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Great things to do in Vancouver, Canada
Views from around Vancouver
There are many interesting things to see and do in Vancouver BC
Vancouver, British Columbia is located at the juncture of the Georgia Strait, Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River. It has been called Lotus-land and the Sunshine Coast by locals. Almost any time is great for visiting, exploring and enjoying yourself in Vancouver, but the winter Olympics of 2010 was an especially interesting time. The result was the city and region created a lot of infrastructure improvement with things like the new Canada Line that has a branch to the International Airport. However, this created a lot of bottle necks and detours for a period of about five years. This is now mostly cleared up as the new Canada Line is speeding people from the airport to downtown or visa versa in twenty minutes. Vancouver boasts a large number of attractions beside the winter Olympics. All of them have been around for a long time and await your enjoyment. There are many things for many tastes and plenty of hotels to stay in. The climate for the most part is mild, never getting stiflingly hot or deeply cold. During the winter months there tends to be a lot of rain. For sunshine, the best months typically are July, August, September and October.
Stanley Park is a huge park, mostly left in a wild state that is surrounded on three sides by ocean. It has a unique ecosystem and boasts two lakes. One, called Lost Lagoon, borders on the West End of Vancouver. The other is called Beaver Lake and is the wilder of the two. If you go to this one during the summer months, you will soon learn why they call Vancouver Lotus land. The park, though suffering damage left over from a freak windstorm in Dec, 2006, still has a lot of first growth forest inhabited by various birds and wild animals. There are many paths throughout the park that are an interesting past time for those who are interested in nature in the raw. Stanley Park is interesting year round. Within the park are several types of edible wild berries and hundreds of types of mushrooms in the fall leading to winter. During the summer, artists set up near the Aquarium to do portraits, display and sell other art such as still life and scenery.
Stanley Park is surrounded by the seawall walk where one gets a panoramic view of the mountains, Vancouver Island and some other neighborhoods of Vancouver. The seawall walk is nine kilometers long from the boat docks around the city view side and then the north shore view side to the sea view side and finally to third, second and English Bay. So if you are going to do the walk the whole thing, you should be in good shape, have a few hours and enjoy the spectacular scenery near sea level. Around the seawall are three beaches, which are in use for several months of the year. There is a local ecosystem in the park where dozens of species exist in their natural state.
The Vancouver Aquarium is situated in Stanley Park on the east side of the highway to North and West Vancouver. This side of the park is more open and manicured. The Aquarium has recently been expanded and upgraded, offering a lot more for those who enjoy fish, sea life and whale shows.
Located on Oak Street near 37th Avenue there is a massive 55 acre floral garden called the VanDusen Botanical Gardens that are open year round. For those who enjoy flowers and trees from around the world, this is a must see. This massive garden covers several square blocks and hosts a wide variety of created ecosystems. You can literally spend an entire day in the garden. On the corner near Oak and 37th, there is a reception hall, restaurant, store and access point to the gardens. One would think that winter is a poor time to visit a garden, but this one has a huge display of Christmas lighting to enjoy at this time of year. In the spring, summer and fall, the garden boasts a huge variety of flowers. The mild Vancouver climate acts to extend the life of the blossoms. Vancouver itself boasts many flowering trees, the most impressive of which are the cherry blossoms in the spring. At that time, many streets are awash in a flood of pink and white blossoms. You will find them in every neighborhood. The moderated climate promotes long life to the cherry blossoms.
Grouse Mountain situated in North Vancouver at the terminus of Capilano Street has four cable cars that can take you to the top. In winter, it is a skier’s paradise close to downtown Vancouver. In the summer, there are many trails to explore, view attractions and for the hardy, the Grouse Grind climbing trail. Once on the top and when ascending via the cable car, look to the west and you will see the famed lions, a double mountain peak that has the look of two resting lions with proud manes. To the east on a clear day, you can see Mount Baker in Washington State and it is impressive to view from here. Between is the massive Fraser Valley where you can see most of the Vancouver Regional District spread out before you. Seymour Mountain is east of Grouse Mountain and is accessed by crossing the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge and then following the signs to drive up the side. This mountain is also enjoyed by skiers.
The Capilano suspension bridge, built in 1889, is one of the longest and highest in the world. It is suspended over the Capilano gorge where the river runs at the bottom. This is an excellent theme oriented park for the whole family featuring a huge tree house, tree to tree boardwalk, a fish feeding area; eco tours totem poles, kid's rainforest explorer and logger's grill. The view from the suspension bridge affords a vision of the tree tops below and the wild river below that spills from the mountain snow melt.
Downtown Vancouver boasts several distinct neighborhoods such as False Creek, Gastown, Chinatown and Granville Island and the famed Robson Street or Robson Strasse which it was formerly called. False Creek is located between the downtown/West End and Kitsilano/Little Mountain and has a path around it that you can walk, starting from English Beach and around to the Science Center left over from Expo 86, to the new Olympic Village, on to Granville Island and beyond to Kits Beach. There are miniature boat ferries that criss-cross False Creek taking you to many destinations. Gastown is located on the waterfront close to the terminus of the railhead and now sea-bus terminal and extends east on Water and Powell Streets almost to Main St. It features restaurants like the Spaghetti Factory and plenty of import shops featuring many Canadian made goods. Gastown has been going through a massive renovation and some of it is still under construction. Chinatown is tow blocks to the south across from the notorious Downtown East Side and extends from Cambie Street to Gore Street just past Main and at Main extends about four blocks to the south. When shopping Chinatown, the better values are on the side streets to the south.
Vancouver, BCn Canada
Robson Street is a popular downtown destination featuring the Art Gallery, the courts, the library, shopping, hotels and a route to Stanley Park.
Canada Place is located at the north most end of Howe and Hornby streets and is on the waterfront. From May to September, many cruise ships dock there and you can either cruise from somewhere else to Vancouver or use Canada Place as a jumping off point for a ship cruise. Canada Place boasts an unusual and unique roof that looks like massive jibs for a sailing ship. Its profile is also ship like reminding one of tall ships and square riggers. Speaking of which, Vancouver hosts the tall ship visits from time to time, about every alternate summer. If the pattern repeats, Vancouver should see tall ship displays in the summer of 2011. They have, but not necessarily visited Canada Place. In years gone by, they visited Steveston in Richmond and in the waters off Kitsilano.
The Art Gallery located on Georgia Street between Howe and Hornby and bounded on the south By Robson Street is a building converted from the original Supreme Court of Canada. The courts have moved south of Robson and are a sight in themselves with hanging gardens and a huge glass enclosure. The Art Gallery features art shows about once a few months. In the Past, the works of Chagall, Van Gough, Da Vinci, the impressionists, modern art and other shows. There is a continuous display of Emily Carr’s works in part of the gallery mainly on the second floor. There is an attached shop where you can obtain art books and artifacts. The Art Gallery has a large front lawn with a fountain that often serves as a gathering point for ethnic shows and demonstrations.
East on Georgia and Robson Streets from the Art Gallery is the seven story Coliseum styled Library. It has a roof garden, but this is not accessible to the public at this time. The library has a large selection of books, a video library and music library. There are keyboards for practicing music, meeting rooms, special events like author readings and internet terminals where you can stay connected to those at home away from home on the cheap (free that is, if you speak to a librarian to get a one time pass code or if you have a library card).
BC Place & GM Place are two domed stadiums side by side, unique to Vancouver, located at the east terminus of Robson Street and just south of the Georgia Viaduct. They are side by side and host a wide variety of events for the sports enthusiast such as the BC Lions football team and the Vancouver Canucks hockey teams. In addition, the BC place dome will host home shows, car shows, boat shows, rock concerts and other events. If you are interested in any event, check with each venue for times, costs and location.
By all means tour Vancouver and there are good budgetary ways to do this to get an overview of it all. Among these are the Sky train, Sea bus and the newly built Canada Line. The Sky train was started in the year of Expo 86 and now runs from downtown all the way out to King George Street in Surrey. There are many stops along the way. Some of the more interesting are Metrotown with a huge shopping mall. IF you like to shop till you drop, Metrotown is definitely your place! At the next stop east you can walk south and find the beautiful Hare Krishna temple on Hare Krishna drive. Further along the line you can stop off in quaint downtown New Westminster. The Sea bus is a wonderful way to get an overview of downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, the mountains, North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay (another nice place to shop) and all the shipping going on from cruise ships and freighters. The Canada Line will waft you south to Richmond and the Vancouver Airport. There are great views of the Fraser River as well. On all lines there many places to jump off to shop and eat.
Vancouver can be an excellent jump off point for cruises, trips to the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, Whistler and Blackcomb, the inside passage and Shannon Falls. Bus service, micro airline service and ferries all connect to Vancouver Island and to a lesser extent, the beautiful Gulf Islands. There are several Gulf Islands, all of which are inhabited by people who like to live in a country setting, yet be close to the major metropolitan regions of Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo. From Victoria, there is ferry service to Seattle Washington.
The Gulf Islands that are easiest to reach by ferry are, Mayne Island, Galliano Island, Saturna Island, Salt Spring Island, Hornby Island and Denman Island. The inter island trip is fantastic for scenery and wild sea life and is excellent any time of the year. Winter hardy souls will be in awe of the rising fog off much steep arboreal sight right at the waters edge, while seals play in the water just off the starboard and port bows. Though there are places to stay on some of the Gulf Islands, they are limited and you will need to do some research and book ahead.
Vancouver Island can be reached by ferry or by air. There are many interesting places to visit here, such as Victoria, the capital of BC. The West Coast Trail can be accessed from here and you should have a good pack and tent to do the walk. The West Coast Trail faces the Pacific Ocean directly and can be cool for much of the year, so dress appropriately.
Whistler was one of the main venues for the 2010 winter Olympics. Recently, a long cable car ride was finished that takes people between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb. The view over the gorge between the two mountains is said to be fantastic. There is skiing on Whistler Mountain and plenty of hiking on Blackcomb.
Shannon Falls is just south of Squamish as one is driving toward the fork to Penticton and Whistler. These spectacular falls 335 meters tall and pour down from a cliff high in the coastal mountains. Penticton itself is in the South Okanogan and is often referred to as Peachland and wine country.
Vancouver itself also has attractions for the more unorthodox and adventurous including Wreck Beach, Sailing, Kayaking and the gay community. If you are a naturalist, Wreck Beach is your place. As one of the largest unmonitored and unregulated nudist regions on the planet, Wreck Beach has an attraction all its own. Of can be accessed from the bluffs just west of the University of British Columbia, or from the Spanish Banks to the east. Be prepared for hundreds of nude people and be ready to do likewise. For the sea salts, there is sailing in the waters off Vancouver and kayaking in abundance. You can rent yachts, sail boats, canoes and kayaks for your adventures. There are organized whale watching trips as well. Every summer, the West End boasts one of the largest gay celebrations in the land. There is the gay pride parade and other events usually held on or about the BC Day long week end.