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20 of the ultimate things to do in Vancouver

city of Vancouver

There are very few places in the world that can ignite your senses and recharge your soul the way British Columbia does. With its lush rainforests, abundant mountain range and coastlines hugging the Pacific Ocean, British Columbia is a hub for outdoor activities, especially in Vancouver. Care to hit the beach and slopes in the same day? With its proximity to some of the best mountains and beaches in Canada, Vancouver can deliver that and more.

If you’re looking for a list of the best things to do in Vancouver, look no further! Here’s the ultimate Vancouver activities you can do any time of year…

20. Bike the Seawall

You can’t visit Vancouver without biking around the Stanley Park Seawall. Pedal among the trees through the 10 kilometre paved route. This journey offers the best views of the Northshore mountains, so be sure to pack a lunch and take advantage of the many places to stop and take in the scenery. If you don’t have a bike, there are tons of places to rent bicycles close to the Stanley Park entrance along Denman Street.

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19. Visit Granville Island

Known for it’s arsty vibes and the famous Public Market, Granville Island is a charming area to visit. Browse the markets for some unique items, then grab a beer at the Granville Island Brewery. If you’re hungry, indulge in some fresh local seafood at one of many dockside restaurants. At night catch an improv show at Vancouver Theatresports or hop on the ferry and head back downtown.

 

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18. Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The 140-metre Capilano suspension bridge hovers 70 metres above Capilano River, providing a really cool nature-immersive experience. Over the years, the park has evolved from its humble beginnings into a full day park experience including a cliff walk, treetops adventure, and guided history tours. If you’re lucky enough to visit over Christmas, experience the park during Canyon Lights, which is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver at night during the holidays.

Capilano

Image source:Tim Trad / Unsplash

17. Explore Gastown

Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood dating back to the 1800s, where you can still see the Victorian charm today. It’s best to explore on foot since there are many boutiques, unique galleries, and some of the best dining options in the city. Don’t forget to find Gastown’s Steam Clock, located on the corner of Cambie and Water Street, which is one of six left in the world today.

16. Kayak the Pacific Ocean

One of the most accessible places to kayak in Vancouver is in False Creek where you can rent a kayak from Granville Island. Paddle around the inlet and see the city skyline from the water. For sea kayaking, make your way to Jericho Beach where you’ll experience amazing views of the neighbouring mountains. If you have more time, take the day trip to Deep Cove where you can paddle among sea lions, seals and eagles.

 

15. Take a trip to Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain is most popular for it’s challenging 2.9 kilometre climb, the Grouse Grind, or infamously known as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’. Don’t panic though, if you’re not into hiking there is a gondola to escort you to and from the mountain. At the top, try ziplining or mountain biking. You can also try one of many on-site dining options to find a 3 course meal or a cold drink on a patio. In the winter, take advantage of prime ski and snowboard conditions, snowshoeing and ice skating. The best part though are the panoramic views of Vancouver available year round.

 

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14. Have a beach day

With Vancouver’s generally temperate climate on the West Coast, you can have a beach day almost any time of the year. Vancouver has some of the best in the world. Kitsilano is Vancouver’s version of Venice Beach and is a local hotspot. A less busy beach is Spanish Banks, which offers up a tranquil break from the city’s core. Pro tip: pack a picnic when heading to the beach and watch the sunset over the Pacific.

13. Visit the Sea to Sky Gondola

Only a short drive from downtown, one of the best outdoor activities in Vancouver is the Sea to Sky Gondola. The ride up to the summit is an experience itself, providing majestic views of Howe Sound and towering coastal mountains. At the top there are other outdoor activities and a large outdoor restaurant. Looking for more of an adventure? Take the 6.5 km Sea to Summit Trail to the top. If you’re visiting in the winter, strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the Sea to Sky Corridor in the snow.

12. Walk Down Commercial Drive

A lesser known tourist area of Vancouver is Commercial Drive where you’ll find less big name retailers and more trendy cafes and quaint boutiques. Spend the day perusing thrift shops and grabbing gelato as you walk along the boulevard.

The area is also known as Vancouver’s Little Italy, which is means you can find some amazing Italian restaurants and deli shops close by. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are more than 100 restaurants to choose from. Jamjar is a popular one for delicious Lebanese tapas plates. Commercial Drive is only a 10-minute skytrain ride from the downtown core making it easily accessible if you’re staying downtown.

11. Visit Lynn Canyon Park

Lynn Canyon Park is similar to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, but free and less busy. Take advantage of 617 acres of forest, which features multiple walking and hiking trails. Most of the trees found in the park are between 80 to 100 years old. Walk along the suspension bridge that hovers 50 metres above the canyon or find a swimming hole to cool down from the summer heat.

10. Hit the slopes

Vancouver’s snowcapped mountain range offers a few prime skiing and snowboarding options. Cypress Mountain was the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics’ snowboard half-pipe event and has the highest vertical rise of all Vancouver’s mountains. Mount Seymour offers up a good variety of runs, making it excellent for beginners and intermediates.

Of course we couldn’t forget Whistler Blackcomb. If you’re an avid ski or snowboarder, take the day trip up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to experience some of the best runs in North America.

 

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9. Eat in Chinatown

Vancouver is home to Canada’s largest Chinatown, which is quickly becoming a hotspot for foodies. If you’re looking for modern Chinese fare and a cool spot for cocktails, visit Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. For a cheaper option, visit Chinatown BBQ where you can get a large serving of traditional Chinese food for under $15 CAD.

To warm up on a rainy day, grab a curry or share fried pork dumplings at The Union and then stay a while for the buzzing atmosphere. Kokomo is a plant-based restaurant making it an ideal spot for vegans or those looking to fuel up on nourishing food. Or do as the locals do, take it to go and find yourself a spot on the beach!

 

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8. Go to a live concert

Built in the 1920s, the Commodore Ballroom is Vancouver’s most iconic venue to catch a concert. Other popular venues include the Vogue and the Orpheum. All of which are on Granville Street, Vancouver’s entertainment district.

7. Hike some of the BC trails

Vancouver is a nature lover’s paradise with hundreds of hikes to choose from. A couple of gorgeous hikes are easily accessible from the city centre. Located at the base of Cypress Ski Resort, St. Mark’s Summit is only a 20 minute drive from Vancouver and offers amazing views over Howe Sound. If you’re looking for something a little easier and shorter, opt for Quarry Rock in West Vancouver. Just don’t forget to stop in at Honey’s Doughnuts for a post-hike treat. You’re welcome.

 

6. Go whale watching

Vancouver is one of the best places in the world to spot killer whales, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters, and birds. If you’re lucky enough to visit Vancouver between March and October, chances are you can spot the whale migration. Wild Whales Vancouver and Prince of Whales are a few local tour operators who can help make your marine wildlife dreams a reality.

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5. Visit VanDusen Botanical Garden

Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Check out the VanDusen Botanical Garden, which covers 55 acres and houses over 7,500 plant species. Better yet, visit in December when the whole oasis is lit up with millions of lights for the Festival of Lights.

4. Take a Craft Beer Tour

There are more than 40 craft breweries in Vancouver with a few clusters making it easy to create your own brew tour. One of those clusters is in East Vancouver, which has more of a laid back scene compared to other parts of the city.

If you’re a big sour fan, be sure to visit Luppolo who are famous for their sour beers and friendly community. Parallel 49 is another popular one, with their graffiti decorated food truck inside their tasting room. Strange Fellow is a hotspot on a Friday night for something a little more laid back to do. And for something a little different, hit up Andina Brewing who are famous for infusing their South American roots into Vancouver’s craft beer craze.

3. Watch a sports game

If you’re a sports fan (or even if not!) you’ll want to check out a Canucks game at Rogers Arena. It’s a great way to get into the West Coast spirit, snag a photo with “Fin” and enjoy some professional hockey. Vancouver is also home to the Vancouver Whitecaps and the BC Lions who both play at BC Place. They have a retractable roof so make sure to pack sunscreen if visiting on sunny days.

 

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2. Experience the nightlife

You won’t find Vegas-style nightlife in Vancouver, but you will find several exciting options of pubs and nightclubs. From Blarney Stone for your Irish Pub fix, or Bar None if you want to dance the night away. Looking for something a little more bougie? Opus Bar is a laid back lounge where you’ll likely spot a celebrity or two.

1. Visit Science World

It’s likely you may visit Vancouver on a rainy day and if you’ve already exhausted your shopping and dining fix, Science World is a great way to pass some time. The huge dome features several exhibits to bring out your inner child. Plus, once a month they offer After Dark admission available to adults only. Roam around Science World, kid-crowd free then catch an immersive movie experience at the Omnimax Theatre. Winning.

These are just a few ideas of the fun things to do in Vancouver. If that wasn’t enough, head to our Vancouver Guides page for more ideas!

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