Impressive Views, Endless Activities
Vancouver 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 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 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 local restaurants.
A Diverse LandscapeYou're hiking along a wide, bark-mulched trail through an old-growth forest of towering Western red cedar, Douglas fir and Western hemlock trees. Salmonberry, huckleberry and Alaskan blueberries 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 a minute—am I really in a city?” That question is answered a few minutes later when you emerge from Stanley Park to the hustle and bustle of Georgia Street.
There's no denying the beauty of Vancouver's natural setting. Vistas of green coastal mountains and the shimmering waters of the Strait of Georgia were tailor-made to grace a travel postcard. And downtown is a marvel: skyscrapers, human hubbub and quiet, tree-lined residential streets all coexisting harmoniously in one tightly packed urban cityscape. If that pocket description sounds a bit like San Francisco, it's an apt comparison, but there really is no place like Vancouver.
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, the sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 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-day status. A Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train arrived the following year, showering spectators with soot and cinders. By the 1890s transpacific shipping inaugurated the city as a major world port, and the future was looking rosy indeed.
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 and a popular tourist hangout. The name is a reference to Deighton's reputation for storytelling and tall-tale bluster. A statue of 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. 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 and roads to points throughout Vancouver and all suburban areas. Conventional buses and electric buses link tourist destinations, transit exchanges and SkyTrain stations; phone (604) 953-3333.
SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry that crosses Burrard Inlet, connecting downtown Vancouver with the North Shore, a destination popular with those in search of adventure travel. The downtown Waterfront terminal connects with buses and the SkyTrain. 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 $2.95, a 2-zone fare is $4.20 and a 3-zone fare is $5.70; for ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 with a valid GoCard and ages 65+ a 1-zone fare is $1.90, a 2-zone fare is $2.90 and a 3-zone fare is $3.90. The fare for weekdays after 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays for all zones is $2.95; for ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 with a valid GoCard and ages 65+ the fare for all zones is $1.90. A trip from the airport to any destination 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 $10.25 and covers all zones; for ages 5-13, students ages 14-19 with a valid GoCard and ages 65+ the cost is $8. 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.
Courtesy of Vancouver British Columbia
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 or ask your AAA travel agent about vacation packages. 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.
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.
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.
Visitor InformationVancouver Tourist InfoCentre 200 Burrard St. Vancouver, BC V6C 3L6. Phone:(604)683-2222
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. Check travel sites and with your AAA travel agency for cheap airline flights, cheap plane tickets and the best deals on international flights. 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 $9.10; phone (604) 953-3333.
Rental CarsHertz, with one location at Vancouver International Airport and three locations downtown at 1270 Granville St., 1038 Canada Place and 1150 Station 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.
TaxisTaxi fares start at $3.05-$3.30 for the first kilometre (.6 mi.), plus $1.73-$1.89 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 and 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 (BCAA), (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.
What to Do in Vancouver
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.). Walking the Seawall is one of the most fun things to do with friends and among the best things for couples to do. Or tour the park in a horse-powered trolley provided by Stanley Park Horse-drawn Tours (735 Stanley Park Dr.). The 405-hectare (1,000-acre) park also has a pool, a golf course, woodland trails, playgrounds, totem poles, a miniature steam train, beaches and gardens.
One of the world's great food markets, Granville Island Public Market (1689 Johnston St.) is the destination for a slice of Vancouver life as well as the freshest fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, candy, baked goods and flowers.
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.
Vancouver Travel with Kids
Things to Do With Kids Under 13Granville Island (1689 Johnston St.) lures adults to its markets and shops, but it also has fun things to do and specialty shops that appeal directly to youngsters. Under a rainbow-colored sign, the Granville Island Kids Market (1496 Cartwright St.) is a miniature mall that's the perfect destination 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, puppet shows, dance and music? Find all this and more during May’s weeklong Vancouver International Children's Festival , also on Granville Island.
Things to Do With Teens
Combining 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 9-kilometre (5.6-mi.) seawall. The park has totem poles, a miniature train, playgrounds, a pool, a water park and other fun places to go.
Shopping in VancouverStylish Finds in Yaletown
Yaletown, reached via Davie Street, is the fashionable 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, designer furniture outlets and local restaurants and bars that draw a crowd.
Shop the Day Away on Robson Street
Explore the Historic Districts
There’s a Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery here as well (332 Water St.); phone (604) 684-9222. Gallery Gachet (9 W. Hastings 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 want to make the trip to EZ Dog (56 Powell St.), packed with goodies for your “best friend”; phone (604) 559-5606.
Note: While exploring the main thoroughfares in Gastown are fun things to do in Vancouver during the day, use big-city common sense regarding any encounters with panhandlers and street people, and avoid wandering around side streets after dark.
More Shopping Across English Bay
Downtown certainly isn’t the only place to shop and find things to do. In Kitsilano, along the south shore of English Bay, the blocks of West 4th Avenue between Fir and Larch streets are filled with gift shops, wine shops and stores selling fashions, athleisure attire and sports gear from bikes to skis to snowboards.
Locally Owned Shops on Commercial Drive
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, businesses and nearby restaurants 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.
Granville Island's Offerings
Courtesy of Vancouver British Columbia
North Vancouver Destinations
More Malls Mean More Great Finds
For a true mega-mall experience, head to Burnaby and Metropolis at Metrotown, 4700 Kingsway (Hwy. 1A/99A) between Willingdon and Royal Oak avenues; phone (604) 438-4700. It’s the province’s largest shopping center, with Hudson's Bay (outfitters for the Canadian Olympic team) and more than 350 other stores on three sprawling levels. Expect the usual chains and specialty outlets—everything from American Eagle Outfitters to Zara—plus a food court and the latest box-office biggies at SilverCity. The mall is open Mon.-Sat. 10-9, Sun. and certain holidays 11-7, although a few stores may vary. Parking (plenty of it) is free.
Vancouver NightlifeCool Hotel Bars and Lounges
Hip, cosmopolitan Vancouver has a buzzing nightlife, with plenty of spots where locals and visitors congregate after dark. Several sophisticated hotel lounges offer a space to 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 enjoy a drink after a busy day of travel or vacation. A 12-metre-high (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.-Thurs., 1 a.m. Fri.-Sat.; phone (604) 692-4939.
Bacchus Lounge, in The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa (downtown at 845 Hornby St.), is an equally elegant spot to enjoy a glass of B.C. wine or a martini in surroundings that just ooze luxury—subdued lighting, antique furniture and vases of fresh flowers, with a softly tinkling piano in the background. There’s live entertainment here nightly, which makes it an ideal destination if you're looking for things for couples to do. It's recommended to dress to impress. Phone (604) 608-5319.
Opus Bar, in the boutique Opus Hotel (322 Davie St.), is a cool, sleek lounge in trendy Yaletown. DJs spin dance music for a fashionably dressed, upwardly mobile crowd on weekends, and there’s live music every Wednesday; phone (604) 642-6787.
Another hip spot is Yaletown Brewing Company (1111 Mainland St.), where suit-and-ties gather after business hours to shoot some pool and sip on microbrews and burgers; sit by the fireplace or out on the spacious patio, depending on the weather; phone (604) 681-2739.
Great Nightlife on Granville
The Commodore Ballroom (868 Granville St.) is an old-time dance hall that 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.
Gastown's After-Dark Scene
Touristy Gastown pulses with nightspots, local restaurants and fun things to do with friends. The Steamworks Brew Pub (375 Water St.) is named for the Gastown steam line that runs through the premises. The drink of choice here is beer (brewed nearby in Burnaby, B.C.), from signature Lions Gate lager to such concoctions as an oatmeal stout and a sour IPA. The basement looks like a Bavarian-style drinking hall, while upstairs the atmosphere is clubbier, with leather chairs and windows overlooking the harbor; phone (604) 689-2739.
Energetic live bands tear it up at The Revel Room (238 Abbott St.), as they crank out rockabilly, blues, old country, Texas swing, boogie woogie and soul Tues.-Sun. nights beginning at 7 p.m., and there's daily boogie piano during “Sour Hour” (4-6:30 p.m.); phone (604) 687-4088.
You'll literally have to go underground to get to Gastown's Guilt & Co. (1 Alexander St.), as it's down a flight of stairs under a restaurant on Gassy Jack Square. This intimate hangout has the feel of a bunker or an unfinished rec room, but reeks of cool and attracts smartly dressed young professionals. The evening's band plays on a small stage backed by a stone wall, a small dance floor sandwiched between it and round tables holding burning candles. Guilt & Co. serves up expertly mixed cocktails with whimsical names like You Can Dance and Like a Virgin; phone (604) 288-1704.
More Fun in Mount Pleasant and Kitsilano
Baby boomers will feel right at home in The Cascade Room (2616 Main St.), in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. 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.
If you're into casino games and live bands, lucky you! In addition to the usual slot machines and poker tables, the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in nearby Coquitlam has three listening rooms: the intimate Asylum Sound Stage, where performers range from local bands to burlesque to comedy; the 100-seat Unlisted Lounge, with DJ'd jazz and electro-groove music and the occasional live act; and The Molson Canadian Theatre, a 1,000-seat venue hosting tribute bands, up-and-coming performers and 1980s heavy metal bands. Phone (604) 523-6888.
The Georgia Straight, a news and entertainment weekly that comes out on Thursday, has extensive arts and entertainment listings for things to do in Vancouver.
Vancouver Performing ArtsTheatre, Ballet and Music
The 2,765-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the intersection of Hamilton and Georgia streets, (604) 665-3050 or (800) 840-9227, is a top destination for visitors and 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, and is among the fun things to do with friends; phone (604) 665-3050 for ticket information.
Other prominent 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.
Check with your AAA travel agent for information about vacation packages, fun places to go and other things to do in Vancouver that are geared toward the performing arts.
Vancouver Sports & Recreation
Skiing on Grouse Mountain in the morning, golfing on the banks of the Fraser River in the afternoon, fishing for salmon in Horseshoe Bay at dusk and taking a dip in English Bay, all in one day? It's possible in Vancouver, which offers such a diversity of recreational opportunities that you'll have no trouble finding adventurous things to do and fun places to go while visiting.
Vancouver's park system has tennis courts, swimming pools, putting greens, golf courses, lawn bowling greens, hiking paths and a comprehensive bike route. For information phone the city's Parks and Recreation Department at 311 (within Vancouver).
Bicyclists will have a field day in Vancouver, which is practically a mecca for two-wheeling types. There are about 400 kilometres (249 mi.) of bike paths in the city. The Stanley Park Seawall, 9 kilometres (6 mi.) long, may be the most well-known bike route in the area, and for good reason. There's no shortage of eye candy and things to see—Burrard Inlet, Coal Harbour, rocky beaches, the North Shore mountains, totem poles, downtown Vancouver—for riders or pedestrians while circling Stanley Park. Want more? The seawall is just one section of the 28-kilometre (17-mi.) Seaside Greenway, which begins at the convention center, runs along Coal Harbour, around Stanley Park to Granville Island and Kitsilano Beach, then west along the Point Grey Road Greenway to Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks Beach Park. Note that bike helmets are required by law.
Head for the hills of the North Shore mountains to practice your extreme mountain biking skills. Burnaby Mountain also comes equipped with structures and a 28-kilometre (17-mi.) network of trails where you can practice stunts. For tamer rides, coast flat trails through heavily wooded forests in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Bicycle rentals (mountain, comfort, cruiser, hybrid and tandem) can be found had at Bayshore Rentals, 745 Denman St.; phone (604) 688-2453. In North Vancouver, rent all-mountain, cross-country, trail and freeride bikes at Endless Biking, 1467 Crown St; phone (604) 985-2519 or (604) 836-2517 after hours.
The North Shore is a good place for hiking, too. The 48-km (30-mi.) Baden-Powell Centennial Trail follows a rugged route across the North Shore, stretching from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Deep Cove on the eastern side of North Vancouver. A nice section of the Baden-Powell Trail for novices and families is accessible from Deep Cove; park near the trailhead at Panorama Park and hike 45 minutes to reach the scenic viewpoint at Quarry Rock. After the hike, you can join the locals for celebratory sweets at Honey Doughnuts & Goodies (4373 Gallant Ave., North Vancouver). More family-friendly hiking trails can be found at Lynn Canyon Park, where there are waterfalls, swimming holes, a suspension bridge and a seasonal café.
Go swimming in English Bay, which is bordered by beaches from West Point Grey to Stanley Park, most with lifeguards in summer and various amenities. Beaches are easily accessible from Northwest Marine Drive in West Point Grey, Point Grey Road in Vancouver West and from Beach Avenue downtown. Two of the most popular beaches to visit are Kitsilano Beach (with an outdoor saltwater pool and views of the downtown skyline) and Second Beach in Stanley Park (with another outdoor pool). If you want to avoid the crowds on a sunny day, head to Stanley Park's Third Beach, which has a concession stand, restrooms and its own parking lot. There are additional outdoor pools at Maple Grove and New Brighton.
White-water rafting is available April through September on the nearby Chilliwack River and a little farther afield on the Fraser and Thompson rivers, including the Devil’s Gorge. Vancouver rafting companies offering day trips as well as multiday trips include REO Rafting Adventure Resort, (604) 941-9777 or (800) 736-7238, and Kumsheen Rafting Resort, (250) 455-2296 or (800) 663-6667. Lotus Land Tours offers sea kayaking trips on Indian Arm, Zodiac tours of Howe Sound and whale-watching tours; phone (604) 684-4922 or (800) 528-3331.
Winter visitors in search of skiing can head for the hills in North Vancouver to tackle the challenging slopes of Grouse Mountain or Mount Seymour Provincial Park (see attraction listings). East of Vancouver are Hemlock Valley and Manning Park ski resorts, offering both downhill and cross-country treks. Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver also has cross-country and downhill skiing. Serious skiers and snowboarders will want to head north of Vancouver to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Baseball is played by the Vancouver Canadians at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, 4601 Ontario St.; phone (604) 872-5232 for schedule and ticket information. Indoor lacrosse can be enjoyed at Bill Copeland Sports Centre, 3676 Kensington Ave. in Burnaby, (604) 297-4521 or the 24-hour info line (604) 298-0533; and at Queens Park Arena at First Street and Third Avenue in New Westminster, (604) 777-5111.
Thoroughbred racing with pari-mutuel betting is held at Hastings Park Race Course on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition; phone (604) 254-1631 or (877) 977-7702 .
Note: Policies concerning admittance of children to pari-mutuel betting facilities vary. Phone for information.
Vancouver SightseeingOpportunities to sightsee and watch bustling harbor activities are available from 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.
Bus and Van Travel ToursWESTCOAST Sightseeing Ltd. features a hop-on, hop-off tour of Vancouver as well as 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. Contact your local AAA office or travel agency for information about vacation packages and other things to do at this destination.
Gray Line offers guided tours that include travel to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Grouse Mountain, downtown Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler; phone (604) 451-1600 or (877) 451-1777.
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 trip to Vancouver.
Day 1: MorningKick off your first day of vacation at the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre Tower (555 W. Hastings St.). A glass elevator zips to the top of this 168-metre-tall (553-ft.) building, where 360-degree views of the skyline, the North Shore mountains, English Bay, Coal Harbour and Stanley Park will take your breath away. Your admission ticket is valid all day, so plan to return at dusk to see the city twinkling with lights.
Walk a few blocks toward the waterfront to reach Jack Poole Plaza (outside the Vancouver Convention Centre at 1055 Canada Pl.). Snap a photo of the Olympic Cauldron—a memento from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games held in Vancouver—before making your way to the paved waterfront Seawall, which affords great views of seaplanes and cruise ships coming and going in Coal Harbour.
Day 1: Afternoon
Back on the mainland, spend the afternoon shopping in Yaletown (bordered by Homer and Robson streets), one of Vancouver’s trendiest neighborhoods. Often compared to New York’s SoHo, the former warehouse district attracts the young and hip with swank furniture shops, art galleries and clothing boutiques. Another popular shopping district is Robson Street (between Burrard and Jervis streets), where you’ll find recognizable brands like Banana Republic, Zara and Lululemon Athletica.
Day 1: Evening
On a clear summer evening, watching the sunset from a local beach park is an activity that won’t cost you a dime. Head to English Bay Beach Park (1700 Beach Ave.) or Sunset Beach (1204 Beach Ave.) with an ice cream cone or a coffee in hand. Find a seat on a driftwood log or a bench along the seawall and enjoy the show of vivid oranges and reds streaking across the sky.
Not ready to call it a night? Dozens of bars, nightclubs and music venues line downtown’s Granville Street. Or join the locals for microbrews and a billiard game at Yaletown Brewing Company (1111 Mainland St.); the doors don’t close until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Day 2: MorningYour first day in Vancouver was spent exploring the city, but on your second day, you’ll venture into the mountains on Vancouver’s North Shore.
Depending on the season, activities and fun things to do at Grouse Mountain include skiing, ice-skating, sleigh rides, helicopter tours, an aerial tram ride, a lumberjack show and guided forest walks. At the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife you can meet Grinder and Coola, two resident grizzlies who were rehabilitated at the sanctuary.
Grab lunch at one of the many places to eat on the mountain and recharge before your afternoon adventure.
Day 2: Afternoon
When you’ve had your fill of adventurous things to do in North Vancouver, make your way back downtown and spend the late afternoon exploring Gastown, the oldest section of the city. This touristy area is a fun place to browse; antique shops, clothing boutiques, souvenir stores and art galleries line Water Street, the main thoroughfare. Don’t miss a quick stop at the Gastown steam clock (at Cambie and Water streets), which attracts a crowd when it whistles and shoots steam on the quarter-hour.
Day 2: EveningYou’ve had a busy day of sightseeing, so why not relax over a nice dinner? Gastown has many popular restaurants from which to choose, but we recommend making reservations at L’Abattoir . Located on the site of Vancouver’s first jail (but now a sleekly renovated space), L’Abattoir serves French-influenced West Coast fare (roasted sea scallops, chargrilled quail, duck foie gras with wine jelly and more) along with inventive cocktails and a wine list featuring many B.C. selections.
Day 3: MorningEvery good Vancouver itinerary should include a breakfast or brunch spot, so add Medina Café to your list. Arrive early (they don’t take reservations and the wait can be long) and feast on Belgian-style waffles served with sweet-tooth-satisfying toppings like milk chocolate lavender or white chocolate pistachio sauce. On the savory side, their menu includes eggs with harissa-spiced beef, frittatas and other Mediterranean-influenced dishes.
If you’re not traveling with young kids, we recommend making the trip to the UBC Museum of Anthropology , located 20 minutes from downtown on The University of British Columbia campus. The museum—said to have one of the world’s finest displays of First Nations art—showcases totem poles, canoes, traditional sculptures and contemporary pieces in a modern building.
Day 3: AfternoonHave lunch at Las Margaritas Restaurante & Cantina , a longtime favorite for Mexican food in the Kitsilano neighborhood. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, complimentary chips and salsa (and perhaps a margarita?) will fuel you up for your last afternoon. The restaurant is on West 4th Avenue, the main drag in Kitsilano that’s packed with surf shops, clothing boutiques and adventure sports retailers.
Day 3: EveningWrap up your day with a dinner cruise provided by Harbour Cruises . Marvel at downtown’s nighttime skyline ablaze with lights as you’re treated to a West Coast-style buffet and live music. The picture-postcard scenery puts the snow-sprinkled North Shore mountains and West Vancouver's shoreline front and center.
Best Attractions in Vancouver
In 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 vacation 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 Capilano Suspension Bridge Park , where you'll cautiously walk 70 metres (230 ft.) above a 300-year-old rain forest and watch as 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 rose garden and an indoor tropical conservatory with dozens of free-flying exotic birds.
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, boasts elegant manicured gardens and 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 for walkers, joggers and cyclists. Horse-drawn carriage rides are a pleasing way to take to travel through the park and take in this bit of heaven on earth. With one visit you'll see why Stanley Park frequently tops the lists on travel sites of the best things to do in Vancouver.
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, said to be 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.
Courtesy of H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
Wikimedia Commons / CC BY/Jeff Hitchcock
A trip to Vancouver would not be complete without exploring its Asian heritage. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown provides a respite from the hubbub of the neighborhood's streets. The garden's design is based on the principle of yin and yang, offering peace and tranquility to all who enter. If you're wondering where to eat authentic Asian cuisine, check out local restaurants in Chinatown, along Robson Street in the West End district, and in nearby Richmond. Dozens of places offer a chance to try ramen, pho, dumplings, bubble tea and other Asian specialties.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
Best Restaurants in Vancouver
Our favorites include some of this destination's best places to eat—from fine dining to simple fare.
See and Be Seen on Robson Street
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 at this restaurant, so look around and see if you can spot someone famous. The large open-kitchen concept features a wood-fired brick oven where juicy rotisserie chicken turns slowly, filling 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 Robson Street below.
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is a popular San Francisco-style seafood grill found on one of Vancouver's busiest downtown corners just off Robson Street. Just who is Joe Fortes? Vancouver's beloved turn-of-the-20th-century hero was one of the city's first lifeguards who taught hundreds of local children how to swim. When he died in 1923 a monument was erected in his honor at English Bay which reads simply “Little children loved him.” Today, the classically styled Canadian seafood restaurant and bustling oyster bar named after Joe is one of the city's hidden pleasures. In a typical year more than 300,000 fresh-shucked oysters are served and more than 100 types of just-caught fish are grilled to perfection. Try Joe's signature hand-cut steaks or seafood cioppino. Sunday brunches feature crab and corn fritters, lobster Benedict and live entertainment. One special highlight is a delightful rooftop garden that is a year-round destination.
Fine Dining Downtown
Bacchus Restaurant has been a CAA/AAA Four Diamond Award winner since 1998. This luxurious restaurant is in The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa , a swank boutique hotel in downtown Vancouver. The windows in the piano lounge open after dusk in the balmy summer months, providing diners and lounge patrons a great spot for people watching. The creative menu with a heavy French accent features à la carte menu items and wine pairings from a globe-spanning wine list. Choose from dishes such as seared Alaskan scallops with linguini or grilled Alberta beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms. Afternoon tea and brunch are served on weekends. You might start brunch with a bacon scallop Caesar and progress to such treats as blueberry pancakes with Quebec maple syrup.
Selections from the Sea
Fresh from the Garden
Make the trip to 22-hectare (55-acre) VanDusen Botanical Garden and dine at Shaughnessy Restaurant at VanDusen Garden , a fine dining establishment serving 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.
Worth the Reservation
Dine in Stanley Park
West Coast Specialties
See all the AAA Diamond Rated local restaurants for this destination.
Chinese Benevolent Assn
Vancouver EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your trip.
Chinese Benevolent Assn
Welcome Spring with Fun and Festivals
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. For active travelers, the Sun Run is a great excuse to book a vacation in Vancouver.
In late May and early June, the Vancouver International Children's Festival is a weeklong party for kids on Granville Island. Entertainers from around the world put on plays and puppet shows as well as dance and musical performances. Fun things to do include face painting, kite flying and playing in clay; jugglers, stilt-walkers, clowns and wandering minstrels create a carnival-like atmosphere.
Get Outside in Summer
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. The festival is one of the best things for couples to do in summer.
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. Book your travel packages and vacation packages early or contact your AAA travel agency to plan your trip.
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.
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. If you're looking for fun things to do with friends, this is it.
Celebrate the Holidays in Vancouver
Interested in things to do during the holidays? 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.
See all the AAA recommended things to do in Vancouver and events for this destination.
A Trip Through Stanley ParkStanley Park is the crown jewel in a city uncommonly blessed with scenic attributes. It is not only a paradise for walkers, hikers, cyclists and adventure travel enthusiasts, but also a truly delightful wooded retreat that's all the more special for being only a stone's throw away from downtown Vancouver's skyscrapers. It's frequently at the top of the list of the best things to do in Vancouver, and one of the best ways to experience the park is to walk the seawall promenade around its perimeter, a distance totaling a bit more than 9 kilometres (5.6 mi.) that you can take at a leisurely or vigorous pace. Discover what to do in Stanley Park and fun places to go with this guide.
Start at English Bay Beach
Courtesy of Destination British Columbia
Must-See: Siwash Rock
On the other side of Prospect Point the seawall runs along Burrard Inlet. Stands of Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar are in full view on this stretch of the walk. The fierce-looking green dragon arching toward the water is the Empress of Japan Figurehead, a replica of a prow ornament that once graced the RMS Empress of Japan ocean liner. Just beyond the dragon is “Girl in Wet Suit,” a sculpture of a woman sitting on top of a rock about 9 metres (30 ft.) offshore. Although at first glance you might think she’s a mermaid, this girl is wearing flippers and has a scuba mask on her head.
Back to the West End
After curving around Brockton Point the seawall runs along the shore of Coal Harbour. There are superb views of the downtown skyline and the yachts and other pleasure craft docked at the harbor. Keep following the paved walkway until you reach the Georgia Avenue park entrance, which will take you back to the West End. Relaxing at one of the cafes or casual places to eat along Denman Street is a perfect way to end this Stanley Park jaunt. You've earned it.
Exploring Granville IslandWandering the shops, galleries and market vendors on Granville Island is often cited as one of the most fun things to do with friends in Vancouver, especially on a vacation, but do you know the history of Granville Island?
The 14-hectare (35-acre) Granville Island was created in 1915 by using material dredged 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.
Much to See at the Market
Tips and Tricks
Courtesy of Vancouver British Columbia
Places in Vicinity