Vancouver is a city with a rich and diverse culture, a mix of Pacific Northwest outdoorsy-ness, First Nations history and art, and Chinese-Canadian and Asian-Canadian heritage. Vancouver's top cultural attractions each embody an aspect of Vancouver culture and are the perfect way for visitors to get a feel for what makes the city so exceptional.
I always tell people that if you want to see something in Vancouver that you can't see anywhere else in the world, go to UBC's Museum of Anthropology (MOA).
MOA's incredible collection of First Nations art and objects from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia includes massive totem poles, canoes, jewelry, ceramics, carved boxes, and ceremonial masks.
You can also see the iconic sculpture Raven and The First Men by the internationally-famous B.C. First Nations artist Bill Reid; a picture of the Raven and The First Men sculpture appears on the back of every Canadian $20 bill!
The most famous landmark in Vancouver, Stanley Park epitomizes Vancouver's love of the outdoors. Biking the Stanley Park Seawall is arguably one of the most "Vancouver" things you can do in the city! (And yes, you can rent bikes.)
Stanley Park attractions include the gorgeous Second Beach, Stanley Park Totem Poles, the free Stanley Park gardens, hiking trails, and the Vancouver Aquarium (one of the Top 10 Rainy Day Activities).
Vancouver's historic Chinatown is itself a cultural attraction, packed with amazing landmarks--including the world's narrowest building--shops, and restaurants.
One of Chinatown's top attraction is the beautiful, tranquil Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, one of Vancouver's Top 5 Gardens. In July and August, the Garden hosts outdoor, nighttime concerts as part of its Enchanted Evening Concert Series.
Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG)
The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) is one of the city's most beloved cultural attractions. Home to the most significant collection of paintings by the famous BC artist Emily Carr, VAG also hosts two-to-three international exhibitions a year.
If you're over 19, one of the best ways to see VAG is at night at FUSE (on select Friday nights). You can also see the gallery by donation on Tuesdays from 5pm - 9pm.
A summer tradition in Metro Vancouver, the giant, Asian-style night markets in Richmond, BC (just south of Vancouver) are fun for all ages. There are hundreds of vendors to browse, a mix of Asian and western foods, and family entertainment. The two biggest summer night markets open in mid-May and run through early October.
Food is such an important part of any culture. In Vancouver, food festivals--including January's Dine Out Vancouver and May's BC Spot Prawn Festival--are a wonderful way to get a taste (literally) of Vancouver's best local foods.