Vancouver is, above all, a place to enjoy the outdoors. You’re always just around the corner from rugged adventure in the Coast Mountains or on the Strait of Georgia, whether that means skiing, hiking, or hopping a six-seater floatplane to Vancouver Island. It would take months to work your way through everything the city and its surroundings have to offer, but here are some activities to get you started.
On the Waterfront
Vancouver is bounded by Burrard Inlet to the north, the Strait of Georgia to the west, and the Fraser River to the south. Consequently, water-related attractions are legion—and thanks to a mild climate that rarely dips below freezing, most of them are accessible all year long.
- Stanley Park: Set along the shores of Burrard Inlet, the park encompasses forests, beaches, gardens, and a 13-mile (22-km) waterfront path with designated lanes for walkers, joggers, cyclists, and inline skaters.
- Beaches: Options include everything from the bustling Kitsilano Beach—“Kits Beach” to locals—to the clothing-optional Wreck Beach, which stretches for nearly 4 miles (6 km) along the University of British Columbia campus.
- Vancouver Maritime Museum: A fully renovated arctic-explorer vessel christened St. Roch—the first ship to circumnavigate North America back in 1950—and a replica of a French warship carved from pork bones are among the holdings at this waterfront museum celebrating Vancouver’s maritime history.
- Whale watching: From March to October, you may spot grey whales or orcas (depending on the month) on half- or full-day tours.
In the Mountains
The Coast Mountains, which extend all the way up the Pacific coastline, make a dramatic downtown backdrop. For a closer look, take to the many parks, trails, and scenic byways within a short drive of the city.
- Skiing: The two closest ski resorts—Grouse and Cypress Mountains—feature a handful of powdery runs; it’s worth taking the two-hour drive north to Whistler Blackcomb, site of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
- Provincial parks: A number of them dot the surrounding mountains, but sprawling Garibaldi Provincial Park takes the cake. You’ll find lofty peaks, alpine meadows, and glacier-fed lakes.
- Hiking: The 1.8-mile (2.9-km) Grouse Grind is a challenging climb, but those who make it to the top are rewarded with unbeatable views of downtown Vancouver. There are less daunting hikes in the area, too, which you can access via the Skyride aerial tram.
Food and Wine
Sustainable, regional cuisine is a huge part of Vancouver’s culinary culture—the Ocean Wise seafood-conservation program and the 100-Mile Diet that encourages eating locally were both invented here.
- Chinatown: The place to go for authentic dim sum, such as shrimp and pork dumplings and congee, a thick rice-based soup
- Granville Island Public Market: Where Vancouver’s top chefs shop. Vendors sell local cheeses, meats, and produce, as well as tasty prepared foods.
- Fraser Valley wineries: Small, family-owned vineyards dot this rolling region located an hour outside of the city. Because of the short growing season, the region specializes in early-ripening chardonnay and pinot noir.
Neighborhoods Worth Checking Out
- Yaletown: The once-gritty streets of Yaletown are now home to art galleries, microbreweries, and swanky warehouse lofts.
- Gastown: Highlights of this historic waterfront neighborhood with cobblestone streets include a 1912 Canadian Pacific Railway Station, antique shops housed in refurbished buildings, and a steam-powered clock.
- Robson Street: A fashionable downtown thoroughfare with more than 200 trendy boutiques, cafes, and restaurants
Where to Stay
- If you’re traveling with pets: Dogs stay for free at the chic OPUS hotel in Yaletown; the boutique property even throws in complimentary dog beds, bowls, treats, and midday walks.
- If you want to live like the rich and famous: Elvis Presley and Katharine Hepburn are among the notable guests who have stayed at the luxe Rosewood Hotel Georgia. The downtown hotel has one of the city’s most opulent lobby lounges, serving classic cocktails and small bites.
- If you want to be near the water: Granville Island Hotel has picture-perfect views of False Creek and downtown Vancouver. Try the sustainably caught steelhead salmon or sablefish at the hotel’s waterfront restaurant.
- If you have a retro sensibility: The Burrard, a circa-1950s motel, recently underwent a full renovation to preserve its vintage vibe. The colorful property is a block away from Davie Village, the city’s LGBT hub.