The gorgeous coastal city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, surrounded by the North Shore Mountains, offers many nature-based activities for every type of traveler, from biking in popular Stanley Park to skiing on Grouse Mountain. As one of Canada's most ethnically diverse cities, Vancouver is full of culturally interesting things to do, such as exploring history and architecture at the Vancouver Art Gallery or having some great authentic food in Chinatown or on a popular food truck tour.
Stanley Park, Vancouver's largest urban park, is as cherished by locals as it is by tourists. Bordering Downtown, the park features beautiful gardens, trails, beaches, and historic totems. Stanley Park also houses the Vancouver Aquarium and the scenic Seawall—the longest nonstop waterfront path in the world, perfect for walking, biking, skating, and rollerblading.
Granville Island is a popular international tourist attraction and one of the city's main bases for arts and culture. Located on False Creek, an inlet in the middle of Vancouver with views of Downtown, the 37-acre island is home to about 300 businesses, including shops, restaurants, and theaters, as well as the popular Granville Island Public Market, where visitors can pick up local souvenirs and tasty treats any day of the week.
Historic and vibrant, Vancouver's Chinatown came to be in the late 1800s and is considered one of the largest Chinatowns in the western hemisphere. The area near Downtown is easy to walk around; explore the many places offering Asian cuisine and shop for trinkets, antiques, and clothes. Don't miss the tranquility of the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver to learn about Chinese culture and history.
Found in northeast Downtown, Gastown is one of Vancouver's oldest neighborhoods, packed with historic architecture and cobblestone streets, and some of the city's best restaurants, stores, galleries, and nightlife spots. It's also the place to shop for high-end interior design and home goods.
Situated just north of downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is a ski-and-snowboard destination in the winter and an outdoor entertainment venue in the summer. Facilities include restaurants and hotels and an endangered animal refuge. For incredible views of the city, mountains, islands, ocean, and beyond, don't miss the one-mile Skyride aerial tram system.
AddressCapilano Suspension Bridge, North Vancouver, BC, Canada
About 20 minutes north of Downtown is one of the most unique Vancouver attractions: A swaying, scenic suspension bridge built in 1889 and stretching 70 meters (230 feet) above the Capilano River. Adventurers will also like the other park activities, such as the Cliffwalk, suspended walkways placed 300 feet high (91 meters), sticking out from the granite cliff above Capilano River.
Luxury brands and inexpensive imports alike can be found at Vancouver's best shopping destinations, which include downtown's famous Robson Street, which has everything from Canadian stores to international brand names. Multicultural centers like Little India / Punjabi Market are good for unique South Asian food products, inexpensive clothing, and jewelry.
Located in North Vancouver, Deep Cove is one of the most beautiful destinations in all of the Lower Mainland. Visit in the summer to go kayaking and wildlife-watching: Eagles, seals, and sea lions are just some of the animals commonly found here. A small commercial area has a local theater, boutiques, galleries, and eateries offering everything from Greek to Japanese cuisine.
The year-round VanDusen Botanical Garden is 55 acres of winding paths, ponds full of lily pads, and an astounding array of over 7,500 global plant species. It's one of the best gardens in Vancouver, along with Queen Elizabeth Park and Nitobe Memorial Garden. Enjoy the Truffles Kitchen cafe, the Shaughnessy Restaurant, and a gift shop in the garden.
Explore Canadian history and culture at the city's world-class museums and galleries, including the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology (MOA), which features First Nations and Coast Salish art and artifacts unique to the region, plus totems and sculptures. Another top attraction is the Vancouver Art Gallery Downtown. The family-friendly Science World offers many interactive science and technology activities for kids.
A former industrial district which has transformed into a trendy neighborhood, Yaletown in southeast Downtown offers several of Vancouver's hottest stores, nightclubs, cafes, and restaurants. Check out the locals at the gourmet food market Urban Fare or enjoy a picnic at Cooper's Park or Helmcken Park.
For a wonderfully scenic 1.5 hour drive, take the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99) from Downtown to the top ski town of Whistler. You'll pass waterfalls and hundreds of mountain biking trails, and you can make an educational stop at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre housed in an environmentally-friendly building.
Day-trip lovers will be in heaven at the Sunshine Coast, located 40 minutes by ferry from Vancouver. Though it is part of the southern BC mainland, the Sunshine Coast has the feel of relaxing island living: It offers trails, parks, lakes, rocky uncrowded beaches, over 100 artist studios, quaint towns, and charming shops.
From May through October is a great time for families to visit the Richmond Night Market, North America's largest night market. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, the market offers many food options, live music, martial arts performances, and other fun happenings.
Vancouver has many venues for live music, and celebrity artists often perform here. One beloved place to catch a show is the Commodore Ballroom which dates back to 1929 and is a display of the Art Deco style from that era. A diversity of famous artists and house bands play at the Commodore Ballroom.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park is one of Vancouver's pretty parks for hiking, running, horseback riding, biking, picnicking, and exploring. You'll find everything from beaches and creeks to forests, along with a plethora of plants and animals in this dog-friendly park.
For an engaging mix of vintage clothing stores, international eats, theater shows, and beyond, go to Commercial Drive, one of Vancouver’s oldest and highly multicultural streets in the city's northeast. “The Drive" is a good place to find Italian delis, veggie-friendly restaurants, child-friendly parks, and more.
Between May and October are the best times to rent a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddleboard (SUP) on False Creek, the short inlet in central Vancouver. Enjoy the tranquil water and watching ferries floating as you pass by cool areas like Yaletown and Granville Island.
Canada Place—a national landmark building on the waterfront—is known for its five creative white designs like sails. It's also where the FlyOver Canada flight simulation attraction and the seaplane terminal are located. Restaurants along the water boast amazing views of the North Shore mountains and Stanley Park and are perfect spots to view planes taking off.
Delight in a Food Tour
A food tour is a fun way to become familiar with the international eats the city offers. Edible Canada and Vancouver Foodie Tours have promotions such as Granville Island Market Tour, Gastronomic Gastown Tour, Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour, and World’s Best Food Truck Tour. You can even design your own food truck tour.
Davie Street Village—centrally located in the West End of Vancouver—is the hub of the city's gay culture. Davie Street is the main drag, lined with most of the city's GLBT nightspots and B&Bs. Little Sister's, one of North America's iconic GLBT bookstores and a community resource center, has been in Davie Village since 1983.
Just one hour from Downtown and a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, Bowen Island is a nice day trip for soaking up some relaxation and small-town charm. The island offers breathtaking ocean and mountain views, opportunities for kayaking and cycling, galleries and museums, and a variety of eateries.
About 15 minutes north of Downtown by car, beautiful Lynn Canyon Park has been a favorite hiking area for more than a century. The park features not only trails but lovely swimming holes and waterfalls. As an alternative to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is a free attraction for the adventurous.
See the Sunset Over English Bay
English Bay is a gorgeous body of water west of the downtown peninsula and False Creek; sunset lovers can't miss the public beach near Stanley Park found at the end of Denman Street. On a clear day you can catch dazzling sunsets over English Bay and see street performers and international crowds.