Why Go to the Gym When You Can Work Out Outside?
If you, like Kim and I, prefer to get away from smelly, bicep-pumping gyms in favor of more natural, all-around (and free!) outdoor fitness training, this Vancouver calisthenics park list is for you.
While these Vancouver calisthenic parks pale in comparison to the amazing setups elsewhere in the world, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even Dubai, all you really need is a bar or two, some creativity, and your own fat (or fit) ass for weight, right?
Stanley Park Second Beach Calisthenics Park
Pull up bar, rings, trapeze bar, grassy field, adjacent children’s playground
Second Beach is definitely the most popular Vancouver calisthenics park. If it’s nice out you can count on someone else being there just about any time you go.
Unfortunately for tall(-ish) people like me, the bars and rings are all about 8 feet high, so you won’t be able to hang without their feet touching the ground. The support poles are good for climbing though; try doing a controlled up-and-down in an L-sit if you think you’re strong.
If you’re looking to connect with the Vancouver calisthenics community, be sure to come by around 1 p.m. on Sundays in the summer. That’s when a big group of natural movement athletes (of all levels) regularly meet. Check out the Second Beach Sundays public Facebook group for more info.
Stanley Park Brockton Oval Calisthenics Park
Pull up bars, ascending monkey bars, parallel bars, sit-up board, horseshoes
We sometimes call this place “the secret bars” because most people don’t know about it. It’s tucked away in a seldom-frequented part of Stanley Park and a lot quieter than anywhere else on the list. If you’re looking to do a solo workout without any disturbance, this is the place for you.
Another benefit of this Vancouver calisthenics park is that, unlike most other places listed here, the bars here are up to 9 feet high, so even tall people can freely hang from them. They’re also a bit thinner than the bars at Second Beach, which is good for working your grip strength in a different way.
Note that the parallel bars here are only about half-a-foot off the ground, so they’re no use for dips. They are handy for planches, handstands, and shoulder stands though.
Kits Beach Calisthenics Park
Pull-up bar, trapeze bar, rings (the same as Second Beach)
Kits Beach is the second most popular Vancouver Calisthenics park. It’s beautifully and conveniently located at the eastern end of the extremely popular Kits Beach. This makes it not only a good spot for an outdoor workout, but to people watch, go for a swim, and hang out too.
The downside of this workout area is that the bars here are very low—less than 8 feet high. This means that if you’re 6 feet or taller you can’t freely hang from them.
During the weekdays you’re likely to have the bars to yourself. If you come on weekends in the early to mid-afternoon odds are there’ll be another calisthenics athlete or two to chat with (or secretly compare your own ability to).
Pull up bars of all different heights, blocks and walls for jumping and climbing, old lady workout machines
This is probably the best Vancouver calisthenics park. The only problem is it’s way out in the very easternmost edge of town.
More than just a calisthenics park, Empire Fields is a parkour practice area. It not only has plenty of bars for upper body work, but various walls and obstacles for lower body training as well. There are also some outdoor fitness machines that your grandma can use in case you invite her to tag along.
If you make the trek out to this part of town, we recommend you celebrate a solid workout by hitting up on our favorite Vancouver dining experiences, Petit Saigon, which is not too far away.
Lord Roberts Elementary School Playground
Parallel bars, ladder for human flags, monkey bars, chest-height pull up bar, a swirly slide
While not a calisthenics park, the playground at Lord Roberts Elementary school is worth including in this list because it has some toys that the other Vancouver calisthenics parks do not, notably waist-height parallel bars and a ladder for doing human flags. The playground also has a bunch of other toys you can make a good workout with if you’re creative. The most glaring missing piece here is a high, straight pull up bar, but there are monkey bars and a soccer goal you can do pull ups and chin ups with.
Be aware that because this is a school playground you won’t be able to work out here around lunchtime during the school year. When school’s out in the summer though, you can go any time.
Slightly narrower than usual low parallel bars, two sets of chin-up bars, hurdles and benches for leg calisthenics, soft woodchip ground for plyometrics, big open grass field and running track.
Douglas Park’s calisthenics area is as quiet as the residential area it’s located in (near Cambie and 20th). If there’s another person working out there at the same time as you, it’s busy.
All the equipment you see in the photo above is all you have to work with (though our last time there someone had left a car wheel, rims and all, that we threw around as part of our workout). But what else do you really need? We like to go here for plyometric leg workouts because of the super soft woodchip ground and the set of hurdles—we challenge you to see if you can bound over all five of them in just five consecutive two-footed hops.
More Vancouver Outdoor Gyms and Workouts
Memorial South Park
Equipment: Dip and pull-up bars, plus a bunch of those outdoor machines for older people
China Creek North Park
Pull-up bars, TRX-style rings, dip bars, boxes, and more in a circuit setup around a track.
When the weather outside is frightful and inside it’s so delightful, check out, Strength Training at Home: To Get Stronger Get Creative for some inspiration.