As an ex-pat Vancouverite I am proud to be able to share with you my favourite things to do in and around the Vancouver area. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have over the years. Family and friends keep me coming back but the beauty of this incredible city makes it an absolute pleasure.
- Walk the Seawall around Stanley Park – This is the most beautiful two hour walk in the world. You can not say you have visited Vancouver until you have walked the seawall. Start at Lost Lagoon and wind your way around the world’s largest park in a city centre (it’s even bigger than Central Park in New York). Once you have completed the walk which loops around the park you will end up at English Bay. On your walk you will enjoy wonderful vistas of the Vancouver skyline, the mountains and ocean as well as many landmarks including totem poles, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, Siwash Rock, Lumberman’s Arch, the Nine O’clock Gun and the sculpture of the Lady in the Wetsuit. For those who prefer you can also cycle or rollerblade around the seawall or you can drive or take a horse-drawn coach around the road which also circles around the park. If you are in need of sustenance for your journey there are several wonderful places on or near the seawall. A few of my favourites are The Teahouse which has been a Vancouver institution for decades. Situated at Feguson Point in Stanley Park the restaurant has an unobstructed view of Burrard Inlet. Cardero’s restaurant and bar is situated in Coal Harbour and has an unobstructed view of Stanley Park, the harbour and the North Shore mountains. The food and service are excellent and the Ceasars (Vancouver’s version of a Bloody Mary) are one of the best I have ever had. For something more casual try De Dutch pancake house which has just opened its newest location behind the convention centre. The cafe has unobstructed views of the harbour and is excellent value for breakfast or lunch.
- Drive the Sea to Sky highway from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler – One of the world’s most beautiful drives. Your drive starts at the edge of Howe Sound in Horseshoe Bay where you will enjoy water views that are truly a national Canadian treasure. From Horseshoe Bay you wind your way up into the Coastal Mountain ranges where your destination awaits. Whistler village is a year round destination and is filled with great shops, cafes, restaurants and bars in addition to the two main ski lifts to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. A recent addition is the Peak to Peak gondola allowing skiers to change mountains without having to descend to the village below. The Peak to Peak boast the longest unsupported lift span in the world at just over 3 kilometers. This trip from Vancouver can be done in a day or you can overnight at one of the many world-class hotels. One of my favourites is the Chateau Whistler. In winter you can sit by the fire at night with a blanket and hot drink and take in the stars and the crisp mountain air. For a special evening out there is no better restaurant than the Bear Foot Bistro where I had bison served with a huckleberry sauce, superb! The ski lifts operate during winter and summer and close during the shoulder seasons.
- Go see the Vancouver Canucks play a hockey game – You have not been to Canada if you have not seen a hockey game. The Vancouver Canucks are one of the NHL‘s oldest teams and have been a fixture in Vancouver sporting life for over 40 years. Sadly the Stanley Cup still eludes the Canucks but one day Vancouver will have the cup, I await with my fellow Vancouverites for this glorious day! Tickets are notoriously difficult to find so ensure you stay in a hotel with a Clefs d’Or concierge who will help you to purchase tickets.
- Explore Granville Island – From the city centre you can take the False Creek Ferry or Auqubus over to the island. Granville Island has Vancouver’s best public market where you will be able to enjoy the market as well as numerous arts and crafts stalls and shops. There are also a number of art galleries, cafes, restaurants, a brewery and a hotel. Some of my favourites are Bridges Restaurant, the Granville Island Brewery, and the Granville Island Hotel. If you are looking to buy some quality West Coast Native Art stop by the Leona Lattimer Gallery which is located about a block from the entrance to Granville Island. This gallery has the best collection of west coast native art in Vancouver. Other popular spots include several glass blowing studios, a theatre, yachting stores and cooking stores. If you are traveling with children make sure you stop by the Kid’s Market which has over 30 kids stores and activities, it’s a must do!
- Take a day trip by Harbour Air seaplane to Victoria – Ok so it’s not a day in Vancouver but the seaplane ride in and out of Vancouver harbour is worth every penny. Once in Victoria you can explore British Columbia’s capitol city and the Provincial Parliament Buildings, Victoria’s harbour, the Royal BC Museum and the numerous boutiques and cafes on Victoria’s charming city streets. The highlight of any trip is to have high tea at the Empress Hotel. Murchies Tea and Coffee merchants have created a special blend for the Empress Hotel and it is served in the grand lobby of the hotel (book early as this is very popular).
- Drive Marine Drive from Horseshoe Bay to West Vancouver – Start your journey in Horseshoe Bay and head towards West Vancouver on Marine Drive. Be sure to make your first stop at Whytecliff Park where you will be able to see Howe Sound at its best. Next drive by the West Vancouver Yacht Club which occupies a wonderful inlet perfect for a great photo opportunity. Lighthouse Park is another wonderful detour and again the views are magnificent. Marine drive boasts some of Vancouver’s best real estate and you will marvel at the million dollar mansions perched on the cliffs held up by only a few poles jutting out of the cliff side. The architecture of these magnificent homes is inspiring. Finally, wind your way through Ambleside Village on you way to cross over the Lions Gate Bridge on your way back to the city.
- Visit the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology and Nitobe Gardens – The UBC Museum of Anthropology has the best public display of West Coast Native art in the world. The museum is located on a cliff overlooking Burrard Inlet which is the perfect setting to house this world-class museum. The Grand Hall features about 20 totem poles and a glass wall which gives a breathtaking impression that the hall is outdoors and is one with the mountains and ocean. One unusual feature of this museum is that the majority of the collection is housed in drawers which can be viewed by the public. Next to the museum you will find Nitobe Memorial Gardens which are a traditional Japanese garden. The gardens are a hidden gem on the UBC peninsula. Garden lovers can also spend time in the UBC Botanic Gardens. If time permits explore the university campus as well as the regal homes on the north west end of the peninsula near South West Marine Drive. They occupy some of Vancouver’s most sought after real estate and have some of the best views in the city.
- Explore White Rock – About a one hour drive south of Vancouver is the small community of White Rock. Named after a giant white rock on the main beach this seaside community is nestled right next to the US border. White Rock has a number of modern and elegant homes that occupy the cliff side above the beach. White Rock is a wonderful place to enjoy a walk along the boardwalk and the pier. To finish off you can enjoy lunch or dinner in the numerous cafes and restaurants that line the foreshore. I have enjoyed The Giraffe fine dining restaurant and Charlie Don’t Surf for a more casual restaurant. This is the perfect place for a quiet and charming afternoon during the week but watch out for the beach party that occurs on summer weekends! For art lovers one of the best value fine art galleries in Vancouver is located just up the hill, the White Rock Gallery is worth the hike!
- Take a harbour cruise – Vancouver is reputed to have one of the three most beautiful harbours in the world. Make sure you take some time to enjoy a cruise on the harbour. Cruises take in all of the beauty that Vancouver has to offer. You can also take an extended tour (about 4 hours) and cruise up the inlet as far as Indian Arm which is a coastal fiord. For those with less time or if you are on a budget an easy way to see the harbour is to take the Seabus from downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver where you can enjoy not only the harbour views but also the Lonsdale Quay Public Market on the North Vancouver side.
- Explore Yaletown – Yaletown was once a disused warehouse district and has now become one of the most vibrant and trendy neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Yaletown showcases the historic side of Vancouver along with the modern. Here you will find one apartment building after another. Along with this high density waterside living are the services one would expect from such an up-market neighbourhood. Cafes, restaurants, boutiques, galleries and of course doggie day cares abound. For travelers who have come from afar Urban Fare (an upscale supermarket) gives an insight into the food culture of the west coast. Harrison Gallieries are an upscale private fine art gallery that is sure to impress. A couple of my favourite spots for dining are The Yaletown Brewing Company, Bluewater Cafe for seafood and the Elbow Room Cafe for a great breakfast and some terse humour from your server. It’s all in good fun and you will be amused and abused by the staff, so bring your smiles and have fun playing along when you are told to get your own coffee!
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