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Revision as of 21:33, 3 September 2009

This article is the Collaboration of the month for September 2009. Find out how it can be improved, and plunge forward to make this an article we can be proud of!


Vancouver is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
For other places with the same name, see Vancouver (disambiguation).
Towers and mountains - looking at the Vancouver skyline from Cambie St.

Vancouver [1] is the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, and third largest in Canada, with a population of 2.6 million. Located at the southwestern corner of the coastal province of British Columbia, it is well known for its majestic natural beauty, as it is nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is frequently ranked as one of the "best cities to live in" and is certainly a beautiful destination to visit.

Vancouver will be the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Contents

Districts

Vancouverites broadly split their city into three: the Westside, the Eastside (or East Van) and downtown. This split is simply geography -- everything west of Ontario St is the Westside, everything east is East Van and everything north of False Creek is downtown. Each of these areas have their own attractions and neighbourhoods, so time permitting, explore as many as you can.

Vancouver District and Road map.
Downtown (Central Business District-Yaletown, Stanley Park and the West End, Gastown-Chinatown)
The downtown peninsula that holds many of the city's attractions, restaurants and high-end hotels. It is home to beautiful architecture, fine dining and world class shopping. It includes the West End, Coal Harbour, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and Stanley Park. It is also home to several beaches (English Bay, Sunset Beach, First Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach).
Westside (Kitsilano, South Granville, UBC and South Vancouver)
There's plenty to interest the visitor here with the markets of Granville Island, beaches, gardens, some fine museums and a thriving arts scene.
East Van (Commerical Drive, South Main, Punjabi Market)
A large, mostly residential area of the city. Commercial Drive has many ethnic restaurants; Main Street is an up and coming artsy part of the city filled with unique shops.

Understand

While Vancouver is a comparatively young city, at just over 100 years, its history begins long before. The Coast Salish indigenous peoples (First Nations) have lived in the area for at least 6000 years, and Vancouver's namesake Captain George Vancouver sailed through the First Narrows in 1792. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was Granville, located on the spot of today's Gastown. In the year of Canada's confederation a saloon was built on this site and gave birth to a small shantytown of bars and stores adjacent to the original mill on the south shore of what is now the city's harbour. A seemingly endless supply of high quality lumber was logged and sold through the ports of Gastown and Moodyville, across the inlet. Some of the trees were gigantic beams which were shipped to China to construct Beijing's Imperial Palace, and one account maintains that the world's windjammer fleets could not have been built without the trees of Burrard Inlet.

Captain George Vancouver's statue.

Vancouver proper was signed into existence in 1886. The first City Hall was little more than a hand painted sign nailed to a wooden tent post. The arrival of the transcontinental railway a few years later spurred growth even more and by 1892 the area had over 20,000 residents; eighteen years later this figure was over 100,000.

Factor in constant growth every year since (many in the double digits), and Greater Vancouver today is Canada's largest metropolitan area west of Toronto by far with more than 2,600,000 residents, more than half of British Columbia's population as a whole. It is also the fastest growing part of Canada. Greater Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse metropolitan areas in the world and is home to the second largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.

The city truly arrived in 1986 when Vancouver "hosted the world" with the Expo 86 World Fair. Media attention from around the world was consistently positive, and many considered it the most successful World's Fair since Montreal's. Vancouver has been awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and this event will no doubt cast Vancouver into the world spotlight once again. It will be the second largest city ever to host the winter games, and interestingly, the only city at sea level to host them. The only worry being that February is the rainiest month of the year in Vancouver.

Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, and the opportunities afforded by its natural environment. Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean, and play a round of golf all in the same day. Surrounded by water on three sides, and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great destination in itself, as well a great starting point for discovering the area's many outdoor activities.

Vancouver is a major sea port on the Pacific Ocean, and a base for many Alaska Cruise Ships in the summer. It has the same name as another city in the region, Vancouver, Washington (USA).

Climate

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 6 8 10 13 16 19 22 22 18 14 9 6
Nightly lows (°C) 0 1 3 5 8 11 13 13 10 7 3 1
Precipitation (mm) 15 12 11 8 6 5 4 4 6 11 17 18

See the Vancouver 5 day forecast at Environment Canada

With the exception of Victoria, Vancouver has the mildest climate of any major city in Canada; even palm trees can grow here. It rains a lot in Vancouver, especially during the winters, but during the summer months Vancouver gets less rain than most other Canadian cities. During the winter months it can go weeks without seeing the sun or a dry day, but the temperature rarely goes below freezing. Heavy snowfalls are an unusual sight and often lead to major traffic congestion.. The weather in Vancouver is similar to the southern UK, and while weather is similar to Seattle's, Vancouver frequently enjoys somewhat better weather overall. In the early summer the days often start out cloudy, due to marine air, but becomes clear by noon. Contrary to Vancouver's wet reputation, during the summer it is actually the second driest major Canadian city (after Victoria). Summer temperatures are not extreme, the typical day time high between June and August is around 25°C (77°F).

Cherry blossoms in the University of British Columbia.

There is one word to describe Vancouver's weather: unpredictable. The weather can be completely different depending on what part of the city you are in. It can be pouring rain on the North Shore and sunny in White Rock.

If you are visiting the city between July and October, you will most likely have excellent weather. The rainy season often starts in the middle of October. Without warning, one day it will be nice and sunny and the next the rain will begin and continue, seemingly continuously, until early March. If you are coming to the city for a ski holiday, the best time to visit is February; the region has a great record for excellent ski conditions during this month, once you get to altitudes above the constant rain.

Visitor Information

If you want information to plan your visit, contact Tourism Vancouver [2]. In town, further information can be obtained at local visitor information centers.

  • Tourism Vancouver Visitor Center, 200 Burrard Street (Plaza level, Burrard & Cordova), +1 604-683-2000 (fax: +1 604-682-6839). 8:30AM - 6PM. Offers maps, brochures and other information for visitors.

Get in

By plane

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport [3], or YVR as locals sometimes refer to it, is located immediately south of the city of Vancouver. It serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the United States, Asia and several to Europe . The majority of Canadian flights are with Star Alliance member Air Canada [4] and WestJet [5]. US destinations are served by United Airlines, Alaska, Continental, US Airways, Delta, Air Canada, and Westjet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Singapore Airlines (until Apr 25), Korean Air, Philipine Airlines, Air New Zealand, to name a few.

YVR, Vancouver International Airport

YVR's three terminals are: Domestic for jet flights within Canada, International for flights outside of Canada and South, which is the base for prop, small jet, and seaplane service to 'local' communities in British Columbia and Yukon. The Domestic and International terminals are connected and you can easily walk back and forth between them. The South Terminal is not attached and requires separate transportation to get to it.

The International Terminal has two boarding areas -- Transborder and International. The transborder area (Gate D) services all U.S. bound flights and has U.S. customs onsite. Travellers leaving Canada to fly into the USA must clear customs before you board the plane, so give yourself some extra time to check-in when you leave Vancouver for U.S. destinations. [Note: In the summer season when the Alaska cruises are operating to Vancouver, the afternoon flights are filled with Alaskan cruisers disembarking at Vancouver; give yourself even more extra time to get through the long customs line.] The remainder of the International Terminal (Gate E) has all other customs and immigration services, and has a sophisticated layout complete with native scapes of the British Columbia terrain and sights. Construction is currently taking place to expand the International Terminal and refurbishing and expanding the domestic terminal.

There is a range of restaurants, services and shops if you are hungry or want to kill some time before or after a flight. The airport has a policy of “street pricing”, obliging retailers and restaurants to sell at the same prices in the airport as in the city to avoid customer gouging. Typical fast-food restaurants are located before the security check-ins in the departure areas. For a nice meal, a Milestone's restaurant is located in the domestic terminal just outside the security check-in. In the International terminal, the upscale Fairmont Hotel has a nice view and some reasonably priced choices on their menu. Duty-free purchases may be made both before and after you clear customs in the airport, up to your personal exemption limit. ABM machines are scattered throughout the terminals. Currency exchange counters are located on both sides of security in the International Terminal.

There are a number of ways to get into town from the airport. Prices and directions below are for getting into downtown Vancouver.

  • SkyTrain - The Canada Line [6] provides direct rapid transit service downtown in 25 minutes. The cost will be $3.75 for the remainder of 2009 and $6.25 starting January 1, 2010. The former 424 bus and the 98 B-Line will no longer run as of Sep 7. For further info on Vancouver's public transit system, see Get around below.
  • Shuttle bus - The YVR Airporter [7] (1-800-668-3141) may be more convenient than public transit if you are staying at major hotels in downtown. The cost is $14 one way or $22 return and the service runs about every 20 minutes between 8:00AM-10:00PM. One drawback of the Airporter is it only stops at certain hotels in downtown Vancouver. If you need to go elsewhere, walking or hiring a taxi will be required.
  • Taxi - Taxis line up just outside the baggage claim areas. A taxi ride into town will cost about $25-$30 and should take under half an hour. All taxis that serve the airport are required to accept credit cards.
  • Limousines - Limojet Gold [8] offers comfortable sedan and limousine options for getting into town. Rides into the city center cost $40-$55 depending on where you are going and whether you are in a sedan or limo (the limo is more pricey).

Floatplane and heliport

There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (CXH) and at Vancouver International's South Terminal. Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Baxter Aviation, Salt Spring Air and West Coast Air [9] fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Gulf Islands, Seattle and other local destinations. Some float plane operators also offer spectacular tours of the central city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person... a great way to see a panoramic view of downtown. A quick search of Google will bring up websites for most of these float plane operators.

Finally, Helijet [10] operates helicopter service from the downtown heliport next to Waterfront Station, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and YVR.

Abbotsford International Airport

Abbotsford International Airport [11] (YXX), located about 80 km east of Vancouver in Abbotsford, is Vancouver's alternate airport. It handles mostly domestic flights and, with an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 minutes (with no checked in baggage).

The best way to reach Vancouver from Abbotsford Airport is by car -- take the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) west. The drive will take 1 - 1.5 hours, depending on traffic. There is no public transit link between this airport and Vancouver, so if you don't have access to a car, it is highly recommended that you fly into YVR (Vancouver International Airport) instead. Car rentals are available at the airport.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Flying in and out of Seattle, most notably for US destinations, and then using the bus for travel to and from Vancouver city is an often less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX due to tariffs and "other" reasons. However depending on your nationality, a US visa may be required and could take some time to procure. For budget travellers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 5 hours one way and driving time is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. Allow extra time to clear customs at the border.

By car

The main highway into Vancouver from the east is Highway #1 (the Trans-Canada Highway). This road skirts the eastern edge of Vancouver, so if you want to get into the city, you will need to exit off it at Grandview Highway, First Avenue or Hastings Street.

From the USA/Canada border south of the city, Highway 99 (the Canadian extension of the USA's Interstate 5) runs north to Vancouver. Note that the freeway ends after the Oak Street Bridge, turning into Oak Street heading north. Drivers with a downtown destination will need to get onto Granville Street (parallel to Oak Street to the west) in order to get on the Granville Street Bridge which crosses False Creek into the downtown peninsula.

If you are coming from the North Shore or other points further north, the only way into Vancouver is by bridge. Your options are the Lion's Gate Bridge (Highway 99) which brings you into Stanley Park and Vancouver's West End or the Second Narrows Bridge/Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (Highway 1) which brings you into the neighbourhoods of East Van.

By bus

Vancouver is well served by bus service. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Greyhound [12] connects Vancouver with many cities, including Seattle, Calgary and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
  • Quick Coach [13] connects Vancouver with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington.
  • Pacific Coach Lines[14] connects Vancouver with Victoria. Scheduled service follows the BC Ferry service from Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay). This is hourly in the summer months, and every two hours in the off-season.

By train

Pacific Central Station

Taking the train to Vancouver is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. Rail options include:

  • VIA Rail [15] has the Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with three weekly departures.
  • The Rocky Mountaineer [16] operates routes between Vancouver and Banff, Calgary and Jasper three times a week from April to October.
  • Amtrak [17] runs a service between Seattle and Vancouver. Trains depart Seattle daily at 7:45AM, arriving in Vancouver at 11:40AM. The return trip leaves Vancouver at 6PM.

All trains arrive at Pacific Central Station, located at 1150 Station Street (east of downtown off Main St). From there, it is a short taxi ride into the central business area, or you can pick up the SkyTrain at the Main St/Science World station two blocks away.

If you have the time and money, travelling to Vancouver by train can be an excellent way to see the Canadian Rockies. This is discussed further at the Rocky Mountaineer.

By boat

There are two ferry terminals serviced by BC Ferries [18] in the area, although neither is within the city of Vancouver itself.

Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into town from them (and vice-versa). In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services are recommended over public transit. Public buses to and from the ferry terminals are time-consuming and frustrating.

By cruise ship

The large cruise ships calling at Vancouver may be docked at one of two terminals in the Port Metro Vancouver [19]. Check with your cruise line as to which terminal your ship is using, especially if you are embarking at Vancouver.

  • Canada Place Terminal, located on the waterfront and a few minutes' walk to the heart of downtown Vancouver or Waterfront Station, is the primary cruise ship terminal. Canada Place was built originally for Expo86 and is recognized by its dramatic rooftop that looks like five white sails. A full range of ground transportation and amenities is available.
  • Ballantyne Pier Terminal, located on the waterfront 2km east of Canada Place, is the secondary cruise ship terminal and accessible by a 15-minute taxi ($12) to/from downtown or by a shuttle provided by some of the downtown hotels or some of the cruise lines. There is no public transportation and no rental car kiosks at Ballantyne.

US passport holders may be able to participate in "Onboard Check-in” and “US Direct" to streamline processing at the cruise ship and the airport. US Direct allows passengers arriving at Vancouver Airport (YVR) to transfer directly to a same-day-departing cruise ship by participating in expedited immigration and customs clearance process. Onboard Check-in allows passengers arriving on a cruise ship and flying out of YVR on the same day to transfer directly to YVR by participating in an expedited immigration and customs clearance process.

These programs do not apply to passengers who are planning a pre- or post-cruise stay in Vancouver. Not all cruise lines participate, so check with your cruise line to see if you can take advantage of the Onboard Check-in/US Direct program.

Get around

Vancouver is one of the few major cities in North America without a freeway leading directly into the downtown core (freeway proposals in the 1960's and 1970's were defeated by community opposition). As a result, development has taken a different course than in most other major North American cities resulting in a relatively high use of transit and cycling, a dense, walkable core and a development model that is studied and emulated elsewhere.

Public transit

Skytrain system map
Skytrain

Vancouver's public transit is an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain) and passenger ferries (SeaBus) run by the regional transportation authority, TransLink [20]. The transit system connects Vancouver with its neighboring municipalities, stretching as far north as Lions Bay, south to the U.S. border and east to Langley and Maple Ridge.

Adult fares for travel within the city of Vancouver cost $2.50. Travel from Vancouver to nearby places like North Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond costs a little bit more -- $3.75 to $5.00 -- depending on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. Travel on weekends and weekdays after 6:30PM is always $2.50 regardless of the destination. The ticket you receive is valid for 1.5 hours from the time of purchase and can be used to transfer to any bus, SkyTrain or the SeaBus during that time. TransLink's website and customer information line (604-953-3333) both offer complete trip planning. A regional system map is widely available at convenience stores and on TransLink's website.

A more convenient option for the traveller may be the Daypass, which offers unlimited travel for a single day at the cost of $9.00. It is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations. Books of 10 prepaid tickets (FareSaver tickets) are available at a discount from many convenience stores. Concession fares are available for Vancouver grade-school students and BC seniors and cost between $1.75 and $3.50. If you're a student or a senior you must be carrying a TransLink GoCard or BC Gold CareCard to receive the reduced concession fare. Monthly passes are also available, which can cost $73-$136, depending on how many zones they cover.

The bus service covers the widest area and travels along most major streets in the city. Passengers must either buy a ticket or present their ticket immediately upon entering a TransLink bus. Buses accept coins only and will not give change. Tickets can also be purchased from vending machines in SkyTrain stations that accept coins, bills, debit and credit cards. In addition, several bus rapid transit lines named B Lines crisscross the city.

SkyTrain is the mostly elevated rapid transit system that connects Vancouver's downtown with some of its southern and eastern suburbs. The Expo line runs out through Burnaby and New Westminster to King George station in Surrey. The Millennium line follows the Expo line to New Westminster and then loops back through Burnaby and into Vancouver again ending at VCC/Clark. The Canada Line connects downtown with Richmond and Vancouver Airport. Notable SkyTrain stations in Vancouver include:

  • Broadway/Commercial Drive - Accesses the restaurants of Commercial Drive in East Vancouver
  • Burrard and Granville - Most convenient for accessing the shopping areas in the central business district
  • Waterfront Station - Meeting point of the SkyTrain, SeaBus, numerous commuter and rapid bus routes and the commuter rail West Coast Express. It is also at the entrance to Gastown and is right next to the Canada Place Convention Centre/Cruise Ship Terminal facilities.

The SeaBus is a passenger ferry that connects Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It generally runs every 15 minutes except in the evening and on Sundays. The exact schedule is available on TransLink's website.

Purchasing tickets for the SkyTrain and the SeaBus operates on the honor system, with ticket checks occuring at random, often rare times. It is not difficult to ride without paying, especially during rush hour, but those who do so ride at their own risk. If caught, the passenger has to pay a fine of $173. Tickets are easily available through vending machines at SkyTrain stations and either SeaBus terminal.

SkyTrain and SeaBus service ends before last call at night clubs and bars, so if you'll be partying downtown, be sure you figure out a ride home.

By car

Vancouver's road network is generally a grid system with a "Street" running north-south and an "Avenue" running east-west. Arterial roads follow the grid fairly well (although not perfectly), but side streets frequently disappear for blocks at a time and then reappear. Most of the "Avenues" are numbered and they always use East or West to designate whether it is on the East side or the West side of Ontario Street. Some of the major avenues use names rather than numbers (Broadway would be 9th Avenue, King Edward Avenue would be 25th Avenue).

Downtown Vancouver has its own grid system and doesn't follow the street/avenue format of the rest of the city. It is also surrounded by water on three sides, so most of the ways in and out require you to cross a bridge. This can cause traffic congestion, particularly at peak times (morning and evening commutes, sunny weekend afternoons, major sporting events), so factor that into any driving plans, or avoid if possible.

Go West... but which one?
The term "West" comes up frequently in connection with Vancouver and can be confusing for locals and visitors alike. It can refer to:

  • the West Side of Vancouver, which is the area of Vancouver west of Ontario Street. It includes Kitsilano, South Granville, UBC and South Vancouver, but excludes the downtown peninsula,
  • the West End, which is the western portion of the downtown peninsula, and
  • West Vancouver, a municipality across the harbor in the North Shore.


One of the best ways to avoid traffic congestion is to listen to traffic reports on AM730 (730 on the AM dial of the radio). This station only reports traffic and can be quick to report any accidents and congestion, as well as BC ferry reports, Langley ferry lineups, border wait times, and other information pertaining to getting around the city and its many suburbs.

A unique feature of Vancouver is intersections with flashing green traffic signals. These do not indicate an advance left turn as it would in many other parts of North America. Instead, a flashing green light indicates a traffic signal that can only be activated by a pedestrian or a cyclist on the side street, but not by a motor vehicle. When the signal turns red, traffic stops as at any traffic signal. Any side street traffic must obey the stop sign on the side street, and must yield to any pedestrians crossing the side street, even if traffic is stopped on the main street.

Parking

Parking downtown generally costs $1-$2.50/hour or $12-$20/day. Commercial areas will typically have meter parking on the street, with meters accepting Canadian and American change only (American coins accepted at par value). Residential streets may allow free parking, but some will require a permit.

Easy Park [21] lots (look for an orange circle with a big "P") rank as the most affordable of the parkades, but generally the cost of parking will not vary greatly among parkades within a certain area. Most will accept payment by credit card, as well as coins. Beware of scammers hanging around in some parkades, trying to sell parking tickets for less than their face value — typically, they have purchased the tickets with stolen credit cards. Also be careful parking overnight, as vehicle break-ins are not uncommon.

City meters and parking regulations are enforced regularly. Meter-related offenses will result in fines. Violations in private lots are generally unenforceable, but may result in your car being towed. If your vehicle is towed on a city street, you can recover it at the city impound lot at 1410 Granville Street (under the Granville St. bridge).

By bicycle

The totem poles of Stanley Park

The city of Vancouver is a very bicycle-friendly city. In addition to the extremely popular seawall bicycle routes along Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano, there are a whole network of bicycle routes that connect the whole city. The City of Vancouver provides a map of the bicycle routes that is available at most bike shops or online. Also, all buses have bicycle racks on the front to help riders get to less accessible parts. North American visitors will find that, drivers in Vancouver are well accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.

Bicycles are available to rent by the hour, day or week. Many places also rent tandem bikes. Some bicycle rental locations:

  • Bazooka Bikes, 1531 Robson St Street, [22]
  • Stanley Park Cycle, 768 Denman Street, [23]
  • Bayshore Bike Rentals, 745 Denman St, [24].
  • Spokes Bicycle Rentals, 1789 West Georgia St, [25].
  • Reckless Bike Stores, 1810 Fir Street @ 2nd Avenue & 110 Davie Street @ Pacific, [26].
  • JV Bike, 1387 Richards St, [27] also rents electric assist bicycles to make the hills a little easier.

Alternatively, buy a used bicycle and either sell it on or donate it to someone in more need of it at the end of your stay. There are a number of 2nd owner bicycle stores on Dunbar and the surrounding area, including the famous Cheapskates.

  • Cheapskates, 3228 Dunbar St, +1 604-734-1191.
  • Our Community Bikes, 3283 Main St. +1 604-879-2453 (email:info@pedalpower.org), [28].

Hosted Bicycle Tours are available from a number of suppliers. These tours are educational and cover many of the interesting areas and attractions of Vancouver.

  • City by Cycle, 101-2539 Laurel St, +1-888-599-6800, [29].

By water taxi

A quick trip across on a water taxi can be a fun and convenient way to get between various points on False Creek, including Granville Island, Science World, the Maritime Museum, downtown, and others. Service is offered by Granville Island Ferries [30] and Aquabus [31]. Current prices start at around $3.00 per journey - Aug 2008.

See

Vancouver Art Gallery.

While Vancouver is still a young city, it has a variety of attractions and points of interest for the visitor. Many of the city's landmarks and historical buildings can be found downtown. Canada Place, with its distinctive sails, the intricate Art Deco styling of the Marine Building and the old luxury railway hotel of the Hotel Vancouver are in the central business district. Stanley Park (the city's most popular attraction) and the Vancouver Aquarium are in the West End and Gastown, the original town site of Vancouver, has a number of restored buildings and its steam clock is a popular spot to visit. Another popular city landmark, the bustling markets and shops of Granville Island, is just to the south of downtown in South Granville.

If you're looking to learn a little about the people of the Northwest Coast and some of its history, one good spot is the impressive Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, which houses several thousand objects from BC's First Nations. The museum is also home to significant collections of archaeological objects and ethnographic materials from other parts of the world. The Vancouver Art Gallery, located downtown combines local with international through a variety of exhibitions and a permanent collection that focuses on renowned British Columbia artist, Emily Carr. The Vancouver Public Library, located downtown at Homer and Robson Street, is modeled after the Roman Colosseum, and houses the city's largest library. Another downtown sight is the small Contemporary Art Gallery on Nelson Street, which features modern art. Also located nearby, just south of Chinatown is the shiny geodesic dome of the Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World), which has a number of exhibits, shows and galleries aimed at making science fun for kids. There are also some smaller sights in Kitsilano, including the Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.

The city has a wealth of parks and gardens scattered throughout. The most famous is Stanley Park at the tip of the downtown peninsula. Its miles of trails for walking and cycling, beaches, magnificent views and the attractions within the park gives it something for everyone. The most popular trail is the Seawall, a paved trail that runs around the perimeter of Stanley Park and now joins with the seawalls in Coal Harbour and Kitsilano, totaling 22km in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park. Other notable parks and gardens include VanDusen Botanical Garden and Queen Elizabeth Park in South Vancouver, the Nitobe Memorial Garden (commonly known as the Nitobe Japanese Garden) and UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown downtown.

Admission to Vancouver's various attractions can range from $10 to up to $30 per person. There are a variety of attractions passes available that help visitors save on retail admissions such as the See Vancouver Smartvisit Card and the Vancouver Five in One Card.

Finally, a trip to Vancouver wouldn't be complete without a glimpse of the skyline and the Coastal mountains rising above the city (clouds permitting, of course!). Popular spots to view it include Stanley Park and the Harbour Centre downtown, Spanish Banks and Jericho Beaches in Kitsilano and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Other interesting views can be seen from City Hall at 12th and Cambie, Queen Elizabeth Park and East Van's CRAB Park.

Do

Views from the Seawall in Stanley Park

Tours

If you want to orient yourself in the city, there are a variety of tours -- bus, walking, hop-on, hop-off -- based out of the City Center that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.

Outdoor Activities

Vancouverites love the outdoors and one of the most popular things to do is to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade the Seawall. It starts at Canada Place downtown, wraps around Stanley Park and follows the shoreline of False Creek though Yaletown, Science World and Granville Island to Kits Beach in Kitsilano. The most popular sections are around Stanley Park and along the north shore of False Creek. Bike and rollerblade rentals are available from a few shops near the corner of Denman & West Georgia if you prefer wheeled transportation over walking. If the weather's nice, go out to Granville Island, rent a speedboat and take a boat ride on the waters around Stanley Park and Coal Harbor.

If you'd rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamourous and lacking waves most days, there's sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. Kitsilano has a string of beaches, the most well known being Kits Beach, Jericho and Spanish Banks. Kits Beach is the most popular and has beach volleyball, Spanish Banks is a bit quieter and popular with skimboarders. There are a few beaches on the south and west sides of downtown, with Sunset Beach (near Denman & Beach) being the largest and most popular. Finally, no discussion of Vancouver beaches would be complete without mention of Wreck Beach at the tip of Point Grey in UBC. As much rock as it is sand, it holds a place in the Vancouver identity and is the only city beach where you can bare it all.

For many, Vancouver is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. While there are no ski hills within the city itself, there are three "local" hills (Cypress, Grouse Mountain and Seymour) across the harbour on the North Shore. And of course, Vancouver is the gateway to Whistler, the biggest and one of the highest rated snow destinations in North America.

Spectator Sports

When you tire of doing stuff outdoors, or prefer that someone else do the hard work, you can always grab a seat and take in the local sports teams. The biggest draw in town is hockey (the variety played on ice, not a field) and the local professional team is the Vancouver Canucks. The team plays at GM Place in the City Center and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer if they make the play-offs). Tickets are pricey and the concessions are even worse, but it's a good game to watch live. The local junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, offer a cheaper but no less exciting experience. They play out of Pacific Coliseum in East Van.

Hockey isn't the only game in town though. The BC Lions, the city's Canadian Football League team (think American football with 12 players a side, three downs, a slightly larger field, and much larger end zones) plays during the summer and fall at BC Place downtown. Vancouver also has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver. If soccer is your game, the Vancouver Whitecaps play out of Swangard Stadium in nearby Burnaby. In 2011, the Whitecaps will be replaced by a new Major League Soccer team, the second in Canada, that will initially play its home games at BC Place.

Culture and Festivals

Vancouver isn't all about the outdoors as it offers a variety of theater, concerts and other cultural events. There are symphony and opera venues downtown and much of the city's live theater can be found in South Granville, particularly on Granville Island with its thriving arts scene.

The city's Chinese heritage comes alive during Chinese New Year. Chinatown, in the east side of downtown, is awash in colour and has many festivities, including a parade. June sees the annual Dragon Boat Festival on False Creek.

There is no shortage of festivals around the city, with many local ones particular to a neighbourhood. The festival that draws the largest crowds is the HSBC Celebration of Light [32], a four night extravaganza of fireworks over English Bay in late July and early August. Countries compete with 20-30 minute displays choreographed to music. The fireworks start at 10PM and are best viewed from Sunset Beach in the West End or Kits Beach/Vanier Park in Kitsilano. It is strongly recommended to take public transit and to get there a few hours early as the crowds are huge. Roads in the vicinity of English Bay are typically closed from 6PM onwards.

Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival [33] that runs in Sept - Oct; the Fringe Festival [34] that presents live theater in a variety of styles and venues; Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival[35] that runs May - September at Vanier Park in Kitsilano; and the three day Folk Fest [36] on the beach in Kitsilano that features a large selection of current and upcoming folk, roots and world music acts. Another notable event is Vancouver's annual Vancouver Pride Parade [37], held on August 2nd, which attracts over 500,000 spectators.

Learn

There are a number of educational institutions both in Vancouver and in the surrounding cities and suburbs. Places of study within the city of Vancouver include:

  • The University of British Columbia [38], or UBC, is ranked as one of the world's 50 best universities and is the largest university in western Canada. More than 50,000 full time and part time students in numerous disciplines are enrolled at the main campus in the UBC and South Vancouver district. UBC also has a downtown campus in Vancouver, located at Robson Square in the central business district. This location is geared more towards adult learning, business people and foreign students. Course calendars are readily available at Robson Square or on UBC's website.
  • Simon Fraser University [39], or SFU, has its main campus on the top of a mountain in Burnaby with spectacular views. SFU also has a satellite campus in downtown Vancouver.
  • Langara College [40], located in South Vancouver offers a number of programs in the arts, humanities, business and technology, as well as continuing education and ESL classes.
  • The Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design [41] on Granville Island offers a number of programs focused primarily on design and the visual arts.
  • The Great Northern Way Campus [42] in East Van is a collaborative university campus environment put together with the help of all of the major local universities, focusing on arts, technology, and the environment.
  • The British Columbia Institute of Technology [43], or BCIT, a technical college based in Burnaby, has a satellite campus in downtown Vancouver.
  • The Vancouver Film School [44] is located in downtown Vancouver.
  • Many young visitors come to Vancouver to improve their English. The Vancouver Public Library downtown maintains a list of ESL schools [45] in Vancouver.

Work

A view of downtown Vancouver taken from the Shangri-La hotel watching the city as it falls asleep

Traditionally, much of Vancouver's industry has centered around its port facilities and the forestry and mining sectors. Although these industries are still important to the economy, Vancouver's largest employers are now the various hospitals and educational institutions in the area and companies with head offices in Vancouver such as Telus Corp and the Jim Pattison Group. Recently, Vancouver has expanded as a centre for software development and biotechnology, while streets provide a backdrop for the developing film industry. Many jobs exist in the varied small and medium sized businesses that operate in the region. As with many cities, jobs are posted on-line or in the newspaper, but it helps if you have some contacts within the industry that can point you to the jobs that are open but not posted.

As with any tourist center, there are a number of service jobs available. The attractions, restaurants and hotels downtown frequently need staff. Other areas to consider are Granville Island and the North Shore with its ski areas and Grouse Mountain.

Buy

This is only a sample of things you can look for in Vancouver. Visit the separate district pages for other info.

Gastown - the original townsite of Vancouver and now the best place to find Vancouver kitsch

Tip There are two local taxes that are charged on the vast majority of goods, the 7% PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and the 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax). These will be replaced with a combined HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) of 12% on July 1, 2010.

  • Robson Street in the City Centre is home to many high-end and touristy shops. Shop listings can be found at online [46].
  • Pacific Centre has more than 150 shops, restaurants and services if you want to walk in an underground shopping centre. The shopping centre begins at Sears on the north end at Robson Street, and stretches all the way to Pender Street. There are many floors in the mall depending on where you are, and notable merchants include Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Sport Chek, GAP, H&M and Apple Store; the mall is connected to the Bay (at Georgia and Granville streets), and Vancouver Centre (a small mall mainly consisting of a lotto centre, London Drugs, and a food court underneath Scotiabank).
  • Gastown is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver but is being reborn as a fashion and modern urban design district. Historic buildings house hip restaurants, galleries, and interior design and high-fashion shops. A great resource can be found at Gastown.org
  • Yaletown is also popular for its non-mainstream fashion boutiques and high-end salons. A few Popular Yaletown Shopping Streets are: Mainland St. [47], Hamilton St. [48], and Pacific Blvd. [49].
  • Granville Island is a interesting place to go if you fancy the arts. The area boasts a Public Market, an art school (Emily Carr University of Art + Design), shops, restaurants, theatres, galleries, a hotel, and more.
  • Commercial Drive Shopping is an adventure on Commercial Drive, especially the stretch between 3rd Avenue and Venables St. in East Van. It's great for people-watching, produce (Santa Barbara Market), magazines (Magpie, http://www.thedrive.net/magpie/), cheese (La Grotta del Formaggio), sausage (JN&Z Deli), etc.
  • East Hastings between Renfrew and Clark offers some of the best hidden delights in the city. There are many eclectic produce stores (Donald's Market). Sausage and salami producers here are some of the best in the city (Moccia's Italian Market, http://www.moccia.ca/).
  • Main Street, south of Broadway stretching to around 30th Avenue, has a vibrant collection of independent restaurants, cafés, boutiques and small stores.
  • Chinatown around Main and Pender, and westwards down Pender from Main, has some very, very neat stores to check out.
  • Punjabi Market around Main, between 41st and 49th Ave. Good, cheap Punjabi food along with some Punjabi fashion.

There are some unique shopping areas in Kitsilano and East Van. In Kits you can visit the first store of Vancouver-born and based athletic retailer, Lululemon Athletica, sporting popular yoga-inspired apparel [50]. Gore-tex© jackets are ubiquitous in Vancouver and the best place to buy them is at Mountain Equipment Co-op [51], Taiga Works [52] or one of the other outdoorsy stores clustered together on the east-west main drag called Broadway (equivalent to 9th Avenue, running between 8th and 10th) between Cambie St. and Main St., just east of the Kitsilano area.

Eat

Where to begin? There is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan city. In particular, you will find many different kinds of Asian food available. If you fancy Sushi (or have not tried it yet) many places offer "all you can eat" lunches for $9.99, which offers food of a wildly varying quality. In general, you are likely to dine better and for cheaper than most other places in North America. If you can do without alcohol, you can usually have a pretty reasonable meal for under $10.00, and at one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, $70.00 will get you a 4 course feast with exquisite service.

The highest density of restaurants is in Kitsilano or the West End. The central business area has many of the high end restaurants either along Robson Street or associated with the many hotels in the downtown area. East Van tends to have many authentic ethnic restaurants.

Vancouver is also famous for its dim sum restaurants. Because of the big Chinese population, the price and quality of dim sum here is among the best in the world. One of the best quality dim sum restaurants is Sun Sui Wah, at 3888 Main Street. Also, check out Floata in Chinatown on Keefer Street, Top Cantonese Cuisine in East Vancouver on Kingsway and Earles. There are many restaurants on Victoria around 41st avenue which offer cheap dim sum ($2/plate), albiet with less class and more oil. In Burnaby, try Fortune House in Metropolis Shopping Complex. The city of Richmond, with a majority of its inhabitants being of Chinese descent, will have a plethora to choose from. Restaurants are all over the place on No. 3 Road, Westminster Highway, Alexandra Road, and on the many side streets just east of Richmond Centre.

For budget travellers, pick up a Georgia Straight (a free local paper available all over the place), and clip two for one coupons from the food section.

Be advised that although the vast majority of stores around Vancouver accept credit cards, the exception is small, family-owned chinese businesses and resturaunts, which more often than not only accept cash.

  • For coffee, there are probably more Starbucks per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else. On Robson and Thurlow, you will be able to find two Starbucks kitty-corner to one another. Starbucks is the most dominant of the three coffee shop chains found in Vancouver. The others, Caffe Artigiano and Blenz, are found throughout downtown. JJ Bean is a chain favoured among the locals and it's a great place to spend a few minutes to a few hours nursing a coffee and one of their ginormous muffins; there are six locations scattered throughout the city. Bean Around the World is a popular coffee house chain with ten locations. For independent chains try Mario's on Dunsmuir and Howe; they have a unique feel and a slower pace than other coffee shops. Make sure not to miss Trees' cheesecakes and its roasted on-site organic coffees.

Bubble tea (or boba tea) is also a popular drink among the Vancouver youth. There are countless tea houses throughout Vancouver, the most notable being Dragon Ball Tea House on West King Edward Avenue and Oak Street.

Drink

Most of the nightclubs are located in the central business district, especially along Granville Street, south of Robson. There are a number of good local pubs in the various neighbourhoods of the city.

Beer

Vancouver offers a number of destinations for beer drinkers. The largest is the Granville Island Brewery on Granville Island (tours are available). Other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs, popular ones include the Yaletown Brewing Company and Dix BBQ and Brewery in Yaletown and Steamworks at the entrance to Gastown.

Sleep

Vanhattanizing from Harbour Center Lookout!

In general, accommodations in Vancouver are on the expensive side. Most hotel rooms begin at $200-250/night, and most motel rooms cost somewhere between $90-150/night. If you are lucky to find hostel accommodation, the cheapest of these will cost around $20/night, more reasonably between $35-50.

The City Center is centrally located for attractions and has the bulk of Vancouver's accommodation, including most of the high-end hotels and backpackers hostels. If you don't mind getting away from the chain hotels, there are a number of smaller boutique hotels outside of the central business district but still close to the action that are cheaper than the four and five star options downtown.

Staying outside the City Center area may give you a wider choice of affordable accommodations. There are a few budget hotels/motels along Kingsway in East Van and Broadway in South Granville. A number of B&B's are also scattered throughout the city in each district. If you want/need to stay close to the airport, Richmond has a number of hotels with varying degrees of luxury and price.

Finally, if you don't mind driving or commuting in to see Vancouver, the suburbs also have some cheaper options. North Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster all have easy access to Vancouver via the public transit system. The closest Provincial Parks with campgrounds are near Chilliwack and Squamish.

Contact

In case of an Emergency, dial 9-1-1 from any public phone for free. Be advised, however, that with the rise of cell phone use, many public phones have been removed, and can therefore be hard to come by (especially in the suburbs).

A good travel tip to remember: Dialing 1-1-2 from a cell phone automatically connects you to the nearest cellular network and calls the emergency number, regardless of its combination (ex. 9-1-1, 1-1-2 etc.) Please note that 1-1-2 will ONLY work on GSM cellphones in Vancouver. While GSM cellphones are very common worldwide PCS/CDMA cellular phones through Telus Mobility are more common in Vancouver and Telus doesn't support 1-1-2 on their cellular network. To be safe, dial 9-1-1 for emergencies if you are anywhere in North America.

The area codes for phone calls in Vancouver and the surrounding area (known locally as the Lower Mainland) are 604 and 778 (these area codes overlap). Vancouver has ten-digit calling, so when making a local call you must include the area code. Calls outside the Greater Vancouver region (i.e. east of Langley or north of Squamish, including to Whistler) are toll calls from Vancouver. To call these numbers you need to add a "1" before the area code, i.e. "1-604" or "1-778".

Local calls at pay phones costs 25 cents per call. They are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. Note that downtown pay phones are often broken. Working pay phones are almost always available at all of the downtown SkyTrain stations.

Internet cafes are widely available and generally quite reasonably priced ($2-3/hour).

In addition, there is free internet available at Canada Place. Bell has some free standing room stations set up in the main concourse of the convention center. Also, the Apple Store in the pacific mall has free wifi.

For those who have brought a laptop, free wireless points are abundant in the downtown area (including every branch of Blenz Coffee [53]), and reasonable paid service is also available in a pinch.

Stay safe

Vancouver sea and sky-scrapers

Vancouver is a very safe city and consistently ranks in the top three of the world's most livable cities. Like any major metropolitan area travel within certain parts of the city at night should be conducted with caution, in particular the infamous Downtown Eastside (specifically Hastings Street between Abbott and Gore) and the Whalley area of Surrey. Parked cars with foreign or out of province licence plates are especially likely to be targeted for theft in these parts of town.

Visitors to Vancouver should be aware that the some parts of the city have high rates of property crime. Theft from vehicles is especially problematic; drug addicts have been known to break in to cars to steal coins from the ashtray, and valuables in plain view will prove to be too great a temptation. Robberies and muggings are extremely rare, but belongings can possibly be stolen if you leave them in your car overnight.

Panhandling is common in some parts of downtown. Avoiding eye contact is the best approach. For the most part, panhandlers will just ask for change and leave you alone. Don't be rude, as there may be negative consequences. Should a panhandler follow you and become aggressive, dial 911 for police assistance. Don't worry too much; the chance of something happening to you is very low unless you go looking for trouble, and the police presence is strong.

The Granville Mall area is Vancouver’s bar and nightclub district and is an extremely popular place. The sheer volume of people on weekends combined with alcohol consumption make Friday & Saturday nights on this strip potentially volatile. Disorderly conduct is frequent and rowdy behavior like shouting, public urination in the alleyways or on the street corner and disobeying traffic lights are all common. Tourists interested in experiencing Vancouver's nightlife along Granville Street should understand that there is always a strong police presence and in general it is a very safe place even at night.

Vancouver is overall ranked 18th safest city in the whole world. As such, visitors should not feel limited in any way to explore the city; you should, however, exercise caution in the above-mentioned areas and keep an eye on your possessions.

Bottled water is widely sold, but the tap water is of high quality. You'll save a lot of money by buying a reusable water bottle and filling it up from the tap.

The Downtown Eastside

Vancouver is a very safe city, and residents are willing to assist you. The Downtown Eastside is an area to avoid especially at night for those not familiar with Vancouver. This neighborhood is infamous for homelessness, drug-use and prostitution. Popular tourist destinations such as Gastown and Chinatown border the Downtown Eastside, but don't be afraid if you accidently find yourself here because the area is not dangerous. If you do accidentally stroll into the Downtown Eastside it is not difficult to find your way out, but if you get lost or feel uncomfortable the best thing to do is approach a police officer. Property crime such as vehicle break-ins pose a threat, but violent crime is extremely rare.

Cannabis

A common belief is that marijuana is legal in British Columbia. That is a myth. Although Vancouver's police and the justice system tend to turn a blind eye to marijuana use, tourists should be advised that possessing any amount of marijuana is illegal in all of Canada without a government-issued medical exemption (the legality of possession is, however, currently under dispute by the Supreme Court). However if you are caught with a small amount of cannabis in Vancouver it is extremely unlikely that you will be charged, in the vast majority of cases the police will simply ask you to move somewhere out of sight to finish up, or ignore the fact altogether.

Cope

Publications

  • Vancouver Sun, [54]. Vancouver's biggest daily newspaper.
  • The Province, [55]. Tabloid-style daily. A bit more sensational than the Sun and a better sports section.
  • Georgia Straight, [56]. Free weekly paper that provides the best rundown on local bars and other entertainment listings. It also usually has a number of two for one coupons for local restaurants.

Other free weeklies include the Vancouver Courier, Westender, and Xtra West (gay and lesbian bi-weekly newspaper). Free dailies include 24 Hours and Metro.

Wireless

There are a number of wireless network providers in BC's lower mainland, all with store locations throughout Vancouver, including Telus, Rogers, Fido, Bell, Koodo, and Virgin.

Religious services

Anglican (Episcopal):

  • Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard Street, 604-682-3848.

Protestant:

  • St. Andrew Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St., 604-683-4574, [57].

Catholic:

  • Holy Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards St., 604-682-6774, [58].

Healthcare Centres

  • Vancouver General -- Located at the corner of Oak St and West 12th Ave, VGH serves as the main hospital and emergency ward for Vancouver
  • Children's Hospital -- If taking a child under the age of 18 to the ER, you will be directed to Children's Hospital. It is located at Oak St near King Edward Avenue.
  • St. Paul's -- Located downtown, or in the City Centre, St Paul's Hospital also has an emergency ward for adults but is smaller and therefore less equipped to handle many patients. Every winter St Paul's decorates the front of the Hospital with lights to encourage charitable donations.
  • Mount Saint Joseph Hospital - 3080 Prince Edward Street. The only hospital on the city's East Side with an emergency room, which is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Outside of these hours, people are asked to go to either Vancouver General or St. Paul's for emergency care.
  • UBC Urgent Care Centre -- Not quite a walk-in clinic but not quite an emergency room, the UBC UCC has limited hours (closed at 10 PM, but is a good choice if your problem isn't an emergency -- it is basically a faster-paced walk-in clinics with longer hours.

There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 minutes for an appointment.

Get out

Nearby municipalities

There are a number of things to see and do just outside of Vancouver's borders. Some of the most popular are listed below. All of these places are accessible by public transit, or if you have a car, within an hour's drive.

  • Burnaby - Shop till you drop at Metropolis at Metrotown, the largest shopping mall in British Columbia, or relax at one of the large regional parks.
  • Fort Langley - Village with unique shops, restaurants and the site of one of the first forts built in British Columbia.
  • New Westminster - Small city on the banks of the Fraser River that was once the capital of British Columbia.
  • North Shore - Take in the views from Grouse Mountain (a.k.a. The Peak of Vancouver), go for a walk on a suspension bridge or enjoy one of the many outdoor recreation opportunities -- hiking, mountain biking, skiing/snowboarding, kayaking -- on offer. The most popular summer activity in the area is hiking the 'Grouse Grind', a 2.9 kilometer, 853 meter elevation gain hike up the side of Grouse mountain.
  • Richmond - City with a large Asian influence, the largest Buddhist temple in North America and historic Steveston.

Day trips

  • Bowen Island is a popular day trip or weekend excursion offering kayaking, hiking, shops, restaurants, and more. This authentic community is located in Howe Sound just off Vancouver, and is easily accessed via scheduled water taxis departing Granville Island in downtown Vancouver.
  • For those who enjoy outdoor activities, a trek up the Sea to Sky corridor is essential. Squamish has branded itself the "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada" and with an incredible amount of quality rock climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, walking trails and more, it certainly deserves the title. Squamish is about half way between Vancouver and Whistler. Whistler (2 hours drive from Vancouver) is mandatory. In the winter, enjoy some of the best Skiing in North America, and in the summer try some authentic mountain biking.
  • Another good spot for outdoor activities is Mount Baker across the border in Washington. Driving time is about three hours, but border line-ups can add anywhere from a few minutes to several hours onto your trip.
  • The nearby Fraser Valley has a number of parks and lakes that are nice for fishing, hiking or relaxing.

Further afield

  • Vancouver Island is a good spot to move on to from Vancouver. Victoria, British Columbia's capital, is a relaxing place. Tofino is a pretty spot on the island's west coast, good for whale and storm watching and has some of Canada's best surf (if you can brave the cold water). The island is reached by ferry, seaplane and bus.
  • The Gulf Islands are also a short ferry ride or float plane flight away, providing a quiet and rural atmosphere of small, coastal towns, cabins and farms.
  • The Okanagan is a four to five hour drive east, with a large number of wineries, water activities in the summer and skiing in the winter.
  • The scenery of Banff, Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains is a long day's drive (8-9 hours) east.
  • To the south, in the United States, Seattle is a three hour drive and Portland is a six hour drive (excluding any border line-up).

Tours

There are a couple of hop-on, hop-off bus tours based in Vancouver that allow you to explore Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest on your own schedule.

  • The Moose Travel Network [59] runs various adventure tourism tours covering Western Canada, including Vancouver Island, Whistler and the Rocky Mountains. Accommodation is at hostels and optional adventure activities include whitewater rafting, skydiving, horseback riding, bungee and more. Ski tours are also offered in the Winter.
  • West Trek [60] provides budget and deluxe tours to 7 destinations: The Rocky Moutains, Whistler, Victoria, Tofino, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland.

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