Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground.
Renowned for its scenic beauty and endless opportunities for outdoor activities, Vancouver is also a cosmopolitan city with all the urban amenities—fine dining, shopping, museums, galleries, music, and theatre.
Vancouver is located on the southwest corner of the mainland of British Columbia, and is bounded on three sides by water. The reason for the city’s existence, the splendid deepwater harbor formed by the fjord-like Burrard Inlet, is backed by the often snowcapped Coast Mountains, which rise more than 5,000 feet.
To the city’s north, Burrard Inlet separates Vancouver from North Vancouver and West Vancouver. On its western boundary is the Pacific Ocean’s Strait of Georgia. And to the south, the Fraser River separates Vancouver from its smaller satellite communities.
To the west, the peaks of Vancouver Island rise over the waters of the Strait of Georgia, while to the south Mount Baker, the giant of the U.S. Cascade Range, can often be seen.
Stanley Park, a nearly 1,000-acre park on the tip of Vancouver’s “thumb” is home to some of the city’s favorite, most-visited attractions. In fact, you could easily spend several days here and still not see everything this urban oasis has to offer. Walk, cycle, or jog around the nearly 14-mile-long Seawall that hugs Vancouver’s waterfront.
The path starts at the Vancouver Convention Centre and ends at popular Kitsilano Beach Park. Stop along the Seawall at Brockton Point to see the First Nation totem pole display. It’s estimated that some of the original totem poles were carved in the late 1880s. Also explore the more than 17 miles of forest trails that are much less crowded than the rest of the park.
Family-friendly activities include an outdoor water park and a separate heated, outdoor pool, and the Vancouver Aquarium. The park also boasts four playgrounds and a miniature train that snakes through more than a mile of forest.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is the oldest tourist attraction in the city (originally constructed in 1889), and the 450-foot long, 230-foot high bridge offers spectacular views of the Capilano Canyon and River below.
Energetic Robson Street is the place to see and be seen in Vancouver, and boasts more than 200 shops, cafés, and services. Robson Street runs east-west through downtown Vancouver, from Yaletown to the West End.
Hop on a water taxi from downtown Vancouver, relish the view of the downtown skyline, and get ready to spend an enjoyable day at Granville Island. An eclectic mix of shops, boutiques, and galleries, Granville Island is best known for its large and bustling Public Market, where local food vendors and artisans peddle their wares. Granville Island is also dotted with an array of arts-and-crafts studios and galleries dedicated to local and regional work.
Once a gritty area of loading bays and brick warehouses, Yaletown has undergone a facelift and is now a stylish mix of the fashion-savvy, dot-commers. Yaletown sits at the southeastern tip of downtown Vancouver.
Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver’s horticultural jewel, is a major draw for floral display enthusiasts and view-seekers. At 500 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point in Vancouver and makes for spectacular views of the park, city, and mountains on the North Shore.
The 130-acre park is home to the stunning Bloedel Conservatory. There is also a gorgeously landscaped quarry garden, the arboretum with its collection of exotic and native trees.
Enjoy breathtaking scenery at VanDusen Botanical Gardens: 54 acres of elegant landscapes with plant species representing ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean, from Louisiana swamps to the Pacific Northwest.
A wilderness paradise, Grouse Mountain is located 15-minutes from downtown Vancouver. The famous Grouse Mountain Skyride (North America’s largest aerial tram system) takes visitors on a one-mile aerial journey to the Alpine Station, 3,700 feet above sea level. Breathtaking panoramic views of the city, sea, and surrounding mountains unfold, culminating with a summit altitude of 4,100 feet. Grouse Mountain enjoys the status of Vancouver’s most visited attraction receiving over 1.2 million visitors each year.
Almost 11 miles of beaches surround Vancouver, including eight ocean-side locations (ten, if you count the three beaches that make up Spanish Banks) and one fresh water lake.
My favorite place in the world to run is Stanley Park in Vancouver. One loop around there is perfect.