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Top 5 Things to do in Vancouver BC
Vancouver is a beautiful city with an incredible personality. Teeming with life and exploding with diversity, this city has sometime to offer all kinds of people no matter your interests. In this blog post I will list my top things to do in Vancouver in hopes your visits will be as memorable as mine have been.
Visiting Vancouver BC - My Experiences
Being from the PNW in the U.S I have always felt a sense of closeness (not just locational) and comradery with Vancouver B.C. It’s one of my favorite weekend (or week-long if I can swing it) getaways. And eventually I would love the opportunity to live in Vancouver and experience it on a day to day basis.
My first independent visit to Vancouver was two years ago in the summer. During that time I discovered a lot of what the city has to offer. Its beautiful trees, quirky streets, fun activities, independent shops, cozy bars, and exciting hostels. That trip was, after all, what gave me the travel bug. My second trip to Vancouver was only a week ago, in the fall this time. Sigh, I miss it already.
Like I said, this city has a lot of personality. It also has a lot of variety. So if your interests differ from mine (which I’m sure they do) you can still find all kinds of things to do and see in the city.
What You Need to Know:
- The city looks bigger on a map than it actually is
- You can walk pretty much anywhere, but it can be exhausting
- Buses are readily available and awfully convenient
- Vancouver is usually more expensive than Portland, OR or Seattle, WA (but right now the American Dollar is weaker than the Canadian dollar so we saved money on our last visit)
Reasons to visit Vancouver:
- Nature- Vancouver barely feels like a city with water surrounding you on all sides and parks on every corner
- Food- if you’re looking for high quality Asian cuisine, locally made cheese, meats, and produce, or a fun night out, Vancouver is the place for you
- Shopping- Commercial streets, boutiques, antique shops, book shops, tourist shops, street vendors… no matter what kind of shopping you’re interested in, you’re sure to find it
So now that you’re probably – hopefully – thoroughly convinced to visit Vancouver, I have some recommendations for you.
Things to do in Vancouver BC
Supply #2: Useful and relevant travel guide
This travel guide is my Vancouver bible. What to see, what's not worth the time, where to go, what to eat. It has the low-down on the whole city.
Stanley Park VancouverClick thumbnail to view full-size
1. Stanley Park
If you Google Vancouver every single search result will at least mention Stanley Park. So this may not be a revelation, but I couldn’t bear to leave it off the list. This is one of my favorite places to go in Vancouver BC. If you’re a nature lover, or people-watcher, or dog-walker, you’re sure to love this 1000-acre park.
Walking every path in the park is pretty difficult in one day, so most people take one of two strategies. You can walk the 5.5 miles around the park on the Stanley Park Seawall. This path is always busy with bikers, rollerbladers, joggers, and walkers. You’ll see a combination of locals and tourists (but only on a nice day). One of the biggest appeals of the Seawall is the fact you’ll have open water on one side, and forest on the other. It’s a bit like walking in a natural wonderland.
A quieter alternative is the forest paths. These smaller paths weave through the whole park and are much more sparsely populated. I would recommend attempting to find your way to Beaver Lake and taking opportunities to wander empty paths on which you honestly feel like you're in a forest. It's always hard for me to believe that all this nature is in a city.
Overall when I walked through Stanley Park I ended up walking 13 miles in one day, so it was quite the workout. I’d say I deserved those hotdogs at the end.
For the Nature-Lovers: Stanley Park
2. Seawall along Beach Avenue
The Seawall expands past Stanley Park along the English Bay facing Granville. The world’s longest uninterrupted pathway, the Seawall extends from the Vancouver Convention Centre to Spanish Banks Park. It’s the perfect place for a morning jog, afternoon walk, or daytime bike ride. All together the entire Seawall is a 28 km walk.
The sunsets along this walk are absolutely beautiful. And you’re only a ferry ride away from Granville. Local artists often lay out drawings, paintings, and pottery on either side of the path. And I was (and am) completely enchanted by the people watching and apartment hunting available along this walk. It’s beautiful.
Also watch out for Inukshuk, a beautiful testament to friendship that can be found one the waterfront.
Views from the Seawall
3. Granville Island
If you love good food, artisan shops, hand-made jewelry, and creativity Granville is the one-stop-shop for you. The island is truly unique. It’s broken up into two main parts: the market and the arts shops.
Entering Granville Island
In the market:
- Fine jewelry
- Fine art and photography
- Functional and decorative ceramics
- Hats, bags, and silks
- Fused and stained glass
- Handmade bath products
- Jams, preserves, sauces, and treats
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Fresh bread (be still my heart)
The vendors change every week on a rotating schedule. So you can visit the market every week and you'll find a different selection of fun things to buy.
If you ever manage to make it out of the market the rest of the neighborhood also has a lot to offer.
Theaters, Granville is home to Vancouver’s performing arts scene. There are a multitude of professional and amateur theater and comedy companies to choose from and live entertainment almost every night of the week.
Some of these theaters are:
- Arts Club Theatre Company
- Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance
- Vancouver Theatre Sports League
Crafts, shopping on Granville is truly a treat. Tourism Vancouver compares it to a real-life Etsy Marketplace and I would have to agree with them. There are unique artists studios and co-ops, shops, and oddities.
My recommendations, based on where I've shopped:
- Ten Thousand Villages – a shop that provides income to Third World peoples by marketing their goods and selling their stories.
- INKARY – bringing the art and stories of native peoples into your home with art and handicrafts
- Little Dreams – local fashion
- Maiwa Handprints Ltd. – products created by artisans in India
What You'll Find on Granville Island
You can get to Granville by bus, boat, car, bike, or on foot. All the resources you need for transportation is here. I recommend the boat, it's the most fun.
Shopping in Gastown
Sight-seeing in Gastown VancouverClick thumbnail to view full-size
Gastown is a fun neighborhood in Vancouver that offers a variety of restaurants and bars, shops, art galleries, and small businesses. This area is a national historic site and sports treasures such as the statue of “Gassy” Jack and the Gastown Steam Clock.
My top recommendations for Gastown are:
- If you like books – MacLeod’s Books, a used book shop that is almost literally exploding with eccentric used books
- If you like food – Meat & Bread is my number 1 recommendation for Vancouver restaurants, these sandwiches will change your life
- If you like antiquing – local antique and eccentric shops
- If you like shopping – local businesses
Vancouver Samesun Hostel
5. Staying in Hostels in Vancouver
- Fair prices
- Private and dorm-style rooms available
- Free breakfast, as far as I remember it was delicious
- Fun atmosphere
- Great opportunities to meet people by just sitting in the front room
- Offers activities and tours
- Bar on the first floor
- Has stellar reviews
- Really friendly staff
Tour of Cambie Pub and Hostel
- Awesome location in Gastown, just up the hill from the Steam clock
- Popular bar on the first floor
- Offer a variety of room types and sizes – private rooms feel very safe
- Free breakfast – muffins and coffee
- Reasonably priced
- Harder to meet people than Samesun
- The amenities are about average