed by an evening picnic.

Looking for free entertainment? Vanier Park is also a favourite hangout for Vancouver’s kite flyers who take advantage of the winds coming into False Creek. This year, on July 28, August 1 and 4, the park is also a spectacular place to watch the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks shows — an annual attraction that draws more than 500,000 to the city.

Where to Eat: The Vanier Park ferry also stops at Vancouver’s famous Granville Island Market, where you can stock up on picnic fare from around the province.

3. Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver

West Vancouver’s Whytecliff Park has a tiny beach, but it’s a wonderful playground for kids. Stop at Trolls in Horseshoe Bay to get some takeout fish and chips, and eat a picnic on the big grassy lawn. Play in the fabulous playground, then head on down to the beach. Whytecliff faces Howe Sound, and since it’s very close to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, the kids can watch the ferries go by. Search for tiny nuggets of beach glass along the tide line. If the tide is low, families can also follow the trails up the rocks to look at the spectacular view of the waterway. Whytecliff is popular with divers, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch them going into and out of the water.

Where to Eat: If you’re heading to Whytecliff Park, stop off at the seasonal Ambleside Farmers’ Market in West Vancouver to get some great goodies for your trip. For seafood lovers, the aforementioned Trolls in Horseshoe Bay will add some delicious take-out eats to your picnic.

4. Buntzen Lake, Coquitlam

Do you love the wilderness experience, but only when it’s less than an hour’s drive from your lodging? Then Buntzen Lake may just be the perfect family picnic spot for you when you visit Vancouver. This BC Hydro reservoir is a 4.8-kilometre lake that’s surrounded by hiking trails and beaches, perfect for an afternoon of wild exploration.

Where to Eat: Bring your own eats, or stop by the Coquitlam Farmers Market on Sunday from 9 am-1 pm. It’s located at 624 Poirier Street, Coquitlam, and features honey, fresh fruits and veggies, and local crafts.

In the summer, Vancouver’s picnic spots are open for business. So grab your beach towels and your picnic blanket, and take the kids on a foodie’s exploration of the west coast. Discover Vancouver’s beaches, forests, and museums, and dine in the great (and only slightly damp) outdoors in this wonderful city.

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