Explorable neighborhoods, drink-and-dine delights and memorable cultural and outdoor activities framed by striking natural vistas – there's a superfluity of reasons to fall for this ocean-fringed metropolis.
Don't tell the rest of the country but Vancouver is Canada’s dine-out capital. Abandon your diet and dive right into North America's best Asian cuisine, from chatty Chinese restaurants to Vietnamese banh mi sandwich joints, or unleash your appetite on a rich smorgasbord of fresh-caught local seafood, including seasonal spot prawns and succulent wild salmon. The farm-to-table movement has also reinvigorated West Coast cuisine here – anyone for Fraser Valley lamb with a side of foraged morels? And we haven't even started on Vancouver’s thirst-slaking craft-beer scene, pouring the nation’s finest IPAs, sours and more.
Downtown is just the start of Vancouver. Walk or hop public transit and within minutes you'll be hanging with the locals in one of the city's diverse and distinctive mini-districts. Whether discovering the independent boutiques of Main St or the coffee shops of Commercial Dr, the redbrick bars of Gastown or the heritage-house beachfronts of Kitsilano, you'll find this city ideal for easy-access urban exploration. Just be sure to chat to the locals wherever you go: they might seem shy or aloof at first, but Vancouverites love talking up their town and regaling you with their personal recommendations.
There's a multi-textured canvas of creativity to pore over in this city. Dig deeply and you'll find an eclectically diverse grassroots scene that operates like a locavore movement for culture fans. Mingle with the regulars at indie festivals, sparkling theatrical events, toe-tapping live music, waterfront Shakespeare shows and a camera-ready menagerie of eye-popping public art. There’s also a savor-worthy menu of independent galleries, a large public gallery that’s about to break-ground on a grand new building, and a huge, party-like open-house art crawl that lures locals and visitors every November.
Those snow-capped giants peeking at you from between downtown's glass towers? They're less than 30 minutes away by car. Vancouverites really can ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon – although it's far more relaxing to chill out and take your time. The city's North Shore nature doorstep offers snow sports, mountain biking and rainforest hiking trails, while the city itself is studded with sandy shorelines, kayaking routes, verdant gardens and Canada's urban green-space jewel, the mighty and highly beloved Stanley Park.
Add visiting these must-see local hot spots and culture centers to your next travel itinerary.
Check out these fun-filled activities that the entire family can enjoy.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
Browse the various transportation options to make your trip that much easier when you arrive.
Ways to maximize the fun without spending a dime on your next great adventure.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Vancouver.
As you inch gingerly across one of the world's longest (140m) and highest (70m) pedestrian suspension bridges, swaying gently over roiling Capilano Canyon, remember that its thick steel cables are firmly embedded in concrete. That should steady your feet – unless there are teenagers stamping across. Added park attractions include a glass-bottomed cliffside walkway and an elevated canopy trail through the trees. This is a hugely popular attraction (hence the summer tour buses); try to arrive early during peak months so you can check out the historic exhibits, totem poles and tree-shaded nature trails on the other side of the bridge in relative calm. On your way out, peruse what must be BC's biggest souvenir shop for First Nations artworks, 'moose-dropping' choccies and a full range of T-shirts and ball caps. And if you're here during the winter holidays, the park is transformed with a sparkling array of more than one million fairy lights. If you're not sure how to get to Capilano, there's also a free year-round shuttle bus from downtown; check the website for scheduling details.
This highly popular green-thumbed oasis is a 22-hectare, 255,000-plant idyll that offers a strollable web of pathways weaving through specialized garden areas: the Rhododendron Walk blazes with color in spring, while the Korean Pavilion is a focal point for a fascinating Asian collection. Save time to get lost in the hedge maze and look out for the herons, owls and turtles that call the park and its ponds home. Informative guided tours are also offered here daily from April to October. There's an excellent onsite gift shop plus a popular cafe. If you're here from the start of December onwards, you'll also find one of the city's top Christmastime lures, complete with thousands of twinkling fairy lights and shimmering installations strung on and around the wintering plants. Visiting with nature-loving kids? VanDusen offers a wide range of short summer camps for children.
Illuminating Vancouver's crime-and-vice-addled history, this quirky museum has had a recent makeover, uncovering the former coroner's courtroom (spot the elaborate cross-hatched ceiling) and sprucing up exhibits including a spine-chilling gallery of real-life cases (weapons included). The star attraction is the old autopsy room, complete with preserved slivers of human tissue; bullet-damaged brain slices are among them. Add a Sins of the City area walking tour to learn all about Vancouver's salacious olden days; tours include museum entry. Aside from its walking tours, the museum hosts an inventive array of additional activities, including a speaker series, September to April movie screenings, and late-opening adult nights (bar service in the morgue included). Check the website events page for upcoming happenings.
Cresting the hill in Queen Elizabeth Park, this domed conservatory is a delightful rainy-day warm-up. At Vancouver's best-value paid attraction, you'll find tropical trees and plants bristling with hundreds of free-flying, bright-plumaged birds. Listen for the noisy resident parrots but also keep your eyes peeled for rainbow-hued Gouldian finches, shimmering African superb starlings and maybe even a dramatic Lady Amherst pheasant, snaking through the undergrowth. Ask nicely and the attendants might even let you feed the smaller birds from a bowl. Pick up a free bird-watcher's checklist from the front desk and record how many you see. The walkways are accessible for strollers, so this is a good place to bring the family.
A tranquil break from bustling Chinatown, this intimate 'garden of ease' reflects Taoist principles of balance and harmony. Entry includes an optional 45-minute guided tour, in which you'll learn about the symbolism behind the placement of the gnarled pine trees, winding covered pathways and ancient limestone formations. Look out for the colorful carp and lazy turtles in the jade-colored water. The adjacent Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park isn't quite as elaborate as its sister, but this free-entry spot is also a pleasant oasis with whispering grasses, a large fishpond and a small pagoda. Check the website for events including special exhibitions and summertime evening concerts.
North Van's former Presentation House Gallery renamed itself and relocated to this dramatic, sawtooth-roofed waterfront landmark in 2017, providing greatly increased wall space for the multiple exhibitions staged here throughout the year. Photoconceptualism remains a focus but expect thought-provoking contemporary art installations and evocative Aboriginal exhibits as well. There are free 45-minute tours every Saturday at 2pm. On our visit, a new North Vancouver Museum was also under construction across the street. Check out the panoramic second-floor views over the water and save time to visit the bookstore and lobby-level gift shop, complete with Polaroid cameras, artisan jewelry and papaya-themed jigsaws shaped like – you guessed it – papayas.
A fortified trading post since 1827, this is where James Douglas announced the creation of British Columbia in 1858, giving the site a legitimate claim to being the province's birthplace. With costumed reenacters, recreated artisan workshops and a gold-panning area that's very popular with kids – who also enjoy charging around the wooden battlements – it's ideal for families. If you need an introduction before you start exploring, there's an entertaining time-travel-themed movie presentation on offer. And make sure you check the website before you arrive: there's a wide array of events that bring the past evocatively back to life, including a summertime evening campfire program that will take you right back to the pioneer days of the 1800s.
This popular farmyard attraction includes plenty of hands-on displays, plus a collection of more than 200 birds and domestic farm animals. Your wide-eyed kids can pet some animals, watch the milking demonstrations and feed some squawking, ever-hungry ducks and chickens; don't miss Petunia the pot-bellied pig. The highlight is the daily round-up (3:30pm), when hungry critters streak back into their barn for dinner. Book ahead for a behind-the-scenes tour where your sprogs can learn what it's like to be a farmer, from grooming to collecting the eggs and preparing the feed. The $28 fee covers one adult and one child.
Managed by the Wild Bird Trust of BC, this delightful nature escape is surprisingly accessible from Vancouver yet it feels like a million miles from the city. Its tangle of trees, winding paths and protected wetland beach lure swallows, ospreys and bald eagles – and there are free guided nature walks the second Saturday of every month (10am); check their Facebook page for upcoming themes and other events. It's a nature-lovers dream; on one of our visits a deer and fawn wandered languidly across the pathway in front of us.
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