Photograph courtesy Capilano Suspension Bridge
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Kids measure their wingspans against the outlines of native birds in the rain forest area of the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Photograph courtesy Capilano Suspension Bridge

Fresh Air in Vancouver

From the June/July 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler

No destination rolls out the green carpet better than Vancouver, British Columbia. This city, filled with more than 200 parks, doubles as a giant playground, poised on the Strait of Georgia. “Summer is the perfect time to visit Vancouver,” says Patricia Thomson, executive director of the Stanley Park Ecology Society. “If it’s a hot day, you can enjoy sandy beaches or, in a two-minute walk, pop into cool forest trails to see trees more than 600 years old.”

Treetop Trails

Crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge has been an I-dare-you experience since 1889. At the year-old Cliffwalk, follow suspended and cantilevered walkways, some of them glass, edging a sheer granite face high above the canyon. Then, step onto the 450-foot-long suspension bridge 230 feet in the air over the Capilano River. Across the canyon, kids take the lead at Treetops Adventure, a network of cable bridges and platforms at bird-level viewpoints; listen and look for herons and woodpeckers.

Mountain High

Only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain offers a ski resort inside city limits. On a clear day, board the Swiss-engineered Skyride gondola for the one-mile ascent (a window-facing spot may offer glimpses of wolves). At the resort, a golden eagle hunts prey at the Birds in Motion demo, grizzly bears nuzzle at the Wildlife Refuge, and rangers clue kids in on fun facts, such as how barn owls are the stealth bombers of the bird world. The on-site Lupins Café dishes up Canadian poutine (french fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy) and views of Vancouver Island.

Park Pleasures

Larger than Central Park in New York City, Stanley Park connects North Vancouver’s mountains with the city. Rent bikes and cycle the park’s seawall past a collection of totem poles at Brockton Point. More than 40 miles of fir-scented hikes thread through the park; glimpse a beaver lodge along the Beaver Lake Nature Trail. Board a miniature train and chug through a temperate rain forest.

Top Flight

For a serious thrill, climb aboard a seaplane with carbon-neutral Harbour Air for an aerial tour of the city, surrounding parks and beaches, and North Shore Mountains. The propeller-powered planes take off and land in Coal Harbour. As you swoop over the city’s Granville Market and the Convention Center’s grass-covered rooftop, you may find that green isn’t just a color but a Vancouver state of mind.