It’s one of Canada’s largest cities, so there should be no surprise that there is an endless number of things to do in Vancouver.
The first time I set foot in Vancouver, I could not comprehend the beauty of the city. To me, it was impossible for a city to be surrounded by snow-capped mountains, rainforests, islands, wildlife, sweeping pine forests, wild waterfalls, and tons of bays.
The city is the ultimate playground for people of all ages; there are just so many things you can do in Vancouver and so many beautiful places to see that to make a list like this is near impossible!
With Vancouver’s efforts in preserving the natural features of the city and its surrounds, it opens up a world of hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding, to food and micro-brewery goodness no matter where you find yourself on this lush city of British Columbia. There are a ton of activities in Vancouver and it’s known for an active lifestyle with sports a regular part of life.
Vancouver, for me, is one of the most beautiful cities on earth and one of the safest to visit, so here is a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Vancouver!
The Best Things to do in Vancouver
Stand on Grouse Mountain
Without a doubt, the best thing you can do in Vancouver, well North Vancouver is Grouse Mountain. Although it may seem like a very touristy attraction, it’s well worth the slightly longer commute from Vancouver as the views you get from the top are some of the best you will see anywhere in Vancouver.
Grouse Mountain can be accessed a few ways, and it all depends on whether you like to chill and take in the views which by taking the gondola to the top through forests of pine and as you get higher and higher, Vancouver starts to appear, and the views are very spectacular.
The other option is for the hardcore athletes or those wanting to give their legs a good stretch to hike to the top! The Grouse Grind basically begins at the same point as the gondola but takes you a lot longer to reach the top, approximately one hour of the lush uphill trail, but it is worth the effort as the views are spectacular.
Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge
If you are not fond of heights, maybe the Capilano Suspension Bridge isn’t for you but don’t let that put you off coming to this favorite spot in beautiful British Columbia.
Despite the enormous amounts of visitors heading to the bridge, I think it is worth the visit. To avoid the crowds it’s pretty straightforward all year round, and all you have to do is arrive as soon as the gates open, and you’ll be able to capture some great images without anyone there.
Visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge during winter as snowflakes trickle there way from the sky is visually stunning to see. There’s nothing quite like experiencing a walk among the native pines of British Columbia some 70 meters above the gorge below.
Check out Granville Island
Granville Island is a place to come to chill, sit back with a beer and eat some excellent food. It may seem to have an industrial feel to it, and you’re right, it used to be a place of many industrial activities, but now it’s a place where it’s most things food and beverage.
A visit to Granville Island isn’t complete until you have explored and tasted your way through Granville Island Public Market.
Food markets are the perfect way to sample local produce and Vancouver is known for its seafood so definitely won’t go hungry here!
From Granville Island, it is super easy to get to downtown Vancouver, which can be achieved by ferry or a walk along the Granville Bridge.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Despite Vancouver the hundreds of snow-capped peaks soaring high into the clouds in the distance, you probably didn’t know that the highest point in Vancouver is only 167 meters above sea-level?
Queen Elizabeth Park is the ultimate place right amongst the hustle of the city to capture the last rays of light as the sun sets or if you are looking for somewhere to relax; you’re in the perfect spot only a few blocks from Granville Street.
Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
Canada has a rich history of culture, which remains vital to the people of Canada and those living in British Columbia.
Spending an hour or two at the Vancouver Art Gallery can fill you with so much information and visual concepts of culture not only in Vancouver but British Columbia as a whole.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is on Hornby Street parallel to Howe Street.
Explore Vancouver From a Ferry
If you look at Vancouver from a map, you will notice that the sea surrounds the city, which means you can pretty much take a boat the whole way around Vancouver!
Road Trip to Whistler Blackcomb
When in Vancouver, one must not leave British Columbia without going for a road trip along one of the most majestic highways in Canada. The Sea to Sky Highway takes you into the heart of the pristine mountain peaks, waterfalls, natural wonders of B.C, and ends in Whistler!
Only 1.5 hours north of Vancouver is a hotspot for all things snow and ski, however, there are plenty of things to do if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder.
With all the sights to see on the drive to Whistler Mountain, it’s going to take 3-4 hours one way probably, but it’s so worth it.
The drive consists of a coastal cruise along Howe Sound which is often fed by snow and ice melt from the peaks that surround it so expect to see a different selection of blues as Gambier Island and Anvil Island dominate the backdrop of the drive.
As you pass Squamish, it’s all things mountains with the spectacular beauty of Mount Tantalus to the left and the right. You’ll be driving straight towards Whistler but before you arrive, make sure to stop at Brandywine Falls.
Brandywine Falls is a spectacular 70-meter waterfall! Brandywine is the perfect place for a lunch break, a short hike to stretch the legs before hitting the road for a short drive to Whistler Mountain! Of course, we’re partial to all of this because the most fun thing to do in Vancouver to us is snowboarding in Whistler.
Ride a Bike around Stanley Park
No one travels to Vancouver and doesn’t go to Stanley Park. If Vancouver gets a bit too hectic, head over to Stanley Park for a stroll among its natural wonders or take a bike around Stanley Park.
Stanley Park also connects to West Vancouver, a gateway to British Columbia’s mountains, forests, and natural wonders.
Lynn Canyon Park
Every day of the year, the Capilano Suspension Bridge can be jam-packed with people so having an alternative of places to go is always right!
Lynn Canyon Park is on the north side of downtown Vancouver, so you may need to take a ferry from Waterfront Station for a short walk after disembarking.
Lynn Canyon Park offers a swing bridge just as impressive as the Capilano Bridge if not better. Swaying some 50 meters above the canyon below, you are bound to feel the scale of British Columbia’s size.
Lynn Canyon Park is an excellent place to chill out in the warmer months, especially if you love swimming!
Watch a Game of Ice Hockey
There is no better thing to do in Vancouver than to go and see a home game of the mighty Vancouver Canucks!
Ice hockey is an incredible game of speed and skill played on an ice rink to score a goal (keeping it simple).
Canadians are some of the best ice hockey players in the world, and watching a game live can undoubtedly get the heart pumping.
If you are considering going to watch a game, make sure to book your tickets early as stadiums sell out quickly on game day.
When I think of Canada, I certainly don’t think of beaches, gold sand, and waves but I am wrong. British Columbia’s coast has a vast array of beaches and surf breaks to the more chilled out places, idyllic for laying out a towel and soaking in the warmth of the Canadian summer sun.
English Bay beach is one of those places perfect for relaxing and for avoiding the downtown rush of Vancouver.
English Bay has a series of 10-foot high bronze figures on either side. The statues feature funny faces as they participate in activities meant to maximize warmth for the city.
Kitsilano Beach has similar features to that of English Bay Beach, but a little better with the addition of a saltwater swimming pool the size of two and a half football fields. The saltwater pool is heated, for an excellent place to check out make sure to bring your bathers.
Seven kilometers to Vancouver’s north is the chilled out Bowen Island which is one of the best spots not only to go swimming or kayaking in the warmer months but a place where you can sit back with a book or take a snooze underneath the trees of the island, sounds like paradise to me!
If this all seems to relax and you’re in desperate need of adventure, Vancouver Island is a hotspot for surf breaks and beaches.
Getting to Vancouver Island is an article for another day.
Exploring Historic Gastown
Every city no matter where you go has a place where everything begins, and today they are known as old towns.
Vancouver’s old town is Gastown, a relatively untouched section of the city where it’s a step back in time with traditional buildings, roads now mixed with a hint of 21st century Vancouver.
There aren’t a significant amount of things to do in Gastown other than to marvel in at what Vancouver used to look like.
Going on a Food Trail
Vancouver is known for its pop-up food stalls, local markets, and food trucks, so the chances of you getting hungry at any point during your stay in Vancouver is improbable.
Vancouver has this thing about food trucks and oh my god it’s incredible! Throughout the week, there are many spots that food trucks will pop up giving you access to some of the best eats in British Columbia. Whether it be Indian, Chinese, Japanese, or Mexican, there are so many food trucks buzzing around the city that you’re sure to find something that makes you salivate!
If food trucks aren’t your thing, Vancouver is sure to have you covered in an array of ways with an almost endless list of boutique beer bars to cafes and restaurants that give an optimal view of the stunning mountains that surround Vancouver.
Canada and maple syrup are best buddies, and if you are on the lookout for a drop of delicious, golden goodness and wherever you decide to have breakfast there’s a good chance maple syrup will be one of the items on the menu.
As a big fan of eating local when traveling, I cannot pass the opportunity to eat where food comes straight from the paddock and onto the plate.
Forage Vancouver operates on a seasonal menu, meaning whatever is in season and ready for picking or harvesting, it will most likely be on the menu.
Exploring the city limits of Vancouver is a must primarily when places like Lighthouse Park exist.
Situated at the mouth of Burrard Inlet, this is one of the last remaining natural wonders of Vancouver left completely untouched by development and logging.
Exploring Lighthouse Park is super easy with an array of hiking trails weaving and winding through the ancient trees that stand before you. Lighthouse Park is also a great place to watch the sunset from with the sun setting over Burrard Inlet and beyond.
Cypress Provincial Park
What makes Vancouver so appealing to pretty much anyone and everyone who visits is the fact that there are so many parks within 10 to 30 minutes’ drive or ferry from downtown Vancouver.
Stanley Park might be the best place to relax in Vancouver, but Cyprus Provincial Park takes the win for the number of hiking trails and bike trails available for you to choose.
University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens
Visiting a university anywhere in the world while on holidays can be a strange thing to do. You might be wondering why it’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver but to tell you the truth, its seriously one of the most beautiful campuses on earth.
There are not too many universities in the world that can say they have their botanical gardens and what makes this garden even more special is that now and then, you can catch a glimpse of Vancouver’s surrounding mountains often with ice and snow still latched on to the slopes.
While you are in the botanical gardens, why not go for a stroll through the campus which has its town center and beach.
When to Visit Vancouver?
Deciding when to visit Vancouver or Canada, in general, will always be a dilemma. Vancouver and British Columbia have three seasons according to the locals, and they are snow season, sun season, and surf season.
Snow season running from December through to March gives an ample amount of time to check out and shred Vancouver’s surrounding ski fields.
Sun season is when the adventures begin, and Vancouver gets busier. The sunny months run from the end of March to August.
Surf season is kind of like the rainy, cold months before winter well and truly kicks into gear. Expect higher than average rainfall and colder conditions from September through to October.
How to Get Around Vancouver?
As you might know, driving a rental car in the city can be a very daunting experience and the fact that you have to pay for most parking spots, you will be better off exploring this fascinating city by foot, ferry or bicycle.
Hiring a bike is super easy, and if you plan to cross the water on a ferry, the local transport authority caters for bikes so you can take your bike on board!
Vancouver has a series of trails and tracks where you can ride without the hassle of traffic such as Stanley Park, and the Pacific Spirit Regional Park near the University of British Columbia.
Buses frequently run throughout Vancouver so if you want to get from downtown Vancouver to Gastown, jump on a bus!
I mentioned earlier about exploring Vancouver by ferry. Ferries are an excellent alternative to buses and taxis and often give a better view of your surroundings.
Ferries from Granville Island and Waterfront offer the best amount of destinations for getting around and out of Vancouver.
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