Things to Do in British Columbia - page 3
With two theaters (including the world’s largest OMNIMAX® dome theater) showcasing films that rotate regularly, stage shows, and more interactive exhibits than you can shake a stick at, Science World at Telus World of Science (still unofficially called “Science World” by the general public) is a fascinating place for children and adults to completely lose track of time while getting lost in the wonderful world of science.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the many interactive displays, rotating feature exhibitions, and live science demonstrations. There are plenty of these fast-paced shows, which cover a variety of science topics like chemistry, moving objects, electricity, and bubbles, while different galleries inside are dedicated to the environment, life sciences, physics, sustainability, and more. Science World’s programming changes frequently, as do the films and light shows offered in the on-site theaters, but free shows are offered regularly.
Even if you normally give museums a miss, you won’t want to leave Victoria without dropping into the highly acclaimed Royal British Columbia Museum. From big-screen IMAX movies to the re-created First Peoples village, this imaginative and creatively curated museum will have you thinking and engaging with the past.
The First Peoples Gallery provides insights into life before the arrival of Europeans, while the Modern History Gallery vividly re-creates colonial life. In the Natural History Gallery, seals, grizzly bears and seabirds fill dioramas re-creating the region’s ecosystems. Big-screen films are screened in the on-site IMAX cinema.
British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is the hub for western Canada’s growing wine industry, with nearly 200 vineyards and wineries dotting its sun-baked hills. Kelowna, the region’s largest city, sprawls along the shores of Okanagan Lake and offers all the services you need for a wine-touring holiday.
In downtown Kelowna, a good place to start your explorations is at the Laurel Packinghouse Building, which houses two museums. At the British Columbia Wine Museum – part exhibition space and part wine store – you can learn about the Okanagan wineries and the types of wines you’ll sample as you visit local producers. The Okanagan has long been BC’s main fruit-growing region, too, a history that’s on view at the British Columbia Orchard Industry Museum. The Kelowna Art Gallery, a small contemporary art museum nearby, is also worth a visit.
One of the highlights on a visit to bucolic Stanley Park, as well as Vancouver itself, is a walk or bike ride along the famous Seawall Promenade. The 9km/5.5mi stone wall hugs the waterside edge, following the entire perimeter of Stanley Park and beyond, offering cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and inline skaters scenic vistas of forest, sea, and sky.
Starting from Coal Harbour, it winds eastward toward Brockton Point, then curves northwest along the Burrard Inlet, with views of the North Shore mountains across the water. Spaced at regular intervals along the walk are information panels that go into various aspects of Vancouver’s past. It’s education, exercise and eye-candy at the same time. After you pass Lions Gate Bridge, snake down the west side of the park, a perfect spot to watch the sun sink into the Pacific. After circling the park, the Seawall Promenade continues along Sunset Beach, on the southeast side of downtown, around False Creek.
Squamish is called the eagle capital of the world and it is here, at the Brackendale Eagle Reserve or Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, where the largest congregation of wintering bald eagles in North America can be found. Accordingly, the best time to visit the reserve is from late November to late January. During those winter months the eagles get attracted to the area due to the spawning salmons in the river and gather in huge numbers to feast on the fish carcasses. In fact, the Brackendale Eagle Reserve holds a world record from 1994, when 3,769 bald eagles were counted in a single day – that’s more eagles than there are residents of Brackendale.
The VanDusen Botanical Garden is a 55-acre botanical oasis in the center of Vancouver that showcases diverse plants from around the world. Not surprisingly, the garden is considered to be among the top public green spaces in North America. Among the rhododendron, magnolia and sino-Himalayan plants, you can also find plenty of art installations, such as beautifully carved totem poles and sculptures. Many visitors especially enjoy the cedar maze made up of 3,000 pyramidal cedars and if you get the chance, make sure to attend one of the seasonal festivals.
Inspired by the natural environment around it, the visitor center is unquestionably an attraction of its own. It has strived to meet the Living Building Challenge, which means that it isn’t only constructed in an environmentally conscious design that draws on natural forms, but also uses renewable resources and achieves net-zero energy consumption.
Arguably the most popular beach in Vancouver, Kitsilano a.k.a. ‘Kits’ Beach is packed during the long summer days – and beautiful all year round. Kits Beach has everything you’d want for a relaxing day at the beach: picnic areas, concession stands, tennis courts, basketball courts, and huge grassy patches perfect for playing Frisbee or fetch (or sunbathing, for those who might not want to fill their crevices with sand). The beach itself attracts volleyball players of all levels, who come from all over metro Vancouver for a game or three in the sand courts. Kits Beach faces out onto the Burrard Inlet with unparalleled views of the North Shore mountains, the Gulf Islands, and sometimes even the Olympic mountain range in the distance.
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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.
Located in Jack Poole Plaza in front of the Vancouver Convention Center, the 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.
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.
Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, the Vancouver Art Gallery is one of the most impressive collections of both historical and contemporary works in Canada. This extensive gallery contains over 10,000 different pieces of art and has a great focus on the local and regional artists, many of whom are of aboriginal decent. Among the most famous artists on display are Vancouver locals such as Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham. Moreover, the gallery also contains a substantial collection of the works of Emily Carr – perhaps British Columbia's most famous artist.
Like Emily Carr's work, most of the Vancouver Art Gallery's collection is geared towards art that has been inspired by the indigenous life style and culture in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. That said, there is also a significant collection of international works as well, including a series of important art from 17th-century Dutch artist Jan van Ravenstyn.
The Capilano Salmon Hatchery is a fish farm that was established in 1971 to save the strongly declining salmon stocks in the Capilano River, which was then threatened by the construction of the Cleveland Dam. Today, the hatchery not only breeds Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout, but has also introduced Chinook salmon into the system to provide for the ceremonial as well as food fishery of the Squamish First Nation. The facility is also open to the public and invites people to learn more about Canada’s most popular fish.
Visitors are guided around the hatchery largely via a self-guided tour and witness the fascinating and tragic life cycle of the salmon, beginning with their development from eggs to their release into the river in spring and their heroic efforts as adults to reach their spawning grounds upriver, after which they promptly die. Displays and exhibits explain the whole fascinating process as well as inform about the hatchery’s operations.
The Bloedel Floral Conservatory, or simply Bloedel Conservatory, is an indoor tropical garden and aviary in Queen Elizabeth Park. The space is divided into three climate zones and imitates the natural habitat and ecosystem of each. The tropical rainforest habitat showcases the deep jungle, where one hectare of forest contains more tree species than the country of Canada as a whole. The less humid climate of the subtropical rainforest habitat on the other hand is perfectly suited for fig trees, gnarly banyans and colorful orchids, and in the desert zone, succulents and cacti mesmerize the visitors with their prickly shapes. Nature and green spaces already have a relaxing effect on the body, but for those looking to lower their stress levels an extra notch, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory also offers a healing garden. Visitors are encouraged to touch the bark of the trees, smell flowers and use all their senses to feel the energizing effect intended.
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.
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.
Grizzly bears, a grey wolf, birds of prey and hummingbirds all live and play at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. The refuge has plenty of interpretive programs, too, which allow visitors to learn about these exciting species and their habitats.
The main attractions, undoubtedly, are the two gfrizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. Both were orphaned in 2011; Grinder was found along a logging road in BC’s Kootenay Mountains, while Coola was scooped up off the roadside near Bella Coola. At the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife, both bears coexist despite their unique personalities. A variety of interpretive programs, from the Bear Discovery tour to Breakfast with the Bears, help teach visitors all about these enormous animals. Alpha, the only grey wolf at Grouse Mountain, is often spotted right from the parking lot as he explores his personal protected habitat.
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