The COVID-19 virus continues to ravage the world yet many countries are easing restrictions and opening up businesses along with social areas, in gradual steps.
At the moment if you travel to Canada from another country you will need to self-isolate. Even certain provinces around the country are closing their borders to Canadians travelling from other provinces.
Although we are stuck in our homes, Vancouver is one of those few cities where we can gaze at the mountains and coastal waters while out for a stroll in the neighbourhood. This makes it less claustrophobic when quarantining.
June/July are the months for Vancouver to slowly reopen. On a Friday evening we were surprised to see many crowds at English Bay ignoring social distancing rules. Denman street was alive with locals walking, driving and enjoying the now-open eateries.
While continuing to stay two metres apart from others with masks here are some areas of the city you can enjoy this summer during COVID-19, including info on what is open and what is still closed.
1) VanDusen Botanical Garden
The VanDusen Botanical Garden is an immaculate solace of nature from the bustling concrete-covered city. What makes the garden so unique? The 55-acre garden houses over 7,500 plant species from all over the world. Its visitor’s centre is architecturally impressive mimicking the biological nature surrounding it, and is designed to look like an orchid from a bird’s-eye view.
Explore the various plants, wildlife and the Elizabethen hedge maze. Unfortunately the restaurants and gift shop are currently closed, but you can still escape from stress into this green-wonderland.
The gardens reopened on May 1st, and in order to comply with social distancing rules you must purchase your tickets online in advance for a designated entry time. The entry times are available every 30 minutes and certain paths are only available in one-way directions.
View their website for more details and hours.
Many of the beaches in Vancouver have stayed open during the pandemic with parking lots closed to the public. Now that we have entered June many of the parking lots will be reopened but certain ones will remain closed, such as the English Bay parking lot.
Although we do not have Caribbean blue waters or soft silky sand like Australia, the views of the city from the beaches are incredible. The 7.8 km long nudist Wreck Beach on the west side of the city by UBC offers a great expanse of the Strait of Georgia and the mountainous islands nearby. In addition to Wreck Beach, Second and Third Beach by Stanley Park, and Kitsilano, Jericho and Spanish Banks on the west side, are also open.
Take caution when swimming at these beaches because at the moment due to COVID-19 there are no lifeguards on duty.
3) Granville Island
A major tourist destination for those travelling to Vancouver, Granville Island is a cultural centrepiece of the city. Alongside boats and yachts docked nearby you can roam the numerous unique shops, seafood restaurants, breweries and candy shops on the small island. You will feel like you’ve entered a separate town from Vancouver. The markets on the island offer a tasty adventure for foodies, and you can spend your evenings watching local plays at the theatres.
Since COVID-19 the island has stayed open but many of the shops were closed. Certain stores are now opening up including the market, but they do advise that you do not shop in groups. Any productions at either the Waterfront Theatre or Granville Island Stage are still postponed.
Check here to see what is currently available.
B.C. Parks announced that most provincial parks have reopened in June for the camping season. Summer is also the hiking season for Vancouverites so you will encounter many wandering through the natural wonders of B.C.
Popular destinations such as Mount Seymour, Cypress Mountain, Cultus Lake Provincial Park and Golden Ears are now open, but keep in mind there may be limited access depending on the COVID situation. You are now able to reserve camping spots through B.C. Parks, however there are certain restrictions to note.
Other parks such as Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park and Lighthouse Park are open. The parking lot of Stanley Park will remain closed but you can travel to the park using the #19 Translink public bus.
Certain popular hiking areas such as Mount Garibaldi and Grouse Mountain will remain closed.
For a list of all B.C. parks which are open or are open with limited availability, check here.
Gastown is constantly brimming with tourists and locals. It is the oldest area of the city and essentially where modern-day Vancouver expanded from since “Gassy” Jack founded his tavern in 1867. Due to its old aesthetic charm, the district has become a trendy area with stylish boutiques, upscale eateries and a sizzling nightlife. The contemporary design of the many establishments within a historic surrounding make it an attractive destination for businesses and travellers.
Shops and bars in Gastown are now slowly opening up for locals, such as Blarney Stone, the longest running Irish pub in the city. Lots of restaurants will remain open with only take-out or limited operations following social-distancing guidelines. Nightclubs are unlikely to open anytime soon since gatherings of more than 50 are not allowed.
As the district reopens, have a browse through the cobbled-streets of Gastown to discover what’s available as you abide by safety guidelines.
It can be tricky to get out of the house for fresh air while maintaining social distance. As the city reopens and we are allowed to venture out further from our homes it is important to remember that COVID has not disappeared yet, and we still need to stay vigilant about our social spaces.
As I discuss what to do in Vancouver during this time, I must acknowledge the current protests occurring both in the U.S. and Canada. For those interested in getting involved, join and support the Black Lives Matter movement and the voices demanding justice from a racially-biased system. A reality that is not just existing in the United States but here in Canada as well.
I hope this discussion over racial justice is not simply a trendy topic but an issue to be fought over for years to come. I implore White people to reflect on and discuss the privilege that you benefit from. As a South Asian woman, I also need to reflect on how my own community practices colorism as a way to maintain specific power structures.
To learn more about the history of Black communities in Vancouver, read here.
Stay safe everyone!
Update: there have been minor changes since BC’s July Phase 3 of reopening. See here for more info.
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