10 Best Things to Do in Vancouver (BC, Canada)

Vancouver is one of the few places on Earth where you can ski, surf, go back in time more than 5,000 years, watch a pod of Orcas play, and walk through the world’s best urban park all in the same day. Vancouver, British Columbia, is clearly on the West Coast. It is surrounded by wide valleys, a lush temperate rain forest, and a rugged mountain range.

Even though Vancouver is one of Canada’s newer cities, it is the most dense and has the most different kinds of people living in it. More than half a million people live in its small downtown area. Even though it sounds crowded, Vancouver is often voted one of the best places to live in the world. This is because the 2010 Winter Olympics were a huge success.

Richmond Night Market
Richmond Night Market

There are three world-class mountains within a 15-minute drive of downtown Vancouver. There are also hundreds of parks and campsites, thousands of hiking trails, one of the world’s longest seawalls, and countless rivers and lakes to explore. There are so many things to do in Vancouver, and there is something for everyone of every age and interest. However, there are only so many hours in a day, so here is a great list to get you started.

1. Go to the Anthropology Museum

It’s easy to be amazed by the beauty of Vancouver’s landscape, but to really get to know this city, you have to start at the very beginning. About 10,000 years ago, people lived in Vancouver and what is now called the Lower Mainland. The Museum of Anthropology is on the campus of the University of British Columbia and looks out over the Burrard Inlet. It has a mix of ancient and modern Aboriginal works that tell a story that is rarely told to visitors of this great city. This is one of the most important things to do in Vancouver if you want to learn about the city’s history and how it fits into the world.

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2. Drive up the Sea-to-Sky Highway

The Sea-to-Sky corridor is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It takes about 1.5 hours to drive from downtown Vancouver to the world-class ski town of Whistler. Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls, jaw-dropping views, a beautiful cultural center, and a suspension bridge. You’ll want to bring a lunch, a camera, and gas for your rental car, because you won’t want to miss this trip.

3. Take a hike up Grouse Grind

There’s no better way to become an honorary Vancouverite (yes, that’s what they’re called) than to earn your stripes on the Grouse Grind. This is not a Sunday stroll, even though it is called “Mother Nature’s Staircase.” At the base of Grouse Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore, where it gets its name, is a trail called “the Grind,” which takes hikers about 850m up through the alpine. When you get to the top, there is a chalet with a wide view of the city and ice cold drinks. And once you’re back on your feet, save your weak legs from more pain by taking the Grouse Gondola down the mountain.

4. Ride around Stanley Park on a bike

The votes are in, and the people have spoken: Vancouver’s Stanley Park beat out places like New York’s Central Park, Paris’s Luxemburg Gardens, and Chicago’s Millennium Park to win Trip Advisor’s award for World’s Best Park. So what makes it so good? Where else in the world can you ride a bike all the way around an old-growth forest, visit ancient Aboriginal village sites, get a tan at the beach, relax in a rose garden, or get close to sea lions and Pacific dolphins? At the bottom of Denman Street, there are a few places to rent bikes, which is the best way to get around the park.

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5. Shop for windows in Gastown

Gastown, named after a historical figure known as “Gassy Jack,” is now a hip neighborhood in the center of Vancouver. In 1867, “Gastown” was Canada’s third largest city. It was where several lumber mills were located. Today, “Gastown” is home to trendy loft apartments, European restaurants, cocktail lounges, and flashy shops. Along Water Street, there are a few interesting art galleries and a lot of places to buy Canadiana.

6. The Dim Sum in Chinatown

When you go sightseeing in Vancouver, it’s easy to see a lot of different things in one trip to any of the city’s different neighborhoods. Vancouver’s Chinatown is the biggest and one of the oldest in Canada. Chinatown is right on the border between Downtown Financial District and Gastown. It has a lot of cool shops, cheap markets, and the best Dim Sum restaurants in town. Sunday is the busiest day for Dim Sum, but it’s also the best because whole families sit down and talk about what happened during the week.

7. Find Your Zen

While you’re in the area, you can visit the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden, which is one of the best in Canada. What makes it so exquisite is its unique construction. The site was built by hand using only traditional methods. It looks like complex gardens on the Mainland, with courtyards, meandering brooks, and perfectly sculpted plants, which is in line with Confucian and Buddhist beliefs.

8. Kayaking in Deep Cove

Ocean kayaking is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver, and Deep Cove is one of the best and safest places to do it in Canada. If you want to get close to nature, this is a great way to spend a day. A calm paddle up Indian Arm, a beautiful fjord where curious forest animals come down to the water’s edge to meet you.

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9. To get to Granville Island, take an Aquabus.

Granville Island, which is full of art, is a must-see when you’re in Vancouver. It’s interesting that it’s not really an island but more of a little peninsula. What used to be a center for industrial manufacturing is now a place where wealthy people from Vancouver and tourists go to buy organic food, drink expensive teas, try delicious chocolates, listen to buskers, and watch sleek yachts pull up to the dock.

10. Go to the Night Market in Richmond

The summer is the best time to come here, and the Richmond Market is one of the most interesting places to walk around. Richmond, which has Vancouver’s largest Chinese population, puts on quite a show with its many stalls of trinkets, interesting foods, and art shows.

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