#70: Cedar Cottage Park
“As with all parks/public spaces in our fair city, I only wish that there was a bit of shelter for enjoying these outdoor spaces a little more on those rainy west coast days.”
#6 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
2650 Clark Drive
Reopening in early October 2020 after extensive renovations, Cedar Cottage is a redesigned park done right.
A brand-new playground includes two separate play structures for different ages, and a few different swings (traditional and disc-shaped) on a rubber surface. Gentle curves in the grass and big trees surrounding the path give it a lived-in feel. And a pair of basketball/pickleball courts reflect the type of sports Vancouverites play today, not what was in vogue 50 years ago.
There’s a bit too much noise from Knight Street (there’s always a bit too much noise from Knight), and the lack of covered area reflects a continued stubbornness on the city to acknowledge that it rains five months straight in this neck of the woods, and a gazebo or dry patio area once in a while would be nice.
Still. It’s a good upgrade in an area with plenty of young families, and a template worth following for smaller parks going forward.
#69: Victoria Park
“Um, the locals call it Bocce Park. It’s where old dudes play Bocce mostly.”
#4 in Grandview-Woodland
1425 Victoria Drive
A big flat park in a medium-density east side neighbourhood, Victoria is essentially the Dude Chilling Park of Grandview-Woodland.
That means a few things: first, that there’s lots of dudes chilling, often with a beer in hand, many of them setting up shop near the long bocce court on the east end of the park. Second, there’s lots of dogs using the small patchy field, and your tolerance for both activities will vary depending on your age and predilections.
The reasons why Dude Chilling is the 85th best park while Victoria is the 69th, despite having far less notoriety, are pretty simple though.
First, Victoria has a newish playground playground, the type with a fun triangle-shaped climbing apparatus and multiple play structures for different ages.
Second, Victoria has real washrooms, not just a portapotty. We need not describe any further why this matters.
And third, the park as a whole feels a little more cohesive than Dude Chilling, given that it’s a tight square surrounded by trees and homes on all sides.
All told, it’s a fine example of a neighbourhood park — providing you don’t mind open dogs or open beer — even with a relative lack of publicity.
#68: Emery Barnes Park
“For a small City park it sure is well designed.”
#8 in Downtown
1170 Richards Street
Like many parts of Vancouver’s growth over the last 140 years, the people came to Yaletown before the amenities were fully there.
Per a 2008 article by Frances Bula in the Vancouver Sun, in the 1990s city planners had expected 11,000 people in the downtown south area by 2016 — but it happened in 2002. The city had promised to create 2.8 hectares of park space in the area, but for a number of years, there were pretty much no green areas for the thousands who moved in during the 1990s and early 2000s.
But bit by bit over a decade, an inland park in the heart of Yaletown grew — first as nothing more than a fountain and some benches, then a playground and an off-leash dog park, then more trees and chessboard tables.
The end result is…well, it’s a slightly above-average generic downtown park, the sort you would fully expect to see in any large metropolis: nicely integrated into the downtown core, full of hustle and bustle, nothing particularly exciting unto itself, with an off-leash dog park that is fairly tiny and fairly dusty, all things considered.
Still, the playground is full of fun curved shapes and quite excellent for kids under eight, the ample tables and benches are good for adults, and there’s just enough space for a wide range of activities.
There are plenty of small things to quibble with (and have been, in a period where crime in Yaletown came to the forefront), but a well-balanced green space in the middle of downtown is always something to be grateful for.
#67: Ash Park
“Design of this playground is inspired by space theme, looks very modern and unusual. I love it!”
#2 in Marpole
8288 Ash Street
At first glance, Ash is a small, mostly unassuming park next to the Marine Canada Line station. But there’s a lot of things, both loud and quiet, that make it quite lovely.
First: Marpole is filled with large, flat parks with little tree cover. But at Ash, there are several big trees giving ample amounts of shade.
There’s also a slow but meandering slope down the length of the park, providing opportunities for bocce. An adjacent school gives more options for a soccer or baseball game if desired. And the park fits quietly within the neighbourhood, even with a Canada Line stop a half block away.
And at the middle of it is a unique, space-themed playground, with little climbing walls and areas for kids 3-8 to squirm through. It’s not a big playground but it encourages creative play in a great way, and a nice bit of diversity from the standard slide/swings/climbing structure starter pack seen in most south Van parks.
With such a growing population in the area, there’s a need for an excellent community gathering space, and we think Ash stands a good chance of filling that need.
#66: Robson Park
“Great park to grab a coffee and play with your kids at.”
#5 in Mount Pleasant
Few people are going to rave about Robson Park, but the 111-year-old park has pretty much everything one needs.
There are tennis and basketball courts, a community garden, and a wading pool. A playground, a field house with a washroom, and serviceable field space. Paths going through for cyclists and pedestrians, and trees to sit under.
There aren’t too many parks in the city with that combination (less than 10, by our count), and it’s that variety of activities — in addition to its close proximity to a lot of great restaurants right at Fraser and Kingsway — that makes Robson a solid place to visit.
The main reason it doesn’t score higher is a general sense of lack of modern touches — everything outside the community garden looks a little tired, and while the playground is pretty new it’s also small and limited if you’re over six.
Difficult to mess up a big park with plenty to do however, and Robson provides what it needs to.
#65: Coopers’ Park
“A surprisingly attractive piece of green space which allows for great views of this Vancouver skyline.”
#7 in Downtown
1020 Marinaside Crescent
You probably know it more as “that quirky park under Cambie Street Bridge”, but Coopers’ — named for the barrel-making industry that flourished in this area in early Vancouver — has more than just a fun backstory.
There’s the basketball court right under the bridge, which is objectively super cool. The multiple playground areas (one for toddlers, one for slightly older kids) that are both perfectly acceptable. And the large, sorely-needed area for dogs to roam freely, complete with a pair of adorable dog-shaped water fountains.
And did we mention the seawall? Because having a park right next to the iconic seawall is pretty neat too.
There’s also a few pieces of art (including something that looks like an alien pod coming out of the water), and a few nods to the history of the area. That being said, the entire feel is somewhat cramped and more of a mismash of good things than a true park, and the giant cluster of awkwardly cramped benches to one side is a sign the design could have been better.
Having said that, it’s quite satisfactory for a thin piece of grass between the seawall and condos.
#64: Templeton Park
“New playground is amazing.”
#3 in Grandview-Woodland
700 Templeton Drive
Let’s get the sophomoric humour out of the way: the sign here used to read “Templeton Park and Pool”, until one too many children (physically or spiritually) drew over the “l” in pool, leaving us with, well, you know. Which is why the Park Board likely changed it.
Strip that away (stop laughing!) and you’re left with a couple of nice fields surrounding a pool, with a playground and a running track on the north side.
The running track is quite nice though, and the outside of the building with the pool has dozens of murals by children that bring ample charm.
And the very new playground is quite good: woodchips and rubber on the ground, a number of different slides and things for small children to worm their way through.
It all creates a nicely balanced park, one that doesn’t try to be too much, but is always well populated for a reason.
#63: Sunrise Park
“This park is a hidden gem, I almost don’t want to review it to keep it a local secret.”
#4 in Hastings-Sunrise
1950 Windermere Street
Some parks you look at and wonder where they got their name. Sunrise offers no such surprises.
Perched at the edge of a hill that sharply descends down to Burnaby, Sunrise offers stunning views of everything to the east, be it the sun, Brentwood, Burnaby Mountain and much more. The elevated nature of the park also means it’s quiet: even though busy Rupert Street is on the east edge, the hill and tree cover give it a removed feel.
Other than the wonderful atmosphere, Sunrise is a standard large field park: washrooms, a wading pool, and a pair of older playground structures are all here.
One drawback of the park is a decent amount is less usable due to being on a fairly steep slope; but that’s mitigated by its use as an off-leash dog area, making good space of what would otherwise be inefficient land.
Little wonder then that the park is generally full of families — or young couples with dogs — with a large mix of activities at all times.
A good view goes a long way, but so does a well thought out design that’s great for the neighbourhood.
#62: Arbutus Greenway Park
“Fairly near lots of shops but a bit secluded from traffic.”
#6 in Kitsilano
2205 West 11th Avenue
From the outside it sort of seems like private property: four narrow green pathways, with a number of mixed-use townhomes and mid-rise apartments encroaching on all sides, all leading to a small playground and gazebo in the middle.
But Arbutus Greenway Park is:
1) a real public park.
2) weirdly not actually part of the Arbutus Greenway.
3) a place that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area and enjoy parks.
Aside from the stately green corridors, that middle area is quite excellent. There’s not too many places in Vancouver with covered gazebos (for reasons), and the one here sits on top of a large staircase, adding to the fun.
The big highlight though is the playground — specifically, the giant tunnelled slide that goes down a steep hill. It’s a top-5 slide in the city, evoking that feeling of 2% terror and 98% thrill you want in a slide, in our humble opinion.
Add in plenty of grass to picnic on, and a large piece of art honouring the O’Keefe brewery that used to sit here, and you’ve got a stew going.
#61: Sun Yat-Sen Garden
“worth the price of admission. Incredibly peaceful.”
#6 in Downtown
578 Carrall Street
We aren’t architecture critics, so we’re in a place to judge the classical merits of the Ming Dynasty era Chinese garden built in the 1980s on the western edge of Chinatown. And we can’t say whether its place as the top city garden in a 2011 book by National Geographic was deserved or not.
What we can say is Sun Yat-Sen Garden is an incredibly peaceful place to be.
Technically there are two parts: the Sun Yat-Sen Park to the east, which is free and dominated by a pond. Then there’s the more intricate, authentic and walled-off Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden to the west, which costs a fee.
This helps fund the separate non-profit society that operates the park, but both parts integrate into one another well, and there’s so much to explore in the relatively small space — it’s the type of experience you would have at a top-tier museum more than a small urban park.
If you want, you can get right into the displays about how the garden embraces yin and yang, the specifics on how the tiles were made, the rotating exhibitions. Or you can simply enjoy the beautiful trees, the reflective pond, the enchanted patterns.
If how much kids enjoy a park wasn’t factored into our scores, Sun Yat-Sen would be the 11th best park in the city. But it is, and we’re realistic about the patience of children to enjoy a slow historical nature walk while avoiding running around and screaming.
You’re reading this though. Which means you’re not a kid — or if you are, a highly discerning one! — so you really have no excuse not to visit the garden.