The next time you want to get out for a few hours, consider re-exploring one of Main Street Vancouver’s greatest treasures, Queen Elizabeth Park.
The Vancouver Park Board celebrated Queen Elizabeth Park’s 75th anniversary by throwing a massive party on September 13th. The 130-acre park in Riley Park was built in 1939, from an old rock quarry used for sourcing rock and minerals that supplied the construction of Vancouver’s first paved streets. Located at the junction of Cambie Street and West 33rd Avenue, the park is easy to access by bike, TransLink public transit and car, with both free and pay parking.
If you mention Queen Elizabeth Park, the first image that comes to mind for most Vancouverites is that of the lush green Quarry Gardens. The main garden is just west of the Bloedel Conservatory. The large quarry excavation has become home to specimen trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and annuals, accented by a stream and waterfall. Below the Seasons in the Park restaurant there’s a smaller North Quarry Garden. The north garden is influenced by oriental horticulture, and features an arched bridge over a stony stream bed.
As magnificent as the quarry Gardens are, there’s much more to enjoy in Queen Elizabeth Park. In 1949 Junior Forest Wardens began planting blocks of timber species such as douglas fir, subalpine spruce, coast redwood and ponderosa pine. The larger trees in this civic arboretum are now about 60 years old, and there are about 1,500 trees from across Canada along the park’s north and north-western sections. In 1967, the Rose Garden was created on the south-western perimeter of the park to commemorate Canada’s Centennial. Many rose varieties are represented, including some hardy hybrids.
The park is a celebration of art. In 1984 a bronze figurative sculpture of a man photographing three people, called Photo Session, was given to the park by J. Seward Johnson, Junior. The famous sculpture, Knife Edge-Two Piece, by British Sculptor Henry Moore, is located on the plaza to the east of Bloedel Conservatory. Four marble sculptures by Cameron Kerr, of Campbell River, BC, are on display outside the Conservatory. In spring and summer Painter’s Corner becomes an outdoor art gallery, with paintings for sale by many local artists.
Adjacent to the Bloedel Conservatory, the Dancing Waters 70-jet fountain is entertaining and beautiful both day and night. The fountain operates on a program, with varying heights of the jet, recirculating 85,000 litres of water.
If you’re looking for some recreation, Queen Elizabeth Park offers a pitch and putt golf course with beautiful views of the city. Along the southern edge of the park, you’ll find a bank of 17 public tennis courts, and a practice wall. From April through September, the Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club is open. The park also has two outdoor roller hockey courts and three basketball courts.
Queen Elizabeth Park offers one of the most enjoyable walks in the city of Vancouver, taking you to the “top of the city”. A walk around the park is 0.41 km (0.26 miles), or 824 steps. A marked path makes the gardens wheelchair accessible as well. Along the north side, among the Arboretum trees, there’s a designated picnic area; so bring a cooler and blanket. Picknickers are also welcome in other areas of the park. There’s an off-leash dog area located at 4600 Cambie St, off East 37th Avenue and Columbia Street.
The Bloedel Conservatory is open 7 days a week. The conservatory contains three different climate zones. There’s a tropical rainforest habitat, subtropical rainforest habitat and desert zone. Hundreds of plant species are represented, and many are labeled. There are more than 230 colourful free-flying birds.