Vancouver is one of Canada’s top 10 biggest cities and by far its most beautiful one. The area is a treat for nature lovers looking to hike and explore the unique temperate rainforest. Don’t worry if you’re not into hiking. Vancouver has lots to offer in terms of city life, from nightclubs and restaurants to hidden gems and fun activities. It’s a great starting point when traveling in Canada.
My name is Amanda and I have been living in Vancouver for two years. In that time, I have thoroughly explored the city and the beautiful things it has to offer visitors and locals alike. In this article, I’m going to list the top 10 things you must do when visiting Vancouver.
10 Best Things To Do in Vancouver
1. Visit the Museum of Vancouver
Vancouver has many museums and galleries to check out, but the Museum of Vancouver stands out. Here you can learn all about the early indigenous history that helped shape the city, as well as the European colonization and Chinese immigration that transformed Vancouver into the modern city it is today.
Their interactive and informative galleries will have you wandering around for hours, making it the perfect rainy day activity. You can also visit the H.R MacMillan Space Center that is inside the museum to catch a documentary in the Planetarium Theatre or observe the stars in the observatory. Parking at the museum is abundant but it’s also easily accessible by bike path, transit and water taxi!
2. Shop on Main Street
Walking down trendy Main street is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Whether you are window shopping or out on a spree, Main Street has it all. Main Street is an elegant mix of residential and business that comes together to create a unique feeling of community. You will know you are there when you see the locals out for their morning coffee or taking their dogs for a walk in the nearby parks. There are many cafes and restaurants to hang out at and take a break from shopping.
Hopefully you brought all your travel essentials for women but just in case you forgot a thing or two, or you just want to pick up some new items, there are many fabulous boutiques, thrift stores and independent shops for all your needs (and it will make a great souvenir).
3. Watch the Ferries Leaving Horseshoe Bay
BC Ferries is essential to travel around the southwest part of British Columbia and is the lifeblood of many commuters coming into Vancouver from the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island (both of which make great day trips from Vancouver). BC Ferries run between these locations every 90-120 minutes, making Horseshoe Bay a busy port.
The small community of Horseshoe Bay is quaint, and there are a few coffee shops and retail stores to visit. You can easily watch the boats leave from Horseshoe Bay Park, but the best place to watch the ferries come in and out is the secret viewing platform along Horseshoe Bay Drive.
Drive along Horseshoe Bay Drive and pass the first small car park on the left until you reach the second small car park on the left. You can park your car here and walk a little ways back towards Horseshoe Bay (or park closer along the side of the road if there is space).
Once you see a sign that says “Residential Area, Avoid the Use of Engine Breaks” and a concrete divider, you are there. Follow the well-worn path over the rocky bank and you will see a lovely wooden platform with the best view of the ferries. This is also a beautiful place to watch the sunset, but it can get busy during evenings and weekends.
Although I would recommend driving to Horseshoe Bay, it is transit-accessible, and it is possible to walk from the small town to this viewing platform. But it would make for a very long day.
4. See the Rabbits at Jericho Beach
Jericho Beach is one of the more remote beaches away from the downtown core and close to UBC. This location is famous for crab fishing, water sports, swimming and many more outdoor activities. The beach is a great place to have a picnic and watch the cargo ships come in and out of the harbor, and it’s an excellent alternative to the crowded Kitsilano Beach.
You’re likely to see many locals out for a run or enjoying a picnic in the nearby park, as not many tourists tend to venture this far away from the city center. One of the best parts about Jericho Beach is the humongous rabbit population that freely roams the park! Who would have thought you could see rabbits in the middle of a city?
They are known to wander freely around Jericho Beach and Park, munching on grass and clover. It is nice to sit and watch the rabbits but feeding, holding or petting them is not advised. This behavior is often looked down upon by the locals. Instead, enjoy watching the rabbits hop around at this popular beach. Although Jericho Beach is accessible by transit, it is recommended to drive because there is plenty of parking on offer.
5. Go for a Walk at Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Tourists often overlook one of Vancouver’s biggest parks in favor of the more famous Stanley Park (which I will discuss later in this article), Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Two thousand acres provide a Pacific Northwest paradise of tall, moss-covered Douglas fir trees and over 50 kilometers of easily accessible walking trails.
You will see many locals here walking their dogs or out on a trail run, and you might even catch a filming or photo shoot! The towering Douglas fir trees offer a beautiful backdrop and protection from the rain, so it’s excellent to check out even if it’s drizzling outside.
If you feel cheeky, you can also head over to Wreck Beach on the UBC campus. This is Vancouver’s only nude beach and a great spot to watch the sunset unobstructed. Don’t worry about the clothing-optional part. This beach is for everyone and you will see a mix of families, locals and visitors alike.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park has plenty of parking and street parking if the parking lot is full. Due to the distance from the city center, it’s a good idea to drive if possible, although it is transit accessible.
6. Walk around Granville Street
Granville Street is where you eat, shop and party all in one. By day it is a bustling hub of retail stores and restaurants, and by night time all of the clubs and bars have opened their doors to thirsty patrons. Many huge name-brand stores carry some of the best clothing and shoes as well as some of the best backpack brands, perfect if you happen to wear out your gear on one of Vancouver’s many hiking trails.
At night Granville Street flips and turns into a party paradise. Here you can find all the latest cocktail bars, Irish pubs, dive bars, some of Vancouver’s famous clubs like Cabana Lounge, or theaters with live music like the cool art deco Vogue Theater. No matter what kind of night you are looking for, you can find it on Granville.
7. Check out Stanley Park and Prospect Point
Of course, you have to visit Stanley Park when you travel to Vancouver, but this park can be big with lots to see and do inside the park. Walking the seawall all the way around the park is guaranteed to get you some fantastic views (and an excellent workout), but one of the best views in Stanley Park is from Prospect Point.
Prospect Point is located in the most northern part of the park and has a wonderful view of the Lions Gate Bridge. If you walk along Stanley Park Drive from the east, headed to Prospect Point, you will also catch a nice view of the bridge as you cross over Highway 99. You can continue from Prospect Point to check out some other cool things in Stanley Park like Siwash Rock and Beaver Lake!
8. Grab a Craft Beer on Granville Island
No visit to Vancouver is complete without a trip to Granville Island! Come for the market and the fish and chips but stay for the craft beer. This small (not an island) neighborhood in Vancouver started as an industrial district – and the city has done a great job preserving its history. You can still see remnants of its industrial past and there are many informative signs explaining the history.
Walking around this quaint market, filled with local shops and restaurants to explore, is one of the best ways to enjoy an afternoon. Be sure to check out the local artisans and their wares on the island and support the local businesses that help the island thrive.
One of the best places for an afternoon pint on the island would be Granville Island Brewery. Taste a hand-picked flight of some of their well-known craft beers and taproom series, brewed in the taproom so you can see through the glass window. Their rotating taps keep every visit interesting!
It is best to go to Granville Island by bus or water taxi, both of which are frequent and affordable. Parking is limited on Granville Island during peak hours and weekends, and the roads can be challenging (but not impossible) to navigate in a car.
9. Explore Richmond Night Market
Just outside Vancouver is the city of Richmond where the Richmond Night Market is hosted every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the summer from 6-7 PM onwards. The market was started in 2000 by Raymond Cheung. The night market has grown from its roots into the highlight of Vancouver summers.
In the market there are millions of food options from different vendors that showcase some creative twists on Canadian classics like rolled ice cream, fried chicken tacos and cod fishcakes – as well as creative Asian dishes like onigiri, mochi donuts, flying cup noodles (all-out gravity-defying cup noodles) and more!
The Richmond Night Market has over one hundred food vendors but that is not the only reason to visit! They also have nightly entertainment like live performances, music and dancing, as well as games and bouncy houses for kids. Richmond is accessible by the Canada Line SkyTrain and it has plenty of parking for those who want to drive.
10. Visit Cypress Falls
Cypress Falls Park is located in west Vancouver and is one of the best transit-friendly hikes in the Vancouver area, featuring a beautiful waterfall hidden in an old-growth forest. Cypress Falls is a relatively easy hike making it fun and adventurous for new as well as experienced hikers.
The 3 km round trip trail takes you through the forest and ends at the beautiful Cypress Falls. See if you can find a few rusty cars in the woods (likely pushed over the road by teens in the late 60s). It’s wise to check AllTrails and recent reviews when navigating this park, as the multitude of trails can make it a bit confusing for first-time visitors. There are many details on finding the waterfall on the app and website.
Cypress Falls is transit-accessible, although the journey to west Vancouver can be a long one. There is a little bit of street parking but it might fill up on the weekends.
Visiting Vancouver is a unique west coast experience that everyone should have. It is the prime starting location for many outdoor adventures like hiking, skiing and kayaking. Still, it is also a popular destination for those who enjoy the city and all it offers. No matter what kind of trip you are looking for, Vancouver has it all!