Patricia Miller / AAA
IntroductionVancouver has won many accolades as one of the top cities in the Americas, and for very good reasons. Set against a backdrop of majestic snowcapped mountains, the city lies on a peninsula that juts into the Pacific Ocean. This spectacular setting allows for a plethora of outdoor adventures, including skiing, sailing, hiking, scuba diving, fishing and more.
Explore cosmopolitan Vancouver's diverse neighborhoods, ranging from trendy Yaletown to dynamic Gastown to Granville Island with its farmer's market, where more than 150 vendors vie for your attention with such treats as sourdough baguettes, homemade goat cheese, spicy sausages and crisp apples. If you're in the mood for fine dining, indulge in fresh regional seafood, a Vancouver specialty, at one of the city's first-rate restaurants.
Must-sees include Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain. Stanley Park is a veritable oasis with its beaches,gardens, woodlands, and splendid views of the waterfront, while the view from a gondola atop Grouse Mountain will leave you breathless. For a memento of your trip, shop for some indigenous art at local galleries. With all that Vancouver has to offer, your most difficult task will be choosing what to do during your visit.
In DepthYou're hiking along a wide, bark-mulched trail through an old-growth forest of towering Western red cedar, Douglas fir and Western hemlock. Salmonberry, huckleberry and bog buckbean grow together in luxurious tangles. A raccoon ambles by, giving you an inquisitive look. A goose honks in the distance. You stop and ask, “Wait—am I really in a city?” That question is answered when you emerge from Stanley Park to the bustling Georgia Street.
There's no denying the beauty of Vancouver's natural setting. Vistas of green coastal mountains and the cerulean Strait of Georgia were tailor-made to grace a postcard. And downtown is a marvel: skyscrapers, human hubbub and quiet, tree-lined residential streets all coexist harmoniously in one tightly packed cityscape.
No doubt the southwestern British Columbia wilderness impressed Capt. George Vancouver. An officer in the British Royal Navy, he sailed into Burrard Inlet on June 13, 1792, while searching for the Northwest Passage. Vancouver named the inlet after his friend Sir Harry Burrard, a member of Parliament, but lent his own moniker to the city and the large island that lies between the mainland and the Pacific.
Vancouver was incorporated in 1886, quite a young city given its present status. A Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train arrived in 1887, showering spectators with soot and cinders. By the 1890s transpacific shipping inaugurated the city as a major world port.
That era produced colorful characters like John Deighton, aka “Gassy Jack,” a saloon owner who set up shop in Gastown, the city's oldest section. The name is a reference to Deighton's reputation for tall-tale bluster. His likeness stands at the circle where Water, Alexander, Powell and Carrall streets converge.
Mandarin and Cantonese are the mother tongues in almost a third of Vancouver's homes; only San Francisco's and New York's Chinatowns are bigger. The Millennium Gate at Pender and Taylor streets is a symbolic entryway that incorporates both eastern and western symbols. Between 1890 and 1920 Asian immigrants settled on back streets like Shanghai Alley off Pender Street; wall panels tell the story of their lives. Holding out your arms is almost enough to embrace the Sam Kee Building at 8 Pender St., which is only 6 feet wide.
Vancouverites represent a melting pot of nationalities. The original inhabitants of coastal British Columbia were the Northwestern peoples, and their descendants live in urban areas and in reserve communities within ancestral territories. Diversity is the keynote, whether preserved in street names like Barclay and Granville, or in neighborhoods like Little Italy or the East Indian community.
Not bad for a former lumber town, eh?
By CarHwy. 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) and hwys. 1A and 7 are the major east-west routes to Vancouver. Tolls on Port Mann Bridge on Hwy. 1 and Golden Ears Bridge were discontinued in September 2017.
To reach downtown on the Trans-Canada Highway, use the First Avenue exit or continue to Hastings Street.
Hwy. 99 to S.W. Marine West becomes the major downtown artery, Granville Street. Before becoming a city street, Hwy. 99 begins its journey as I-5 at the Mexican border and crosses through California and the Pacific Northwest; beyond Vancouver it continues beyond Whistler to meet Hwy. 97, the main north-south route.
Street SystemAll streets and avenues in downtown Vancouver are named; many are one-way. Outside the business section, east-west avenues are numbered beginning with First Avenue, and north-south streets are named. Addresses begin at Ontario-Carrall streets for all east-west numbering and at Powell-Dundas streets for all north-south numbering.
The downtown peninsula is connected to western Vancouver by the Burrard, Granville and Cambie bridges and to North Vancouver and West Vancouver by the Lions Gate and the Iron Workers Memorial (Second Narrows) bridges.
Rush hours are 6-9:30 a.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. Right turns on red are permitted after a stop, unless otherwise posted; drivers must yield to pedestrians and vehicles in the intersection and to city buses pulling into traffic.
Some intersections in the metropolitan area have a blinking green light. This is used when there is a stop sign, not a signal, on the cross street and allows pedestrians or bicyclists to turn the main street's light red so they can go through the intersection safely. When driving on a cross street, you must wait for a gap in traffic before you proceed.
ParkingOn-street parking, controlled by meter, is restricted on many thoroughfares during rush hours; violators' cars will be towed. When parking at a meter, you can pay by credit card, coins or even by phone if you download the PayByPhone mobile app; phone (604) 909-7275 for information. Off-street parking is available in lots and garages at rates ranging from $1.25 per half-hour to $11 or more per day. Parking in a school zone between 8 and 5 on any school day is strictly prohibited unless otherwise posted.
Public TransportationTransLink, Metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority, offers an integrated system utilizing bus, rail, SeaBus, cycling paths, custom transit services and roads to points throughout Vancouver and all suburban areas. Conventional buses, community shuttles, trolleys and HandyDART custom transit link tourist destinations, transit exchanges and SkyTrain stations
SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry that crosses Burrard Inlet, connecting downtown Vancouver with the North Shore. The downtown Waterfront terminal connects with buses, SkyTrain. The West Coast Express and the Lonsdale Quay terminal connects with an extensive North Shore bus network.
SkyTrain, Vancouver's light rail rapid transit system, runs from Waterfront Station through downtown Vancouver to the suburbs of Burnaby and New Westminster and across the Fraser River to the suburb of Surrey.
SkyTrain is one of the longest and oldest automated, driverless light rapid transit systems in the world and has three lines. The 19-kilometre (12-mi.) Canada Line, connects downtown with Richmond and Vancouver International Airport and has 16 stations, including stops at Vancouver City Centre, Olympic Village, Broadway-City Hall, Marine Drive, Vancouver International Airport and four Richmond locations. The train ride from downtown to the airport takes 26 minutes. The Expo Line and Millennium Line connect downtown with the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey.
Trains operate every 7 to 15 minutes Mon.-Fri. 5:22 a.m.-1:16 a.m., Sat. 6:50 a.m.-12:30 a.m., Sun. 7:16 a.m.-12:16 p.m. Fares are the same for any TransLink service and a single fare covers travel for up to 90 minutes across Metro Vancouver. A 1-zone fare Monday through Friday until 6:30 p.m. is $2.85, a 2-zone fare is $4.10 and a 3-zone fare is $5.60; for ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 with a valid GoCard and ages 65+ a 1-zone fare is $1.80, a 2-zone fare is $2.80 and a 3-zone fare is $3.80. The fare for weekdays after 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays for all zones is $2.85; for ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 with a valid GoCard and ages 65+ the fare for all zones is $1.80. A trip to or from the airport adds an additional $5.
Every SkyTrain station has information panels. A 1-day pass, available from SkyTrain and SeaBus ticket machines, Safeway food stores and 7-11 stores, costs $10 and covers all zones; for ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 with a valid GoCard and ages 65+ the cost is $7.75. If you pay by cash on buses, exact change is required. Phone (604) 953-3333 daily 6:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. for more information.
Aquabus Ltd., (604) 689-5858, provides ferry service with departures every five minutes between Hornby Street, Granville Island, David Lam Park, Stamps Landing, Spyglass Place, Yaletown, Plaza of Nations and The Village daily 7:07 a.m.-9:07 p.m. Times vary according to destination. Fare ranges from $3.50-$6 one-way or $25 for 20 tickets, $15 for a day pass, and $60 for a monthly pass, with discounts for ages 4-12 and ages 65+. The Cyquabuses are equipped to carry wheelchairs and bicycles.
The little blue False Creek Ferries provide service from the West End of downtown to Granville Island, with stops at Yaletown, Plaza of Nations, The Village (Science World), Spyglass, Stamp's Landing, David Lam Park, Granville Island, the Aquatic Centre, and the Maritime Museum, departing between every two minutes and every 15 minutes, depending on the route and time of day. Tickets cost $3.50-$11 one-way, $9-$17 round-trip, and $16 for a day pass, with reductions for ages 4-12 and ages 65+.
Daily bus service between Vancouver International Airport and Whistler is provided by Pacific Coach's YVR Whistler SkyLynx. Passengers can be picked up and dropped off at major Vancouver and Whistler lodgings; reservations are required. Phone (604) 662-7575 or (800) 661-1725 for information. To reach the airport from Vancouver by public transit, take Bus 90 B-line from Burrard station to Richmond Centre, then transfer to bus 424 to the airport.
About the City
Elevation3 m/10 ft.
Sales TaxBritish Columbia has a 5 percent goods and services tax (GST) and a 7 percent provincial sales tax (PST). Hotel accommodations with more than four rooms are subject to a PST of 8 percent and an additional Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) of up to 3 percent. The PST for alcohol is 10 percent. Restaurants and admission fees are exempt from the 7 percent PST. Car rental sales tax is $1.50 per day for rental periods of more than 8 hours, up to 27 consecutive days.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(604) 717-3321
Time and Temperature(604) 664-9010
HospitalsMount Saint Joseph Hospital, (604) 874-1141; St. Paul's Hospital, (604) 682-2344; Vancouver General Hospital, (604) 875-4111.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersThe two major daily newspapers, both published in the morning, are the Province and the Vancouver Sun.
RadioVancouver radio stations CBU/CBC-AM (690); CBU-FM (105.7); CHQM-FM (103.5); CKCL-FM (104.9); CKLG-FM (96.9); CKNW-FM (980); and CKWX News-AM (1130) have news and weather reports.
Visitor InformationVancouver Tourist InfoCentre 200 Burrard St. VANCOUVER, BC V6C 3L6. Phone:(604)683-2000
Air TravelVancouver International Airport (YVR), in Richmond, is reached via Granville Street and the Arthur Lang Bridge, then Sea Island Way, which leads into Grant McConachie Way. Taxi rates are fixed on flat rates according to a zoning system. The trip to downtown/Kitsilano is $31; Canada Place is $35. TransLink's Canada Line rapid transit operates rail service every 7 to 15 minutes, from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., between Vancouver International Airport and downtown. One-way fare is $5; phone (604) 953-3333.
Rental CarsHertz, at the Vancouver International Airport and 1128 Seymour St., offers discounts to AAA members; phone (604) 606-3785 for airport location or (800) 654-3080.
Rail ServiceThe Via Rail passenger train terminal is at 1150 Station St.; phone (888) 842-7245 in Canada or in the United States.
BusesThe Greyhound bus terminal is at 1150 Station St.; phone (604) 683-8133.
TaxisFares start at $3.25 for the first kilometre (.6 mi.), plus $1.88 for each additional kilometre. Companies include Black Top & Checker Cabs, (604) 731-1111; MacLure's, (604) 831-1111; Yellow Cab, (604) 681-1111; and Vancouver Taxi, (604) 871-1111.
Public TransportationTransLink offers bus service as well as SeaBus and SkyTrain service. See Public Transportation for details.
BoatsBC Ferries links Vancouver and other points on the mainland with Vancouver Island with 47 ports of call. Nanaimo and Sunshine Coast ferries leave from Horseshoe Bay, 21 kilometres (13 mi.) west of the city in West Vancouver. From Tsawwassen south of Vancouver automobile/passenger ferries make frequent trips to the southern Gulf Islands, Nanaimo and Swartz Bay, near the town of Sidney north of Victoria. A 1.5-hour ferry ride from Vancouver to Victoria departs daily from Tsawwassen and returns from Swartz Bay; phone (888) 223-3779 for reservations.
For schedules phone the British Columbia Automobile Association, (604) 268-5555; BC Ferries Information Centre, (250) 386-3431 outside British Columbia; (888) 223-3779 in British Columbia; or Tourism Vancouver, (604) 683-2000.
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EssentialsOne of the world's great food markets, Granville Island Public Market (1689 Johnston St.) is the place to go for a slice of Vancouver life as well as the freshest fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, candy, baked goods and flowers.
Enjoy fabulous waterside views while strolling, bicycling or in-line skating around the perimeter sea wall of Stanley Park (main entrance at west end of Georgia St.). Or tour the park in a horse-powered trolley provided by Stanley Park Horse-drawn Tours (735 Stanley Park Dr.). The park also has tennis courts, a pool, a golf course, woodland trails, playgrounds, totem poles and a miniature steam train. Beaches, gardens and woodland glades complete this 405-hectare (1,000-acre) urban sanctuary.
Adorable white beluga whales steal the show at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre (845 Avison Way) in Stanley Park; competing for attention are the center's thousands of marine animals including sea lions, sharks and walruses as well as rain forest creatures such as iguanas and crocodiles. Go behind the scenes in close encounters with dolphins, belugas, sea turtles, penguins, Steller sea lions and sea otters.
Downtown's Robson Street (between Burrard and Jervis streets) beckons shoppers with its trendy designer boutiques, bookstores, jewelry shops and more. When you need a break, grab a seat and a cappuccino at a bistro or coffee shop and watch the world go by.
Courtesy of Grouse Mountain
Spot pods of orcas and other sea creatures on a scenic whale-watching cruise. Both Steveston Seabreeze Adventures (12551 #1 Rd., Bldg. 43) and Vancouver Whale Watch (210-12240 Second Ave.) in Richmond offer the opportunity to hear whales vocalize through hydrophones, see marine animals like sea lions and porpoises and travel through the Fraser River Delta, Strait of Georgia and the Gulf Islands.
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Top Picks for Kids
Under 13Granville Island (1689 Johnston St.) lures adults to its many markets and shops, but it also has specialty shops that appeal directly to youngsters. Under a rainbow-colored sign, the Granville Island Kids Market (1496 Cartwright St.) is a miniature mall for little ones. From the moment they step through the diminutive door, kids can eyeball goodies in 23 shops that cater to their every whim, cavort in the arcade and make a splash in the water park (open in summer months).
What kid doesn’t enjoy face painting, storytelling, jugglers, stilt-walkers, clowns, puppet shows, comedy, dance and music? Find all this and more during May’s weeklong Vancouver International Children's Festival , also on Granville Island.
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TeensThe flight simulator ride at FlyOver Canada (201-999 Canada Pl.) will elicit screams and gasps of delight as it sweeps and soars from east to west over icebergs, Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains and other unforgettable landmarks of the Canadian countryside.
Go on a full-day adventure on a Prince of Whales Whale Watching tour (1601 Bayshore Dr.). Your family will have a whale of a time as they gaze in awe at pods of glistening tuxedoed orcas and grey humpbacks leaping out of the Georgia Strait. The trip includes a stop in Victoria and a visit to Butchart Gardens, which features an orca on its carousel.
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All AgesCombining manicured gardens with West Coast rainforests, beaches, forest trails and surrounded on three sides by water, Stanley Park (main entrance at west end of Georgia St.) offers amazing views of the mountains, the city and English Bay. Rent a bike and pedal along the 10-kilometre (6.5-mi.) seawall. The park also has totem poles, a miniature train, playgrounds, a pool and a water park.
Need a break from walking? Hop on a trolley on Stanley Park Horse-drawn Tours (735 Stanley Park Dr.) and see the 400-hectare (1,000-acre) park at a leisurely pace.
Meet the most adorable sea creatures at Stanley Park’s Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre (845 Avison Way). Ogle rascally otters, beguiling belugas, pudgy sea lions, spotted harbor seals and chatty dolphins, just some of the more than 70,000 marine animals that call the aquarium home. Get super close at animal encounters, where you can feed and help train sea lions, otters and beluga whales.
From the moment they set eyes on Science World at TELUS World of Science (1455 Quebec St.), kids will be psyched; housed in a huge geodesic dome, the science center is even cooler inside. There’s something for every age group. Tykes under age 7 can learn about water, color, light and movement in the Kidspace Gallery, and the entire family will enjoy live shows, hands-on exhibits and IMAX films that bring out their inner scientist.
Greg Weekes / AAA. Photo submitted by Greg Weekes
ShoppingWhen you set out on a Vancouver shopping expedition be sure to bring along the AAA street map, because you’re definitely going to want to hang out in every one of this town’s cool and distinctively different urban neighborhoods.
Yaletown, reached via Davie Street, is the de rigueur downtown residential address for successful young professionals (just look at all those glass-walled condo towers). This former 19th-century rail yard district has morphed into an uber-stylish urban enclave; the industrial brick warehouses of yore are now hip clothing boutiques and designer furniture outlets.
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Very touristy but always enjoyable Gastown, the oldest section of the city, runs for several blocks along Water Street. The atmosphere is turn-of-the-20th-century renovated, with handsome brick buildings and white-globed lamp posts bedecked with flowery hanging baskets. There are lots of art galleries, antique shops, fashion boutiques and places to buy Canadian souvenirs. But Gastown isn’t all about maple candy or a moose in a can; trendy home furnishings stores sell sleekly contemporary furniture by well-known Canadian and international designers.
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There’s a Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery here as well (332 Water St.); phone (604) 684-9222. Gallery Gachet (88 E. Cordova St.) is a non-profit artist-run center with exhibitions; phone (604) 687-2468. There also are specialty shops like Button Button (318 Homer St.); phone (604) 687-0067, with buttons in all shapes and sizes from around the world, and Jade Mine (4-375 Water St.), which stocks a big selection of sculptures and jewelry carved from jade mined in northern British Columbia. Phone (604) 687-5233. Pet lovers will be drawn to EZ Dog (56 Powell St.), packed with goodies for your “best friend”; phone (604) 559-5606.
Walk a few blocks down Carrall Street into Chinatown, another neighborhood made for sidewalk exploration. You’ll probably look rather than buy, since most of the businesses are where residents do their shopping. The produce and food markets lining Keefer and Main streets are fascinating, with unusual vegetables and bins full of dried fish, mushrooms and other foodstuffs. You’ll also find a couple of jewelry shops selling bead necklaces and various trinkets.
Note: While the main thoroughfares in Gastown and Chinatown are fun to visit during the day, use big-city common sense regarding any encounters with panhandlers and street people, and avoid wandering around side streets after dark.
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Much more down to earth is Commercial Drive, east of Main Street from Venables Street to East Broadway, one of Vancouver’s funkiest shopping experiences. Most of the shops and businesses are owner-operated; chains are few, which means that it’s really fun to explore. Hit “the Drive” on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The heart of Commercial Drive is between Venables Street and 6th Avenue E. Books, CDs, vintage clothing and unusual gifts are all good bets.
You could easily spend an entire day doing Granville Island, but shoppers and foodies should focus on the Granville Island Public Market. The big building is crammed with vendors: produce, meat, seafood, baked goods, coffee and a head-spinning array of specialty foods. Take advantage of fresh B.C. salmon, artisanal cheeses and ripe, regionally grown fruit. Have lunch here, too; takeaway fast food counters offer Asian, Mexican, Indian, sushi, pizza and just about everything else. Phone (604) 666-6655.
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Arrival Guides Automation / Arrival Guides
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NightlifeHip, cosmopolitan Vancouver has a buzzing nightlife, with plenty of spots where the young and beautiful congregate—and there are even a few options for the rest of us. Among the latter are several sophisticated hotel lounges where you can relax over drinks in a quiet, elegant atmosphere. Downtown is a prime spot for these given its assortment of business-class hotels. The bar inside YEW Seafood + Bar , the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver (downtown at 791 W. Georgia St.) is a lovely place to put a capper on a busy day. A 12-metre (40-ft.) ceiling makes this a breathtakingly lofty space, warmed by wood-paneled walls and a big sandstone fireplace. The bar is open until midnight Sun.-Wed., 1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.; phone (604) 692-4939.
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Opus Bar, in the Opus Hotel (322 Davie St.), is a cool, sleek lounge in hot-to-trot Yaletown. The decor is stylish with a capital “S”: designer furniture, iridescent mood lighting, shimmer screens and live video feeds that allow you to keep an eye on the action at the bar and in the lounge. DJs spin dance music for a fashionably dressed, upwardly mobile crowd, and there’s live music every Wednesday; phone (604) 642-6787.
Baby boomers will feel right at home in The Cascade Room (2616 Main St.), also in Yaletown. This restaurant and bar is a transplanted bit of British pub culture: Lampshades feature Queen Victoria’s likeness, and a large glass panel advises patrons to “Keep calm and carry on”—a World War II slogan uttered by stiff-upper-lip Brits. Slide into one of the horseshoe-shaped booths for a cocktail, a beer or a pint of lager; phone (604) 709-8650.
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The Commodore Ballroom (868 Granville St.) is an old-time dance hall that books everything from gospel choirs to death metal quadruple bills. This is the place to see up-and-coming bands as well as established acts that don’t sell out arenas. The dance floor is in front of the stage and table seating is limited; arrive early unless you don’t mind standing in the back of the room. Phone (604) 739-4550.
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The Georgia Straight, a news and entertainment weekly that comes out on Thursday, has extensive arts and entertainment listings for greater Vancouver.
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Performing ArtsThe 2,765-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the intersection of Hamilton and Georgia streets, (604) 665-3050 or (800) 840-9227, is home to Ballet British Columbia, (604) 732-5003, and the Vancouver Opera, (604) 683-0222 and also hosts touring shows. The adjacent Vancouver Playhouse presents professional theater, dance, recitals, some opera and chamber music; phone (604) 665-3050. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performs at the Orpheum Theatre, Smithe and Granville streets; phone (604) 665-3050 for ticket information.
Other prominent metropolitan theaters presenting dramatic productions include the Arts Club Theatre, on Johnston Street on Granville Island, (604) 687-1644; the Metro Theatre, 1370 S.W. Marine Dr., (604) 266-7191; Langara College’s Studio 58, 100 W. 49th Ave., (604) 323-5227; and The Cultch, 1895 Venables St., (604) 251-1363.
During the summer, concerts and musicals are presented in Stanley Park's Malkin Bowl. Kitsilano Showboat at Kitsilano Beach presents outdoor variety shows and concerts Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. from early July to late August (weather permitting). For more information phone (604) 734-7332.
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SightseeingOpportunities to watch bustling harbor activities are available at several vantage points in Vancouver. Seaplanes, barges, tugboats, cargo ships, ferries and the SeaBus can be observed from Granville Square at the foot of Granville Street; from Canada Place at the foot of Howe St.; from Lonsdale Quay at the foot of Lonsdale Ave.; and from Stanley Park. Breathtaking views of the city, sea and mountains are available at Cypress Bowl, Simon Fraser University atop Burnaby Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Queen Elizabeth Park.
Boat ToursHarbour Cruises
Bus ToursWESTCOAST Sightseeing Ltd. features a hop-on, hop-off tour of Vancouver as well as eight narrated sightseeing trips of the city and its surrounding natural areas. Full-day trips to Victoria and Whistler also are available; phone (604) 451-1600 or (877) 451-1777.
Gray Line offers guided tours that include Butchart Gardens, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Grouse Mountain; phone (604) 451-1600 or (877) 451-1777.
Plane ToursAnother way to see Vancouver and its surroundings is by air. Harbour Air offers flights lasting from 35 minutes to 1.25 hours plus day-long packages, including whale-watching or bus tours; departure is from downtown on Coal Harbour Road, one block west of Canada Place. Fares vary, and reservations are required; phone (604) 274-1277 or (800) 655-0212 for reservations.
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Trolley ToursTrolley tours provide a look at the city at a relaxed pace. The Downtown Historic Railway, comprised of two electric interurban railcars, skirts False Creek between Science World at TELUS World of Science and Granville Island and runs from mid-May to mid-October; phone (604) 665-3903.
Walking ToursRockwood Adventures
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Vancouver in 3 DaysThree days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Vancouver.
Day 1: MorningKick off your tour of Vancouver at the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Tower. A glass elevator zips to the top of this 177-metre-tall (581-ft.) building, where 360-degree views of the city skyline, the North Shore Mountains, English Bay, Coal Harbour, Stanley Park and the Port of Vancouver take your breath away.
Catch a bus to your next destination (TransLink offers bus service to points throughout Vancouver). Stanley Park boasts dense forests, beautiful waterfront views, beaches, gardens and totem poles on its 405 hectares (1,000 acres). Watch or join joggers, cyclists and inline skaters as they follow the park's 8.8-kilometre-long (5.5-ft.) sea wall. Or explore the park on a leisurely 1-hour trolley ride, offered by Stanley Park Horse-drawn Tours.
Day 1: AfternoonStanley Park also is home to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, where you'll meet beluga whales, sea lions, otters, dolphins, sharks and other creatures of the deep.
Venturing out of Stanley Park, head east on W. Georgia Street, then east on W. Pender Street to North America's second-largest and very vibrant Chinatown, between Carrall and Gore streets. Snap up some souvenirs at colorful emporiums; choose from Chinese décor, crafts, curios, jewelry, foods and fashions as well as bamboo, jade, brass and silk goods. Note the poppy-red street signs accentuated with golden dragons and Chinese lanterns. Looking for lunch? There are plenty of Chinese restaurants to choose from.
Escape the bustling crowds at Chinatown's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Experience peace and harmony as you stroll the paths of this Ming Dynasty-style garden accented with pagodas, plum trees, bamboo and jade-hued ponds.
Day 1: Evening
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Gastown, Kitsilano and Yaletown also are popular with clubgoers. Gastown boasts The Post Modern, Shine and Sonar, all places to drink, dance and be merry. Wondering where to watch some good flamenco dancing in Vancouver? The Kino Café on Cambie Street is just the place; sip some sangria and clap along to the music.
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Day 2: MorningTake the Aquabus ferry across False Creek to Granville Island. At Granville Island Public Market, peruse stalls showcasing every type of edible imaginable—all locally produced—and gather a variety of scrumptious goodies for breakfast on the go. A warm, chewy bagel, some sweet strawberries, and a steaming cup of freshly roasted coffee will fuel you for your second day in Vancouver.
While you're munching, settle on a bench near the market to watch lively street performers, including musicians, jugglers and flamethrowers. Afterwards, make your way to Granville Island's shops and studios, where you can observe artisans creating jewelry, pottery, glass, textiles, furniture and works of art.
Day 2: AfternoonFrom Granville Island, hop back on the Aquabus to Vanier Park, home to the Museum of Vancouver , H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. At the Vancouver Maritime Museum, tour a 1960s submarine and a 1940s schooner, the first vessel to circumnavigate North America.
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Stop back at the Museum of Vancouver; its wealth of exhibits focuses on the region's art and history from the days of the original Vancouverites—Coast Salish tribes—to the 20th century. If time permits, engage in some stargazing at the planetarium or travel through space on a full-motion simulator at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
Day 2: Evening
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After dinner, catch a hockey game when the Canucks take to the ice at General Motors Place, 800 Griffiths Way. Alternatively, cap off your day at a high-energy nightclub, an Irish pub or a concert by local or international performers; Vancouver's thriving nightlife caters to all tastes. See Day 1's list for suggestions.
Day 3: Morning
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About 3 kilometres (1.9 mi.) from Grouse Mountain, the 137-metre-long (450-ft.) Capilano Suspension Bridge Park challenges you to tread 70 metres (230 ft.) above the Capilano River through the rain forest. After you brave the bridge, take in the totem pole park, gardens, native dancers and the precarious Cliffwalk.
Day 3: AfternoonNorth Vancouver has a number of quaint bistros to quell your lunchtime appetite. The Cactus Club Cafe has casual fare and wild BC salmon.
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Day 3: Evening
Courtesy of Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Tower / NA
Courtesy of Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Tower / NA
AttractionstelIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
A good way to start your visit is with an eagle's-eye view of Vancouver as seen from Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Tower. You'll be whisked up 168 metres (553 ft.) via glass elevators to the observation deck, where you'll see sweeping views of the city as well as its shimmering harbor and snow-dusted mountains. In North Vancouver, you can ride an aerial cable car to view Vancouver from a vantage point of 1,100 metres (3,609 ft.) at AAA GEM attraction Grouse Mountain. The view is nothing short of spectacular and there's plenty to do, including helicopter and sleigh rides, guided forest strolls, a lumberjack show and a wildlife refuge. Also in North Vancouver is AAA GEM attraction the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, where you'll cautiously walk 70 metres (230 ft.) above a 300-year-old rain forest. Watch artists carve totem poles at the carving center.
The highest point in Vancouver is the incongruously named Little Mountain at Queen Elizabeth Park. You'll marvel at the 360-degree view of the city's skyline from Little Mountain's lookouts. The park also contains a dry quarry garden and an arboretum with specimens of nearly all of Canada's trees.
Vancouver's moderate climate and frequent but light rains create the perfect environment for lush gardens throughout the city. Stanley Park, a AAA GEM attraction, gives credence to this fact with its elegant manicured gardens interspersed with tangles of old-growth forests. The park, surrounded on three sides by water, also features several beaches and is bordered by a 10-kilometre (6.5-mi.) seawall. Horse-drawn carriage rides are a pleasing way to take in this bit of heaven on earth.
VanDusen Botanical Garden is another AAA GEM attraction that has taken full advantage of the local climate. You'll find 40 themed gardens, including a Rhododendron Walk and a Sino Himalayan Garden, as you wander the meandering paths of this 22-hectare (55-acre) paradise. A highlight is a hedge maze made of 3,000 pyramidal cedars. The 28 hectares (69 acres) of UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia include the Asian Garden, where you can admire the rare blue Himalayan poppy. A native British Columbian garden, alpine garden, 16th-century monastic herb garden and traditional Japanese tea and stroll garden are other treasures you'll unearth.
While you're on the UBC campus, take some time to explore its notable museums. The UBC Museum of Anthropology showcases the art and culture of British Columbia's aboriginal people; among the masterpieces in its modern galleries are one of the world's finest collections of totem poles as well as aboriginal jewelry and ceremonial masks. The Pacific Museum of the Earth houses an 80-million-year-old Lambeosaurus dinosaur skeleton and a piece of the Acasta Gneiss, reputedly the oldest rock in the world at more than 4 billion years old.
Neighboring Richmond is home to another AAA GEM attraction, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site. Take a tour of the restored 1894 salmon cannery and learn about the “fishtory” of one of Vancouver's key industries.
Vancouver's Vanier Park is home to a trio of popular attractions: H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Museum of Vancouver and Vancouver Maritime Museum. H.R. MacMillan Space Centre will take you straight to the moon as well as any other planet of your choosing via a virtual voyage on a 30-passenger spaceship, laser shows set to contemporary music and original planetarium shows. Museum of Vancouver features innovative exhibits that will both amuse and enlighten you about the region's history, art and culture. Galleries are filled with such diverse items as aboriginal art, an Egyptian mummy, Pacific Rim artifacts and exhibits about 1950s' bobby-soxers and 1960s' hippies. At the Vancouver Maritime Museum, climb aboard the restored St. Roch; in 1944 it became the first ship to sail back and forth across the Northwest Passage. Children will be captivated by the museum's discovery center, where they can pilot a deep-sea robot or navigate a tugboat.
Marine animals are the main attraction at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, a AAA GEM attraction. White beluga whales, dolphins, seals and otters share the aquarium with rain forest creatures such as piranhas, sloths and crocodiles, while a tropical zone houses sharks, moray eels and brilliantly colored warm-water fish. Investigate scientific phenomena at AAA GEM attraction Science World at TELUS World of Science; kids of all ages will enjoy skiing on a simulated race course, inventing new gadgets, conducting a virtual orchestra or peaking inside a real honey-bee hive in this center that makes science just plain fun.
Lest you think that science and history are the only subjects of Vancouver's many museums, visits to the following will banish that thought. Vancouver Art Gallery is the place to go to see works by regional, national and international artists, including native Emily Carr, best known for her modernist landscapes of Vancouver's rain forests and paintings of totem poles. Sports aficionados will feel at home at BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, which pays homage to British Columbian sports from the 1700s to the present in its 20 galleries.
A trip to Vancouver would not be complete without exploring its Asian heritage. The city's bustling Chinatown is one of the largest in North America; shop its gilded emporiums for imported bargains such as fine linens and silks, jade and brassware. On summer weekends, the outdoor night market makes for a fun evening; pick up some take-out and watch street entertainers perform. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown provides a respite from the hubbub of the neighborhood's streets. The authentic garden's design is based on the principle of yin and yang, offering peace and tranquility to all who enter.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
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RestaurantsOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
On Robson Street, a window-shopper's dream, CinCin (pronounced chin-chin), with its bustling atmosphere, is known as the place to see and be seen. Film stars like to dine here, so look around and see if you can spot someone famous. The large, open-kitchen concept features a unique wood-fired brick oven where juicy rotisserie chicken turns slowly. The special wood-oven pizzas fill the restaurant with a delightful aroma. For meat lovers, fresh seafood and meats are grilled over alderwood, enhancing them with a unique flavor. During warmer weather the heated outdoor terrace is open and overlooks colorful Robson Street below.
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The Shaughnessy Restaurant at VanDusen Garden sits amid the 22-hectare (55-acre) VanDusen Botanical Garden and features creative contemporary West Coast cuisine. You'll find fresh ingredients from the garden in many of the lunch and dinner entrées. Try the afternoon tea or the daily specials of homemade soups, or ask about the chicken pot pie, a longtime favorite.
Inspector 503 / AAA
Another option is Teahouse in Stanley Park . The name is a bit of a misnomer, as brunch, lunch and dinner are also served. The restaurant faces expansive English Bay with the North Shore Mountains in the background—it's hard to find a better view in Vancouver, especially at sunset. The menu provides plenty of palate-pleasing dishes, especially for those who have worked up a hearty appetite after spending hours in the evergreen-scented park air. Start your meal with carrot soup topped with coriander crème fraîche or Manhattan-style clam chowder, then try Pacific roasted sablefish or wild mushroom ravioli for your main course. The lemon tart and chocolate Milano cake are excellent dessert options and the extensive wine list includes selections from B.C., Australia, California and Europe.
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See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
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EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Vancouver is an energetic city with plenty to celebrate, and its citizens know how to start the year off right. On January 1, more than 1,000 fearless swimmers brave the icy waters of English Bay in the annual Polar Bear Swim . The event includes a 91-metre (100-yd.) race and attracts thousands of spectators, some dressed in wild costumes. Kung Hay Fat Choy! You'll probably hear this traditional Chinese blessing over and over during Chinese New Year. Vancouver, home to its own Chinatown, hosts an event honoring this Chinese holiday which occurs between late January and mid-February. The Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown begins with activities at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden ; have your fortune told, learn calligraphy, watch martial artists and listen to storytellers. A parade winds through the streets of Chinatown in the afternoon.
Celebrate the return of spring in April with the Vancouver Sun Run , reputedly the second largest 10K run in North America. Cheer on tens of thousands of participants as they sprint or stroll through downtown, enjoying views of English Bay and Stanley Park with live music played along the route.
In May, the Vancouver International Children's Festival is a weeklong party for kids on Granville Island. Entertainers from around the globe put on plays and puppet shows as well as dance and musical performances. Activities include face painting, kite flying and playing in clay; jugglers, stilt-walkers, clowns and wandering minstrels create a carnival-like atmosphere.
You'll fall in love with Shakespeare at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival from early June through late September. Watch tragedies and comedies staged in front of the mountains and English Bay in Vanier Park. Select performances include a salmon Bard-B-Q during intermission and fireworks after the show.
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Has all that jazz put you in the mood for more music? The Vancouver Folk Music Festival at Jericho Beach Park draws fans from as far away as Los Angeles for concerts during mid-July.
Celebration of Light features 3 nights of fireworks displays and is held at English Bay the last week of July and the first week in August.
Diana Beyer / AAA
For 11 days in September, step outside of the norm at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival . Uncensored theatrical shows by about 100 international groups and performers defy the rules of conventional theater. Most of the shows take place on Granville Island.
December brings several holiday-themed events to the city. During the Carol Ships Parade of Lights , vessels adorned with Christmas lights and decorations sail in Vancouver Harbor almost every night, passing many Vancouver neighborhoods. Landlubbers celebrate with live music, craft workshops, bonfires and hot chocolate.
Bright Nights in Stanley Park , a holiday tradition of more than 30 years, turns the forest and the train into a wonderland with more than 2 million lights and animated displays.
More than a million shimmering lights greet you at VanDusen Botanical Garden during the Festival of Lights . Dancing lights on Livingstone Lake twinkle in time to holiday music, and a water terrace is turned into a “magic marsh” complete with fiber-optic lights and whimsical creatures. Choral music and a storytelling Santa add to the magic.
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See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
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Granville IslandThe 14-hectare (35-acre) Granville Island was created in 1915 by dredging fill from False Creek, a large tidal basin; factories producing all sorts of industrial machinery quickly sprang up to serve the construction boom in Vancouver. By World War II, the island became deserted as the boom ended and manufacturers moved to suburban areas.
In the early 1970s, city planners began to visualize the island as a place where Vancouverites and out-of-towners could shop in an outdoor market, enjoy theater groups and street performers, imbibe an espresso, dine in small cafés and watch artisans create works of art and handicrafts. The planners' dream was realized with the 1979 opening of Granville Island. Technically Granville Island is not even an island; it's actually a peninsula jutting out into English Bay. But Granville Island definitely has the flavor of an island, and much of that flavor comes from its main attraction, The Granville Island Public Market.
The once-abandoned warehouses, foundries and machine shops made of corrugated tin now contain market stalls where you'll find butchers, bakers, fishmongers, florists and green grocers hawking fresh fruit and vegetables. You'll also discover candy makers, ice cream stands, cheese purveyors, tea merchants and British Columbian wine sellers. Or you may choose from a selection of freshly prepared foods from many international cuisines, including Indian, Greek and Chinese food as well as sushi, tamales and fruit-filled crepes.
Purchase a picnic of incredible edibles, which may include such treats as a crusty sourdough baguette, artisanal cheese, a crisp apple, warm currant scones and chamomile tea, and nosh on them while watching buskers perform on the street for (almost) free (a tip is always appreciated). After you're satiated, go for a stroll among the island's cobbled alleys and watch weavers, guitar makers, potters and glass blowers create beautiful pieces out of raw materials, or attend a play at one of the local theaters. Children will have fun at the Kids Market, a 23-shop complex geared expressly to the little ones; they'll have a blast at the market's arcade, play area and adjacent water park, too.
Courtesy of Vancouver British Columbia / NA
Places in Vicinity