Things to Do in British Columbia - page 3
Located in Jack Poole Plaza in front of the Vancouver Convention Center, the Vancouver Olympic Cauldron was built to commemorate the city's 2010 hosting of the Winter Olympic Games. The 33-foot-tall cauldron was constructed with steel and glass and was first lit as the Olympic torch made it's final run on the relay to B.C. Place Stadium for the opening ceremony of the games. Across the plaza from the cauldron is the Vancouver Convention Center, which was host to the media during the Winter Games and a key cog to the operations of the event. It's a fitting placement to commemorate the amount of work put into the event by the city of Vancouver.
Today, the cauldron, which is back-dropped by stunning view of mountains and sea, has become a tourist destination in the heart of downtown Vancouver. However, the cauldron is only lit on days of special importance such as Remembrance Day or Canada Day. Understandably so, as it is estimated that the operating cost of the cauldron is about $5,000 every 4 hours. Although during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the cauldron was also set alight on days that Canadian athletes claimed a gold medal.
Vancouver Aquarium is one of the city’s most popular family-friendly attractions, with many visitors coming as part of a day out in Stanley Park. More than 50,000 living creatures—from sharks to sea otters to sea stars—dart, dive, and splash around the nonprofit aquarium, the largest in Canada. As well as marine life exhibits, the aquarium also stages shows, feedings, animal encounters, and trainer talks.
Learn about the culture and heritage of the Squamish Nation and the Lil’wat Nation at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center (SLCC). Located in Whistler Village, this award-winning, immersive center showcases the art, history, and culture of both nations through exhibits, stories, arts, crafts, performances, films, and interactive activities.
Meandering paths weave through this tranquil green retreat in the heart of Vancouver, where more than 7,500 plant varieties grow in themed displays, ranging from a Canadian heritage garden and a Japanese garden to a formal rose garden. Wildlife species, including blue herons, ducks, and turtles, live within the garden limits.
With heritage architecture and cobbled streets, Old Town Victoria exudes historic character. The area sprang to life in the 19th-century gold rushes, and today it encompasses the city’s commercial core, Canada’s oldest Chinatown, and the waterfront. Visit to see its brightly painted Victorian buildings, which house shops and restaurants.
Just north of Whistler Village, Green Lake—named for its vibrant emerald hue—is a popular recreation area for activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The glacier-fed lake, surrounded by mountains, makes for a great picnic spot too. It’s also a landing zone for seaplanes, which connect Whistler to Vancouver and Victoria.
Atop a hill in Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory—also known as the Bloedel FloralConservatory—overlooks downtown Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains. The domed structure is divided into three climatic zones: tropical, subtropical, and desert. It houses plants and free-flying birds with eye-catching plumage.
The Okanagan Valley is the hub for western Canada’s growing wine industry, with nearly 200 vineyards and wineries. Kelowna, the region’s largest city, sprawls along the shores of Okanagan Lake and offers all you need for a wine-touring holiday. The town also makes a great jumping off point for outdoor adventures in the region.
Situated in Vancouver’s forested North Shore, this hatchery was established in 1971 to help boost depleting salmon stocks in the Capilano River. As well as breeding and releasing steelhead, chinook, and coho salmon, the hatchery also serves an educational purpose, chronicling the life cycle of salmon in an on-site interpretive center.
The Emily Carr House was the childhood home of Canadian painter and author Emily Carr and had a long-lasting impression on much of her work. Today, it is an Interpretive Centre for Carr’s artwork, writing, and life.
Emily Carr’s work reads like an adventure. It carried her from remote native settlements throughout British Columbia to major cities like San Francisco, London, and Paris. But her childhood home continually appeared throughout all of her work, especially her writing.
The house itself was built in 1863 and Carr called it home from her birth, in 1871, until she left to pursue artist training overseas. Her father’s death triggered ownership changes and, after years of passing through the Carr Family, the house was sold off. Although it was once scheduled for demolition, the house made its way back to the Emily Carr Foundation before being purchased by the provincial government and restored. It is now considered a prime heritage example of Italianate villa style popular in that era. It’s also the second National Historic Site of Canada designed by the local architects Wright and Saunders, who also built the Fisgard Lighthouse.
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The Squamish Adventure Centre is a one-stop shop for visitors looking to get out and explore the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada with the help of a local guide or experience. It was built collaboratively, giving the various activities equal exposure, whether its guided hikes, rock climbing lessons or mountain bike adventures.
Alongside the visitor information area are multiple businesses that help turn the Squamish Adventure Centre into a meeting place. Quality coffee and delicious baked goods are served up at Caffe Garibaldi, local artwork and Squamish-branded clothing are for sale at the aptly named Squamish Store and a 38-seat theater rotates mountain-themed films. There are also onsite, stand-up paddleboard and bike rentals, as well as a children’s play area.
Set in a former courthouse, the Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest public art museum in Western Canada. Its collection, which amounts to more than 11,000 works, includes international artists—both contemporary and historical—but a strong emphasis is also placed on British Columbian art, including First Nations artists.
From historic architecture to contemporary museums, Victoria if filled with plenty for travelers to do, see and experience. But for visitors looking to comb through halls of rare antiques, explore finds at tiny auction houses and finger through Canadian oddities, there’s no place better than the famous Fort Street.
This picturesque street is lined with quiet cafes, Asian restaurants, used bookstores and a well-known chocolate shop. A colorful mural of Emily Carr, located on the side of Island Blue Print and Art Supplies pays homage to the city’s most famous female. And Craigdarroch Castle and the Greater Victoria Art Gallery are both within walking distance from Fort Street.
There’s a rainbow of fluttering wings at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. The destination is also home to carnivorous plants, pink flamingos, insects, and poison frogs. The gardens are entirely indoors, too, making this a great activity on rainy days.
Found within the current bounds of Vancouver's Stanley Park, Prospect Point is not only the highest point in the park and a great viewpoint of the harbor, but a place of significant history. In the late 1800s, boats traveling into Burrard Inlet were forced to pass extremely close to Prospect Point, as uninhibited water from the Capilano River plowed into the harbor, carrying with it silt and rock. The mineral-heavy flow further out caused the waters to be less buoyant, but crossing so close to the cliffs of Prospect Point wasn't without its risks either. In 1888, a ship called the S.S. Beaver ran aground on the rocks. It was then that the decision was made to put a warning light on the point to help guide ships through the passage. Some 25 years later, a signal station was built on the point to relay information to ships entering the inlet and, in 1948, the current Prospect Point Lighthouse was erected.
Since the arrival of the Cleveland Dam, the inlet has become safer for ship passage, and Prospect Point has shifted from a functional location to one of leisure. Today, people flock to Prospect Point for the famous café and some of the best views in the city.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route connects some of Vancouver Island’s best coastal scenery with some often overlooked inland natural wonders within a day’s drive of Victoria, British Columbia.
Beginning along the north shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this coastal route soon starts revealing glimpses of rugged coastlines and occasional beaches. The Juan de Fuca Marine trail runs parallel to the highway; however, it’s mostly hidden from view by thick forest. These beaches are common surf breaks, too, but the waves are best in winter and the water is cold no matter the season. Once the route turns inland, it passes two iconic trees. Short hikes lead to both the San Juan Spruce and Red Creek Fur.
Finally, the last major landmarks before rejoining the TransCanada highway are Cowichan Lake and River. Both are popular swimming locations in the summer, but the river is definitely busier because locals use its current to drift downriver in inner tubes.
Devoted to the life and works of its namesake, Victoria’s Robert Bateman Centre is home to the largest collection of Bateman paintings in the world. The gallery invites visitors to discover the natural world through the eyes of the legendary Canadian painter and naturalist.
Attracting skiers and hikers alike, Cypress Mountain is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The title Cypress Mountain is something of a misnomer; there is no peak by this name. It instead refers to a trio of skiable mountains (Black Mountain, Mt. Strachan, and Hollyburn Mountain) that hosted events at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Victoria Bug Zoo is mini-zoo in the city of Victoria in British Columbia. The two rooms, despite its small size, is the largest tropical insect collection in North America; it houses 40 species of arachnids, insects, and arthropods, as well as Canada’s largest ant colony. Popular species include millipedes, glow-in-the-dark scorpions, cockroaches, praying mantis, and hairy tarantulas. The museum’s goal is to showcase the variety of invertebrates around the world, encourage visitors to disregard the icky reputation of bugs and even to overcome phobias, and to promote the conservation of living organisms. This is an interactive and hands-on museum. Visitors are encouraged to hold and handle the many-legged creatures with the help of a tour guide.
No fine-weather visit to Vancouver is complete without a walk around Stanley Park’s seawall, and starting or finishing a seawall stroll from the Lost Lagoon Nature House just makes sense. Known for its photo-worthy views, large fountain, and sometimes even a few swans, Lost Lagoon is Stanley Park’s largest body of water and one of Vancouver’s most recognizable landmarks. At the edge of the lagoon, tucked away in a former boathouse, is the Lost Lagoon Nature House. Operated by the Stanley Park Ecological Society, it is packed with interesting things to do and see.
From beavers to bats, interpretive displays of every species found in Stanley Park help make the learning at the Lost Lagoon Nature House fun and interactive. Whether you want to know about a particular bird species that lives in Stanley Park or you’d like to learn more about the park’s multiple restoration projects, the friendly staff members are almost always on hand to answer any questions you may have. Insider’s tip: sometimes the staff members at the Nature House lead bird-watching excursions for the public, and you’ll get to check out some of the park’s more special (and secret!) places if you join in.
The stunning, 95-mile long Strait of Juan de Fuca is divided distinctly in half; the international border between Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada, and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, USA, is drawn down its center.
In 2008, Chemainus First Nation in Canada proposed the name be changed to Salish Sea. Initially met with a positive public response, the request went through a lengthy bureaucratic process that involved different government departments in both the USA and Canada. Eventually, it was decided the Strait of Juan de Fuca would keep its name; however, the Salish Sea would be used to describe the entire area, which stretches from Desolation Sound south through the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound to Hammersley Inlet.
Brockton Point is the easternmost peninsula of Vancouver’s Stanley Park and is best known for the good views it offers of the downtown area with its skyscrapers, and the Burrard Inlet ranging from North Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge to Coal Harbour. Since there are also several important shipping lanes passing through the inlet, Brockton Point is a favorite among ship spotters for watching big freight vessels heading to and from the port with goods piled high.
The peninsula encompasses several of the park’s well-known landmarks, such as the 9 O’Clock Gun, an old naval cannon that fires a shot every evening at nine; a colorful totem pole display, British Columbia’s most-visited tourist attraction; and a century-old lighthouse. The Brockton Point Lighthouse features a prominent red and white tower, which was built in 1914 after numerous shipwrecks on the treacherous shores of Stanley Park and, in more recent years, has become a favorite among photographers. It is supported by delicate arches, underneath which visitors can stroll through on the shoreline pathway.
For more than three decades, BC Place Stadium has been the premier venue for British Columbia’s athletics. Originally built for the 1986 World’s Fair, it played a major role in the Vancouver’s hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympics. In preparation for the event it was updated with a retractable roof that became the largest of its kind in the world. The large fabric rooftop is supported by cables, transforming the stadium for whichever weather conditions or event is present. Guests can remain covered during inclement weather, or be open to the sky (which is particularly beautiful on clear night.)
BC Place is home to the city’s two major sports teams, as well as the BC Sports Hall of Fame. The stadium is also host to the city’s largest community events. With over 1,000 digital screens and nearly 55,000 stadium seats, it’s one of the top sports arenas in Canada.
Built in 1954, the Cleveland Dam was constructed for a number of important reasons. Unlike many other dams though, this one is not used for hydroelectricity. Instead, the original purpose of the dam was to hold back water entering into Burrard Inlet, which used to come in at a heavy pace carrying with it a hearty amount of silt and rocks, as well as a heavy current. Cleveland Dam was also constructed to protect a means of fresh drinking water for the lower mainland of Vancouver. In fact, the lake above Cleveland Dam provides the lower mainland with a whopping 40% of its fresh drinking water.
These days, Cleveland Dam makes up a part of North Vancouver that has quickly become a popular tourism destination and in the area around the dam, there are a number of parks and hiking paths. The dam itself sits in a protected park called Capilano River Regional Park, which also encompasses Capilano Lake, the body of water that the 300-foot spillway of the dam encloses. In the area, visitors can also find attractions such as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Lynn Canyon Park, and Grouse Mountain.
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