Vancouver is a stunning destination to visit year-round, but it really comes alive in the summer. Here’s our handy guide on how to make the most of your visit.
Get your bearings — The geography of the city is what makes it special: With downtown surrounded by water on three sides, and flanked by mountains to the north, it boasts a natural beauty that never gets old and, with 28 kilometres of uninterrupted Seawall and Seaside Greenway pathway designed for walking and biking, it couldn’t be easier for visitors to get around and soak up the best the West Coast has to offer. One way to get a better sense of that geography is to visit the Vancouver Lookout in the Harbour Centre, an unparalleled vantage point with its 360-degree panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. On a clear day, you really can see for miles and miles.
Visit Stanley Park — The jewel of the city is its 1,001-acre natural rainforest. Stanley Park sits at the western edge of downtown and you could easily spend a day or more exploring this majestic urban park. With 28 km of unpaved forest trails, and 10 km of Seawall, it is a favourite destination for walkers and cyclists alike. Go for a hike, rent a bike and cycle the Seawall, let the kids cool down in the water park, or visit the Vancouver Aquarium — you really can’t go wrong.
Jump aboard — Getting onto the water is a terrific way to explore the city. The small water taxis that traverse False Creek connect downtown with several prime visitor-friendly destinations. You can pay by the crossing, but it makes more sense to buy a hop-on, hop-off ticket that’s good for the day. Stop off to explore the upscale shopping and eating in Yaletown, take in the landmark geodesic dome of Science World, or visit the hugely popular Granville Island Public Market with its produce vendors, artisans, great eats and people-watching. If you stay on until Vanier Park, you can visit the Museum of Vancouver and the Space Museum, then take a stroll along Kitsilano Beach, and through Vancouver’s original hippie neighbourhood around West 4th Avenue.
Life’s a beach — There are plenty of entry points for a paddle or a swim. Downtown, you have the choice of First, Second and Third beach in Stanley Park, or English Bay at the southern foot of Denman Street. Over on the West Side, the beautiful people flock to Kits Beach, while families tend to make their way further west to Jericho (the best swimming) or Spanish Banks (low tides for toddlers). There are concession stands at each, but Jericho is also home to the Jericho Sailing Club, where you can rent kayaks or paddleboards, and eat well at their casual café while sitting on a patio with the best view in the city. If you prefer a pool, head to one of the large open-air lidos at Second Beach and the western edge of Kits Beach.
Culture days — Learn more about Indigenous history — and the culture of the First Nations peoples on whose unceded lands Vancouver sits — at the Museum of Anthropology, a true world-class institution. Housed in a stunning piece of Modernism designed by Vancouver’s most famous architect, the late Arthur Erickson, MOA will immerse you in the rich past of this territory. The museum sits on the edge of the campus of the University of British Columbia, which also hosts the Beatty Biodiversity Museum and its awe-inspiring full skeleton of a blue whale. If you’re feeling bold, a steep staircase close to MOA will lead you to the infamous (clothing-optional) Wreck Beach.
Festival fun — From the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, through the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, to the Celebration of Light fireworks bonanza, the Street Food City food truck festival, Craft Beer Week and numerous other gatherings, summer in Vancouver really sizzles. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a weekend through the summer when there isn’t a special event waiting to welcome you. Pack sunscreen, a blanket and a refillable water bottle and you’ll be good to go.
Push yourself — Keeping fit is one of Vancouver’s favourite pastimes — you can yoga all day if you care to — and to keep up your exercise routines on vacation, there are numerous gyms and workout spaces open for drop-in clients. If you prefer the great outdoors and fancy a real test of cardio strength and stamina, then head to the mountains on the North Shore, and tackle the Grouse Grind, a.k.a. “Mother Nature’s stairmaster.” The almost-vertical, 3 km trail is not for the fainthearted, but the hale and hearty attack this punishing endurance test with enthusiasm. Your friends and family can take it easy by travelling on the Grouse Mountain Skyride and explore the trails and activity centre at the peak.
Fuel up — Whether you are on your way to the beach, need a snack to keep you going or after a hard day’s sightseeing, you deserve to eat something truly delicious. Local and sustainable ingredients grace the menus at many of the city’s restaurants. For the best in truly West Coast cuisine, try Forage and Burdock & Co., where the Chef de Cuisine Welbert Choi and Chef Andrea Carlson, respectively, create inventive dishes that sing of the region. Fayuca (Mexican) and Maenam (Thai) both spice things up beautifully, taking traditional flavours and giving them a modern, focused twist. Being on the Pacific Rim, Asian flavours and influences abound. For a quick bite, head to the delightfully retro Chinatown BBQ for a plate of roast duck and a bowl of their award-winning beef brisket curry. Or mix it up at Kissa Tanto, where Japanese cuisine meets Italian in dishes such as uni carbonara. Cioppino’s (Italian), Le Crocodile (French) and Bauhaus (German) are also excellent options for a high-end meal. Casual options include a couple of Whistler’s favourite eateries, now also in Vancouver: Peaked Pies on Denman Street, and La Cantina on Nelson Street, at Granville.
Fancy a nightcap? — The local cocktail scene is vibrant, with several bartenders who have racked up international accolades. For smart and stylish, try Uva (in the Moda Hotel) or Botanist (in the Fairmont Pacific Rim), or for more casual environs with equally serious libations, head to Gastown and check out Clough Club, The Diamond or Pourhouse.
For more information to help you plan your visit to Vancouver, phone 604-683-2000, or visit tourismvancouver.com.