Vancouver is a pretty awesome place to live. I mean it is a city full of tasty food and friendly people, surrounded by mountains and beaches. It is also fun to visit this city as a tourist. My first suggestion for the best things to do in Vancouver is obviously going to include some hikes. Still, not everyone loves hiking, so I thought I’d write up a list of the best things to do for a perfect weekend in Vancouver. These are all things I have done with friends and family when they visit.
My most recent visitor was the awesome Katie from Fatty McCupcakes and her friend Melissa. So we did most of these things together this spring break. Katie is writing about her experience too, you can read about Katie’s adventures here.
You can try to squeeze all of these things into a weekend, but you’ll be super busy! You will probably want to just select the things you like best, or stay for an extra few days.
1. Visit Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is the second most climbed mountain in the world (the first is Mount Fuji.) There are a few options for exploring Grouse Mountain depending on your energy levels. Any weekend in Vancouver needs to include this. I think Marc and I have taken almost all our visitors to do one of these options:
- Take the Gondola to near the top of Grouse Mountain
This is the best bit. I looove zooming up above the clouds on the gondola!
- In winter, explore the light walk
This is a super easy walk (the total distance is about 500m.) The walk is covered in lights, so this is a fun thing to do as the sun is setting, or in the early evening. If there has been recent snow, you can hire snowshoes. If not, the trail is often well packed down. We did it without snowshoes (although Katie did slide around quite a lot!
- In winter, do the Grouse Snowshoe Grind or go skiing
The Grouse snowshoe grind takes you up Dam mountain for some ridiculously gorgeous winter views of the back-country. It is hard work in some steep places, but it is my favourite local snowshoe trail.
- In summer, hike up the famous Grouse Grind
You can do it! Test your legs by hiking up the steep slopes of Grouse Mountain, under the gondola. You’ll need comfy shoes and plenty of water to attempt this. It takes most people 1.5 – 2 hours to reach the lodge.
- In summer hike to Dam Mountain or Goat Mountain.
If you’d prefer quieter trails, you can hike beyond the lodge. Dam Mountain and Goat Mountain are both fantastic hikes that start from the gondola station. If you are an experienced hiker, you can also summit Crown Mountain from here.
If you’re feeling rich, you can zoom between Grouse Mountain and Dam mountain on a zipwire!
On my last visit with Katie, we relaxed at the top and had a meal in the restaurant while looking down at gorgeous views of the city.
2. Walk across a Suspension Bridge
Okay, so if you are afraid of heights, this may not be on the top of your list. I looove suspension bridges. I love the way the sway as people stomp over them and I love the way you can look down and see epic, sometimes scary views.
Capilano Suspension bridge
If you are feeling flush, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a fantastic place to visit in Vancouver. The cost of a ticket is $46.95, so it is pretty steep. Still, the bridge is 70m above the canyon in lush old growth rainforest. The other cool thing about this attraction is that it has a treetop walk (photo below) and a clifftop walk. If you fancy some epic insta’ photos, then you probably do want to spend the cash and visit.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
Fewer tourists realize this, but there is a free alternative to the Capilano Suspension bridge. You’ll still get to explore some of Vancouver’s gorgeous rainforest, and you can even see some pretty waterfalls. You just need to visit the Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge.
Or, if you have a bit more time, and don’t mind going a little further afield, there is an epic suspension bridge near Squamish. You take the Sea to Sky gondola (or hike) up to it.
3. Seawall Walk – or Aquabus
I love walking along the Sea Wall, and around False Creek. It was the first thing we did on our first day in Vancouver, and I think it is the perfect way to see the city. However on our first day, we walked for around 15 km. Not everyone wants to wander that far.
A great alternative is to jump onto a cute little boat. There are two options, Aquabus, with bright rainbow-coloured boats, and false creek ferries with blue and white boats. Both options are friendly, speedy and fun. I think the aquabus comes more often, so you are most likely to jump onto one of those rainbow boats.
4. Visit Granville Island
So, Granville Island is probably the most touristy part of Vancouver. Still, if you’d like to pick up some stereotypical Canadian gifts, or see local artist’s work, it can be a great place to explore. Just be ready to push your way through huge crowds, especially in the summertime.
I have had lunch at Granville Island quite a few times* and to be honest, the food served here is not that great. It’s not terrible, but it won’t blow you away with its awesomeness. Having said that, there are some fantastic doughnuts, cakes and sweets available. So, it might be best to have a sweet snack, and save your hunger for somewhere else.
*I’ve tried nachos, fish and chips, sausage and perogies, sushi and fruit they were all varied degrees of “meh”. So far, I thought perogies were the best savory food at Granville Island.
5. Walk or Cycle around Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a huge park at the edge of downtown Vancouver. The park is almost entirely surrounded by water and it is a beautiful place to walk or cycle. I quite like walking around the circumference of Stanley Park, for gorgeous views or to relax on one of the beaches. If you walk along the circumference of the park, it’s about 10 km.
Last week we also tried cycling around the park. We hired bikes from Vancouver’s city-wide bike rental scheme, mobi. It took a few minutes for us to sign up, but as soon as we had a code in my phone, we were ready to go! It costs $10 to hire a bike for the day, but you have to pay an extra $5 if you don’t pop it into a dock within 30 minutes. This essentially means it’ll cost you at least $15 to go around Stanley Park as there are no docking stations on the far side of the park, and you can’t really zoom around as there are a lot of slow-moving bikes.
The helmets didn’t fit any of us, and Katie *may* have nearly run down an old lady…but we had a giggle!
6. Have a Cocktail
Once you’ve wandered around the city for a while, you may want to slow down and stop for a cocktail. You’re in luck, Vancouver seems to have plenty of places that make excellent cocktails. If you’d like cocktails *and* pretty views, try Cactus club by the beach in English Bay. It is a chain, bu their drinks (and snacks) are pretty decent. If you’d like to be fancy, head for cocktails in Queen Elizabeth Park. The views are spectacular and so are their drinks! Just, don’t stay for dinner. I was pretty unimpressed by their overpriced grub.
7. Visit Kitsalano – Beach time!
Last week we visited Kitsalano for the wings mural (it’s on 4th and Burrard if you want to go there too!) Kitsalano is a really pleasant neighborhood to explore, with cute shops and plenty of delicious things to eat.
Once you’ve made it out this far, you might as well head to the beach! Kits Beach is always full of people, so it is fantastic for people (and dog) watching. The beach has good views out to sea, and back to Van City. I like visiting here to walk along the water.
8. Search for Street Art
Each year Vancouver holds a Mural Festival (It’ll be ready on August 1st in 2019.) This has been running for several years, so it seems like wherever you wander, they’ll be some beautiful murals painted onto the side of buildings. You can hunt for all the murals using the map here, or just wander around and explore the city, you’ll be sure to see several!
As well as the murals, the city seems to be decorated with all sorts of mini art works! I especially love the rainbow crossing on Davie street.
9. Eat fantastic food!
Vancouver has a great foodie culture. You can get food from almost all over the world. In particular, this city has some really good sushi, dim sum, sweet-treats as well as fantastic vegetarian and vegan options. My friends noticed that everywhere they ate, staff would check if they had any allergies or restrictions.
We have never actually taken guests to the same restaurant, as everyone seems to like different things. If you’d like to see what I’ve been munching most recently, you can always follow me on yelp. Or, if you’d like a recommendation, give me a shout in the comments! I LOVE good food, so I have plenty of ideas.
10. Walk in a Rainforest
Vancouver’s North Shore is surrounded by temperate rainforests. As you can imagine, this means Vancouver gets plenty of rain. But it also means the forests are always lush, green and full of lichen and mosses. There is nothing more relaxing than taking an easy hike beneath these gorgeous trees!
If you like this idea, I have loooads of suggestions. If you want something easy, have a peek at my Oh Canada! page. Select a walk on the map with the green hiking logo, and it should be easy aaaand beautiful.
11. Visit MOA
The Museum of Anthropology is located out at UBC on the western edge of Vancouver. There are exhibits from around the world, but in particular, the museum has fantastic displays from First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest. If you get the chance, visit this museum as it is incredibly interesting.
Canada is still working on reconciliation with the First Nations People. Up until 2015, there was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that held lots of events, about the history of Canada, highlighting residential schools, and allowing Canadians to share their residential school stories. Now the commission has closed, their work continues through an Indigenous-led organization called Reconciliation Canada.
12. Visit Pretty Gardens
Vancouver has some really lovely gardens. There are two large botanical gardens to the South, Queen Elizabeth Park (with the tropical Bloedel Conservatory, full of exotic birds) and VanDusen Botanical Gardens. I love the view from Queen Elizabeth Park down to the rest of Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains. VanDusen has a really fun maze made out of hedges, which is also great to explore.
If you’d prefer something with more Eastern influences, Dr. Sun Yat–Sen Classical Chinese Garden, in China Town is both beautiful, and incredibly relaxing. However my favourite is Nitobe Memorial Garden tucked into a corner of UBC. This garden will make you feel like you have stepped into Japan. It is simply beautiful.
13. Watch the sunset
The best way to finish a weekend in Vancouver is to watch the sunset. My favourite sunset spot is wreck beach, next to UBC. Just be aware, this is a clothing optional beach, so you may see more than pretty coloured skies! However, anywhere near water or the sea will probably be pretty decent. This photo is from the Lost lagoon in Stanley Park.
There are loads more fun things to see and do in Vancouver, but this should get you started. Do you think I missed anything? What is your favourite thing to do in Vancouver?
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