Vancouver is an amazing city to visit. It’s a place where the mountains and the ocean come together, providing an endless array of activities to enjoy, year round. From skiing in the winter to hiking and mountain biking in the summer, you’ll always find something to keep you busy.
And if you’re not the active type, that’s fine too; in Vancouver you’ll find amazing beaches to lounge on, great restaurants that you can actually afford, a diversity of beer that will blow your mind and a number of world class events.
If you ask most Vancouverites what is an absolutely must do in Vancouver, they will tell you that you have to hike the Grouse Grind. And yes, it is a Vancouver rite of passage, but it is also an overcrowded trail straight up a mountain. If you’re into hiking, you’re better off checking out some of Vancouver lesser frequented hiking areas, such as Lighthouse Park, Capilano River Park and Lynn Canyon.
Vancouver’s North Shore has world-class downhill biking. The trails of Mount Fromme and Cypress Mountain (among other areas) are among the most challenging that you’ll find anywhere in the world. They range from green (technically challenging) to blue (steep, technical and difficult) to black (extremely challenging and full of man-made stunts) to double-black (better have good travel insurance). Check out the North Shore Mountain Biking Association for more details.
You can rent (or buy) a bike from the numerous bike shops covering the North Shore. Of course, if you want the downhill part, but not the uphill struggle, head to Whistler where the ski resort turns into a mountain biker’s paradise during the summer.
Of course, being in Canada, there are plenty of activities in the winter too. Start with skiing at Whistler, consistently ranked as one of North America’s best ski resorts. Closer to town, there are Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Hemlock, all within the borders of Greater Vancouver.
If you are going to plan your stay in Vancouver around seeing the best events, make sure you’re in town for the first weekend of August. First, you’ll see the final night of the spectacular Celebration of Light. It is a festival held over three nights in late July/early August where teams compete to wow the audience with a display of fireworks set to music. Each display lasts for 30 minutes, and they’re truly mindblowing.
The morning after the Celebration, you’ll see something else astounding: the Vancouver Gay Pride Parade. Floats fill the streets of the West End representing an amazing assortment of causes- from church groups supporting the gay community to scantily clad dancers promoting some nightclub. It really is a spectacle for everyone to see.
Beaches and Parks
Being located right on water, Vancouver has some amazing beaches, offering incredible views of the nearby mountains. Surrounding downtown are the popular Sunset Beach and Second Beach, as well as the more secluded Third Beach. Across English Bay you’ll find Kitsilano, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Bank beaches.
On the far westernmost end of Vancouver, below the University of British Columbia, you’ll find the clothing optional Wreck Beach. Wreck is perhaps the nicest beach of all of them. And because of its secluded location (or perhaps its free-spirited regulars) is never busy.
As far as parks go, Stanley Park is the jewel in Vancouver’s crown. Taking up nearly 400 hectares on the edge of downtown, it filled with walking and biking trails, and surrounded by the famous seawall.
Eating and Drinking
Vancouver has some amazing restaurants. Even better, some of those amazing restaurants are actually places you can afford! You can, of course, find world-class fine dining, but even better is the fact that you can get great food for around $10 a meal. Try Davie Street in the West End and Commercial Drive in East Vancouver for your best bets for cheap, quality eats.
Eating sushi in Vancouver is pretty much a must. You will see sushi places everywhere you turn, and almost all of them offer a great deal. If you’re squeamish about eating raw fish, there are plenty of vegetarian options, as well as chicken or beef teriyaki bowls. But seriously, try the fish – it isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. If you want to eat quality food for cheap in Vancouver, get used to Sushi – it is consistently the best deal in town.
You might not know it, but Vancouver (and British Columbia in general) has a thriving micro-brew and winery scene. Dozens of local breweries make hundreds of varieties of beer, which are available throughout the city at bars and restaurants, as well as liquor stores. Wine from the Okanagan Valley is also extremely popular and widely available.
So What Are you Waiting For?
If you’re looking for your next backpacking destination, Vancouver might just be it. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, check out Susan’s article on great Vancouver Hostels, then come out to Vancouver and have a great time!