Not only is Vancouver one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada, it’s also a very ecologically diverse area, thanks to its nearness to the Pacific Ocean, its proximity to the Coastal Mountains, and easy access to verdant forests. In addition to its natural wonders, the city also offers an enticing urban landscape featuring a host of exciting attractions and activities. Whether you’re looking for urban adventure or immersion in nature, Vancouver has something for you.
Discover Granville Island
Granville Island is like a mini-city unto itself. Once an industrial zone, it’s now a popular and trendy area where former factories have been transformed into fashionable galleries, restaurants and theatres.
You’ll definitely want to check out the Granville Island Public Market, open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., which has been called one of North America’s best open-air markets. Traipse through the many aisles and food stalls offering everything from fresh local produce and baked delights to a smorgasbord of snacks from around the globe and wonderful homegrown crafts. Dedicated foodies may want to try the Granville Island Market Tour.
Got the kids with you? With more than 25 shops, activities and services, the Kids Market is the place to go. Located next to the pond at the Granville Island entrance, here you’ll find lots of crafts and toys, as well as a fantastic indoor play zone for your little ones.
Granville Island is just two miles northwest of central Vancouver. You can get there by bus, car or ferry. Admission to the island is free, but some of the attractions may charge a fee. For more information, visit the Granville Island website.
Skate at Robson Square
There’s nothing quite like taking a twirl around an open-air ice rink in the middle of a bustling city. Skating at the Robson Square Ice Rink has become one of Vancouver’s most popular winter activities since it reopened for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Situated in the heart of the city’s downtown, just steps from the shopping on Robson Street and across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, the rink will be operating until February 28, 2017. Skating is free, with skate rentals available for a very modest $4.
Head for the Hills
Hitting the slopes is one of the most popular activities for Vancouverites and visitors, with several fantastic ski and snowboard resorts close by, including some of the top-rated hills in North America. Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour are all within 30 minutes of downtown Vancouver (with amazing views of the city), and just a couple of hours north is Whistler Blackcomb, one of the principal venues for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
For something a little different, try snowshoeing. There are lots of great snowshoeing opportunities around Vancouver, with trails that are suitable for any level of experience, from novice to expert. For something extra-special, try the Grouse Mountain Snowshoe Fondue experience. Take the spectacular gondola ride up to the top of the mountain. From there, your accomplished guide will take you on an invigorating one-hour snowshoe hike through some incredibly scenic winter landscapes, after which you’ll retire to a charming mountain chalet bistro for a three-course fondue dinner by the fireside. Yum!
Take a breathtaking virtual flight across Canada
One of Vancouver’s newest and most popular attractions, FlyOver Canada takes you on an exhilarating flight simulation ride that lets you experience Canada as you’ve never seen it before. It’s an amazing virtual journey from coast to coast to coast using state-of-the-art 4D technology. As you “fly,” suspended in the midst of an enormous 20-metre spherical screen, Canada’s natural wonders come to vivid life all around you, complete with wind, mist and scents! It’s an all-ages experience that is not to be missed.
Feast on exquisite cuisine
Sushi fans can thank Vancouver’s sizable Asian population for the fact that the city boasts some of the finest and least expensive sushi in North America. The Blue Water Café & Raw Bar is renowned for its sushi, freshly shucked oysters and other seafood dishes. Okada Sushi offers more traditional Japanese dining with delightful sashimi, fresh rolls and a chance to choose your own lobster from the tank.
Not to be outdone, the Chinese food in the city is said to be the finest outside of China and Hong Kong. Cantonese cuisine is the most prevalent style, with its fresh flavours and dim sum lunches. The Sun Sui Wah restaurant is Vancouver’s preeminent purveyor of Cantonese cuisine, hosting a well-known annual crab festival, and boasting a very good wine list as well.
If you’re visiting Vancouver from late January to early February, you can jump into the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, Canada’s biggest food festival that serves up an incredible number of ways to sample the richness of the city’s eateries and cuisines. It offers a dizzying array of delicious culinary experiences over the course of 17 days, with the participation of hundreds of the city’s restaurants. Get more details at the festival’s website here.
What are your favourite things to do in Vancouver? Leave some suggestions in the comments below.