Ashley Akridge - Freelance Writer
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From its stunning architecture and sweeping ocean views to its lush green parks and trendy neighborhoods, Vancouver is a city of many colors.
It is also a city with a strong sense of community, where local food, wine, art, and music are celebrated. Vancouver is consistently named one of the world's most livable cities. In addition to being an urban hub for business and tourism, it's also home to breathtaking landscapes and popular recreational activities, including skiing, hiking, and water sports.
Start your trip off by walking around downtown Vancouver. At the heart of Vancouver is a hotel-filled downtown area home to many of the city's top tourist attractions, including Stanley Park, Canada's largest urban park.
Like other areas in Vancouver, downtown Vancouver has a vibrant nightlife scene. There are plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs to choose from. Some of the most popular include Yaletown Brewing Company, Thunderbird Sports Center, and Shark Club Gaming Center.
Shopping is popular downtown with local and international brands on offer. Tourists can choose from well-known brands such as Lululemon, Nike, and Levis and their budget-friendly versions – Winners and Joe Fresh. There are also several smaller boutique stores for those looking for something more unique.
Only minutes away from downtown is Stanley Park, a massive park that borders Vancouver's West End neighborhood. This 1,000-acre park is even larger than New York City's Central Park and offers a variety of things to do, from biking or walking along its 8.8-kilometer seawall to visiting its aquarium or gardens. But, of course, a visit to Stanley Park isn't complete without seeing the park's many red cedars, Douglas firs, and hemlock trees — some of which are more than 800 years old — as well as its totem poles. It also has beaches where visitors can swim or sunbathe during the summer months. There are half-day tours that bring you downtown and stop by Stanley Park as part of a convenient package.
Located in Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium is one of the city's best attractions. The aquarium is home to over 50,000 fascinating creatures from the world's oceans, including dolphins, beluga whales, and sea otters. In addition to its extensive collection of marine mammals and fish, you can also see reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Located in an old building dating from the 1930s, the aquarium underwent a major renovation in 2001 and now holds many fascinating exhibits.
The main attraction for many visitors is the dolphin pool, where you can watch these amazing animals at feeding times. There are also daily shows at the penguin pool where you can see King Penguins and other species as they dive into their pool.
Other highlights include Beluga Encounter, where visitors can touch a beluga whale. The Amazon Rainforest exhibit with piranhas, tree boas, and poison dart frogs is also worth checking out. You will find the poison dart frogs in the Frogs Forever exhibit. In addition, see the Canadian Waters exhibit with turtles, salamanders, and salmon. Find many more exciting exhibits, including the Tropic Zone with tropical fish and coral reefs, Discovery Pool with sharks and stingrays, and the Strait of Georgia exhibit with sea lions and seals. Finally, don't forget to stop by the Pacific Canada Pavilion with sea otters and eagles, Wet Lab (interactive displays), Marine Mammal Rescue Center (where injured or orphaned animals are nursed back to health), and the harbor seal pool.
The Seawall is one of the most popular attractions in Vancouver and a must-do for any traveler visiting the city. The 22-kilometer path extends around Vancouver's Stanley Park and along False Creek and neighboring Kitsilano Beach and English Bay.
Depending on which direction you go, you can enjoy the North Shore mountains, False Creek, English Bay, and the Burrard Inlet. The Seawall is excellent for people of all ages, and it's even suitable for strollers. There are public restrooms at several points along the route, plus plenty of opportunities to grab a snack or water. A unique way to explore the Seawall is by a one hour horse-drawn carriage walk along the wall from Stanley Park.
Vancouver's Granville Island is one of Canada's most popular attractions. This small peninsula and shopping district is located across False Creek from downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge.
Granville Island is a beautiful place to spend the day with its mix of shops and galleries, theaters, restaurants, pubs, coffee houses, a hotel, and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. The island is also home to the Granville Island Public Market, where fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, fish, and local crafts.
Granville Island is easily accessible by car, but parking can be expensive, so many take the Aquabus or False Creek Ferry from downtown. If you enjoy visiting with a small group you can check out the tour by clicking the link below.
With a history that dates back to 1886, the area is known today as Gastown. It was the first place that settlers chose to settle down after they arrived in Canada's third-largest city. As a result, this neighborhood contains many important buildings and monuments – like the Steam Clock, still ticking away since 1977.
In addition to the Steam Clock, Gastown also has cobblestone streets and historic buildings. It's home to many restaurants, cafes, shops, and boutiques, so you'll want to spend some time exploring this neighborhood. The popularity of Gastown has exploded over the past few years, and it's now a must-see destination for tourists and residents alike. So if you're planning a visit to Vancouver soon, be sure to make your way down there!
FlyOver Canada is so much more than a movie; it's a fully immersive experience. FlyOver Canada is where you can go on a virtual flight over the country. While riding this attraction, you will be seated in a suspended gondola and be surrounded by cutting-edge technology that allows you to feel what it's like to soar over Canada in an ultra-realistic virtual ride.
The journey begins in British Columbia before soaring across the Prairies, then over Northern Canada and the Arctic Circle, down to Quebec and the Maritimes, then back over Ontario to the Rocky Mountains. The finale takes you through Canada's most majestic scenery in British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska as you descend 2,000 feet towards Vancouver Island and a spectacular finish over Niagara Falls.
The FlyOver Canada experience is unlike anything else in Vancouver! The attraction, located at Canada Place, has become a top destination in downtown Vancouver, attracting over 500,000 visitors every year. You can get tickets in person or reserve now online by clicking the link below.
Home to a world-class collection of more than 1,000 artworks and artifacts from indigenous cultures worldwide, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is one of Vancouver's most popular tourist attractions. Don't miss the James and Josephine Foyer Exhibits where you can get close to various items from the museum's permanent collection like artist Bill Reid's famous sculpture "The Raven and the First Men."
The Museum of Anthropology is about a 15-minute drive from downtown and easily accessible by public transit. Admission to the museum varies depending on your age but ranges from $17.50 to $22.
Once you're done exploring the exhibits inside the museum, head outside to the totem poles that adorn the grounds. Each of the 15 poles represents a different indigenous group that once lived in B.C. These carved poles honor and recognize local First Nations and draw attention to their rich history.
You can see the Museum of Anthropology and Vancouver Botanical Gardens with hotel pick-up and drop-off altogether with a private tour guide by clicking the link below. The package doesn't include admission which can be purchased when you arrive.
English Bay is home to iconic landmarks like the Inukshuk statue, and for a good reason: the picture-perfect views of the mountains and Lions Gate Bridge make it an ideal spot for tourists and locals alike. English Bay is also a popular summertime destination with sandy beaches, sunbathing areas, and boardwalks. You can also enjoy some tasty treats from the food vendors or relax at one of the many cafes.
Vancouverites also flock to English Bay in the summer because they know that, in addition to being a beautiful place to sit and admire the scenery, it is home to Fleetwood's Fish & Chips. This classic British Columbia-style fish and chip shop is a local favorite, so expect to wait in line (at least a few minutes) in the summertime.
Another fun way to see English Bay is from the water on an inflatable motor boat with a tour guide. You can learn more about the tour they do by clicking on the link below.
Canada Place is one of Vancouver's most prominent tourist attractions, with over 8 million people visiting each year. It includes the Pan Pacific Hotel and Convention Center, FlyOver Canada (that amazing flight simulation ride mentioned above), an IMAX theater, and a cruise ship terminal, so you can easily spend an entire day here.
The 5 Sails restaurant at the Pan Pacific Hotel offers panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline, so be sure to make a reservation for dinner. You can also see the city from above by taking a stroll along the seawall to Stanley Park or riding the SeaBus across the harbor to North Vancouver. If you have time for just one thing on this list, go here!
A must-do activity is trying the harbor sunset dinner cruise that gives you an excellent view of Canada Place and much more while enjoying a nice meal with your spouse, family, and/or friends. Learn more by clicking the link below if you're interested.
Vancouver is a unique city with lots to do, but sometimes you want to get out of the city and enjoy a day trip. Many scenic places are perfect for a day trip within an hour's drive from Vancouver. So whether you want to explore historic sites, venture into nature or visit some of the nearby islands, there's a day trip that's right for you! Here are our top 10 day trips from Vancouver.
Spend a day exploring the best of Vancouver by bus. This city has natural highlights and urban attractions, and nowhere is this more clear than in Canada Place, Robson Street, and the Lions Gate Bridge. You'll also get to see the vibrant neighborhoods and tree-lined paths of Stanley Park.
The tour ends with a walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Tours are about 6 hours long and cost just $112 per person, including hotel pickup.
The Gondola is an unforgettable journey through the mountains and forests of British Columbia. Passengers are presented with views that completely change your perspective with the ability to ride up to the tallest peak in the area and take in views of glacier-fed lakes, pine-forested slopes, and rugged mountain ranges, all from a height of 885 meters (2,904 feet) above sea level.
Revel in the beauty of Whistler's pristine nature as you take a Gondola tour up steep mountainsides. While viewing some of the most stunning scenery in Canada, such as a glacial lake and ancient rainforest, you will also get a chance to explore more of what Whistler has to offer. If you are looking for an unforgettable adventure in BC, this tour will not disappoint.
A trip to Vancouver isn't complete without visiting Victoria and the Butchart Gardens. So before you leave Vancouver, book yourself on a day trip that takes you from the bustling metropolis of Vancouver through the natural beauty of British Columbia's capital, Victoria. This beautiful city is home to the Butchart Gardens. Make sure to set aside several hours to explore this magnificent garden and stroll along the many paths.
The Fraser Valley is home to British Columbia's most revered wineries, offering over 100 different reasons to visit. When you book this tour, you'll see four of the best wineries in the area — you'll get a combination of free tastings and guided walking tours at each one.
You'll have the chance to learn about local wines and the wineries behind them. This tour will take you to the heart of British Columbia's wine country, giving you an unforgettable experience. The tour goes all day, giving you time to visit several wineries and sample their products. At the end of the tour, enjoy a ride back to your hotel in downtown Vancouver.
Cultus Lake is located about an hour southeast of Vancouver and is the perfect place to spend a summer day if you don't want to go too far. The waterpark has all kinds of exciting water slides, among other attractions like mini-golf and bumper boats. There's also a beach area where kids can play in the sand and swim, plus a few different places to grab some food.
Cultus Lake is an excellent park for young children who need a little more supervision. It has a baby pool, a huge waterpark, and a water playground just for little kids.
Just 100 kilometers east of Vancouver, Harrison Hot Springs is home to natural hot springs that are said to have healing powers. The village has many great restaurants, shops, and galleries; it's also next door to Sasquatch Provincial Park, which has fantastic hiking trails through old-growth forests.
The beach at Harrison is the largest sandy beach in the Fraser Valley. It's popular with families and has a long pier that reaches the lake. There are also boat tours exploring the lake's ecosystem, and there are several hiking trails in the area. Harrison hosts many festivals, including their world-famous hot spring music festival each fall and their annual dragon boat festival in May.
Whales migrate through the Gulf Islands in the spring and summer, so you might get lucky and see some humpback, gray, or killer whales. Seeing these magnificent creatures is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Many different whale watching companies offer tours out of Vancouver, so you have several options to choose from. The whales will leave you speechless as they breach right out of the water! Whale watching is a great way to spend a few hours on a beautiful day.
Prince of Whales Whale Watching
Vancouver Whale Watch
Eagle Wing Tours
Hiking and Kayaking in Deep Cove
Hiking and kayaking are the perfect combinations of exercise and adventure. The best place to go hiking and kayaking together is Deep Cove. The scenery is spectacular, the water is calm, and the sense of solitude you feel while paddling the Indian Arm will not be found anywhere else in Vancouver.
Deep Cove is a picturesque village on the eastern side of North Vancouver that's popular for its kayaking, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Despite being only a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, Deep Cove feels like a world away.
Deep Cove Kayak rents out kayaks by the hour or day for anyone who likes kayaking. If you have never tried kayaking before, they offer lessons as well. The staff is very friendly, and they will help you get in and out of your kayak safely.
Prince of Whales Whale Watching is one of the top-rated tours so be sure to consider them as an option.
Enjoy the waterfront views of Horseshoe Bay, a scenic fishing town and ferry terminal on the edge of Vancouver. Located in Howe Sound, this area is popular with locals and tourists alike for its restaurants, gift shops, and cafes. Stroll along the boardwalk and picnic on the beach before hopping aboard the ferry to Nanaimo or Victoria.
Horseshoe Bay Village is small enough to explore on foot easily, but there are also plenty of hiking trails nearby if you want to get out into nature. The scenic Howe Sound Crest Trail is roughly 4 miles (6 km) long, starting at Cypress Provincial Park and ending at Porteau Cove Provincial Park.
Take a boat tour through Howe Sound instead if you want to rest your legs. You'll see eagles, whales, and other marine life as you cruise past protected bays, secluded coves, and rugged islands.
Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park offers a range of activities, from swimming and fishing to mountain biking and horseback riding. Suppose you want to cool off on one of the hottest days of the year, head to the lake, where you can swim and enjoy a picnic lunch in a shaded area. You can also choose to hike one of the many trails or go boating on the lake with your kayak or canoe. If you plan on visiting during the summer months, keep in mind that this provincial park is top-rated, so it's best to arrive early and be prepared for crowds.
The campsites are located next to the lake, and there are also backcountry spots available if you're feeling adventurous. The park is open all year, but it can get jam-packed on summer weekends because of its proximity to Vancouver.
There are three main hiking trails: Keyhole Falls, Flora Lake, and Radium Lake. You can also rent boats or kayaks from the Chilliwack River Rafting company (located just outside the park) if you want to explore the lake from the water. Make sure you check the road conditions before heading up, as the gravel road into the park can be treacherous in the winter months.
Vancouver is a city of foodies, and its restaurant scene is constantly evolving. There's something for everyone from the fine dining that earned Vancouver's top eateries a coveted place in the World's 50 Best Restaurants to the food trucks and pop-up restaurants that are part of this city's dynamic street food scene. Here are our top 10 picks of where to eat in Vancouver.
A visit to Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is a Vancouver rite of passage. The restaurant has been in business for more than three decades and is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Eat on the patio or in the charming dining room with dark wood accents, brick walls, and white tablecloths. Of course, you can't go wrong with the crab cakes, but we also love the wild salmon and the lamb chops. For dessert, try the signature key lime pie or chocolate mousse cake.
Address: 777 Thurlow Street, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at JoeFortes.ca
Cardero's was built in 1895, and from the outside, it looks like a typical British pub. It houses a large first-floor restaurant, and its second-floor sister pub is solely dedicated to live music. The restaurant prides itself on its fresh seafood (try the wild salmon), but there are plenty of other meat options too. The drink menu is comprehensive and includes a diverse selection of local craft beers.
Address: 1583 Coal Harbour Quay, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at VancouverDine.com/Carderos
A Vancouver institution, it's famous for its sushi-grade fish and seafood from around the world. They serve up a wide range of dishes, including oysters, mussels, and clams, as well as the best quality tuna and smoked salmon. The decor is industrial chic, with concrete floors and exposed ceilings. The atmosphere is lively at lunchtime, and it's more sedate in the evenings. When the sun comes out, head to the Yaletown patio to soak up some rays while you eat your oysters.
Address: 1095 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at BlueWaterCafe.net
Black + Blue is a classic steakhouse emphasizing fine Canadian beef, including a selection of aged prime rib cuts and the prized Japanese Wagyu. The dining room has the feel of a high-end hunting lodge — some tables are set in private booths with low ceilings and fireplaces, while others are in a more open space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Alberni Street. It's also one of the few places to find an excellent Scotch egg (soft-boiled organic egg wrapped in ground beef and pork).
For those who aren't steak enthusiasts, don't fret: the rest of the menu doesn't disappoint. There's something here for everyone from lobster tacos to mac 'n' cheese.
Address: 1032 Alberni Street, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at GlowbalGroup.com/BlackBlue
Italian Kitchen is one of the most famous Italian restaurants in Vancouver. It's a great family spot and has a vast wine list. There are always servers around to refill your water or pour more wine. The menu offers a wide variety of pasta and meat dishes, with highlights including the veal ravioli and the seared tuna. It's worth trying the homemade fettuccine or gnocchi alongside one of the tempting desserts on offer.
Address: 860 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at GlowbalGroup.com/ItalianKitchen
If you're looking for a meal with a view, Coast will not disappoint. The restaurant sits at the end of the pier at Canada Place, giving diners a front-row seat to watch boats sail by on the Burrard Inlet. The menu offers seasonal ingredients and local seafood. Some of the highlights include butter-poached lobster and escargot.
Address: 1054 Alberni Street, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at GlowbalGroup.com/Coast
This restaurant brings something different to the Vancouver food scene: Aburi sushi – a traditional Japanese method of lightly grilling and flame-searing the top side of fish and seafood. Miku's signature dish, the Aburi Oshi Sushi, is made with lightly seared salmon, pressed and topped with Miku's secret sweet sauce. An unforgettable experience for your taste buds, the colors and flavors are bright, fresh, and visually exciting. The setting is contemporary and light-filled, with a floor-to-ceiling glass window looking out onto Coal Harbour. Make sure you reserve your spot early as there is always a line to get in.
Address: 70-200 Granville Street, Graville Square, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at MikuRestaurant.com
Glowbal's elegant dining room and buzzing bar mingle in a contemporary space that perfectly reflects the restaurant's upscale Italian-California cuisine to taste the city's fashionable side. The menu combines traditional seafood and regional meats with innovative ingredients (fire-roasted octopus with black garlic and fennel or an arugula salad with grilled peaches, goat cheese, and hazelnuts). If you're feeling flush, you can indulge in one of the restaurant's many steak dishes — including a $179 cote de boeuf served with lobster mashed potatoes and topped with foie gras.
Address: 590 West Georgia, TELUS Garden, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at GlowbalGroup.com/Glowbal
Located not far from the waterfront, The Old Spaghetti Factory makes an excellent stop for lunch or dinner if you're exploring downtown Vancouver. There's no dress code here: Come straight off your cruise ship or out of a meeting, and you'll fit right in. The service is friendly, and kids will especially enjoy the old-timey trolley car to sit to eat their meals.
The menu features classic spaghetti dishes like spaghetti with meatballs and lasagna. In addition, it includes less common offerings like penne alfredo (penne pasta with cream sauce) and chicken caesar salad (grilled chicken breast served on a bed of romaine lettuce). Finally, don't forget to save room for dessert: The chocolate chip cheesecake is rich but delicious.
Address: 53 Water Street, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at OldSpaghettiFactory.ca/Locations/Gastown
Cactus Club is one of the most popular chains in Vancouver, with locations throughout the city and beyond. The Coal Harbour location has stunning views over the harbor and Burrard Inlet, while its menu offers modern Canadian cuisine.
Address: 1085 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC
Visit their website for more information at https://www.CactusClubCafe.com/Location/Coal-Harbour
Vancouver is a vibrant city with no shortage of things to see and do. And it's this abundance of attractions that make it an attractive destination for tourists. But if you want to get the most from your visit, you'll have to determine what draws you in and plan your trip around those attractions. Here's a quick rundown of the best things to do and see in Vancouver, along with a few recommendations from us on where to eat, drink, and play. You should be able to put together an itinerary quickly once you put your mind and heart into it!
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