The bustling westcoast seaport of Vancouver in British Columbia is packed full of uniquely fun and memorable things to see and do.
There are very few cities quite like Vancouver, where you can ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon. Its packed with sites of natural beauty, including snow-dusted mountains, sandy beaches, forest trails, kayaking routes and green spaces. It’s not short on man-made attractions either, including a number of acclaimed museums and festivals. We’ve picked out 12 of the most fun landmarks, events and activities the city has to offer.
Attend a fun-packed festival
At the end of each September, Culture Days sees millions of people attend thousands of free participatory arts and culture events across Vancouver and the rest of Canada. Spread over three glorious weeks of colour, and creativity, the public are invited to get hands-on and behind-the-scenes to highlight the importance of arts and culture in Canadian communities. Experiences range from workshops, performances, and outdoor arts excursions to mini-documentaries, livestreamed art projects, and more. See more info at www.culturedays.ca/en/bc.
Venues across Vancouver / September-October each year
Running from the end of March through to mid-April each year, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is the city’s signature springtime event, waking it up from winter hibernation to an explosion of some 40,000 blossoming cherry trees that line the streets and other public spaces. Originally gifted from Japan in the 1930’s, the cherry blossom now inspires a month-long roster of (mostly free) arts and cultural community events that allow both locals and visitors to capture the beauty of the occasion.
Venues across Vancouver / April each year
Take in some culture
Located at the University of British Columbia campus, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum invites you to discover the interconnectedness of all life on Earth, and our role in preserving these delicate systems. Visitors can explore the spectacular biological collections, with 20,000 square feet of 500-plus exhibits, from insects to birds. Among the museum’s two million treasured specimens is a 26-metre-long blue whale skeleton suspended in the atrium, dinosaur trackways from BC’s early Cretaceous period, and myriad fossils, mammals, reptiles, and plants from around the Vancouver region and across the planet.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus, 2212 Main Mall / Tues-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon
Founded in 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery is recognised as one of North America’s most respected and innovative visual arts institutions. The Gallery’s ground-breaking exhibitions, extensive public programs and emphasis on advancing scholarship all focus on the historical and contemporary art of British Columbia and international centres, with special attention to the accomplishments of Indigenous artists and to the art of the Asia Pacific region – through the Institute of Asian Art founded in 2014. The Gallery’s programs also explore the impacts of images in the larger sphere of visual culture, design and architecture.
750 Hornby Street / Sat-Mon & Weds 10am-5pm Thurs-Fri 10am-8pm
Join a city sightseeing tour
Stanley Park and Granville Island are two of Vancouver’s most famous attractions, and this 3.5 hour guided sightseeing tour invites you to explore them both along with other landmarks and places of interest. After a hotel pick-up, you’ll travel by coach through the city, starting in the historic district of Gastown before continuing to Chinatown – boasting the largest Chinese population outside of China. Next you’ll head to Granville Island to visit the public market featuring a farmers’ market and artists selling local goods. The tour ends with a visit to Stanley Park and Prospect Point, where you’ll stop to admire the totem poles and learn about the history of the park and the First Nations people that used to live there.
Drive the legendary Sea-to-Sky corridor
Widely considered to be one of the most the beautiful drives in the world, the Sea-to-Sky corridor is a scenic road route that takes you from the heart of downtown Vancouver to the world famous ski town of Whistler. The route takes in an array of jaw-dropping natural and man-made scenery, including waterfalls and the imposing suspension bridge. The journey time is around 1.5 at average speeds, although the temptation to stop off to take snaps of the beautiful vistas along the way is almost certain to extend that.
Go whale watching
The waters off the Vancouver coast are a treasure trove of marine life, including a large number of whales. This tour invites you to embark on a whale watching adventure aboard the 62-foot state-of-the-art Salish Sea catamaran, a covered boat with several viewing areas spanning three different elevations. Over the course of 5 hours at sea, you’ll explore the waters off Vancouver for whales, seabirds and more while your crew provides commentary on the local geology and local marine creatures. Along the way you can soak up the views of the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands and Howe Sound.
Hike Mother Nature’s Stairmaster
For keen hiking enthusiasts, the Grouse Grind is something of a rite of passage in Vancouver. Nicknamed “Mother Nature’s Staircase”, the 2.5-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore takes hikers some 850 metres up through the alpine landscapes. Once at the top, a panoramic chalet awaits with ice cold drinks and sensational views across the city. For the return journey, the blessed relief of the Grouse Gondola will transport you back down to terraferma.
Sample local fare on a food tour
Gastown is not only one of Vancouver’s most historic districts, it’s also something of a food-lover’s haven. This 2.5-hour food tour offers visitors the chance to discover its rich culinary scene for themselves. As part of a group of up to 16 guests, your entertaining guide will show you around the area by foot while regaling you with stories of its past and how it emerged into a modern hub for art and culture. During the tour, you’ll stop for a total of seven food tastings and three alcoholic drinks from some of Gastown’s diverse array of eateries. Foodie highlights will include Canadian classics like poutine, Japanese Kar-age style chicken and local craft beer.
Wander around a tranquil botanic garden
A 55-acre oasis in the heart of Vancouver, VanDusen Botanical Garden is home to over 7,500 plant species and varieties from around the world. Open all year round, it provides the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city, allowing visitors to unwind in a serene setting. Highlights include the chance to spot local wildlife, find your way through an Elizabethan hedge maze, take a stroll down Laburnum Walk, dine on the patios of Truffles Cafe or Shaughnessy Restaurant, or browse the garden-themed gift shop.
5251 Oak Street / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Embark on a suspension bridge & seaplane combo adventure
This half-day tour combines an aerial ride over the city with a visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, home to one of Vancouver’s most distinctive landmarks. Departing from downtown’s Coal Harbour, you’ll take to the skies for a spectacular 20-minute seaplane journey. Back on firm land, you’ll move on by bus transfer to the suspension bridge, located 70 metres above the Capilano River. Here, you’ll get to traverse the dramatic Cliffwalk which follows a precipice along the river on a maze-like series of bridges, stairs, and platforms through rainforest vegetation. The tour ends back in downtown.
Marvel at an array of marine life
One of North Americas largest aquariums, the Vancouver Aquarium is located in the heart of Stanley Park and draws huge numbers of visitors every year. Displaying a stunning variety of animal species, you can discover what lies beneath the ice cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, what’s living above in canopies of the Brazilian Amazon, and plenty more. The aquarium also hosts daily sea lion, otter and penguin experiences, as well as a regular rotation of exhibitions.
845 Avison Way / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm