Planning a vacation to western Canada? Vancouver is the place to see. Vancouver is a coastal seaport in British Columbia and is the third-largest city within Canada, with a population of 2,556,200 in 2019.
It is well known for its fresh, local seafood, especially salmon. The North Shore Mountains overlook Vancouver, with the Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south.
With all four seasons throughout the year giving you a plethora of things to see and do, you’ll never find yourselves wondering what to do next. Vancouver has something for everyone!
Check out these 15 places to visit while you enjoy our beautiful city of Vancouver.
1. Stanley Park
Get back to nature and enjoy a day at Stanley Park. There are so many sites to see when visiting this urban park within downtown Vancouver. You’ll probably need at least half a day or even a full day to explore the park.
One of the most popular things to do while visiting Stanley Park is taking a stroll, run, or bike ride along the 9-km seawall that surrounds the park. Along the way, there are many highlights to look for – Brockton Point Lighthouse, Girl in a Wetsuit (a sculpted bronze woman on a rock), Siwash Rock, Lumberman’s Arch, as well as the beaches.
Inside the park, there is an abundance of trails to explore. You could grab a 15-minute ride on the Stanley Park Train. Or, maybe you love the arts or culture scene – take your time to marvel at the beauty of the First Nations art and totem poles.
Or, you might like to visit the local artists and their paintings along the walkways. After taking the time to explore the park, why not grab a bite to eat at the various options throughout the park – the Teahouse Restaurant, Prospect Point Cafe, Stanley Park Pavilion, and various concession stands.
2. Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium, located in Stanley Park, is home to many different species of sea life, including sharks. There are more than 20 shows for you to experience, including various shows that share information about their rescued sea otters, the Steller sea lions, and the African penguins.
Towards the end of your visit, take a stroll through the Graham Amazon Gallery and see how many species there are, including two sloths and some crocodilians. Don’t forget to check out the jellyfish exhibit!
On your way out, take a moment or two to explore the gift shop with their aquatic-themed ideas. Just outside the entrance to the Vancouver Aquarium is a beautiful bronze statue of a whale, created by the world-famous artist Bill Reid. Children love to dangle their fingers through the cascading water or toss a coin into the water.
3. VanDusen Botanical Garden
Within the heart of Vancouver, VanDusen Botanical Gardens is a 55-acre oasis, with over 7,500 plant species from around the world. Remember to bring your camera so that you can capture the beauty surrounding you.
Take your time within this quiet setting and explore the inspiring architecture, sculptures, a peaceful waterfall, a breathtaking lake, and 50 botanical collections.
Want to rest your feet and have something to eat? There are two restaurants with patios – Truffles Café or Shaughnessy Restaurant. On your way out, take a moment to browse the garden-themed gift shop.
During the Christmas season is their Festival of Lights. Make sure you take a ride on their carousel. This event is fun for everyone!
4. Granville Island
Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district, located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver and under the Granville Island bridge. This area was once an industrial manufacturing area, but today is a magnet for tourism and entertainment. You can still see hints of that era, including rail tracks and cranes.
While exploring Granville Island, take a moment to visit Ocean Concrete’s six concrete silos that were transformed into a gigantic mural. It’s a great photo opportunity.
The Granville Island Public Market is the heart of the island. This indoor market operates year-round and features an amazing assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and baked goods as well as handcrafted products and other unique gifts.
Take your time meandering through the various stores while smelling the aromas of tea and coffee, cheese, spices, baked goods, and flowers. Looking for something to eat? Check out the Granville Island Public Market Food Court where there are vendors serving everything from Fish & Chips to Indian Food.
Grab a spot outside and enjoy the amazing view or the performing buskers. Watch out for the seagulls!
Situated at the entrance of Granville Island is the Kid’s Market with an abundance of stores and activities. Other activities could include a walk along the seawall surrounding False Creek, check out the arts and culture scene, or dine at one of the many restaurants.
5. Science World
At the east end of False Creek in Downtown Vancouver, you can spot Science World by its giant mirrored ball on top. This is the place to visit if you love science or nature! It features hands-on exhibits and activities guaranteed to entertain and educate all ages. There are over 12 galleries to entertain your curiosity, including BodyWorks, Living Lab, Puzzles and Illusions, and so much more.
Inside the giant ball is the Omnimax Theatre, where you can sit back and enjoy films on various topics. There are also live science shows that you can enjoy.
Don’t forget to check out the Kaleidoscope science store on your way out. Who knows what treasures you will find there? Some options would be puzzles, books, toys and more! Great ideas for gifts.
6. Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery is located in Downtown Vancouver, next to Robson Square. It is recognized as one of Canada’s most renowned and innovative visual arts institutions.
There are various guided tours offered during the week, giving the visitor the opportunity to learn about the history of the artworks on display. The tours are led by experienced art professionals and educators. If you want to rest your feet and have a bite to eat, there is a new 1931 Gallery Bistro and Patio in the lobby.
For those who love to explore art galleries, this is the place to spend a couple of hours.
7. Vancouver Chinatown
While sightseeing in Downtown Vancouver, don’t forget to take some time to explore Chinatown, one of the largest, most vibrant and historic Chinatowns in North America. Check out the amazing food stands and restaurants, visit the interesting shops, and inhale the exotic aromas surrounding you.
If you have the time, visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It is a beautiful, peaceful garden in the middle of stunning Vancouver. Take a moment and relax on one of the benches, while soaking in the peacefulness of the garden.
8. Queen Elizabeth Park
Located on Little Mountain, this park is a must-see for anyone who is wanting to enjoy the beauty of the flower gardens, public art throughout the park, grassy hills, and stunning panoramic views over the city.
There is plenty to do while exploring this park – take a stroll along the various paths throughout the park; enjoy a picnic; take your dog to the dog off-leash area while you rest your feet, or enjoy a fun-filled game of mini golf at the Pitch & Putt.
Looking for a great place to get a fancy bite to eat? Then try their restaurant Seasons in the Park, located right at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park. It’s a highly rated restaurant and a wonderful place from which to enjoy the views – make sure you ask the server for a table by the window.
9. Bloedel Conservatory
Located at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park is the Bloedel Conservatory – a domed indoor tropical garden. This is a great indoor attraction for all ages and is wheelchair accessible. Step through the door to a tropical paradise, including 120 exotic birds and over 500 kinds of tropical plants and flowers.
Walk the trail and see how many species you can identify in this temperature-controlled glass dome. Marvel at the vibrant colors, scents, and sounds. Open year-round, except for Christmas Day.
Gastown is the oldest commercial district in Vancouver and is located along the waterfront between Granville and Main Streets, and north of Hastings Street. It is filled with heritage brick buildings, historic charm, tourist shops, and fine restaurants.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, Gastown has something for everyone. While checking out the stores along Water Street, stop and look at the famous steam clock. It sounds every 15 minutes.
Another main attraction in Gastown is the Vancouver Outlook at Harbour Centre. After riding the glass elevator to the observation deck, you will have 360-degree views of the city.
11. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver and is one of the most popular tourist attractions to experience. Allow yourself 2-3 hours to explore and enjoy its surrounding 27 acres and celebrate nature, history, and culture in unique and thrilling ways.
With the cedar-scented air and the towering trees above you, this is nature at its best. Step onto the swaying bridge for a hair-raising walk above the Capilano River. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth every step you take.
Once you are across, there are new attractions to explore – Cliffwalk and Treetops Adventure. Hungry? There are various options to choose from – The Cliff House Restaurant, the Sugar Shack, Logger’s Grill, Bridge House Café. Before you leave, check out the Trading Post for clothing, gifts, and various food items.
12. Museum of Anthropology
Only 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport, the Museum of Anthropology is located at UBC (University of British Columbia) and is wheelchair accessible. Take your time to explore traditional and contemporary art from Northwest Coast First Nations and other cultures across the world.
See the magnificent indigenous carvings, weavings and contemporary artworks in a spectacular building overlooking mountains and sea. There are various guided tours available throughout the museum. Hungry? Grab a bite to eat at Café MOA.
13. Kitsilano Beach
Kitsilano Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Vancouver and offers panoramic views of downtown Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, and the North Shore Mountains.
The beach is home to the longest swimming pool in Canada, the salt-water outdoor Kitsilano Pool, which is only open in the summer months. There are also volleyball courts, tennis courts, concessions, restaurants, and a playground for the kids.
Kitsilano Beach is also a great place to ride your bicycle, walk or jog. You can follow the waterfront all the way to Granville Island, Science World, and even to downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park.
From Kitsilano, you can also head for miles in the opposite direction, past beautiful Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks beaches in Point Grey and towards the University of British Columbia.
14. Lonsdale Quay Market via Seabus
The Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver is where you can catch a ride on the Seabus, a passenger-only ferry service in Metro Vancouver. Enjoy a quick 10-12-minute ferry ride as you cross the Burrard Inlet towards the Lonsdale Quay terminal. This takes you directly to the Lonsdale Quay Market.
The Lonsdale Quay Market is a waterfront public market that is open year-round. With over 90 specialty shops and services, Lonsdale Quay is the place to visit.
There is a fresh food market with local products, an international food court, specialty shops featuring local designers, kids’ shops and play areas, restaurants and a boutique hotel and spa. Just outside of the market, and looking towards downtown Vancouver, is a wire fence with numerous locks attached to it, symbolizing sweethearts’ love for each other.
On your way back to Waterfront Station, you can see beautiful Stanley Park on the right and the amazing downtown cityscape ahead.
15. Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)
For the last ten decades, the Pacific National Exhibition has showcased the best of Vancouver to the rest of Canada and the world. Millions of guests have enjoyed shows, exhibits, sporting events, amusement rides including the wooden roller coaster, concerts, cultural activities, and the annual summer Fair at the PNE.
No single location in Vancouver captures the spirit and history of this city, its people and its many achievements as the PNE.
While you are visiting the PNE, why not check out the Hastings Park Racecourse for live thoroughbred racing in a well-known location with eye-catching mountain and waterfront views. They also offer some amazing places to eat.
As you can see, there is plenty to do while visiting our beautiful city of Vancouver. If you have the time, you could almost spend an entire day for each, it all depends on how long your stay is. I hope you enjoy what Vancouver has to offer!
Last Updated on April 17, 2020