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A+ Activities: Our Favourite Reasons to Visit UBC

Find the best places to eat, explore and be entertained at the University of British Columbia. School may be out for summer, but this lush coastal campus is packed with hidden gems for every visitor, from orchestra aficionados and art connoisseurs to golfers and nature lovers


The Museum of Anthropology is home to an impressive collection of totem poles. (Photo: KK Law)

The Museum of Anthropology is home to an impressive collection of totem poles. (Photo: KK Law)

Art History

Fancy a bit of a scavenger hunt? This campus is a veritable outdoor gallery, featuring an ever-evolving collection of art installations just waiting to be discovered. The most recent addition is the Reconciliation Pole, a towering 17-m (55-ft) totem pole carved by James Hart, a Haida master carver and hereditary chief. Intricate details etched into the 800-year-old red cedar tell the story of First Nations communities’ experiences before, during and after the traumatic residential school system—thousands of copper nails are hammered into the wood, each commemorating a child who died at a residential school. Other totem poles around campus include the Musqueam Post by Brent Sparrow Jr., and the Victory Through Honour pole by Calvin Hunt and Merv Child.

For contemporary art, step into the crisp white rooms of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, where avant-garde artists and innovative exhibitions take centre stage. Download or print their info sheet to take a sunny self-guided outdoor art tour—and keep an eye out for the delightful Classical Toy Boat by Glenn Lewis, which isn’t on the list. If you’ve only got time for one destination, venture across Marine Drive to find the Museum of Anthropology tucked away amongst the trees. With one of the finest collections of First Nations art and artifacts in the world, as well as impressive exhibits spanning every culture from Asia to the Amazon, it’s an absolute must-see.

Enjoy the view from the Greenheart Treewalk at UBC Botanical Garden.

Enjoy the view from the Greenheart Treewalk at UBC Botanical Garden.

Nature 101

Escape the city and fill your lungs with the freshest air the West Coast has to offer. Stroll, bike or ride a horse through more than 763 ha (3 sq mi) of densely packed temperate rainforest at Pacific Spirit Regional Park, where bald eagles, barred owls and woodpeckers make their homes. Looking for a dramatic backdrop for your holiday photos? UBC’s beloved rose garden sits on the northwest edge of campus, with stunning views of the Salish Sea and Coast Mountains. Revel in fantastic flora at the UBC Botanical Garden, which was originally built to educate doctors and apothecaries but has since grown into a sprawling collection of gardens featuring everything from edible crops to international alpine plants. Get a thrilling view from the top of the Greenheart TreeWalk, an aerial trail system 20 m (67 ft) above the forest floor. Find your bliss by the reflecting pond full of koi at Nitobe Memorial Garden—one of the top five Japanese gardens outside Japan—then breathe in the fragrant air of its authentic tea garden before visiting the ceremonial teahouse. Free-spirited nature lovers make their way to Trail 6, which leads down almost 500 steps to gorgeous Wreck Beach. Clothing is optional, and warm community vibes abound—stay for sunset, when everyone gathers at the water’s edge to cheer and applaud as the sun dips below the horizon.

No morning pick-me-up at Loafe Cafe is complete without a Cartems doughnut.

A morning pick-me-up at Loafe Cafe, complete with a Cartems doughnut.

Nutrition Sciences

After exploring over 400 ha (1.5 sq mi) of campus grounds, you’re bound to work up an appetite—luckily, there are plenty of eateries ready to satisfy every craving. Pair a slice of Mercante’s stone-baked traditional Italian pizza with a hot cup of Milano coffee, and make new friends at the communal dining tables. Soak up the sun on the wraparound patio at Mahony & Sons, with a cold Guinness and juicy Angus beef dip, or plan ahead and call Doughgirls to put in an order for fresh-baked sweet or savoury pies, hot and ready when you arrive. If all you need is a quick refuelling stop, swing by the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre and pop into Loafe Café for a Cartems doughnut—widely adored by Vancouverites—and a creamy latte. Track down Koerner’s Pub, a well-hidden watering hole with a secret garden patio tucked away beneath Thea Koerner House, the graduate student centre. With a menu featuring Ocean Wise seafood and hormone-free meats, as well as a cheeky promise that even the barley and hops in their beer have “lived very full, meaningful lives,” it’s worth hunting for.

The impressive Chan Shun Concert Hall in the Chan Centre. (Photo: Martin Tressler)

The impressive Chan Shun Concert Hall in the Chan Centre. (Photo: Martin Tressler)

Playing Hooky

A year-round playlist of activities, sporting events and live concerts makes this one of the best places in town for entertainment. Start the party at the Chan Centre, a stunning landmark designed by internationally renowned architect Bing Thom. The concert hall is often cited as one of the world’s best, and is designed to make you feel like you’re inside a musical instrument. On Jun. 26, the world-famous Glenn Miller Orchestra gets feet tapping there with playful swing and jazz tunes like “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Tuxedo Junction.” Come for the music, stay for the bowties. Head over to the University Golf Club and take your best swing at a public golf course that’s been rated #1 by local newspaper readers for 10 years in a row, or race to the top of the climbing wall inside The Nest, the spectacular new student union building. Make sure to check out the Beaty Biodiversity Museum’s blue whale skeleton, dramatically suspended in mid-air—one of only 21 on public display in the world—then explore the labyrinth of plant and animal exhibits hidden below. Need to pick up souvenirs? The UBC Bookstore is fully stocked with cozy clothing, the latest in literature, and endless gift options that ensure your return home is met with delight.

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