Things to do in Vancouver, BC
Posted on August 23, 2018
Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and has the best of both worlds – beaches and ocean and snow and mountains. Whether you want to go whale watching, eat any kind of cuisine, or immerse yourself in nature, Vancouver has it all. Here are some of our travel tips and favorite (and most #instagramable) things to do in Vancouver.
What to do in Vancouver?
There are many things to do in Vancouver! The Tourism Vancouver website is a great resource for more information.
Grouse Mountain – Grouse Mountain is one of three local Vancouver mountains that is an easy drive from the city. At the top, there are phenomenal views of the city and Vancouver island. You can take the gondola up to the top or if you’re feeling extra motivated and adventurous, you can do the grouse grind, which is a pretty intense hike.
- Taking the gondola – During May to October, Mountain Admission Tickets ($56 adult) include a scenic round trip Skyride, Peak Chairlift, Lumberjack Shows, Birds in Motion Demonstrations, Ranger Talks at the Bear Habitat, and more.
- Hiking the Grouse Grind – The Grouse Grind is a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” The trail is so steep and narrow that downhill travel is not permitted. There is no fee to climb the Grouse Grind trail. From the top, the cost to take the Skyride back down is $15.00.
- Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)
- Base: 274 metres above sea level (900 feet)
- Summit: 1,127 metres (3,700 feet)
- Total Stairs: 2,830
- Statistics: Annually, over 150,000 people hike the trail.
- Average Time: On average it takes up to 90 minutes to complete the hike. For novice hikers, two hours is recommended.
- Getting to Grouse Mountain
- Free round trip bus shuttle is available between Canada Place and Grouse Mountain during the summer. Purchase of a Mountain Admission Ticket is required. Trip takes approximately 30 minutes each way.
- Public transit – Take the SeaBus from downtown to North Vancouver then hop on a 25 minute bus ride.
- Driving directions available here.
Capilano Suspension Bridge – Take a walk on this impressive 450-foot-long (137-m) suspension bridge that hangs 230 feet (70 m) above the Capilano River. Breathtaking views among the treetops and forest. Admission ($46.95 adult) also includes the thrilling Cliffwalk and a Treetops adventure consisting of seven suspension bridges attached to Douglas-Firs which is great for kids!
- Free bus shuttle service is available year round from Canada Place or select downtown locations
- Driving there – 10 minutes from downtown through
Stanley Park over Lions Gate Bridge and north 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) on Capilano Road. Parking in the car park is $6.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge – A free alternative to Capilano Suspension Bridge with a smaller, but still impressive suspension bridge 50 meters in the air. It’s a great location for a family picnic, a leisurely hike, or a refreshing swim in one of the many popular swimming holes. Open 10 am to 5 pm. Directions by bus or car.
Whistler – The drive along the Sea to Sky Highway there must be one of the most beautiful drives in the world! Snow-capped mountains, open waters, lush forests, waterfalls, lakes, climbing areas, and charming towns and cafe. Not only is your destination remarkable but so is the journey to get there.
It takes approximately 1.5-2 hours to drive to Whistler from Vancouver – you may want to stop in Squamish en route and ride the “Sea to Sky” gondola, or if you are feeling adventurous, hike the Stawamus Chief.
Sea to Sky Gondola – A scenic 45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. A 10 minute gondola ride will take you up to a truly magical place with spectacular views: bright blue water of Howe Sound, dotted with green islands and backed by the steep mountains of the Coast Range; the majestic Stawamus Chief; and a bird’s eye view of the town of Squamish with the rugged, snow-capped mountains to the north.
Stanley Park / Seawall – Located next to downtown Vancouver and larger than Central Park in New York, Stanley Park is a must see! There is a seawall that runs all the way around the outside of the park with two lanes – one for cyclists and one for pedestrians, which provides beautiful views of the coastline and is approximately 10km long. The seawall runs down past English Bay to False Creek and round to Kitsalano, and is definitely worth a walk (or cycle). Inside the park, there is the Vancouver Aquarium, mini golf course, totem poles, horse-drawn carriage rides, as well as open green spaces, a kids water park and nice walks.
Vancouver Aquarium – Canada’s largest aquarium, a world-class facility in the heart of Stanley Park that’s home to more than 50,000 aquatic animals including otters, dolphins, sea lions, and penguins.
Granville Island – Once home to industrial work, Granville Island is now anchored in the arts and crafts community. There is a lot to see, including food and drink stalls, art galleries, a fun kids area and knick knacks, as well as free public entertainment. Explore the Island’s art galleries, glass-blowing studios, and numerous cultural landmarks. It’s easy to spend 3-4 hours at Granville Island, especially when you realize all of the places to eat and drink!
The Granville Island Public Market is the crown jewel of the island. With towers of dazzling fruit and fresh flowers, there are 3 buildings and over 90 vendors. Unlike other Public Markets around the world, this one mainly sells ingredients, not prepared foods. Meet local artisans and feast on some breads, meats, cheeses, fruits, sweets and donuts.
You can get there by bus or car, or by taking the False Creek ferry across the water.
Yaletown – A lovely area with lots of great restaurants, sophisticated late night drinks, health and wellness businesses and boutique shopping. It’s my favourite place to go for happy hour food!
- Blue Water Café for fresh seafood, along with excellent cocktails
- Minami for a pressed oshi sushi
- Yaletown Brewing Company for pizza, beer and a fun vibe
- Homer Street Café for comfort food, wine and cocktails in a cheeky space adorned by reclaimed factory windows, antique tiling and lots of rooster pictures
Gastown – The original part of Vancouver and maintained its old-school charm. It has old buildings, cobblestone streets, and cool lampposts. You can find delicious hipster restaurants, bars, and breweries. Every store has something different – local craft beer, delicious homemade Italian tortellini, beer-battered fish with chips, Asian Bao street food, refreshing alcoholic beverage , Carolina-style pork BBQ, organic soft ice cream, smooth cheesecake, handmade chocolates, pure maple syrup treats, and more!
Robson Street – The city’s best-known shopping precinct that was once known as Robsonstrasse for the sheer number of German and European stores that opened up after the Second World War.
Canada Place – Located at downtown harbour front, Canada Place is an iconic national landmark welcoming local residents, visitors and ships to the West Coast. It is a multi-use facility that includes FlyOver Canada, convention centre, cruise ship terminal, hotel and more.
Coal Harbour – Despite the fact that Coal Harbour is right downtown, it’s a surprisingly calm little neighbourhood, right on the water’s edge. It’s even more surprising given its industrial history as a former shipyard sitting right next to the railway terminus.
Science World – Ignite your mind and discover the wonders of science with interactive displays, inspirational feature exhibitions, jaw-dropping live science demonstrations and larger-than-life films in the OMNIMAX® Theatre.
Vancouver Art Gallery – Spark your curiosity by checking out the art and exhibitions at the VAG. Be sure to take a photo on the iconic stairs outside and grab a drink on the Gallery Café’s rooftop patio. Open daily 10am-5pm (admission $24), Tuesdays are open 10am-9pm with special by donation pricing from 5-9pm. Sundays free for children 12 & under.
VanDusen Botanical Garden – An inspiring 55 acre outdoor oasis with over 7,500 plant species and varieties. Spot and photograph local wildlife, enjoy the hedge maze with the kids and relax in a serene setting located in the heart of Vancouver. Bring a picnic or dine on the patios of Shaughnessy Restaurant or Truffles Café.
Queen Elizabeth Park – At 152 metres above sea level, it’s the highest point in Vancouver and makes for spectacular views of the park, city, and mountains on the North Shore. Free admission, pay parking lot.
Beaches (English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, Second Beach, Wreck Beach) – Vancouver’s quintessential beach experiences present views of the mountain, water, downtown skyline and forest – all absolutely free of charge. If you’re up for it, strip down to your birthday suit and lounge at Wreck Beach, the city’s official nude beach.
Kayaking in deep cove – Kayak, stand up paddleboard (SUP) or canoe on Indian Arm, a spectacular 25 km fjord surrounded by majestic mountains, scattered with secluded beaches and seductive islands, and filled with rich marine life. View eagles, sea stars, seals and more in Vancouver’s wilderness gem!
Vancouver Public Library – Beautiful and majestic architecture located in the heart of downtown. The library is clean and well maintained with 7 or 9 floors of public access. Each floor has plenty of private seating to sit and read or work.
Richmond Night Market – During the summer, this Chinese night market ($2.75 admission, free under 13 or over 60. Prepare for long lines but tons of stalls for fried squid, fish balls and Chinese knick- knacks.
Chinatown – Established back in the 1890s, Vancouver’s Chinatown runs around six blocks, bordered by East Pender Street, Gore Avenue, East Georgia Street, and Carrall Street. You’ll find plenty of classic Asian specialty stores, as well as a burst of modern retailers by young entrepreneurs.
Playland at the PNE – Located a 10 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, Playland features over 30 rides and attractions including the historic Wooden Roller Coaster.