Explore Vancouver

Explore Vancouver
Vancouver is a visually beautiful city and has been voted “the best place to live in North America” by the Mercer’s Quality of Living Rankings. It even went as far as placing Vancouver as the 5th best city in the world! So what makes it so special? Well, not only do Vancouverites get to boast about the beautiful mountains and the diverse wildlife, or about having the best mountain bike trails and skiing, but they also get to boast about the food and the city life! Vancouver food scene has exploded to the point that even their food trucks offer some of the best meals in the city.

You can also experience most outdoor activities all year round, which includes everything from kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing, skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding, cycling, hiking, bird watching, and golfing- the list goes on! On the cultural scene, you have art shows, live theatre, concerts, and festivals. There’s also no shortage of shopping  and of course there is always hockey, soccer, and Canadian football! For sightseeing activities, what better way to see the north shore mountains than by helicopter or float plane! Sky’s the limit in Vancouver.

Check Out Vancouver’s Neighbourhoods

Coal Harbour
Coal Harbour is relatively new terms of a community. It was revitalized in the 1990s as an upscale high-rise Condominium district. The seawall that outlines the waterfront extends from the financial district around Coal Harbour all the way to Stanley Park. It is a beautiful walk, with several restaurants and pubs along the water. The float plane harbour is there too, so you watch the float planes take-off and land. It’s a beautiful spot for walking in the sunshine and lounging with drink on one the many patios.

Yaletown
Was formerly a warehouse district that was rebuilt after Expo ’86 when a wealthy Hong Kong developer bought up most of the lands and started the redevelopment. Now it’s a trendy, densely populated residential section with parks and restaurants galore. If you are a foodie at heart, this is a section of town you don’t want to miss. Without dropping too many restaurant names there are a couple that really standout. Rodney’s Oyster Bar- Some of the best oysters in the city served in a causal East coast environment with plenty of handsome men to serve you. Next is the Flying Pig, where farm to table type of hearty foods will capture your tastebuds. Some other places to try are Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar, and The Parlour.

Gastown
Gastown is the heart and soul of Vancouver proper, and where it all began. Historically it was a tougher neighbourhood, whereas today the western side is predominately higher end restaurants and pubs, independent designer clothing shops, and tourist shops that sell First Nations art and Jade trinkets (the official stone for BC).Some of the original settlers made their way out to the Burrard Inlet from Fort Langley and set up “the Mill.” It wasn’t until “Gassy Jack” came along with his community-built saloon that area was dubbed “Gastown.” It was rough and tumble kind of town and bit run down at times, but nowadays, after the area was revitalized in the 1970s and the City of Vancouver put in conservation efforts, it is a trendy, upscale historical center. Despite all the new construction in Vancouver, you can still walk along the cobblestone streets and see some of the older buildings- those that housed the immigrant Chinese rail and fishery workers.

Capilano Suspension Bridge
Chinatown
Coal Harbour

Unique Things to See in Vancouver

  • Take a tour on a float plane over the city
  • Take the Aqua bus from Granville island to downtown
  • Explore First Nations art at the Museum of Anthropology
  • Take pictures in Japanese Nitobe Garden
  • Have a hair raising event at Science World
  • Eat fish and chips at Granville Island
  • Indulge in traditional Dim Sum
  • Take in a Bollywood movie
  • Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
  • Go whale watching

Places to Visit in Vancouver

  • Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Gardens
  • Steam clock and “Gassy” Jack Statue in Gastown
  • The Market on Granville Island
  • Seawall- stretching from Olympic Village, past Yaletown, and around Stanley Park
  • Vancouver Aquarium
  • Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge
  • Kits Beach in the summer time
  • University of British Columbia
  • Deep Cove for kayaking
English Bay
This area has a great history. It got its start when three pioneers bought up the 540 acres for $550.75. The hope was to convince CP Rail to build through this area over to Coal Harbour. In 1887 they parcelled up the land and sold the lots for $350 – $1000 each. The name “West End” came from the local school which was called the West End School. One interesting house that still stands today is the Gabriola House on Davie and Nicola. It was commissioned by the “sugar king,” Mr. Rogers, who brought over stone from Gabriola island. Today English Bay is home to a long sandy beach with great seawall for taking in sunsets, and of course, lot of little shops along Denman. It is a popular area for tourists and residents alike, but no longer caters to the rich as it did back in the day (Unless you want to buy property now, that’s a whole other kettle of fish).

Kitsilano
This is the young, trendy residential area that has always been popular for its beautiful beach.   The beaches today are still amazingly popular, especially among the volleyball players, tennis players, dog walkers, and sun worshipers. After the Burrard Street Bridge was built in the 1930s the area began many housing developments which you can still see today- craftsman style homes all along 5th, 6th, and MacDonald Street. The main shopping street is 4th ave, which has some great clothing shops and some fabulous restaurants. Here’s a First Nations history fact; Kitsilano was named after the Squamish First Nation Chief.

Popular Shopping Streets
There are so many that we have to curtail this by lumping them in together. Robson street is the hot spot for big brand name stores. It mainly serves the tourist crowd as the prices are higher but the people watching is fantastic. Be sure to sit on the Art Gallery steps with a coffee and just watch them pass you by. Next is South Granville Street. This is where some truly expensive designers have shops. Don’t be confused though, south Granville is not in downtown, it’s across the Granville Bridge. But the part of Granville street downtown has some trendy teen shops and some long standing designers like John Fluevogs, it boasts as the Nightclub district. Cars are not permitted down the street and every weekend the night becomes lined with debaucherous young people. Other streets include west Broadway for all sorts of shops. Commerical Drive is the center for Italian food shops and cafes, along with a host of other ethnic food type restaurants.

False Creek and Olympic Park
These two areas have seen a real resurgence since the 2010 Winter Olympics, with plenty of high-rise condos built to house the athletes and fantastic new pubs with patios and little niche type shops. The Olympic village has quite a few good spots for restaurants: Steel Toad Brewery, Craft Beer Market, Tap and Barrel. The seawall extends all the way around the waterfront and you could walk from the village east to Science World, or west to Granville Island. It’s a beautiful walk on a sunny day. Be sure to check out Vancouver’s street art in this area- two giant birds (18 feet tall)!

Did you know…?

That when”Gassy Jack” first arrived in 1867, he commissioned millworkers to build him saloon and in trade he would serve them the whiskey he had brought. The saloon was built in a day and Gastown was born.

Steamclock in Gastown

Did you ALSO know…?

The Lions Gate Bridge was created because Alfred Taylor was convinced that his company, the British Properties would be profitable if people could easily get there. Today most properties range between $3M to $5M! He was right!

Lions Gate Bridge
Granville Island
This is the best little artisan market in the city. Only local artisans can showcase and sell their wares here. The market is great for fresh produce, Bento Cheese Brothers (cheeses from around the world), Oyama Meat market where you can pick up anything from terrine, to sausage, to black truffle liver pate, and then there’s the food court and the artisan shops. OH, and fudge and desert counters along with freshly made donuts and ice creams. Also on the island is the Kids Only Market, multiple theatres, popular restaurants, such as Bridges and Sandbar. This is a great spot to spend a few hours wandering through. Plus you can see fresh fish come off the boats and perhaps see a seal or two get feed by the local fisherman.

View of Vancouver from Cypress Mountain

View of Vancouver from Cypress Mountain

North Shore
The North shore attractions are Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain, Seymour, Lynn Valley Headwaters, and Londsdale Quay. If you take a seabus over from downtown Vancouver, you can catch many different buses from there that will take you around the North Shore and over to West Vancouver. In West Vancouver the areas to see are Ambleside Park and the seawall, and if you’re up for shopping Park Royal is huge with every brand name store there is. If you drove over, you could also take a drive down Marine Way to Lighthouse Park. It’s a beautiful park and easy walking trails. You could even follow the road (winds around the coastline and past some gorgeous homes) all the way out to Horseshoe Bay. This where one of the ferry terminals is and it’s a beautiful little cove with a few shops and patios you can enjoy a drink at.

Getting around Vancouver

Vancouver is pretty easy city to navigate around, primarily because the city is on grid with a corresponding numbering system. That being said the city is irregularly shaped and there are multiple bridges which can be confusing at times.

Airports

  • Vancouver International Airport – This is the main airport where all flights will come into.
  • South Terminal Airport – This is small section of the airport (shuttle there) where interior flights come in and out of.
  • Abbotsford Airport – Is out in the Lower Mainland valley, about an hour’s highway drive from Vancouver.
  • Float plane Harbour Downtown Vancouver – Located in Coal Harbour, services flights to Gulf Islands.

Skytrain
The Skytrain lines are the quickest and easiest way to travel in and out of Vancouver, but they don’t access the whole city. There are three main lines: the Canada Line, which extends north to south and links downtown directly with the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond; the Expo Line, which extends diagonally west to east and links Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey; and the Millennium Line which loops around starting from Vancouver into to Burnaby over to New Westminster and then back through Burnaby on the other side.

Buses
The bus system is easy to use, and the drivers are quite knowledge about the best routes to take if you get lost. In addition, there are express buses, which are faster and more convenient if you are taking the major routes, but they don’t stop at every stop along the way- so take note! On the Translink website you can plan your route with their trip planner- super easy, and provides full schedule details. As long you know your starting point and destination, it will map all the routes and connection times.

Buss and Skytrain Passes
Purchasing a Day Pass is the easiest way to go. It is $7.50 for unlimited use and all zones are included. You can purchase tickets at the vending machines at Skytrain stations, or most convenience stores, like 7-11, and grocery stores like Safeway. Passes must be validated on the first use at the Ticket validator machines located at the Seabus, Skytrain stations, or on the buses. Plus the pass is valid for the Seabus that travels from downtown to the North Shore, Lonsdale Quay, and the Granville Island Aqua Bus, which runs around the Burrard inlet.

Taxis
If you budget permits, Taxis are an easy way to get around too. It can be expensive and can add up if you’re going to more than one location or traveling between cities, but if you within the downtown core they are really convenient. And downtown’s size can be deceiving, especially if you’re walking from one end to other. Take note that on weekend nights, particularly downtown, catching a cab can be more difficult, and when phoning in for one you can be stuck on hold a really, really, long time. The easiest way around this is the download the apps, Yellow Cab and Black Top Cab. You can order a cab from your phone and track its progress to you. And the apps are free. Plus they seem to arrive faster (hmm).

Best time of year to travel to Vancouver

Vancouver has such a mild climate that really any time of year is good. That being said, we are next the ocean and the mountains so it rains most of the year. In the winter many hiking trails on the North shore are closed either due to snow or excess flooding from the rains, so if you are coming here with the intention of hiking, you’ll want to stick closer to the summer months. The winters are great for outdoor activities like snow shoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. The spring time and the autumn months the temperatures hover around 15C. In the spring, Vancouver receives more rainfall and the autumn months are much more dry. In the summer you can expect the temperature range from 20C to low 30′s.  For most people that are not accustomed to rain, they find the grey weather a bit depressing, so if that’s the case for you then summer might be the better months. There’s lots of sunshine in the summer months, mid June to early September.

Weather in Vancouver

As previously mentioned, Vancouver’s weather is mild. In the winter the temperatures ranges from just below zero to about 10C, with plenty of rain and the occasional snow fall that typically melts away by the next day. The highest amount of rain comes down in November, December, and January.  In the springtime, the temperatures range from about 7C to 16C, with again more rain in February, March, and April. The summer months are warmest with temperature ranges of 18C to a high of low 30s. During the fall, the rains begin to pick up again in September and then by October Vancouver is back into full blown rainy season. Did we mention that it rains?

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