City Guides: Vancouver
Vancouver offers a wonderful mixture of high city living with its vast array of cultural delights and urban sophistication, fused with a spectacular wilderness setting on its doorstep, just waiting to be explored. Vancouver frequently features highly in ‘top cities to live in’ polls, and with good reason. The city offers a rich diverse cultural experience, as conveyed through its art scene, cuisine, vibrant nightlife and architecture to its seasonal festivities and cultural events. The cities cosmopolitan vitality and celebrated multicultural vibe offers visitors a cultural experience as wide ranging as it is rich and fulfilling. Vancouver is the second most ethnically diverse city in Canada, second only to Toronto (officially the most ethnically diverse city on the planet), and this comes across in just about everything Vancouver has to offer.
It’s a beautiful city
It really is hard to overstate Vancouver’s beauty. It would be harder still to argue that any other city in the world is blessed with quite the same level of natural beauty and scenic wonder as Vancouver is. Much of this, yes, is down to its geographical location. Yet unlike many other cities, fortunate enough to be blessed with stunning scenic backdrops, successive administrations in Vancouver’s local government have deployed effective measures over the years to ensure such beauty, remained both unspoiled and accessible. Serious limits imposed on urban growth, have prevented the urbanization of the surrounding beauty. Intelligent urban planning and architecture, established view corridors to allow clear views of the stunning surrounding landscape accessible throughout much of the city. As a result, along with the incredible views of the city’s natural surroundings, Vancouver also serves as a top class outdoor playground offering hiking, kayaking, cycling, skiing and surfing in some of the most beautiful settings you could hope to come across.
Listing things to see and do in Vancouver in one short article is an almost impossible task, with one notable exception, Stanley Park. Stanley Park is Vancouver’s largest, most beloved park. It covers 1000 acres of west coast rain-forest, with panoramic views of the English Bay and the North Shore Mountains. Explore kilometers of golden beaches and an abundance of the wonderful wildlife that populates the island, great places to eat and iconic cultural and historical landmarks. There are many ways to explore the natural beauty of Stanley Park, whether you take in the views by bike or train, bus or horse drawn carriage, you won’t be disappointed. Of course there are lots of other great outdoor spaces to visit in Vancouver; Queen Elizabeth Park, Kitsilano Beach, Van Dusen Botanical Garden and Grouse Mountain to name just a few of the most popular hot-spots. For its sheer unrivaled beauty though, Stanley Park deserves a special mention. Trip Adviser named Stanley Park the top park in the entire world in 2014, and you will struggle to meet anyone who has visited the park that would disagree with such an accolade. It’s worth the trip to Vancouver alone.
There are lots of great free things to do!
There’s no shortage of great things to see and do in Vancouver, and the good news, for anyone looking to travel on a budget, is that many of them are free. From Vancouver’s world class museums and art galleries to the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory and the internationally renowned Vancouver convention center. There are also many free places to visit where you will be able to capture some of Vancouver’s spectacular scenery, but to catch a view of the stunning sunsets the City is famous for, there are few places better that 5.5 miles of seawall that surround Stanley Park. Along with the incredible ocean views, there are plenty of areas for you stop and relax along the way. If the 8.8km of seawall isn’t enough for you though, consider dipping into the 24km of trails that crisscross the interior of the park. While some trails are strictly for jogging, others, including the popular Rawlings trail and Beaver lake trail, are specifically for walkers looking to take in all the beauty the park has to offer.
Fantastic city for outdoor activities
No matter what time of year you choose to visit Vancouver, this city offers something for every outdoor enthusiast. From skiing and hiking, to beaching and biking, if you’re looking for a city break that offers real adventure, Vancouver won’t disappoint. Here are four of our top outdoor must-do’s for anyone visiting the city.
•Grouse Mountain: Open all year round, and catering to all fitness levels. Whether you make the grind (as the locals affectionately refer to it) or take the gondola, the stunning view of the ocean and the city at the top will captivate you. Visitors in the wintertime can also take advantage of the mountains skiing condition, and experience the thrilling and picturesque flood lit night skiing!
•Locarno and Jericho Beaches: Offering incredible views of the North Shore Mountains, this stunning piece of shoreline is accessible all year round, and a favorite with tourists and residents alike. While Locarno beach is designated as the quiet beach more suited for immersing yourself in a tranquil and peaceful setting, Jericho beach has windsurfing, kitesurfing and a host of other thrill seeking activities. Keep an eye out for those spectacular sunsets.
•Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge: This is one of those fantastic free activities that Vancouver has to offer. A dense and lush rain-forest situated in the heart of North Vancouver. The natural beauty of the park is something to behold. The park has swimming pools, a suspension bridge, hiking trails, and an ecology center. There is something for everyone, regardless of age, and the park can be explored all year round.
•Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Of course we couldn’t offer up a list of the best outdoor activities to do while in Vancouver without including what is commonly regarded as the best ski-resort in the world. The 30+ feet of annual snowfall, and incredible glacier skiing that runs well into August, make Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains a mecca for skiers and boarders all over the world.
When to visit
Vancouver enjoys a pleasant moderate climate (particularly compared to other Canadian cities). The Autumn and Winter months aren’t excessively cold or snowy, and because the City is protected by Vancouver Island, it’s not as exposed to the levels of wind and precipitation that affects other western coastal cities. The best times to visit Vancouver however is the summer, when the weather is at its warmest and the city parks their most radiant. Take note, that the City is a lot of busier at this time, and a bit more expensive, but Vancouver really comes alive in the summer. It’s why travelers from all over the world (but particularly North America) flock to the City to enjoy the unrivaled range of outdoor activities Vancouver has to offer.