Four Urban Parks in Canada

Escape to nature in the heart of the city 

Photo courtesy of Tourism Toronto

Every major city needs green space—an oasis where locals and visitors can escape the hustle. Whether atop a summit or in the heart of an urban jungle, make like a local in these public treasures.

Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver

The Lowdown The highest point in the city, this 52-hectare oasis offers stunning views of downtown’s towers and the North Shore Mountains. It also boasts a long list of leisure options both active and chill—think tennis courts and a roller hockey rink.

Activities Slow down with a friendly match at the Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club (visitors are welcome). Or you can play a round on the free nine-basket disc golf course. 

Highlights The domed Bloedel Conservatory is a lush tropical garden with more than 500 plant species and 200 exotic birds, plus a healing garden and special exhibits.

St. Patrick’s Island, Calgary

The Lowdown This island in the Bow River, located beside the Calgary Zoo, opened last year after two years of redevelopment. It follows a “biophilia” philosophy, which means it’s designed to nurture a bond between humans and the natural world.

Activities Wade through the water to a gravel bar at the seasonal breach, or look for nesting eagles in the riparian wetland. Afterward, the kids can run around at the Playmound. 

Highlights A wide variety of free events are scheduled throughout the summer, including concerts, CrossFit classes and movie nights in the park’s natural amphitheatre.

Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto

The Lowdown Hanging out on a blanket is one of the main draws at this green respite just west of downtown. But don’t crack that locally brewed craft beer too quickly—public drinking is still illegal here, as a friendly police officer will surely remind you.

Activities There’s something for everyone, including a welcoming wading pool surrounded by shady maples, an indoor pool for doing laps and an off-leash ravine dog park.

Highlights Offering everything from trout to artisanal mustard, the food-focused farmers’ market on Tuesdays definitely lives up to its mandate: fresh, local and delicious.

Point Pleasant Park, Halifax

The Lowdown Located on the tip of a peninsula that pokes out into Halifax Harbour, Point Pleasant is one of the city’s great escapes, and it’s just a half-hour walk from downtown. This massive park features 39 kilometres of trails and a beach for swimming.

Activities Explore the Prince of Wales Tower—a national historic site built in the 1790s to prevent enemy ships from entering the harbour—and other 200-year-old fortifications.

Highlights Halifax’s Shakespeare by the Sea troupe goes classic and contemporary with the Bard, performing in the ruins of an old artillery battery.