Vancouver is a beautiful city on the West Coast of Canada. There are many things to do in Vancouver, from stunning mountains to ocean views, a foodies paradise to hiking the many trails; Vancouver has it all.
Being in a city with many things to do may make you feel overwhelmed about where to start. As a local to Vancouver, I will help you break down locations and give you all the details on where to visit that are worthwhile.
This is a guest post by Kelena. She is a curious Canadian travel blogger who loves exploring her backyard and travelling to other countries worldwide. Sharing her experiences and details for others to enjoy is what she loves to do through her writing at Written by Kel
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Things To Do In Vancouver, British Columbia
You may be thinking, is Vancouver worth visiting? Where do I start? This list is condensed to help you find things you want to do in Vancouver. Locations sometimes have more than one thing to do in the area.
Queen Elizabeth Park
In the heart of the city, Queen Elizabeth Park is a must-visit location when visiting Vancouver.
The stunning Quarry Rock Garden, or the QE Rose Garden in bloom, is a beautiful display of colourful flowerbeds and lushes trees. It is a perfect photo-op spot to take Instagram-worthy pictures.
The Blodel Conservatory is a dome aviary with many plant and bird species. The Seasons in the Park restaurant is an elevated dining location inside Queen Elizabeth Park with stunning views of the mountains, Vancouver, and Downtown Vancouver.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
VanDusen is a beautiful location to take pictures. The gardens are spectacular, with art displays, a fine dining restaurant, and a hedge maze. During the winter, you can expect the park to be decorated with twinkling Christmas lights at their Festival of Lights.
Stanley Park is located in the middle of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Harbour. It is one of Vancouver’s beloved and largest parks with many things to do inside.
Many Stanley Park bike tours go along the popular greenway known as the Seawall and other paths within the park.
There are other things to do within Stanley Park, such as the famous Vancouver Aquarium, which focuses on mammal rescue, rehabilitation and release and marine conservation. The aquarium is an excellent learning space for children.
Moreover, other points of interest include the Nine O’Clock Gun, which goes off every day at 9:00 PM, Girl in a Wetsuit, Totem Poles, Siwash Rock, and more.
Prospect Point Lookout is an excellent spot to take photos of the Lions Gate Bridge, West Vancouver, or sunset.
Granville Island is known as the arts district in Vancouver. You can find many art galleries and local artisan shops inside Granville Island.
The Granville Island Market is a fantastic place to purchase local produce and meats or grab a bite at a local food vendor. Some restaurants and pubs are in the surrounding areas.
The Kids Market is a kid-centric shopping mall catering to children. You can find toy shops, clothing, and other things kids love.
Science World is the place to be if you want something to do on a rainy day with children or want to hang out during adult-only evenings.
There are many different interactive displays and exhibits that everyone can participate in and learn about science at the same time.
Of course, exploring Downtown Vancouver is a given thing to do. But here are the neighbourhoods and locations to check out while visiting.
Granville and Robson Street are the two main streets with restaurants and shopping. Robson Square is where you can find the Robson Square Ice Rink, which is open during the winter.
Yaletown is a hip location where you can find trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and other small businesses. The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre is also in Yaletown. David Lam Park is another small park in Yaletown along the water.
Gastown is another neighbourhood you can also explore. It is one of the only places in Vancouver with mixed brick and cobblestone sidewalks and streets. In Gastown, pubs, trendy restaurants, coffee shops, and Canadian souvenir stores exist.
Coal Harbour is where many tourists take pictures along the waterfront, purchase tickets to FlyOver Canada, or explore a convention. Coal Harbour is where cruise ships dock right beside Canada Place.
It is also a connected greenway to the start of the Seawall on the other side of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Cauldron in Jack Poole Plaza. The Vancouver Christmas Market is hosted in the same area during the winter.
Chinatown is another neighbourhood in Vancouver. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is tranquil in a busy city. If you are looking for classic Chinese-style dishes or pastries, New Town Bakery is popular among the locals.
You may also ask yourself, is Vancouver safe to visit? Yes and no. No city is crime free, but there are areas and neighbourhoods that tourists must be aware of. Still, some locations are considered safer than others, especially at night.
Capilano is located in North Vancouver. It is home to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Vancouver, called the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The park consists of a 137-foot suspended bridge over the top of a river surrounded by a lush forest.
There is also a Treetop Adventure, where you can walk among the trees, and a Cliffwalk, where you will walk on a bridge around a cliff face. There are other attractions to learn about the history and culture of the suspension bridge and the Indengious peoples that own the land.
Lonsdale Quay (pronounced KEY) is across Vancouver Harbour, part of North Vancouver. It is easy to get to as you can ride the SeaBus, which would take about 5 to 10 minutes.
It is an excellent place to walk around during the day and check out the small Lonsdale Quay Market, and during the summer, you can find the Shipyard’s Night Market.
While similar to Capilano, Lynn Canyon is free to enter and has a much smaller suspension bridge. A trial will lead you to a 30-foot pool, a popular swimming hole during the summer.
The Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre, the small museum, is filled with information about the park, local plants, and wildlife.
Exploring The Mountains
One of the things Vancouver is known for is their stunning mountain ranges. From left to right, Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour all have many things to do in Vancouver in winter.
Cypress Mountain is mainly used for cross-country skiing. There are many paths made for cross-country skiers and slopes to coast down.
Grouse Mountain, on the other hand, is more popular for snowboarding and downhill skiing. Also, the Grouse Grind is a popular moderate to challenging hike during the summer as it is all incline.
And last but not least is Seymour Mountain. While you can ski or snowboard at Seymour, the mountain is most known for snowshoeing and or tubbing.
Things To Do Outside Of Vancouver
While there are many things to do in Vancouver, there are also many things to do that are outside of the city. If you did not rent a car, do not worry; local transit or Uber, Lyft, taxis, and shuttles are available.
A neighbourhood located in Richmond, the historic port is also a salmon canning centre. Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf is where you can grab a bite to eat or ice cream. You can also walk along the greenway along the edge of the Fraser River.
A significant outdoor event held in the summer is called the Richmond Night Market. The night market has many Asian food vendors, from desserts, skewers, the hurricane potato and more. There is also entertainment at the stage near the front entrance and an arcade games area. In addition, small business vendors sell socks, jewelry, phone cases and more.
Right next to Vancouver across Boundary Road is the city of Burnaby. There are many locations to check out in Burnaby, such as Deer Lake Park, a beautiful park in the middle of the city with activities to do on the lake, such as kayaking or paddle boating. Swimming is not allowed in Deer Lake.
There is also the Burnaby Village Museum, where admission is free; however, it is only open during certain times of the year. It is an outdoor museum, so dress appropriately for the weather. There is also a carousel that has a small fee to ride.
Also within Deer Lake Park are the Shadbolt Centre For The Arts, Burnaby Art Gallery, and the Century Garden.
A popular location among locals is Burnaby Mountain Park. It is a wide opened area that is a stunning spot to watch the sunset. You can also explore the Simon Fraser University campus as it is close by.
Near the Canada and USA Border is the city of White Rock. It is an oceanfront location where you can walk along the promenade near the ocean. There are shops and restaurants where you can find popular things like fish and chips or ice cream. Moby Dick is the most popular fish and chips spot in White Rock, and it is delicious and has large portions.
The famous landmark of the White Rock Pier stretches out into the ocean at 1,542 feet (470 metres) long. Of course, you cannot miss the best attraction, The White Rock, a 486-ton boulder kept white from shellfish-eating birds covered in guano so much that 19th-century sailors used it as a beacon. Now it is maintained by white paint.
Harrison Hot Springs
About a two-hour drive East of Vancouver, you can stumble upon the village of Harrison Hot Springs. And yes, you guessed it, Harrison has some natural hot springs on the edges of Harrison Lake. Bring a bucket of lake water to help regulate the temperature.
During the summer, they open the Harrison Watersports, where you can have fun on the giant inflatable water park, Seadoo, or bumper boats.
Golden Ears Provincial Park
About an hour from Downtown Vancouver, Golden Ears Provincial Park is a popular camping spot because it is one of the closer large camping areas. If you decide to swim, boat on Alouette Lake, or do any hiking trails in the park, you will need a day pass.
It is a beautiful park with lush green trees and stunning hiking trails. I recommend checking out Golden Ears Provincial Park if you are into the outdoors.
Travelling Along The Sea To Sky Highway
These are the places where to stop along the Sea to Sky Highway. It is rated as one of Canada’s best scenic highways. Given the highways pass reputation, is the drive from Vancouver to Whistler safe? Yes, however. At the same time, crashes are inevitable, drive cautiously and go slower if needed.
There are also many viewpoints along the drive, such as Tantalus Lookout, Tunnel Point, and Pull-Off.
Squamish is the midway point from Vancouver to Whistler. It is a place where many outdoor rock climbers like to go to climb the side of the Stawamus Chief. If you are not a rock climber, do not worry, you can hike The Chief, as we locals like to call it, instead.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is something you can experience while on your way to Squamish. It is a gondola up the mountain to stunning views and activities. Or you can hike along the trail to Shannon Falls, which connects between the gondola and the falls.
Britannia Beach is also another location along the way that is worth stopping off at if you have children. It was once a booming copper mining town. It is now a museum where they will take you on a fun, informational tour through the mine — other activities on the property include panning for gold/rocks and their production of BOOM!
Porteau Cove Provincial Park is a fantastic rest stop. Also, if you are an avid diver, Porteau Cove is where many scuba divers like to explore the sunken ship.
Garibaldi Park is among the most beautiful hiking locations along the Sea to Sky Highway. Like Golden Ears, you will need a pass to enter the park.
Hiking to Garibaldi Lake is an intermediate hike that will take at least six hours; you can expect breathtaking views. While there are many hikes in the Garibaldi Park area, some popular ones include Mt Garibaldi, Castle Towers Mountain, Mt. Price, and one of the most challenging hikes, The Black Tusk.
Whistler is a world-renowned ski resort that many from all over the continent and around the world visit. It is a tourist location where many love to come and spend the day walking in the village or doing excursions such as zip lining, ATVing or, if you are a daredevil, the Whistler Bungee Jump.
Many in the summer love to head up to Whistler for mountain biking and the following events, such as Red Bull. Or to bike along the many trails that are in the surrounding area.
While you do not need to mountain bike, ski, or do any excursions, you can always walk around Lost Lake or along all the other trails surrounding Lost Lake.
Explore The Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast has many beautiful small towns, such as Gibsons, Sechelt, and Roberts Creek. If you spend an extended time in Vancouver, I recommend staying the night in one of these small towns.
It will be a 40-minute non-stop ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to the Langdale Ferry Terminal. I also recommend having a car if you plan to explore the Sunshine Coast because there are only some or no bus options to drive outside the towns.
Day Trip To Victoria
The capital of British Columbia is Victoria, located on Vancouver Island. Reaching Swartz Bay from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is approximately an hour and 35 minutes non-stop. Victoria is a perfect day trip or a weekend getaway if you want to explore outside Vancouver.
There are many things to do, starting with exploring Victoria’s Historic Chinatown. It is home to North America’s narrowest working commercial street, Fan Tan Alley.
It was once known as a place with illegal gambling clubs and drug-related productions in the 1920s. Today it is a tourist destination with many small shops, an art gallery, apartments, and office space.
In Downtown Victoria, you can find many restaurants and bars, retail stores, souvenir places, and historical locations. The Fairmont Empress Hotel is one of the most historical buildings in Victoria.
Not too far away is the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia building. Daily guided tours will take you through the building and see where politicians meet. Or you can hang out and take pictures out on the front grounds.
A block over from the Legislative Assembly building, you can find the famous Royal BC Museum. The natural history museum, with film included, is a must-stop place to learn about the history of Victoria, Vancouver, wildlife, and more.
Inner Harbour is where you can stroll by the water or book whale-watching tours, popular on Vancouver Island because we are on the whales’ migration journey. Not far away is Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can see colourful floating homes in the harbour.
Beacon Hill Park is a large park within walking distance from Downtown Victoria. The Beacon Hill Children’s Farm is where they can pet and learn about farm animals. The World’s Tallest Free-Standing Totem Pole is also inside Beacon Hill Park at 173 feet (52 metres) high.
Exploring the gardens or having high tea at The Butchart Gardens is something everyone should experience in Victoria. Other high tea locations include Tea at the Empress, The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden, White Heather Tea Room, and Pendray Inn and Tea House.
After visiting The Butchart Gardens, head to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, where you will see hundreds of free-flying butterflies, parrots, frogs and more. Or, if you are into arachnids and insects, check out the Victoria Bug Zoo to learn about all those creepy crawlies.
As you can see, there are many things to do in and around Vancouver, from the mountains to the oceans, museums to outdoor activities. Vancouver has something for everyone to enjoy throughout the entire year.
TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs
Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.
Hire a rental car – RentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.
Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.
Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.
Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.
Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.
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