Hillcrest Community Centre

Vancouver’s community centres are a fantastic way to engage local families and promote an active lifestyle. Hillcrest Community Centre is no exception, and its constant hustle and bustle is a perfect demonstration of how well the centre is enjoyed by the community.

Formerly the site of the curling events for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic games, the centre has an NHL sized ice rink. In addition to housing the current Vancouver Curling Club, the centre contains an Aquatic Centre with an Olympic sized swimming pool and aquafit classes for all ages. Afterwards, members can enjoy the hot tub, steam room or sauna.

For children, there are skating or swimming classes, as well as preschool and reading programs at the public library. The Terry Salman Vancouver Public Library branch has a quiet study area as well as a multi-purpose room for additional study space. This room is also converted to an activity space for children and ESL programs, with the schedule easily found on the door. Outside the building, there are sports fields and an enclosed preschool playground for those little ones to burn off some energy.

Upstairs, the centre contains a small gym and stationary bike area where member can take Cycle Fit classes. Drop-in activities include sports, arts, music, and cultural programs. Programs like Yoga Made for Runners, Minds in Motion for people with early Alzheimer’s, and parent & child Sportball cater to all ages and abilities. Other miscellaneous games rooms provide space for ping pong, dance, badminton, basketball, and volleyball.

After a good workout, there’s nothing better than treating yourself to a delicious bite to eat. Blue Parrot Café serves organic coffee and a wide variety of healthy food options. My personal favourite is the hearty meal chilli.

Hillcrest Community Centre is located at 4575 Clancy Loranger Way, north of Queen Elizabeth Park, west of Riley Park, and next to Nat Bailey Baseball Stadium.

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Jog Through Queen Elizabeth Park

One of my favourite places to jog is in Queen Elizabeth park, particularly in the late afternoon or evening (depending on the time of the year) so I can catch the sun setting over downtown at the lookout point. My route takes me around the inner perimeter of the park, then up to the top of the pavilion and back down, allowing me to incorporate at least two hill-climbs into the relatively short, high-intensity workout.

I usually enter the park through the Cambie street entrance across from 30th Avenue. If I’m feeling up for a challenge, I’ll turn left towards W 29th Avenue because the southern stretch along W 37th Avenue from Ontario street up to the Ridgeway Bikeway is a gruelling incline, whereas the major incline in the opposite direction is a more gradual, smaller path jutting left off W 33rd Avenue.

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The Challenging Route

If I’m taking the more challenging route, I’ll pass by a couple duck ponds, the first one as I’m running parallel to Midlothian Avenue, then after I’ve run down the hill onto W 33rd Avenue, I’ll see another pond along Ontario street. Often there will be some frisbee golf players by Ontario street, and as I take a right turn up W 37th Avenue, sometimes I’ll see some pitch & putt golf players on my right through the chain fence.

Once I’ve finally reached the top of the hill at Ridgeway Bikeway, I’ll turn right, which will take me by the off-leash dog park and tennis courts on my left. The rose gardens in the southwest of the park will be visible on my right side as I continue on the path towards the northwest until I reach a small sign pointing up a path towards the middle of the park labelled “Garden Displays”.

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Final Push to the Top

Hopefully a second wind will have hit me because the steep incline to the top of the pavilion will have my thighs burning, but the view at the top is my reward. As I make my way towards the Bloedel Conservatory dome, I will take a right towards the plaza. In the mornings, there are always groups of people diligently practicing tai chi in the plaza, but in the afternoon it’s mostly tourists photographing the Dancing Waters fountain and famous “Knife Edge-Two Piece” sculpture by Henry Moore.

Sometimes I’ll take a breather to absorb the view at top and stretch my hamstrings. The lookout point in front of the Bloedel Conservatory is lined with benches for visitors to enjoy the view of the North Shore and spectacular mountains behind it. However, if you make your way towards the Seasons in the Park restaurant, you will find bronze sculptures of a man photographing three people by J. Seward Johnson Jr. From this viewpoint, you can clearly recognize BC Place and the Top of Vancouver revolving restaurant.

Finally, I’ll make my way back down with a smile of my lips, because I’ll just have completed a fantastic 5k workout!

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth park is one of Vancouver’s lesser known treasures, offering a wide range of activities for any age or mood. Walking trails throughout the gorgeous quarry gardens bring visitors across streams and a wooden footbridge above a small waterfall, creating a romantic atmosphere. The “Dancing Waters” fountain at the top of the plaza leads to the dome-shaped Bloedel Conservatory. Inside the conservatory is lush, exotic plant-life and more than 200 free-flying birds from all over the world. During the warmer months, the quarry gardens teem with a brilliant range of flowers, although the rose garden in the south-western perimeter is particularly popular.

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Activities

Joggers are found looping the 52-hectare park at any given time. There are also tennis courts, a pitch and putt golf course, a Frisbee golf course, a lawn bowling club, roller hockey rink, basketball court, and tai chi practiced at the top of the plaza. Those with four-legged friends often congregate at the off-leash area of the park, and the park is well equipped with receptacles for bagging waste. The lakes along the perimeter of the park also provide family fun for those who like to feed the ducks floating in the water.

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Best view in the city

QE park has arguably the best view in the city at 152 m above sea level. The spectacular view overlooking downtown to the mountains above North Shore can be enjoyed in the fine dining Seasons in the Park restaurant or for free on any of the many park benches. A number of sculptures can be found around lookout points, which visitors enjoy posing with for photographs. Wedding parties, often come take photographs in the whimsical gardens, but intimate ceremonies can also take place in the Chapel Celebration pavilion.

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Getting here

QE park is located along the Cambie Corridor by King Edward and Oakridge-41st stations on the Canada line. Entrances can be found at Ontario Street and West 33rd Avenue, or along West 37th Avenue between Columbia and Mackie streets. Those arriving by car can access the park either from Cambie Street at West 29th or 33rd Avenues, or from Main Street at East 33rd Avenue. There is free parking in the perimeter of the park and paid parking closer to the plaza.