Vancouver, B.C. really is a city to enjoy year-round. In the summer months there are beaches and bike lanes to explore, and in the winter months you can head to the nearby mountains for snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding.. You really have more than enough to keep you busy for days, with museums, parks, and local markets all within walking distance of downtown. Here are a few of my favourite things to do either in the city or very close by….
The Capilano Suspension Bridge….this tourist attraction is about 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. If you are staying in the city then there is a very convenient free shuttle that goes year round from Canada Place. The word Capilano is from the Squamish First Nation word Kia’palano which means beautiful river.
The original bridge was built in 1889 and was made with hemp rope and cedar planks, eventually this footbridge was replaced with a wire cable bridge.
Over the years there have been upgrades to the bridge, the addition of numerous hiking trails to enjoy, a treetop adventure area, a gift store, and a cliffwalk.
This attraction can be enjoyed at anytime of year and during the months of December and January the park is decorated with thousands of lights on display. More information about the Capilano Suspension Bridge is available from their website.
Next up…Van Dusen Botanical Garden. These gardens were opened in 1975 and cover 55 acres with displays of plants from all over the world, as well as from the Northwest Coast.
Van Dusen Botanical Garden is maintained by the Vancouver Park Board as well as a group of over 950 volunteers. There are often events during the weekends and tours that can be arranged when you arrive.
The gardens are open year-round, except for Christmas. During the month of December, Van Dusen hosts the Festival of Lights, a display with over one million lights throughout the garden and ponds.
If you visit, plan on spending at least half a day to enjoy the many different garden areas, and perhaps sit and enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Another not to miss place is Granville Island. This market area is located just under the Granville Street Bridge and is easily accessible by bus. Parking is often difficult to find during the summer months so public transit is highly recommended. There are also water taxis operated by Aquabus and the False Creek Ferry that will take visitors from the downtown side of Burrard Inlet to Granville Island.
Granville Island has a wide selection of eateries including a food court, restaurants and coffee houses. Inside the market you will find specialty food items, produce, fish and meat shops, bakeries, and florists.
There are also a variety of shops displaying items made by local merchants including pottery and ceramic stores, art galleries, clothing and jewellery shops, and home décor.
The Granville Island Market is open all year and is a place that is definitely worth checking out.
The last attractions, Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium can be combined into one visit…or enjoyed separately.
Stanley Park is an urban park that is just over 1000 acres in size, making it one-fifth larger than New York’s Central Park. The park was originally a First Nation settlement, and was also logged until the 1880’s. Officially opened in 1888 by Stanley Park includes 27 km (17 miles) of forested trails, Beaver Lake which is home to beavers, fish and water birds, and a 8.8 km (5.5 miles) seawall walk.
There are also beaches, tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic areas, a rose garden, and a miniature railway. If you are staying in the city then you can rent bikes just outside of the park area and cycle around the seawall stopping along the way to take in the views.
Within Stanley Park you will find the Vancouver Aquarium, the largest aquarium in Canada and home to fish, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, and birds. Once inside the aquarium you will find outdoor habitat areas with dolphins, sea otters, sea lions and penguins…
… and inside you will find an Amazon Gallery, a Tropic Zone, a Pacific Coast area, and a 4D theatre. There are also daily shows and talks, opportunities to touch the sea-life, a gift shop, and a restaurant.
The Vancouver Aquarium no longer keeps any whales in captivity, but does operate a Marine Mammal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program to help injured or abandoned marine mammals with the purpose of re-releasing them into their natural habitat. This program helps approximately 100 marine mammals each year.
The Vancouver Aquarium, along with Stanley Park, are must-see attractions within Vancouver, and should be high on any visitor’s list of things to do here. There are many other places to spend time within Vancouver including Grouse Mountain, The Museum of Anthropology, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. If you want to travel outside of the city you can visit the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish, head to the village of Whistler, or take a day trip to Victoria. There is certainly plenty to keep you busy, no matter how long you plan on staying!