Just a short three hour drive from Seattle, and an hour away from the Canadian-U.S. border is a bustling metropolis! It is home to a major cruise boat port and serves as Canada’s largest west coast hub for international flights. I’ve been through the city plenty of times on a cruise or on a flight but have never taken the time to explore this city, until now. And I am so glad I did! So, check out the top 10 things to see and do in Vancouver, B.C.!
Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a unique experience offering tons to see and do and it revolves around nature! They have one huge main suspension bridge, a cliff walk, tons of wooden walkways offering great viewpoints and a collection of suspension bridges in the treetops! They link you from tree to tree across the park and give you a true squirrel eye’s view! With their shops and restaurant you could easily spend a whole day here and it offers plenty of entertainment for the kids too! If you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver, B.C. with a dog, they’re welcome here too!
I would consider this one of the cool things to do in Vancouver, B.C. To check out our full experience at Capilano check out our Adventure in the Treetops!
Just minutes from the downtown waterfront is the Gastown neighborhood. Quaint shops line the street with antique light poles. Hip restaurants and shops offer unique items while staying true to the historic architecture. Charm exudes from every inch of this neighborhood! It is a great place to grab a bite, check out tourist shops and see their historic steam clock! Every 15 minutes the steam clock lets out a little tune to remind us of simpler times. Taking a stroll through this neighborhood is one of the best free things to do in Vancouver, B.C.!
Right along the waterfront in the heart of downtown Vancouver, you’ll find Canada Place. It’s a convention center, a cruise terminal, a world trade center office and a major tourist destination! It has sails on top that light up different colors at night to give the illusion of a boat.
If you’re taking a cruise bound for Alaska out of Vancouver, this is where your boat will leave from! It makes it a very convenient spot to explore if you’re tagging on a few days on the beginning or end of your cruise. Our hotel was just a few blocks away from the waterfront. To see where we stayed, check out my review of the Metropolitan Hotel!
If you walk all the way down the boardwalk to the end of the building you’ll find my next must see attraction!
Fly Over Canada
Have you ever been on the Soarin’ ride at Disneyland or Walt Disney World? Fly Over Canada uses the exact same technology to offer you incredible views of Canada. You’ll feel like you’re hang gliding as your feet dangle over Niagara Falls and catch the Aurora Borealis from a unique viewpoint. They use smells and mist to create an immersive experience.
Stanley Park is a 1,001 acre park that is so surrounded by water it’s practically an island. There is a seawall and a walkway stretching around most of the park that is very popular with cyclists. It is currently home to the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront walkway! Walking the entire loop takes about 2 hours, cycling takes about 1 hour.
In the park you’ll find tons of attractions for adults and kids alike. There are three beaches, a swimming pool, a spray park, horse drawn carriage rides, an aquarium, a lighthouse, a collection of totem poles and a miniature railroad! This is all in addition to the playgrounds, tennis courts and gorgeous gardens you might expect in a park.
Second and Third Beach
One of the best things to do in Vancouver, B.C. in the summer is lay on a beach! Stanley Park is home to three beaches: Second, Third and English Bay Beach (also called First Beach). Second beach is great for families! You’ll find a playground and a heated, outdoor pool open from May until September.
Third Beach is in a slightly more secluded area of Stanley Park. It is known for being surrounded by tall trees to block out the noise from the city. It is a nice area to relax and sunbathe on a quiet afternoon. This is also a great beach for swimming!
English Bay Beach is the farthest south and the closest to downtown. It is a nice, large beach with quite a few amenities. You can rent kayaks, umbrellas and lounge chairs. They have volleyball courts and a café! Given its size and location, it is also the most populated on any given day. While you will have to pay for parking, it is one of the best cheap things to do in Vancouver!
Nestled on the southeast side of Stanley Park you’ll find the Vancouver Aquarium. It is home to quite a few dolphins, otters and a false killer whale. They no longer have beluga whales, which they were once known for. But this aquarium is a rehabilitation center so you’ll find animals rotating in and out regularly.
Do you remember the viral video of two otters holding hands while floating in the water? The video was from the Vancouver Aquarium! The aquarium created a live otter cam that you can see HERE!
Granville Island can be found on the south end of Vancouver’s downtown area on False Creek. If you won’t have access to GPS or turn by turn navigation you should know that the bridge to get on the island is directly UNDER the highway 99 bridge on the south side. It took us a little extra time to figure that out since our maps are two dimensional and couldn’t show both roads!
Once you’ve made your way onto the island, park anywhere you can find a spot! The road goes one way all the way around the island and anywhere you park won’t be too far from the island’s main draw: the public market! Granville Island’s Public Market is a farmer’s market on steroids. Fresh produce, meat, baked goods, flowers, you name it, and you’ll find it!
They also have an entire area where you can pick up a fresh meal so come hungry! Tons of different cuisines are packed into mini restaurant “booths”. Whether you’re looking for healthy or deep fried, you’ll find a winner in here! It is by far one of the most fun things to do in Vancouver!
Short on time? Check out what made our must do list in 24 Hours in Vancouver
If Botanical gardens are your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out the one at the University of British Columbia. At 110 acres, you’ll find 8,000 different kinds of plants scattered throughout themed gardens. They have a wide variety of gardens from a food and medicinal garden to one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America. An hour will do the trick for most visitors but if you add in a tour and a walk on their treetop canopy walkways, you could easily make an afternoon of it!
Lions Gate Bridge
On the North end of Vancouver lies the Lion Gate Bridge. It stems from Stanley Park and ties together Vancouver and North Vancouver. Aptly named for the stone lions that greet drivers at each end, it was a favorite stop of mine! I enjoy marveling a great piece of architecture and this bridge in particular offers breathtaking views in every direction. They offer sidewalk/bike lanes on each side of the bridge so it can be enjoyed at your own pace.
If you’re coming from North Vancouver, take the first exit after crossing the bridge. You’ll find yourself in Stanley Park. Park in the very first parking lot you see, it will be called Prospect Point. There is a great lookout here that gives you a view of the bridge, but if you take a side trail down to the right it’ll pop you out at the base of the bridge and can get a shot of the gorgeous seawall like I did here!
Vancouver is one of the most naturally beautiful cities I have ever experienced. So, it comes as no surprise that the majority of their attractions showcase nature and local wildlife! Whether you have a day or a week, you’re sure to find plenty to see and do in Vancouver!
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