Sport in Vancouver is a family spectacle, often involving babies draped over parents’ bodies while they raucously celebrate the game. The game often appears to be the springboard for entertainment off the sporting field rather than the main attraction. Although this seems an alien concept to a passionate British sports fan, it does mean that even if you attend a sports game that you have little interest or knowledge of you will almost certainly have a great time. Tickets can be surprisingly cheap (however, drinks and food at the venue are very pricey) but if you want to experience a slice of true Canadian culture I encourage you to experiment. Try one of these four exciting sporting events in Vancouver depending on the time of year of your visit.
Winter sports in Vancouver
Canada is the ice hockey capital of the world. Ice hockey is a sensation in a country where ice and snow cover the landscape for much of the year. Kids start playing ice hockey as young as 5 or 6 years old. By the time kids reach their teenage years, ice hockey is in their blood. A ticket to an ice hockey game is guaranteed to be crammed with entertainment both on and off the ice. If you attend a game, you can expect passionate ice hockey player brawls, ridiculously fast paced action on the ice and familial joviality off ice. Spectators enjoy cheerleading, mascot entertainment and giveaways to a backdrop of loud music, dramatic light shows and raucous crowds. If you visit in winter, this is one game you should not miss.
To watch an ice hockey game in Vancouver, check out the schedule for the Vancouver Canucks at Roger’s Arena. Take the Expo Line on the Skytrain to Stadium Chinatown and the arena is just a few minutes walk from there.
Tickets cost on average $77 and you can purchase them through Ticketmaster.
Admittedly running is not a spectator sport but for avid runners Park Run is a great way to meet multi cultural runners and locals. Events in winter may take place but can also be cancelled at short notice due to weather. We know from experience, as we tried to participate in the Richmond Olympic park run in 2019 but ice dashed those plans. In 2022 however we successfully completed our first Canadian park run in Burnaby.
A 30 minute ride from downtown on the Skytrain to Patterson, it’s a delightful Park Run. The course follows the Trail of Hope through towering ferns and past several lakes. It really does feel like a tiny bit of wilderness in suburbia. For Park Run lovers, it’s always great to try new venues, especially those overseas, and this one is worth the trip.
Summer sports in Vancouver
Note, I am stating the obvious here but you can clearly also enjoy running in Summer. We did some great runs around Stanley Park and along the harbour front in Vancouver. Head out early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the heat (if appropriate. Weather in Vancouver is very changeable!)
The local baseball team is the Vancouver Canadians, a little league team based in Nat Bailey Stadium. The stadium seats around 6,000 spectators on rudimentary red benching with seat numbers etched into the back.
It’s a riotous affair with servers loaded with boxes of beer climbing the stairwells to offload their wares. Fans indulge in a variety of hearty cuisine including chicken strips, nachos, burgers and the humongous metre long hotdog!!
Vancouver Canadians off pitch entertainment
Between innings, the crowd go crazy for the mascot leading dances, the ground crew taking on cheerleading responsibilities, characters dressed as sushi racing round the pitch and other humorous interludes. Bob the Bear mascot takes his duties very seriously and leads the entire crowd in a group dance to the Tweetie song. I’m not sure many 5 year olds in the Uk would know this song but at the Nat Bailey stadium these diehards know all the moves! Hilarious how 1980s Britain lives on across the pond!
If you visit with children, do not race off after the game. Children can race around the bases which is a nice family touch and a great way to introduce children into the world of sport at a young age.
Getting to the Nat Bailey stadium
Take the Skytrain from Waterfront to King Edward Station on the Canada line. From there, it is a walk north until you hit the Riley park where you turn left and the stadium is a short walk down on the left. It’s in a complex of other facilities including the Little Mounties baseball team.
Tickets cost between $20 and $25. You can purchase them here.
Refreshments at the venue are not cheap. It costs $9 for a beer and $19.25 for a chicken or hot dog combo which includes a drink. Note, the beers are tiny and not worth $9. Take a refillable drink bottle as there are ample refill stations. By the way, although a drink in town will set you back the same amount of money you will get more volume for your dosh!
BC Lions Canadian football
Our trip to see the BC Lions was a first Canadian football game for me. I must confess I booked tickets because One Republic headlined the opening game of the season. That said, I loved the game even though I had no idea what was happening most of the time.
The game is a true family spectacle with entertainment beforehand and cheerleaders parading around the pitch. In the crowd, avid fans encourage others by banging on oversized drums and leading the crowd in chants. The BC Lions mascot wanders the stadium posing for photos all captured on the hanging TV screen that hovers high above the pitch.
I had already encountered the BC Lions mascot on our Park Run that very morning. As I ran through the park, complaining about how much my legs hurt, he appeared from nowhere, like an angel encouraging me on my way. His appearance gave me a rush of energy as we high fived.
Tickets for the BC Lions
We only paid $64 (£41) for two tickets. At around £2o each, this is a great price and we had great seats. Do shop around as the first site we visited wanted over $100 a head and in some cases, much more.
Refreshments for the BC Lions
The drinks at the game were extremely expensive. It pays to have a drink before the game and then just buy water (still an eye watering $4.50 a bottle but considerably less than $14 for a beer!). These venues make me realise I’m not an alcoholic as I have a maximum price point on my beer!
Getting to the BC Lions
It is possible walk to the BC Lions stadium from downtown in about twenty minutes. You can also take the Skytrain but unless you are staying outside of the downtown area I recommend you walk. Part of the attraction is mingling with fans and feeling the build of atmosphere as you approach the stadium. You can hear the buzz and the street side bars bustling with fans in various BC outfits is a definite sight to behold.
Not only is a Canadian sporting event a must see when in Vancouver but it does not break the bank. Search around for the best price, book a ticket and go enjoy the atmosphere. Perhaps you already have in which case I would love to hear from you. Just pop your comments in the box below.