With its temperate climate, stunning skyline and a pristine natural setting, Vancouver is an active and thriving city that’s perfect for all types of travelers and you can get a start on activities with these Top 10 Things to do in Vancouver.
From enjoying the city’s many beaches in summer to skiing down its mountains in winter, or whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, there’s no shortage of things to do in Vancouver. The city’s world-famous Stanley Park and mountain views and Grouse Mountain to art galleries, museums and beaches, Vancouver has something for everyone.
Here are the Top 10 Things to do in Vancouver (in no particular order) that should be at the top of your list:
Stanley Park is a large public park that borders the downtown area of Vancouver. The park offers a variety of activities including walking, biking, jogging and picnicking. The green space features beaches, trails and a totem pole trail. There are also many restaurants and cafes to choose from in Stanley Park if you would like to grab something to eat after your walk around the park or ride on one of their carousel rides!
The park is a 1,001 acre (4.05 km2) historic park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It’s located at the southern tip of the city, running adjacent to the downtown peninsula. The park was established by Frederick Arthur McKenzie in 1888, and is named after Lord Stanley, the 18th Governor General of Canada. A century later, it remains an extremely popular tourist attraction, with more than 10 million visitors per year.
If you have ever wanted to see wildlife up close but weren’t sure where they lived? Stanley Park is home to many different types of wildlife including deer, squirrels, raccoons and even bears! So if you’re looking for something fun yet educational then look no further than Stanley Park at night when most people aren’t around so it feels more magical than ever before!
The totem poles at Stanley Park are a must see; they’re beautiful, they’re historic and they’re a part of Vancouver’s cultural identity.
The totem poles at Stanley Park were originally carved by the First Nations people who lived in the area prior to European settlement. The poles were used as markers for travellers and as storytelling tools, but they also had spiritual significance as well.
Today, many of these original totem poles have been moved to their current location at Stanley Park. However, there are still many other impressive examples of First Nations art scattered throughout the park that aren’t necessarily connected with this history.
A great way to learn more about these pieces of art is by taking one of the guided tours offered by the park service. These tours will teach you about each totem pole’s meaning and history, along with other interesting facts about Vancouver’s past!
The Suspension Bridge at Capilano is a popular tourist attraction for residents and visitors alike. This suspension bridge in Vancouver was built back in 1889 by hand and has since been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
The 1,056-foot long structure offers spectacular views from its dizzying heights, but it’s the park surrounding it that really draws the crowds. Visitors can explore many different trails including:
- The Cliffwalk – this trail takes you along the edge of sheer cliffs with stunning views of Howe Sound below. The walkway itself is made up of glass floor panels that allow you to look down onto an adjacent mountain face or overhanging rock wall as you traverse along your path. You’ll need to be careful not to trip on any steel rebar sticking out from these walls!
- Suspension Bridge – this suspension bridge crosses a 100 foot gap between two points high up in trees above the forest floor below. The park also has multiple other attractions such as giant playgrounds for children (and adults) alike!
In 1920, a new owner bought the property and added a gift shop, restaurant and museum to the site. Today there are several restaurants along with shops selling souvenirs and gifts, as well as a museum where you can learn more about the history of the area and see some artifacts from its early days.
Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. In the early 1900s, Gastown was an industrial area surrounding a steam-powered sawmill and brick works that produced bricks from nearby clay pits on the waterfront.
It has since been gentrified into a charming area with many restaurants, bars and shops to explore. The cobblestone streets are lined with heritage buildings that recall its history as a rough-and-tumble district where things like prostitution were common (but only for men). It’s also home to some of Vancouver’s best pubs and clubs—and the atmosphere here is always lively!
- This historic district of cobblestone streets and restored Victorian buildings was established in 1867 by William “Gassy Jack” Deighton as Canada’s first permanent settlement west of Ontario. The area became known as “Gastown” due to Deighton’s preference for alcoholic beverages over food; thus, he often ran out of money for food and resorted to drinking alcohol instead!
Although it is often described as being “Canada’s oldest Chinatown”, that title goes to the nearby Chinatown in Victoria. Today, Gastown’s Chinese population is very low compared to other ethnic groups in Vancouver. The neighbourhood has become a centre for high-end shopping, including many designer boutiques such as Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen.
Grouse Mountain is a mountain in North Vancouver that has an elevation of 1,900 metres (6,233 ft) and is a popular tourist attraction and recreational destination.
The mountain has three attractions: the Peak Chairlift which allows you to ride up the mountain; the gondola which takes visitors to its summit; and Skyride, a cable car ride that travels from midway down the slopes on Mount Seymour to Grouse Mountain’s base station. There are also ski slopes at Grouse Mountain during winter months, but they are not accessible by vehicles or hikers because they are covered with snow all year long.
There are several restaurants onsite including Peak Café & Bar as well as two hotels—a ski resort hotel at mid-mountain level called Panorama Lodge (formerly known as Eagle Ridge Resort) and an upper lodge building located near its peak named Cloud 9 Restaurant & Lounge (formerly known as Summit Lodge). Both facilities offer accommodation for skiers who want to stay overnight when visiting during winter months.
Grouse Mountain was named for early resident William Grouse who ran cattle on it in 1885. In 1901 it was purchased by Thomas Tait for $4 per acre when it actually sold for $100. In 1911 he opened it as a picnic area and in 1912 built North America’s first chairlift to carry skiers from the base area to Seymour Lake; this was replaced by an aerial tramway in 1928 using horses until 1960 when diesel engines were introduced.
Granville Island is a popular tourist attraction for those who come to Vancouver. The island is home to many artists, craftsmen and restaurants. It’s easy to spend an entire day there just wandering around and shopping, but if you’re looking for a meal or crafty souvenir, Granville Island can be the perfect spot.
Granville Island’s market is known as one of the world’s best places for fresh seafood thanks to its large fish market and busy wharf area (which also happens to be home to some very lovely views). If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at cooking up some salmon on the BBQ or pick up some freshly caught crab legs from one of several vendors selling their wares right off their boats.
If food isn’t your thing (or even if it is), then head over to Granville Island Public Market where you’ll find everything from locally made jewelry and clothes all the way through furniture stores selling pieces handmade by local artisans.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is a great place to visit if you’re looking for something more than just sightseeing. This award-winning museum features works from Canada and around the world, with major exhibitions showcasing both contemporary and historical pieces. The VAG has been ranked as one of the top art collections in North America and is home to over 50 galleries, making it one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm; Closed Mondays, while the admission is FREE (Donation Box).
What To See: Permanent Exhibits include Aboriginal art (the largest collection outside of Australia), contemporary Canadian paintings/sculptures/ceramics/photography by international artists including Picasso and Warhol, American folk art and other Aboriginal inspired artwork from around the world. There are also rotating exhibits that change every few months so there’s always something new!
Best Time To Visit? Early afternoon during weekdays will ensure fewer crowds but on weekends or holidays expect longer wait times due to larger crowds.
Kitsilano Beach itself is also great for swimming because it has public beach access points located at both ends of the beach. During summer months, this isn’t an issue because it’s warmer outside than inside your home (unless you live in Los Angeles). The beach is located near English Bay and Sunset Beach. The City of Vancouver has built several amenities at Kitsilano Beach, including an outdoor pool, washrooms with change rooms, a lifeguard station and showers.
Located on the south end of Kitsilano beach is the Kitsilano Pool, which opened in the summer of 2010. This outdoor saltwater pool allows you to go swimming in a natural environment and is open year-round. From May to September, you can rent paddleboats or kayaks at this location as well!
There are also two playgrounds: one for toddlers and another for older children, while the Kitsilano Showboat offers a variety of watercraft tours from its dock near Kitsilano Beach.
Van Dusen Botanical Garden is a 60-acre (24 ha) botanical garden, and is open from 8:30 AM to 5 PM daily except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The garden was founded in 1931 by Major Frank Van Dusen, who had been a horticulturist for the Provincial Government of British Columbia since 1902.
He established the garden on his own property on Oak Street with the intention of using it as a place to grow rare plants and flowers not found in other gardens in the region. On January 15, 1932 he opened the garden to the public with over 500 varieties of plants on display. The garden has since grown to include over 10,000 varieties of plants and trees from around the world.
Vancouver’s Van Dusen Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to take the family for a day out. There is a restaurant on-site where you can eat lunch or dinner while enjoying the scenery. There’s also a gift shop and bookstore if you want to pick up some souvenirs for friends and family back home.
The Vancouver Aquarium is a public aquarium located in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. It is the largest aquarium in Canada and one of the largest in North America.
The aquarium maintains an animal collection of approximately 2,000 specimens representing more than 600 species, including fish, marine mammals, birds and invertebrates. The facility also houses about 400 live animals representing some 50 different species at any time. The aquarium was opened in 1956 by the Vancouver Park Board as an educational institution on marine science and conservation. In 1970 it became a charity and a self-supporting operation through memberships and admissions fees. The number of animals in its collection has steadily increased since the opening year of 1956 with over 60 species representing British Columbia’s coastal waters on display today.
The aquarium has 10 galleries, including a tropical rainforest habitat that simulates a Pacific Northwest Coast environment, where animals such as otters and seals are housed. Other exhibits include: the Harbour Seal Pool; the “Window on Washington Waters”, which features Puget Sound fish and other creatures; the Jellies Gallery; and the Marine Mammal Pavilion. The aquarium also houses a permanent marine mammal display featuring Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), and harbour seals (Phoca vitulina). In addition, there is a children’s area with interactive displays about sea life.
What do you think of the Top 10 Things to do in Vancouver?
I traveled here solo, as I am an avid solo traveler and felt safe the whole time I was there! Make sure to check out my post on “How to: 11 Solo Traveler Safety Tips” to make sure you trip is a safe and memorable one!