10 things to do in and around Vancouver, British Columbia

I‘m in full-on planning mode for our upcoming trip to Vancouver — our first long distance travel since the pandemic started. I lived in Vancouver for several years, but Mr. Chuckles has never been out to western Canada, so I will be serving as the ex-local travel guide for this trip. Being the planner that I am, flights and hotels are booked and our itinerary is pretty much drafted up. Here are most of the activities we’ll be trying to fit into our week in and around Vancouver.

1. Bike or walk through Stanley Park

Stanley Park Seawall

Stanley Park is probably my favourite outdoor spot in all of Vancouver. At a massive 405 hectares, it makes up the northwestern half of Vancouver’s downtown peninsula. The 10 kilometre Seawall takes you along the waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay — a great spot for a scenic walk or bike ride.

2. Explore the historic Gastown

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Gastown is the original settlement that became the core of the city; it remains a national historic site dating back to 1867, with a look reminiscent of the Distillery District in Toronto. Today, it is mostly home to boutique shops and galleries, and is a nice place to stroll through when in Downtown Vancouver. There are some good restaurants in the area, as well as a world famous steam clock that is a popular site for tourists to see.

3. Have a delicious meal in Yaletown

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Yaletown is an upscale neighbourhood in the south side of the Downtown Vancouver peninsula, where you can find several hip restaurants and cocktail lounges. I’m looking forward to having dinner here at Blue Water Cafe.

4. Reach the peak of Squamish Chief

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We were originally thinking of going to Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, but our friends suggested a day trip to Squamish instead. Stawamus Chief Provincial Park is located about 60 kilometres north of Vancouver, encompassing the Stawamus (or Squamish) Chief and the Shlhanay granitic domes. The hike up the Chief is graded as moderate/difficult so I think we will pass on that and do the lazy route via the Sea to Sky Gondola. The trip from Vancouver to Squamish is a scenic drive along the Sea to Sky Highway, also accessible via the Squamish Connector or Skylynx bus.

5. Spend a morning at Granville Island

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Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, situated underneath the Granville Street Bridge. It was once an industrial manufacturing area, but now is known for the large public market and picturesque marina. The Granville Island Public Market is a spot for locally sourced produce and seafood so we will take a walk through there and plan for lunch at The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant.

6. Lounge on Vancouver beaches

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There are several expansive beaches in Vancouver, set along Burrard Inlet and English Bay. Spanish Banks, Jericho, Kitsilano, and English Bay beaches are the nicest ones I can think of, all with great views of the water and mountains.

7. Take a trip to Tofino, Vancouver Island

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A visit to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island should warrant a dedicated trip of its own, but we are on a short schedule so are planning only one night in town. Tofino is a 5.5 hour drive and ferry ride from Vancouver, but we will take the quicker route on the Harbour Air seaplane that departs from Vancouver Harbour and lands at Tofino Resort + Marina in 45 minutes. Our bucket list for our two days in Tofino includes a visit to the famous Long Beach, a whale watching tour, and a short hike — perhaps the Big Tree Trail on neighbouring Meares Island. If we had more time or have a chance to come again in future, we would include a proper visit to Pacific Rim Nature Reserve.

8. Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

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The last time I was in North Vancouver, I went to see the suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon Park, so this time around we will go to the longer version at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, which spans 140 metres. Unlike Lynn Canyon, there is an admission fee for Capilano but I figure that it will be worthwhile to see the place at least once.

9. Enjoy street food at the Richmond Night Market

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The Richmond Night Market is a huge Asian street food market that runs annually in the summers in the suburb of Richmond, typically featuring about 400 vendors. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this other than: yum!

10. Eat!

Vancouver is a wonderful city for foodies. Being coastal, it is of course a hotspot for top quality seafood, but is also known for its Asian cuisine given the large Chinese and Japanese population here. Some restaurants on my wish list are:

  • Marutama Ramen for authentic ramen from a restaurant founded in Kawaguchi, Japan.
  • Tojo’s for the city’s best Omakase.
  • Japadog for hot dogs that include variants of Japanese-style foods like okonomiyaki, yakisoba, teriyaki and tonkatsu.
  • Cafe Medina for my favourite brunch in Vancouver.
  • Joe Fortes for classic seafood dishes.
  • Pidgin for French-Asian fusion fine dining.

…and other places we can fit in from this list of Essential Vancouver Restaurants.

Looking forward to finally travelling again!

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