A Guide to the Attractions and Activities in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver City Guide

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Welcome to the cosmopolitan and coastal city of Vancouver, British Columbia, known as the home of thousands of diverse and established immigrants, the setting of majestic natural beauty, and the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. As the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, you can be sure that Vancouver has plenty to offer in terms of tourist attractions, landmarks, nightlife, cuisine, and retail culture.

Landmarks and Attractions in Vancouver

Lovely Canadian art is on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and delightful contraptions will greet you at the Telus World of Science at Science World. Check out more than 70,000 animals are housed at Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest. Be sure to visit historic Gastown, a beautiful old district with designer shops and galleries, cobblestone lanes, and the world’s first steam-powered clock (but don’t get lost in the shadier parts of the city that border this district). Check out the stunning city skyline from the new harbor-side Convention Centre, or find solace in the gold-porcelain-roofed International Buddhist Temple.

With its seawall, petting farm, aquarium, and dozens of other activities, 1000-acre Stanley Park is Vancouver’s oasis in the city’s restless downtown district. Vancouver has 18km of beaches—Wreck Beach for nudists, Spanish Banks for dog-lovers, Jericho Beach for volleyballers, etc—with boardwalks teeming with cyclists, kayak and windsurf rentals, volleyball courts, and bbq sites. Ride horses in Southlands, or take a shoreline Art Tour at the city’s fascinating waterfront public art installations. Every August, join the 500,000 spectators crowding the English Bay to watch the HSBS Celebration of Light, a fiery competition between three international fireworks companies. Be sure to also catch the annual PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, the Chinese New Year festivities (Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Pender and Keefer streets), and the February-March Jewish Chutzpah! Festival.

Nightlife and Family Fun in Vancouver

Visit Grouse Mountain, an amazing ski resort in the winter and a scenic hiking destination year-round. Another park worth seeing is that with the 450-ft Capilano Suspension Bridge, as well as a Kids’ Rainforest Explorer program and Living Forest exhibit. Visit the mammals at Maplewood Farm and the fish at North Vancouver’s Capilano Salmon Hatchery. Or take a slide up at Whistler, only 120km away and one of the world’s best winter ski resorts (also home to the 2010 Winter Olympics)! Check out the legend-filled seven underground stages at Storyeum, a classic family delight.

Vancouver provides enjoyable nightlife with a range of entertainment hot spots including nightclubs, brew pubs, dinner theatres, karaoke lounges, and jazz clubs.

Off the Beaten Path in Vancouver

Vancouver is one of the biggest movie production spots worldwide; at almost any given time, a potential Hollywood blockbuster is in the making somewhere nearby! Be on the lookout for large neon signs, lines of large white trucks, or bright movie lighting. Other lesser-known spectacular treats are the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in Vanier Park (June-September), or the beautiful 55-acre VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Shopping and Restaurants in Vancouver

Granville Island serves as a charming shopping and cultural destination, brimming with artsy shops and galleries, restaurants, a brewery, theater, and public market. For an equally quaint but lively retreat, be sure to visit the English Bay and savor the sunset along with a drink. Robson Street is a popular attraction in downtown Vancouver with plenty of brand names and trendy shops, also boasting a variety of great restaurants. For a wonderful mesh of history, gentrified urbanism, boutiques and cafes (best at noon or evening), businesses and residencies, be sure to hop on an Aquabus and make your way over to the warehouse district Yaletown. Other hotspots include Main Street, Commercial Drive, Kitsilano, Kerrisdale, and Davie Village.

There are plenty of amazing restaurants in the city, including the famous beautifully-designed Brix. For an authentic gourmet experience, consider a three-hour tour with Edible British Columbia. Don’t leave Vancouver until you sample its four authentic local elements: Japanese-styled tapa Izakaya, Pacific Northwest Seafood (think mussels, oysters, crab, salmon, etc.), Japa Dog (think NY hotdog with seaweed-and-okonomiyaki-sauce flavoring), and an immaculate Vancouver cappuccino coffee. Finally, don’t miss out on the spectacular Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival in March/April!

Photos provided by: Chispita_666 Lu, SqueakyMarmot