As a recent emigrant to Vancouver from Toronto, I have come to my new city with an ingrained skepticism derivative of the age-old battle of east vs. west. But I did come here with good reason, and climate was certainly one of the major considerations for making the move. The autumn and early winter here have lived up to the reputation that Vancouver is a rainy, cloud-covered city that challenges even the most optimistic attitude, but I have become more accustomed to it (as I was told I would) and am having a minor love affair with my Hunter rain boots (superficial, I know, but we need to find our small comforts amidst the rainy days).
Although I love the snow covered lawns and evergreens of Toronto winters, I am starting to believe that the milder weather here, and the close proximity of snow when you’re missing it (Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain, Hemlock Resort, and Whistler Mountain) are things I could easily become accustomed to. And it isn’t always grey – we’ve recently enjoyed almost a week of clear skies and sunshine, and as long as it isn’t raining, the mild temperatures afford plenty of opportunities to do a variety of outdoor activities. I would still argue that July is the best time to visit Vancouver, but if you chose to visit in the winter, here is a list of my favourite things to do outside this time of year:
a) The Endowment Lands near UBC – this extensive forest-covered group of trails are a great option, especially if you think it might rain. There are hundreds upon hundreds of old-growth trees, many of them cloaked in moss. Other groups of trees appear in curious formations that seem to creep along the forest floor, their arms reaching in all directions. And if you pay attention, there are always trees that spark the imagination – like the dead tree that looks remarkably like the mouth of a smiling crocodile.
|Enjoying a Bean Bros. coffee along the Spanish Banks|
b) Spanish Banks (West of Tolmie St. on NW Marine Dr.) – if you park in the first parking lot and walk to and from the western tip of the Spanish Banks, you’ve covered almost 2.5 km of this beautiful oceanfront trail. With ample mountain views and opportunities for both people and dog watching, this walk will not disappoint. Be sure to watch the ocean too – if you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the wildlife – like a seal!
|View of downtown from Kits Beach|
c) Kits Beach (on the west side of Vancouver) – go to Viva Fine Foods and Bakery (1555 Yew St., between Cornwall and York) to grab a latte and a delectable cookie to make your walk along the beach even sweeter. This walkway is often very busy with both tourists and locals, and with people young and old. Even in late December, you can witness people playing beach volleyball, while smiling kids enjoy a new playground next to The Boathouse Restaurant (previously The Watermark). You can walk all the way to Granville Island taking this ocean side route, but it is a long walk to do in the winter, and you might consider taking public transit for the way back.
|Southlands trail on the Fraser River|
d) Southlands (south of SW Marine Dr. on Blenheim) – this little-known nook of Vancouver is as pastoral as the city gets. Chock-full of horse stables, nurseries and farms, there is plenty to see in this area, and there is a lovely trail that follows the banks of the Fraser River if you drive all the way to the end of Blenheim, turn right on Celtic Ave. and then left on Carrington. Here you will find a small parking lot and a trail that goes both east and west from the bridge to Deering Island. At one point on the east trail, you will have to walk on the road (east on Celtic) to catch the trail again. Gleaming new houses and a golf course provide sightseeing on your left, while the Fraser River and the mountains offer views on your right. Sunsets here are breathtaking.
Stay tuned for other great winter activities to do in and around Vancouver!