Situated 35 minutes southeast of Vancouver and directly north of the US border, Surrey (population 461,000) attracts visitors with its seamless mix of abundant greenery and urban amenities. From beautiful parks to big-box shopping, from art galleries and museums to golf courses and spectator sports like hockey and rodeo, British Columbia’s second-largest city is a multicultural 21st-Century destination. It’s full of young families with active lifestyles and diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Things to Do in Surrey
Surrey bills itself as “The City of Parks,” and backs that up with more than 600 parks and greenbelts. Go bird watching at Blackie Spit, stroll with an ice cream at Crescent Beach, fish for trout at Green Timbers Urban Forest, or ride the miniature train at Bear Creek Park.
Bear Creek Park also hosts the Surrey Arts Centre, with rotating exhibitions featuring local and international artists. Check out live theatre here, too, or try the Bell Centre for Performing Arts for dance performances and concerts.
Avid shoppers gravitate to Guildford Town Centre, BC’s second-biggest shopping mall with 200-plus retailers and a 12-screen movie theatre. Central City Shopping Centre and Semiamhoo Shopping Centre also abound with brand-name and specialty outlets. Score quality used goods at the Cloverdale Antique Mall and weekly Cloverdale Flea Market.
Surrey’s past comes alive at Historic Stewart Farm, a 19th-Century farmhouse with gardens and orchards. Interpreters in Victorian costumes show off the vintage wood-burning stove and family china.
Train-spotters, head to the Sullivan Station compound to experience the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s restored railway cars. Or visit the Surrey Museum for interactive displays on Surrey history, and First Nations artifacts.
Catering to different aptitudes and budgets, Surrey offers seven major golf courses, including Northview Golf & Country Club, a former PGA Tour venue. Hockey fans can cheer on the BC Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles, and the whole family can party cowboy-style at the annual Cloverdale Rodeo. Catch live harness racing at Fraser Downs Racetrack.
History of Surrey
Surrey, encompassing 317sq km/190sq mi, was first inhabited by Coast Salish peoples such as the Kwantlen Nation. Spanish and English explorers arrived in the 1790s, but only in the 1850s did European settlers arrive and start farming in substantial numbers.
Surrey was incorporated as a municipality in 1879. The late 19th Century also brought the railway, logging industry, schools and expanded housing.
In the 20th Century, Surrey’s six main town centres were solidified: Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, South Surrey, and Whalley. Surrey’s agrarian economy would gradually expand into industrial parks and manufacturing.
After World War II, bridges were built to connect Surrey to other Metro Vancouver communities. The arrival of the SkyTrain rapid transit link in the 1990s, along with widespread immigration, helped bring Surrey up to speed for the new millennium.
Surrey’s Multicultural Community
Close to 50 percent of Surrey’s population consists of visible minorities. For visitors, that means a colourful diversity of shopping and dining experiences.
Shop for Indian clothing, jewellery, and food in Surrey’s “Punjabi Market” district, or attend the Vaisakhi Parade (April), celebrating the Sikh community’s heritage. The Surrey Fusion Festival (July) has 60-odd pavilions that showcase the culture and entertainment of everywhere from China to Mexico.
Hungry? Year-round, savour fine French cuisine at the Old Surrey Restaurant, Germanic fare at Elisabeth’s Chalet, or Greek specialties at Pelagos Greek Restaurant.
Famous People in Surrey
Surrey has produced some notable athletes. Daniel Igali, a 2000 Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler, lives in Surrey. National Hockey League players who were either born or played in Surrey include Bob Rouse, Gary Nylund, Mark Janssens, Colton Gillies, and Scott Gomez.
Sultry pop singer Elise Estrada, who has toured with Rihanna and Enrique Iglesias, is another name to watch from Surrey. Celebrity watchers were excited when the movie New Moon (starring Robert Pattinson), based on the Twilight book series, was shot in South Surrey. The TV series Smallville is frequently filmed in Cloverdale.
For more information about activities, directions, and availability in
Surrey, stop in at the Surrey Visitor Centre. It’s currently located at #175-13450 102 Avenue (in the Central City Tower), and will relocate to 790 176 St (near the US border) as of December 2009.
Don’t miss the new BC Visitor Centre @ Peach Arch (298 Hwy 99), located at the Peace Arch border crossing. The dynamically designed, $4.6-million wood-and-stone complex offers reservations, information, and ticketing for accommodations, transportation, and attractions, plus a gift shop and mini-theatre with video footage showcasing BC’s beauty.