Surrey is a beautiful suburb of Metro Vancouver, with a penchant for clean, green living, and wide open spaces. The second largest city in British Columbia, Surrey boasts a population of 508,404, and is also the province’s third largest city by area, after Abbotsford and Prince George. It’s booming industrial and technology sectors make it an up-and-coming alternative to living in nearby Burnaby or Vancouver, and its low population density, dedication to sustainability, and its proud agricultural history make it feel as though you have room to breathe and stretch out. Combined this makes Surrey an ideal location to move to and start or grow your family.
Arts / Heritage
Surrey is home to a number of dynamic festivals and arts events. Due to the fact that surrey boasts one of British Columbia’s youngest populations – with nearly one third of its residents under the age of 18 – Surrey is home to the Surrey International Children’s Festival, which takes place at Bear Creek Park and the Surrey Arts Centre, is meant to inspire young hearts and minds through the arts. The festival is aimed at school groups, families and children, and 2016 features ticketed performances from the Netherlands, the USA and Canada, as well as circus and clay arts, world rhythm music and movement and storytelling sessions.
Surrey is also home to the second largest art gallery in Metro Vancouver; the Surrey Art Gallery is a contemporary arts museum that has specialized in exhibitions and education in contemporary art since 1975. The gallery features local, national and international works, and is home to a variety of diverse programming options that include digital art workshops; UrbanScreen, Canada’s largest commercial urban screen; talks, symposiums, and demonstrations.
Located within the regional arts hub of the Surrey Arts Centre, the Surrey Civic Theatres offers artistic performances and rental opportunities for community and professional theatre groups. Events slated for 2016 already include Preteen Acting Classes, Intensive Musical Theatre clubs, and Art of Theatre, which blends visual arts with theatre. Other performance venues include the Bell Centre for the Performing Arts, the and the Chandos Pattison Auditorium.
Boasting an impressive 200 parks, Surrey is no stranger to outdoor recreation and green space.
Historically relevant, Surrey’s Kennedy Trail was the first settler-built trail in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. It was first proposed in 1860 to then Governor James Douglas.
Known as the birthplace of Reforestation in BC, Surrey’s Green Timbers Urban Forest is a 183 hectare urban park that is home to wetlands, lakes (stocked with Rainbow Trout and open all year round), grassland meadows and nature trails all within a world class second growth forest. The province’s first reforestation initiative took place here in 2931 when one square mile of ancient forests by the Fraser Highway was replanted. The Green Timbers nature trail system accounts for about 5 kilometers of gorgeous pathways and scenic vistas.
Surrey’s famous Crescent Beach was opened in 1909, when developers working on the Great Northern Railway first opened the coastline to the public. Aside from stunning beach access, Crescent is also home to a trail system, an off-the-leash dog park, and tons of parking. Lifeguards are on duty here from Monday-Sunday 11am-7pm.
Blackie Spit Park is a stunning city park and coastline located nearby Crescent Beach, named after the dramatic spit that extends into Mud Bay at the mouth of the Nicomekl River. Blackie Spit offers some of the best bird-watching in Canada, with over 200 species of bird observable in a calendar year.
Recreation and Culture
Named the Cultural Capital of Canada for 2008 by the federal government, Surrey held Fusion, a three-day multicultural festival focusing on music and food culture, that has since become an annual event. This free event attracts about 60,000 attendees every year and is held at Holland Park. The festivals set up is arranged into 30 cultural pavilions, representing a different geographic region of the world. 2016 will feature over 70 performances on 4 stages over 2 days.
Surrey also showcases the largest Canada Day celebration of its kind in Western Canada. The event is presented every year at the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre and is regularly attended by 100,000 people. 2016 features Tom Cochrane and Red Rider. The event includes amusement rides, a tea ceremony, Science World demonstrations, and a massive fireworks show.
Surrey also boasts Party for the Planet, British Columbia’s largest Earth Day celebration which takes place annually at Surrey City Hall Plaza in late April.
Dating back to 1888, the town centre of Cloverdale within Surrey has hosted the second largest rodeo in Canada after the Calgary Stampede, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, every May long weekend. The event features many agricultural/horticultural exhibits, a western tradeshow, and the Pacific Northwest Firefighter Combat challenge on 150 acres of land at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
Since 1991, the Surrey International Writer’s Conference is held annually in Guilford Town Centre, in Surrey. It brings many international publishers, authors, writers and editors together from around the world.
Surrey’s close proximity to that of Vancouver and Burnaby have classified it in the past as a popular bedroom city. Commuters in and out of Surrey benefit from its SkyTrain link, Expo Line, which provides 30-minute transportation to downtown Vancouver via 4 stations, Scott Road, Gateway, Surrey Central, and King George. As of 2015, the City of Surrey is proposing a new 27 kilometer light rail line service to radiate from Surrey Central to Guildford, Newton and Fleetwood Town Centres.
Surrey is also serviced by three international airports within 32 kilometers, in Vancouver, Abbotsford, and Bellingham International Airports.
In 2008 to further Surrey’s reputation as an epicenter of green initiatives, the City introduced the Surrey Sustainability Charter, a lengthy document that aims to chronicle and document the City’s urban development for the next 50 years. With an emphasis on reducing car traffic, that requires a well-established transit system.
In 2008, a subsidiary of the Sustainability Charter was introduced, and includes the Transportation Strategic Plan, which is further broken into a walking and cycling plan.
Of the city’s population of people 25 and older, about 24% of people hold a post-secondary degree or higher, on par with the national average. The City’s educational board, the School District 36 Surrey oversees 101 public elementary schools, and 19 public secondary schools, making it the largest school board in British Columbia, with around 650,000 student enrolled. In fact, the District is also the City’s largest employer – with over 9,650 employees.
There is only one Francophone public school in operation in Surrey, école Gabrielle-Roy is operated by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique.
Surrey is also home to a number of post-secondary institutions, including the third campus of Simon Fraser University which opened in 2002. SFU took over the space originally built for TechBC, a technical university proposed by the former NDP-led provincial government. It specializes in courses dedicated to Health Sciences, Applied Sciences, Criminology, World Literature, Business Administration, and Interactive Arts and Tech.
Surrey is also home to the Kwantlen Polytechnic University, which opened in 1981. It also encompasses satellite campuses in Langley and Richmond BC, and a trades and tech centre in the Cloverdale Town Centre of Surrey.
Surrey is also home to a number of private post-secondary schools including Sprott Shaw College, CDI College, MTI Community College, Stenberg College, Academy of Learning, Surrey Community College, Discovery Community College and Vancouver Career College.
Surrey Libraries is comprised of 9 branches throughout the area, and offers many programs and services for residents.
A Strong Economy
As one of the largest industrial centers in British Columbia, Surrey is home to a budding high technology, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, health, education, agriculture and arts sectors. Although not quite as large as Vancouver’s technology sector, Surrey’s emerging tech community could act as a base to jump-start ideas into various start-up’s led by local inventors and investors.
As of 2010, Surrey could also boast having the highest median household income in the province at $78,283, compared to the provincial average of $71,660. South Surrey’s Rosemary Heights neighbourhood is the most financially well-off in the entire Metro Vancouver area, with an average household income nearly doubling the regional average.
Agriculture and farming has long been a backbone industry of Surrey. Approximately one third of Surrey’s land mass has been preserved and designated as farmland and is used for production of local foods. Agriculture employs about 3,300 people in Surrey. Main agricultural sectors in Surrey include poultry, dairy, berry and vegetable production. The Agriculture sector also connects to that of the Tech sector, collaborating with a number of timber-based manufacturing companies that cut lumber for various BC logging firms. Wind turbine manufacturing is also a considerable industry in Surrey, as many locally based environmental firms are continually trying to contribute to the City’s growing green-energy sector.
Healthcare also makes a large impact of Surrey’s economy and is home to over 900 health-related businesses. Fraser Health employs almost 4,100 people.
Surrey is a great place to call home if you’re an advocate for active, green living and sprawling public spaces. It’s dedication to a sustainable future, coupled with a strong economy and a vibrant arts and cultural community make Surrey a regional hotspot of Metro Vancouver.
For more guides of the lower mainland, be sure not to miss:
- The Ultimate Guide to Coquitlam
- The Ultimate Guide to Pitt Meadows
- The Ultimate Guide to Port Coquitlam
- The The Ultimate to Tsawwassen Bc
- The Ultimate Guide to Langley Bc
- The Ultimate Guide to Maple Ridge
- The Ultimate Guide To Whistler
- The Ultimate Guide to Richmond
- The Ultimate Guide to Burnaby
- The Ultimate Guide to North Vancouver
- The Ultimate Guide to West Vancouver
- The Ultimate Guide to New Westminster
- The Ultimate Guide to Port Moody