Downtown may have Stanley Park on its doorstep, but the West Side boasts the highest concentration of spectacular public gardens in Canada, including the UBC Botanical Garden and Nitobe Memorial Garden (also at UBC), and on the edge of rareified Shaughnessy at 37th and Oak Street, the VanDusen Botanical Garden, which is rated one of the best in the world. With its relatively mild winters and temperate climate, the Lower Mainland is fertile ground for a spectacular arrangement of plants. Although this former golf course hasn't the geological interest of Vancouver Island's Butchart Gardens, VanDusen's 55 acres are a horticultural delight; recreating an astonishing array of ecosystems from the Far East, Africa, South America, Europe and Australasia. The Rhododendron Walk and Sino-Himalayan Garden are standouts. But there are many gems - including gardens devoted (separately) to roses, herbs and heathers. And there's an Elizabethan hedge maze tucked away in the western corner. The features are set among hillocks, pocket lakes and winding paths, all with a northward view of the city and mountains. A dazzling Christmas Festival of Lights draws families through December. The site includes a large garden shop and the Shaughnessy Restaurant for smart dining (reservations are recommended: 604 261 0011).