Aside from its stunning natural beauty, Vancouver has a laid-back charm that makes it one of the most popular Canadian cities to visit. From museums to hiking trails, Vancouver has a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
Covering 1,000 acres, Vancouver's Stanley Park is a downtown sanctuary that offers city dwellers and visitors a multitude of indoor and outdoor activities. The park features a 5.5-mile seawall that runs the perimeter and provides a perfectly flat, paved path for rollerblading, biking, jogging, and hiking. In addition, you'll find the Vancouver Aquarium and oodles of other recreational facilities in Stanley Park.
Convenient for Robson Street shopping and right next door to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, the Vancouver Art Gallery features historic and contemporary international and Canadian art with an emphasis on British Columbia's artistic heritage. Don't miss the works of Emily Carr, a cherished West Coast artist who depicted the landscape and villages of the First Nations cultures.
Located at the edge of downtown Vancouver, this 37-acre island was once an industrial area but today is a charming destination for shoppers and culture seekers. Granville Island features a wonderful public market, many artsy shops, and galleries, a theater, restaurants, a brewery, and a hotel. Granville Island is open year-round and is free to visit. Getting to or from Granville Island is a good opportunity to take the inexpensive Aquabus, a fleet of small electric ferries that transport people across False Creek and a great way to see and get around Vancouver.
Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
Visit Canada's largest aquarium, the Vancouver Aquarium, which houses more than 70,000 animals in 116,000 square feet of facility space. Open daily, the aquarium, which is in Stanley Park, charges admission but profits go toward supporting its mission to conserve aquatic life. Translink bus and Skytrain public transit operate year-round.
English Bay is located in the West End of downtown Vancouver. This waterside neighborhood is at once lively and quaint and a great spot to walk around, shop or have a drink. The main crossroads are Davie and Denman streets. Don't miss watching the sunset at the Boathouse Restaurant while enjoying a Bloody Caesar or a glass of local wine.
Just a 20-minute drive out of downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is a year-round destination for people looking for adventure or just a great view. Ambitious people can tackle the Grouse Grind, a two-mile hike straight up the face of Grouse Mountain. Grouse Mountain is also a ski hill in winter, with 26 runs that offer a variety of terrain. Other attractions include the Grouse Mountain Skyride, ice skating, snowshoeing, helicopter rides, a conservation center, a top-of-the-mountain restaurant and more. (Capilano Suspension Bridge is only 10 minutes away from Grouse and on the same bus route. The two work well together as a day's worth of Vancouver adventures.)
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is more than just a bridge; there's actually a whole park with activities, history, and culture. The park is a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River. The park offers guided nature tours, a cliff walk, treetop adventure, the Kids' Rainforest Explorer program, and Living Forest exhibit.
Robson Street is a popular shopping street in downtown Vancouver that has a good array of trendy shops for young people, such as Sephora, Zara, plus local brands Lululemon and Aritzia. Robson Street is near the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and also boasts numerous restaurants, including Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, and plenty of Korean restaurants and ramen joints for hungry shoppers to enjoy.
Yaletown is a historic warehouse district on the edge of downtown Vancouver on False Creek. The area was gentrified in the 1980s and now has a hip feel, with a mix of residential, business, office, restaurants, boutiques, cafes, services and more. Try visiting Yaletown in the evening when the bars and restaurants are at their most lively. Yaletown is one of the Aquabus stops, a fleet of small ferries that transport people across False Creek and are a great way to see and get around Vancouver.
Vancouver has plenty of access to the waterfront, with 11 miles of beaches that will appeal to a range of visitors. Many of the beaches have boardwalks for cycling or blading, playgrounds, pools, kayak and windsurf rentals, volleyball courts, barbecues and all of the beaches have lifeguards on duty from late May to Labour Day. Three beaches are designated "quiet" and amplified music is prohibited.
Gastown is one of Vancouver's oldest districts and boasts many beautiful refurbished buildings, cobblestone lanes, and the world's first steam-powered clock. People who enjoy slightly more eclectic shopping will enjoy the designers' shops, artists' studios, galleries plus restaurants and bars. Visitors should be aware that Gastown borders a part of town that is known for the presence of drug users and everything that goes along with that. Best to have a good map and not meander without keeping your bearings.
Kayak False Creek
Rent a kayak at the top of False Creek and paddle down the protected inlet, passing by Science World, British Columbia Place, Yaletown, and Granville Island. Keep an eye out for the little ferries that travel up and down the creek, and stop along the way for a waterside drink or photo stop.
Take a Whale Watching Trip
Take a whale watching trip from Granville Island and spot orcas and dolphins in the Strait of Georgia, only a short boat ride from downtown. Learn all about local sea life whilst taking in the scenery as you take a trip through English Bay, past Spanish Banks and UBC on your way towards Vancouver Island.
Spend a Rainy Day in a Museum
Vancouver's beautiful surroundings are thanks to the temperate rainforest that it's situated in and this means...rainy days! But the city is also home to some memorable museums so it's an ideal opportunity to head to Vanier Park in Kitsilano to learn about the universe at the H.R.MacMillan Space Centre, discover more about the city at the Museum of Vancouver and find out about Vancouver's nautical history at the Maritime Museum.
Learn at Science World
Housed in the iconic "golf ball" dome, one of Vancouver's best-loved landmarks, Science World at TELUS World of Science is an interactive family-friendly museum that teaches kids big and small all about the wonderful world of scientific discovery. Look out for adults-only "After Dark" events to enjoy the exhibits with a mature crowd (and some wine or beer!)
Have a Hipster Day Out on Main Street
Main Street is only a short bus ride from downtown but is home to block after block of cool cafes, trendy stores, and buzzing bars. Try a cocktail at the Shameless Tiki Room, pick up some quirky paper products at Regional Assembly of Text and enjoy delicious veggie food at Acorn.
Catch a Show on Commerical Drive
Commercial Drive is another hipster haven that can be reached via a short SkyTrain ride from downtown. Head here for consignment and vintage store shopping and global food options, then take in a show at Havana, a Cuban style restaurant that also features music, comedy, and theater shows.
Visit Van Dusen Botanical Garden
Stop and smell the flowers at Van Dusen Botanical Garden. An easy bus ride or drive from downtown, Van Dusen is spectacular any time of the year but it is in full bloom in spring and fall. During the holidays, the garden is illuminated with millions of lights in a festive display of color.