When it comes to Canada’s incredible province of British Columbia, Vancouver is undoubtedly the most popular destination for tourists. However, just a short drive from the city lies an underrated gem that is often overlooked: Surrey. This vibrant city offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and attractions, making it a must-visit destination.
While Vancouver and Surrey are both considered part of the Metro Vancouver area, they are two distinct cities, and each have unique histories, cultures, and identities. Surrey comprises six neighborhoods and has been steadily gaining popularity for its high-energy entrepreneurship, cultural richness, and some of the best South Asian cuisine around!
My husband and I visited Surrey this past October and found it to be a fantastic city to visit as an alternative to or in addition to visiting Vancouver.
If you’ve been thinking about vacationing in Vancouver, you might want to consider Surrey instead. Why? Let me give you the details.
Discover Surrey BC hosted my visit to Surrey. All opinions are my own.
1. Surrey Is A Hidden Gem
While everyone knows about Vancouver, many people don’t know about Surrey. I consider Surrey a hidden gem of British Columbia. That may soon change. Recently, they were named one of the “World’s Next Food Cities.”
While it is twice the size of Vancouver, it currently has a smaller population. They also have fewer tourists and visitors in the area. So, it is less crowded than Vancouver.
2. Natural Beauty
Surrey boasts a stunning natural landscape that will take your breath away. There are over 250 parks, gardens, and nature reserves to explore, including the serene Serpentine Fen Nature Reserve, the picturesque Tynehead Regional Park, and Redwood Park. You can hike on scenic trails, take a relaxing bike ride, or enjoy a picnic in the beautiful surroundings.
The city offers plenty of options for you to get in touch with the great outdoors beyond the busy city life.
3. Diverse Cultural Scene
One of Surrey’s highlights is its diverse cultural scene, with various ethnicities prominently represented, mainly from India, China, the Philippines, and other Asian countries.
The Surrey Fusion Festival is also a must-visit event celebrating the city’s diversity with food, music, and dance performances.
The city’s cultural landscape is jam-packed with world-class gardens, museums, and art centers like the Surrey Art Gallery & Museum and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Float through the beautiful gardens, take in the intriguing exhibitions, and witness how art can bring cultures together.
4. Foodie Lovers Dream
The culinary scene in Surrey will please the most discriminating foodie. Surrey’s Spice Trail showcases the vibrant and diverse multicultural dining scene. They have some of the best Indian restaurants and Southeast Asian cuisine in the area. From savory curries to aromatic satays, you can try a range of mouth-watering dishes that will leave you wanting more.
After enjoying Surrey’s amazing emerging food scene, you will understand why it is considered one of the top emerging cities for food lovers.
5. Family-Friendly Attractions
Surrey offers plenty of family-friendly activities perfect for a day out with the kids. The Bear Creek Park & Miniature Train is popular with a miniature train ride, petting zoo, and playground.
There is also the Surrey Nature Centre, where kids can learn about nature through interactive displays and programs.
You can hit the links at one of Surrey’s world-famous golf courses. And if you’re feeling adventurous, head to the Treetop Adventure Park, which features ziplining, aerial obstacle courses, and climbing walls.
I loved the Surrey Heritage Rail Adventure. They have many immersive and hands-on exhibits and activities. Your visit begins at the Cloverdale railway station. You have an opportunity to ride the fully restored antique B.C. Electric Interurban Tram.
Then zip down the tracks on the open-air Speeder, the Honey Bee Express. The Quad-Car accommodates four people, and you pump with your arms to move the car along the track.
Finally, you get to ride the Velocipede. This unusual apparatus allows one person to pump with their hands and travel along the track. There are only a few of these left in the world. Once you ride it, you get a “Distinguished” button.
The adventure continues with a tour of the shop and watching a movie in the 1207 Theatre (another interurban car)
6. Festivals and Events
Surrey hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, making it a lively destination no matter when you visit. The Surrey Spark (Formerly known as Surrey’s International Children’s Festival) is a popular event that features music, theatre, and dance performances for kids.
7. Lower Costs
The lower costs are one of the most significant advantages of choosing a getaway in Surrey. From hotels to dining, you’ll find that prices are much more reasonable in Surrey compared to neighboring Vancouver. This means you can stretch your budget further and enjoy more activities and attractions during your trip.
8. Great Location
Surrey’s proximity to Vancouver makes it an excellent destination for visitors looking to explore more than just one city in British Columbia. With excellent public transportation, it’s only a short bus, train, or taxi ride from Vancouver. Take a day trip to Vancouver to explore Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the Granville Island Public Market.
Surrey offers a suburban shopping experience, with several large outdoor shopping centers and big box stores. The city’s largest shopping center is Guildford Town Centre, which features a mix of high-end and mid-range retailers.
Other popular shopping destinations in Surrey include Central City, a large indoor mall in the city’s downtown core, and the new Grandview Heights Shopping Centre, which features a mix of restaurants and retailers.
While Vancouver is known for its luxury shopping options, Surrey offers more practical and budget-friendly options. Both cities offer a mix of shopping destinations catering to various tastes and budgets.
Where to Stay
When we visited, we stayed at the Civic Hotel on Central Avenue. The Civic is a boutique hotel and part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. This great location provided picturesque views of the city and Civic Plaza. It provided easy access to various things to do and see in the vibrant city of Surrey. The Civic also houses the Dominion Bar + Kitchen, which offers an innovative menu including “New Canadian” entrees and fun signature cocktails. If you’re planning a trip to British Columbia, don’t overlook Surrey as an option. Surrey has everything you need for a memorable vacation with its stunning natural beauty, cultural richness, family-friendly attractions, festivals and events, and lower costs.