It’s no coincidence that many of Vancouver’s most popular attractions are outside. This chic coastal city is the perfect mix of urban sophistication and breathtaking outdoor scenery. It’s easy to take in the city’s wonders on foot or take advantage of the public transportation including the SeaBus and SkyTrain. Navigate the sprawling city parks, head to the mountains and explore the quirky neighborhoods to celebrate the city’s unforgettable energy.
With 1,000 acres of outdoor fun, Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America. The park appeals to visitors of all ages. There are flowering gardens and wooded areas with cedar, hemlock and fir trees that are home to varied wildlife. Kids love the water park, miniature train, farmyard and aquarium. But the most popular spot in the park is the Seawall, a scenic 5.5-mile path that visitors can explore on foot, bikes or roller blades.
Bakers, fishmongers, gardeners, butchers, importers and chefs of all kind peddle their goods at Vancouver’s largest public market on Granville Island. This foodie epicenter welcomes over 12 million hungry visitors each year looking for rare mushrooms, artisanal cheeses, homemade charcuterie from Oyama Sausage Company and ultra-fresh fish. Make reservations in advance for a two-hour guided tour with Edible Canada to learn about the market’s best-kept secrets with local chefs.
Winter on Grouse Mountain means there’s skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice-skating and sleigh rides just 15 minutes from downtown. But the fun doesn’t end come summer. In the warm weather, locals head to the mountain for hiking and paragliding. Ziplines also zoom through the air and traverse the canyon year-round. If outdoor adventure isn’t your speed, climb aboard the largest aerial tramway for a 1-mile ride to the top of the peaks and the swanky Observatory restaurant.
A treetop adventure awaits visitors at the Capilano Suspension Bridge and park. The first footbridge was built in 1889 using hemp rope and cedar planks to stretch across 450 feet. While today’s bridge is made of reinforced steel, much of the 27-acre park’s historic charm remains. Totem Park displays colorful story poles telling the stories of local First Nations ancestors. The park’s newest addition is Treetops Adventure, a series of seven suspension bridges that sway 100 feet above the sweeping evergreen forest.
Less than two hours from Vancouver, Whistler Blackcomb beckons snow bunnies and outdoor enthusiasts with over 8,000 acres of fun. These two mountains have distinct personalities that adventurers can discover only through experience. Ride the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola to explore them both. The mountains are hopping in the winter with skiing and snowboarding and equally fun in warm weather with great mountain-biking trails and outdoor adventures like ziptrekking. And when you’re ready to head inside, Whistler village has 134 restaurants and bars and over 200 shops for indoor fun.
Millennium Gate’s bright colors welcome visitors to Chinatown. No visit is complete without eating. Grab one of the 1,000 seats and try some authentic Cantonese Dim Sum at Floata Seafood Restaurant. Then walk off those pork buns and chicken feet on a stroll through the tranquil rock-lined paths at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
Gastown is lovingly referred to as the place where Vancouver began when local hero “Gassy Jack” Deighton enlisted the local millworkers to help build his saloon in a single day. The neighborhood has maintained its distinctive charm, earning it a spot on the National Historic Site of Canada. Today the cobblestone streets are still lined with watering holes that draw locals and tourists in for a snack and a pint.
Seals, whales, bald eagles and blue herons all make their homes in the waters off the coast of Vancouver. You can experience this wildlife on a tranquil kayak trip or don some special waterproof gear and set off on a sea safari. Sewell’s Marina in West Vancouver offers two-hour trips from Howe Sound in high-speed Zodiac-style boats.
The Museum of Anthropology was recently renovated to add more space for the world-recognized exhibits. The museum celebrates those artifacts and objects that express human creativity from a variety of world cultures. It recognizes the rich history of the First Nations people in Vancouver with striking sculptures and artwork.
Yaletown has been on the rise since the 1990s when the old redbrick warehouses were converted into condos and high-end retail and dining. Sometimes referred to as “little SoHo,” this downtown neighborhood is young and hip with swanky hotels, cool boutiques and acclaimed restaurants. It’s also a good spot for star-gazing of the Hollywood kind as celebrities can often be found mingling in trendy spots like the Opus Bar and restaurants like the Bluewater Cafe.