Back to School for a UBC Day Out

Photo: John Lee

The following article was contributed by Vancouver travel writer and Lonely Planet author John Lee (@johnleewriter)

It’s one of Canada’s largest campuses – with dozens of faculties serving 48,000 full-time students – but the University of British Columbia is also among Vancouver’s best day out destinations, combining a surprisingly diverse array of attractions and activities.

Most start at the Museum of Anthropology. Perhaps B.C.’s best cultural attraction, it showcases a kaleidoscopic array of Northwest Coast First Nations artifacts, including a forest of totem poles and a menagerie of bright-painted carvings.

But there’s also an eye-popping array of centuries-old European ceramics, plus galleries packed with intriguing ethnographic artifacts from around the world – from Balinese masks to Japanese opera costumes. Get the stories behind the displays with a free tour.

Art fans should also hit the gratis Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, specializing in sometimes-challenging contemporary works. Its current exhibition covers avant-garde conceptual art from California. The gallery is also an ideal starting point for a weave among UBC’s many public artworks – see here for a downloadable map of some the best.

Artworks of a different kind – painted with a green thumb – are displayed at several campus horticultural attractions. And a bright fall day is often the best and least-crowded time to check them out. The tranquil Nitobe Memorial Garden takes a formal, authentically Japanese approach, complete with carefully placed stones, shrubs and mini bridges – also look out for its camera-hugging fall foliage maple trees.

In contrast, the larger UBC Botanical Garden is divided into many sections, including those focused on food, medicinal plants and native B.C. flowers. Its 308-metre Greenheart Canopy Walkway tour weaves you through the trees on gently-swaying bridges. Time your visit for the October 13 weekend and you can also bite into the ever-popular Apple Festival.

If your nature craving isn’t yet satisfied, check our UBC’s newest attraction. Strolling into the natural history-focused Beaty Biodiversity Museum, your eyes are drawn to the giant blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling. Take the walkway underneath and you’ll enter a gallery illuminating plants, animals and fossils from B.C. and beyond. There are free tours every day, plus kid-friendly crafts and storytelling.

Budget-wise, you can save on individual admissions with a UBC Museums & Gardens Pass, which covers most campus attractions for just $36.96, taxes included ($31.96 for children and seniors). It’s valid for six months, is available at any of the included attractions and also provides discounts at campus stores and eateries.
You might even save enough for a fitting end to your cultured day out: a concert at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts – October highlights include shows by UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

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