Best Things To Do in Vancouver
Vancouver is meant to be experienced outdoors. Thanks to its temperate climate and abundance of rain, the city has its fair share of lush outdoor spaces, the largest among them being Stanley Park. If you’re not up for strolling its nearly 1,000 acres, visit some of the city’s other beloved outdoor attractions like Queen Elizabeth Park or VanDusen Botanical Garden. For a real thrill, take a walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which hovers 230 feet above Capilano River. When you’re ready to refuel, you’ll have your pick of delicious market eats at Granville Island and Lonsdale Quay.
1. Stanley Park
This nearly 1,000-acre park on the tip of Vancouver’s “thumb” (just north of the West End) is home to some of the city’s favorite, most-visited attractions. In fact, you could easily spend more than a day here and still not see everything this urban oasis has to offer. If you want to experience the park the way the locals do, walk, cycle or jog around the nearly 20-mile-long Seawall that hugs Vancouver’s waterfront. The path starts at the Vancouver Convention Centre and ends at Spanish Banks Beach Park. If you’re not up for the walk, you’ll find several bike rental companies near the park. With your bike, you’ll be able to explore the more than 17 miles of forest trails that are much less crowded than the rest of the park. Travelers recommend biking the South Creek Trail, which leads to the lily pad-covered Beaver Lake. If you’re not up for all that exercise, you can ride a hop-on, hop-off trolley or a horse-drawn carriage. Both guided tours (offered seasonally) include informational narration. Recent visitors said the park offers a great escape from the city and has one of the prettiest seawall walks around.
2. Granville Island
This former industrial site is now one of Vancouver’s most beloved neighborhoods. Practically its own mini-city, Granville Island’s former factories now house trendy restaurants, galleries and theaters. But the main draw here is the Granville Island Public Market, often described as one of the best open-air markets in North America. Among the seemingly endless aisles of fresh produce and local crafts, you’ll find a variety of food stalls selling everything from baked goods to ethnic snacks. If the weather is nice, try and grab a seat outside by the water. You can watch ferry boats putter back and forth in English Bay while enjoying the performances of the buskers who regularly play for market crowds. After filling up on market eats, head to the perpetually busy Kids Market. This playtopia sells toys and crafts and features an indoor play area. If you don’t have kids in tow, visit Canada’s first microbrewery – Granville Island Brewing. You can enjoy daily tours and tastings in the taproom.
3. Queen Elizabeth Park
Attracting more than 6 million visitors a year, Queen Elizabeth Park is one of Vancouver’s most popular outdoor spaces (second only to Stanley Park). Spread out across nearly 130 acres, the park features a rose garden, a meticulously manicured quarry garden, and an arboretum with about 1,500 native and exotic trees. When you’re not admiring the park’s flora, head inside the Bloedel Conservatory to visit the fauna. The conservatory features more than 120 free-flying exotic birds, not to mention 500 tropical plants and three different climate zones. Step outside the conservatory and you’ll spot the Dancing Waters fountain display, along with several sculptures scattered throughout the plaza. Since the park sits at the highest point in Vancouver, it offers spectacular views of the city skyline, mountains and shoreline from the fountain plaza.
4. Kitsilano Beach
When the weather’s nice, follow Vancouverites down to the shores of English Bay to Kitsilano “Kits” Beach. Often compared to L.A.’s Venice Beach, this shoreline along the northern edge of Kitsilano is the city’s most popular swim spot, especially for the city’s 20-something crowd. When you’re not relaxing on the sand or admiring the skyline views, you’ll find areas for in-line skating and volleyball, along with tennis courts and a playground. Visitors do warn that the beach can get quite busy in summer, but it is clean and always has “good vibes.” If you’re in the mood for swim but the bay water is just a little too chilly for your liking, try the area’s heated, saltwater Kitsilano Pool (open May to mid-September). You can also visit the nearby Vancouver Maritime Museum, which offers an educational respite from the summer sun. When you need to grab a refreshment, you’ll find several concession stands as well as a more formal dining room at The Boathouse Restaurant on Kits Beach.
5. Spanish Banks Beach
Spanish Banks boasts a few features that set it apart from the city’s other beloved shorelines. Thanks to its location about 5 miles northwest of downtown Vancouver, Spanish Banks is the least crowded and most quiet. It’s also the best place to try your hand at skimboarding – a cross between surfing and skateboarding – due to the low tidal conditions (at low tide the water is more than half a mile off shore). If the ocean water is too chilly, there are plenty of volleyball courts available for pick-up games. Visitors call the beach beautiful and say exploring at low tide can be lots of fun, especially for kids.