Kayakers bobble past, waving at friends on the beach. A floatplane shimmies over the park, diving to its watery landing strip. A chattery hubbub bounces off the gleaming glass towers that forest the city like latter-day totems.
When the Olympic Winter Games rolled into town in 2010, there was no shortage of jaw-dropping visuals, instantly inspiring people around the world to check out Canada's immigration procedures. Vancouver is, after all, one of the cities that routinely tops those lists of the world's greatest places to live. But beyond the breathtaking snowcapped crags, city-hugging beaches and dense waterfront forests lies a comparatively young metropolis that's still trying to discover its true identity - less than 150 years after a 'gassy' Englishman rowed in and kicked it all off with a makeshift pub.
Covering the city's main outdoor, museum and gallery attractions will certainly keep you busy for a few days. After that it's highly advisable to start digging beneath the surface to find out what really makes this laid-back lotusland tick. You'll discover that the 'real Vancouver' is in the clamorous Commercial Dr coffee shops, the hipster hangouts of SoMa, the gay-friendly streets of the West End, the kaleidoscopic thoroughfares of Chinatown and the historic, re-invigorated old streets of Gastown, where that original pub once stood.
Of course, the rest of the world will know all about this in 2010. Why not beat them to it by dropping by for your own urban adventure - coupled with a giant doorstep of outdoor attractions.
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in Vancouver
Vancouver city guide
Vancouver really is a city where you can ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon. Hit its highly individual neighborhoods for a different flavor on every day of your trip.
Ten of the world's best city hikes
Stretch your legs over hours or days, without leaving some of the world’s biggest cities. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Aerial shot of Rio de Janeiro surrounded by the Tijuca Forest. Image by Paddy Eckersley / Digital Vision / Getty Images.
British Columbia & Canadian Rockies travel guide
Soul-stirring mountains, mist-shrouded coastal forests and epic tooth-and-claw wildlife, this is Canada's outdoor wonderland.
Top 10 walking tours for globetrotting foodies
The best – and tastiest – way to fast-track your understanding of a city's cuisine is to embark on a guided walking tour that includes sampling the local food. Tuck into the best offerings from street food stalls, meet chefs at cafes and restaurants, and local producers at markets.
Vancouver Encounter guide
The Vancouver Encounter guide gives you twice the city in half the time. This pared-down number is ideal for quick trips - it's less accommodation, more neighbourhood highlights and the best of local knowledge.
Vancouver to Victoria and Butchart Gardens Tour by Bus
Explore Victoria's highlights on this small-group day trip from Vancouver. Enjoy a 1.5-hour cruise to Vancouver Island and then take a sightseeing coach tour of downtown Victoria, followed by free time to explore at your own pace by foot.
Vancouver Holiday Lights and Karaoke Trolley Tour
Celebrate the holiday season by singing along to your favorite holiday tunes aboard the Vancouver Holiday Karaoke Trolley. The festively decorated trolley will take you to two Vancouver holiday events – Bright Nights in Stanley Park and the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Skate through the holidays: the world's best seasonal ice rinks
This winter, the world is your ice rink! Here are a few of our favourite spots around the world (among many, many options) to get your skates on and glide into the holiday season.
British Columbia & Canadian Rockies - Planning (Chapter)
Your journey to British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus indepth info on adrenalin-pumping activities, jaw-dropping nature and a full menu of lively foodie and festival scenes.