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A sport enthusiast's guide to Vancouver

If sport is what you’re interested in, it’s worth noting that Vancouver was the host city to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Vancouver is also home to numerous professional and semi-professional sports teams, including the NHL Vancouver Canucks, the CFL (Canadian Football League) BC Lions, the MLS Whitecaps, the WHL (Western Hockey League) Vancouver Giants, and the NLL (National Lacrosse League) Stealth.  So, no matter the season, Vancouver will have plenty of sporting events for you to attend. In addition to the many sports teams that call Vancouver home, the city also regularly hosts numerous other world-class sporting events, such as International Skating Union competitions, Americas Masters Games, and World Rugby Sevens Series, among many other special events held at Vancouver’s pristinely maintained former Olympic venues.

Autumn in Vancouver means the start of the hockey season, one of Canada’s national sports. The Canucks face-off at Rogers Arena between two and four nights a week and tickets can be bought at the Arena or online.  But hurry—they sell out fast! The CFL is in full swing come fall, and the BC Lions never cease to amaze their fans. CFL is similar to the NFL, except that there is one less down, and the field is both wider and longer. Catch the Lions in action at the gorgeous BC Place Stadium; while you are there make sure to snap a photo of you and the Terry Fox Statue – any runner would be impressed with his feat of running half way across Canada after losing a leg to cancer.

But if it’s scenery you’re looking for, autumn in Vancouver sees blankets of orange and crimson maple leaves. After all, what better way to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons than with a bike ride around the city? Indeed, if being active is on your list, hop on to a Mobi, the bike share program, which allows users to pick up and drop off bikes at three different convenient locations around downtown Vancouver. Specific cycle lanes around Downtown are easily accessible and are very well mapped. Though the most spectacular places to ride your bike is around the Seawall and historic Stanley Park, which has kilometres of trails throughout. Just make sure to enjoy the view along the way.

If biking is not your thing, walking or running the Seawall on the outskirts of Stanley Park is a favourite local pastime, not to mention an unforgettable experience with the best views of the city and Pacific Ocean. While you’re there, don't forget to stop and visit the “Girl in a Wetsuit” statue on the north shore of Stanley Park, or add to an Inukshuk on one of the many beaches that line the paths. If that inspires you, Vancouver has an annual Terry Fox run held every September and anyone can participate in.

During early autumn, there are a number of open hikes and bike trails in the local North Shore Mountains. Be prepared though, as these can be gruelling and long if you are unprepared. Make sure to give yourself a lot of time to complete the trail, bring water, and of course your camera, as once again, the views of the city, and Pacific Ocean are second to none.

Come wintertime, most Vancouverites escape to the mountains, the local ones – Grouse, Seymour, and Cypress are a mere 30 minutes from the heart of Downtown. You can either drive your car, or catch a bus to one the lodges and enjoy scenic chairlifts, great snow, and fantastic food. All three mountains host night skiing and there is nothing quite like skiing on top of the world while the city lights twinkle below. During the day, cross country skiing, snowshoe hiking, alpine skiing and riding are all open, and lessons and guides are readily available to offer tips and advice - or just ask a friendly local.

Craving some family fun? Bring the kids to Cypress as they boast a tube park, which is great for all ages. For a world-class ski or ride experience, head up the Sea to Sky Highway and visit Whistler Blackcomb, home to the Guinness World Record breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola, and a combined skiable terrain of 8,171 acres.

In the city during winter, Robson Square has an outdoor covered skating rink, minutes from most hotels, and located right next to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Don’t know how to skate? Feel free to watch while enjoying some hot cocoa. If sport action is a requirement, the Vancouver Canucks and the Stealth – the lacrosse team – are all playing regularly. Ask your hotel concierge for details on any other special sporting events - after all, one of the local mountains could be hosting a World Cup Ariels or Moguls competition, or BC Place could be hosting a World Series event for rugby.

Spring in the city of Vancouver brings flower blossoms and a plethora of trails both on the local mountains and in the University Endowment Lands' 1,900 acres worth of west coast rainforest, friendly to walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.

There are plenty of bicycle stores that rent mountain bikes, so venturing out onto the trails is still easy and fun for the whole family. Springtime also brings the NHL playoffs and the city celebrates wildly. Baseball season also opens and Scotiabank Field home to Nat Bailey Stadium and the Vancouver Canadians will be a must see for any baseball fan. Tickets are very affordable and can be bought that day at the ticket office. But spring does not just bring baseball. The Whitecaps, Vancouver’s MLS team, will also begin its season, and they play at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, though it is easily accessible via public transit, taxi, or Car2Go. Being the athletic and sporty city that Vancouver is, it is only natural that it hosts a myriad of running competitions; the Vancouver Sun Run, BMO Marathon, Scotiabank Half Marathon, and SeaWheeze to mention a few – the swag is worth the pain of the run.

In late summer, the Subaru 5i50 Ironman and triathlon begin at Jericho Beach. Be a spectator or take part in these events.  Cost is minimal but the competition is fierce, but like all things Canadian, always friendly.

Golf is also popular with Vancouverites. The city is home to 8 public golf courses and 3 private ones. If you want to ease into golf there is a pitch and putt in Stanley Park, as well as at Queen Elizabeth Park – both of which have spectacular views of the city and its mountains, and club rentals are on site.

While Vancouver may have hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, summer is by far the apple of every Vancouverite’s eye. The city is surrounded by water and rivers, so if you want to be on the ocean, try stand up paddle boarding (SUP) or kayaking.  Make sure to take note of the overly friendly sea lions, who sometimes jump up and catch a ride with kayakers. Water sport equipment required can be rented from various vendors at Granville Island, Jericho Beach, or other locations around the city. Jericho is home to the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, which hosts sailing events in all categories throughout the summer. There are also a number of places to rent windsurfing and sailing equipment at Jericho and Spanish Banks, which are also hotspots for kite surfing. Or, take a swim in the ocean or at Kitsilano Pool, but just be prepared as the saltwater pool is 137 metres (449.5 feet) in length, perfect for your inner triathlete.

Running and walking are well taken care of in this city and the University Endowment Lands are perfect for long walks to fill your lungs with fresh air. One of the many secrets of Vancouver is definitely the choice of outdoor community tennis courts, which are open to the public every day, and free of charge - just bring your racquet and some balls, and enjoy. If none of those attractions appeal to you, the Grouse Grind should - a 2.9 kilometre or 1.8 mile hike over the course of a 853 metre (2,800 feet) elevation gain. This trail is not for beginners, but if you are looking to hit a milestone of steps in your lifetime, this should suffice, as there are 2,830 steps before reaching the top. The breathtaking views make the trek worth it. Another notable, albeit easier hike is up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.  It is 140 metres in length and roughly 70 metres above the Capilano River. Adults can enjoy the views while the rest of the family can run around on the paths. There are even free busses that leave hourly from the Convention Centre. Crave a longer hike? Take the scenic drive up the Sea to Sky Highway and hike one of the many trails Whistler has to offer.

Vancouver has a season and a wealth of sporting events for everyone, ranging from spectator to ultimate competitor. Have a visit to the most active city and see why it’s continually ranked the most beautiful place to live in the world.

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