Bucket List Worthy
From farmers’ markets to festivals and fanciful parades, Vancouver is a city that gives back to its citizens and its tourists with free activities every month of the year. So whether you’re visiting Vancouver for the first time or you call this city-by-the-sea home, check out some of these awesome (and free) things to do from the West End to Chinatown, Richmond, Surrey and everywhere in between.
On the first of January, since 1920, brave souls plunge into the icy waters of English Bay. The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim is one of the oldest and largest polar plunges in the world with over 2,500 people in attendance each year. You can also take part in a 100-metre race in memory of Peter Pantages — the man who started the first polar bear swim.
– Show your creativity and wear a costume.
– Keep your clothes on until right before the plunge and don’t stay in longer than 15 minutes. We might be the warmest part of Canada, but it’s still really cold.
The Winter Farmers’ Market at Bailey Stadium starts in early November and continues to the end of April. The market takes place every Saturday at Nat Bailey Stadium — the summer home of the Vancouver Canadians baseball team. Seasonal local produce, prepared foods and artisan goods can all be found at the market.
– In January, you’ll find double the number of food trucks as usual.
– Become a market member to learn about specials and deals for members only.
Lunar Fest is a cultural event celebrating Asia. It coincides with the Lunar New Year and is held February 7-9, 2014. The event takes place at the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza and includes drum performances, a lunar tea time and story telling.
– Come on February 11, and you’ll enjoy Dumpling Fest — a place to learn about Chinese dumplings and taste them too.
The Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver has been putting on the Chinese New Year Parade or over 40 years. This year, 2014, is the year of the horse, and the parade is set for February 2. The event is also known as the Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival.
-The parade starts at Millennium Gate (the entrance to Chinatown). It’ll be very busy here so if you look at the website you can choose another viewing spot along the route.
Winteruption is a unique Vancouver festival held on Granville Island from Feb. 14-16, 2014. Visitors enjoy free musical and theatre performances, mask-making workshops, performance artists, food tastings and tours of Liberty Distillery and other local spirits producers.
– Parking will be a challenge during the festival, so park outside the entrance to Granville Island and walk from there or park downtown and take the Aquabus.
Vancouver’s Celtic Fest will be held March 8-16 this year in celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary. The festival has both ticketed events and free ones, so keep that in mind when planning your days. The biggest free event is the Celtic Village and Street Market being held on the weekend of March 15-16. Free music, dance and performance artists, food and shopping fill this festival with fun.
– The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a big part of Celtic Fest, and it takes place on Sunday March 16 this year. Wear some green if you don’t want to get pinched.
– Tom Lee Music is hosting free workshops on both of the weekends as well.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is a feast for the senses. The event will take place from April 23-28 this year, and there are a variety of free activities and events to celebrate the over 40,000 cherry blossom trees scattered throughout the city. Highlights include the Cherry Jam downtown concert and a cooking demonstration by Vancouver’s most famous sushi chef Tojo of Tojo’s restaurant.
– Check the website often to see when and where the best blossoms can be seen.
– Attend one of many free “talks and walks” around the city and learn about the blossoms as well as the history of each neighourhood.
Although Victoria Day is usually viewed as a day for barbeques and cold drinks, it’s also the perfect day to take a ferry ride, hit the streets shopping or visit the night markets. The day falls on May 19 this year, so make your hotel reservations early, because they fill up fast.
– Keep your eyes peeled for fireworks, because many Canadians light them off this weekend.
Greek Days takes place every year in late June in Kitsilano between Blenheim and MacDonald on West Broadway. Authentic Greek musicians and dancers take the main stage and give the festival a distinctively Greek feel. Dine on Greek fare in the food tent and shop at the marketplace for worry beads, evil-eye jewelry and more.
– This part of West Broadway has long been known as the Greek part of town. There are many restaurants and shops with Greek imports, and there’s even a Greek bank.
From June 20-22, Vancouver’s False Creek is taken over by more than 180 dragon-boat teams from around the world. Now in its 26th year, the dragon boat festival attracts over 100,000 people and showcases Canada’s multicultural diversity with art displays and music on the World Beat Stage.
– Vancouver’s Dragon Boat Festival is considered the biggest and the best dragon boat festival in North America.
– If you want to see the Eye-Dotting Ceremony visit the festival on the very first day.
The growing Car-Free Community Festival closes the Vancouver streets for a variety of performers, food trucks, art displays and tons of information about how to reduce our carbon footprint by ditching your personal automobile. The event takes place every June in Kitsilano, on Commercial Drive, the West End and on Main Street.
– Try not to drive to car-free days. Walk, cycle or take transit to stay in touch with the spirit of the event.
– You can join the HUB group and ride from car-free event to car-free event.
Everyone can become an artist in this exciting and creative event held in many different venues across the city throughout June. Museums, galleries and community centres open their spaces to host drawing workshops and challenges to anyone who wants to join.
– If you can’t join in person, you can do so online. A number of events are available on the website for those days you just can’t make it out.
If you’re looking for the best Italian restaurants, stores and authentic espresso in Vancouver, head to Commercial Drive. The area is known as Vancouver’s “Little Italy”, and every June the street comes alive with Italian fare. Two stages, a carnivale and tons of food fill the streets.
– The skytrain will take you right to the action, so you don’t have to bother with parking.
– Check out the bocce courts and try your hand at the sport.
– Show your pride and wear the colours of the Italian flag.
Vancouver’s TD International Jazz Festival is one of the most critically acclaimed jazz festivals in the world. Over half a million people come out every year to see over 300 performances, half of which are 100 percent free.
– If you can’t make it downtown to see a show, there are a few offered on Vancouver’s North Shore.
There’s plenty to do on the Canada Day long weekend, but this just might be one of the most fun and eclectic ways to spend one of those days. This festival draws buskers from all walks of life and from around the world. See musicians, magicians, comedians and contortionists work their magic on the crowd.
– Unless you enjoy waiting in line, don’t drive downtown on this weekend.
For over two years, the Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society has been putting on one of the most exciting weekends of July in Vancouver. The Caribbean Festival starts with a parade down Lonsdale Avenue to the festival site at Waterfront Park. Stop by all of the stages offering entertainment, the food vendors and of course, the authentic marketplace.
– The beer garden may make you wish you left your car at home. The sea bus is a three-minute walk from the festival.
– If you can find it, try an authentic Caribbean roti. It’s a delicious meal that’s typically hard to find in Vancouver.
The Surrey Fusion Festival — regarded as the ultimate celebration of music, food and culture — features a wide variety of events from an authentic aboriginal Pow Wow to world-renowned musicians, and food and craft vendors from around the globe. The festival will be held on July 19 and 20 this year.
– Locate the performance schedule and map on the Website before you go, so you don’t miss a beat.
Trout Lake is the backdrop for one of the most beautiful festivals in the city. The Public Dreams Society has been lighting up the darkness in the park every summer for 25 years. The Illuminares Lantern Festival counts on the community to come out with their own lit up lantern and join the procession around the lake. It’s a magical thing to watch, and even more fun to participate, so join the fun on July 20.
– There’s more the festival than just lanterns. Performance art, drum circles and food are also a great part of the night.
– This 25th Illuminares Lantern Festival will be the final one, so you definitely don’t want to miss it.
Vancouver’s biggest free outdoor music event — the Khatsahllano Music and Art Festival features 12 stages and more than 50 performers. Spanning over 10 blocks in Kitsilano, you’ll find emerging and established indie acts, electro-pop and a market where local artists sell handmade goods.
– It’s a dog friendly event, but pets must be leashed.
– Make sure to check out the Peak Performance Stage. The local indie rock radio station sponsors a contest every year featuring the best local talent.
Come celebrate everything Latin American at the Carnaval del Sol in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Music, food, dance and a miniature World Cup tournament are the biggest draws of this festival.
– Look for salsa and zumba lessons at the festival to spice up your dance moves.
The hub of the TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival is at the corner of Columbia and Keefer streets in historic Chinatown. The festival celebrates multiculturalism in Vancouver, and you’ll find music, food tours and a variety of activities for the whole family from a multitude of different cultures.
– Phnom Penh is a great spot for lunch; it’s one of Chinatown’s best restaurants.
The Powell Street Festival — held in Oppenheimer Park — celebrates the Japanese community in Vancouver in an area historically known as Japantown. Enjoy a massive salmon BBQ along with tons of traditional Japanese fare. Head over to the stage for music or stop at the artisan market to browse and buy authentic Japanese goods.
– The line up for “takoyaki” is 100 percent worth the wait. This is a Japanese snack that’s very rarely found in restaurants, but it’s always at the festival.
Running for two full weekends in August — the Harmony Arts Festival is one of the most popular and attended cultural events in Vancouver. Painting in the park, movies in the park, a craft market and two stages with musical acts make this a truly inspiring festival.
– If you feel like getting a little exercise, there’s a gorgeous seawall you can stroll just a couple of minutes from the festival site.
– Fantastic coffee can be found at Bean Around the World on Marine Drive just up the street from the festival.
The Vancouver Pride Society brings members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight community together for the Pride Parade and Festival. Every August the society throws a massive street party that begins with a colourful parade in the West End area of downtown Vancouver and ends in English Bay.
– Bring sunscreen, a hat and possibly even a sun umbrella, because it’s usually hot watching the parade in the blazing sun. Maybe even make the umbrella part of a costume, as dressing up is encouraged
– This is not often a kid-friendly event because of the amount of nudity in the parade as well as the crowd.
Each summer, for over 25 years, English Bay has been lit up with spectacular firework displays from teams around the world. The display is in sync with music that’s broadcast on the radio if you’re too far away to hear it live.
– Get to English Bay early to secure a good viewing spot on the beach.
– Find a spot away from English Bay if you don’t like crowds. Over 40,000 people attend this event, and getting back to your car and out of downtown is a challenge. Kitsilano is an ideal spot to watch if you’re avoiding downtown.
Learn salsa dancing every Sunday in July and August at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. Beginners are welcome, and experience is not necessary.
– Arrive at 3 p.m. for the lesson, then stay for the performance by experienced salsa dancers at 5 p.m.
Under the dome at Robson Square, you can work on your ballroom dancing technique every Friday night throughout the summer. Enjoy watching the live professional performances and practice your own skills with other amateurs with free outdoor lessons.
– An on-site bag and coat check adds convenience, so you don’t have to worry about your personal belongings while you dance.
Come to Deep Cove for North Vancouver’s biggest cultural festival of the year. Held at Panorama Park, this festival provides art, music, children’s entertainment, food and beer in a gorgeous waterfront setting. The acts feature up-and-coming artists as well as established musicians on both the adults’ and kids’ stages.
– Food trucks will be there, but be sure to stop by Honey’s for world-famous donuts.
– Parking is tight in this area — there’s only one big lot and street parking, so you might need to park farther away in the residential area.
The Blarney Stone, in the Gastown neighbourhood, has been an institution in Vancouver for over 25 years. The Gastown BBQ and Chili Fest is held over two days in late August or early September every year, and crowds are drawn in for the food. Barbeque and chili competitions, live DJs and a craft beer tasting are just a few of the exciting events.
– Keep your eyes open for celebrity judges, ranging from top chefs to hockey players.
-Hungry? Try tackling the wing eating contest.
The shops, cafes, galleries and artists of Vancouver’s Main Street come together to celebrate the unique arts in their neighbourhood at the annual Drift Art Walk.
– Some artists open their studios for the event, so follow the street signs to their doors.
You won’t want to miss the annual Moon Festival in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood of Vancouver. The festival celebrates art, music and environmental stewardship and has been a vibrant part of the community since Carmen Rosen created it in 2003.
– Check the website in the weeks prior to the festival for lantern making workshops and more.
What could be better than an end-of-summer block party in the heart of downtown Vancouver? This day of fun involves bands, comedy and random acts of silliness.
– Keep your belongings close, this festival gets a little rowdy in the later hours.
Telus is the sponsor of this remarkable festival that celebrates all things Taiwanese. Enjoy the music stages, culinary experiences, exhibits, films and lectures. And bring the kids along too, because there are plenty of activities for them.
– Sign up for the Passport Fun Card to get discounts, prizes and other surprises.
On the Saturday night before Halloween, set aside your night for a truly inspiring (and a little bit scary) event. The Parade of Lost Souls is held in a secret location, and you’ll have to check the website on the day of the event to see where to meet. This is definitely a dress-up event and anything goes, so get creative.
– Check the website prior to the event for lantern and costume-making workshops.
This arts and culture festival is held in the part of Vancouver that often sees more hard times than good. Although, unknown to many, it’s an area with tons of history and a culture all its own. The Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival hopes to bring the positive into focus. The festival is not completely free, but many events that non-residents pay a nominal fee to attend are free for those who live in the area.
-If you’re in the neighbourhood for the festival, stop by the classic Ovaltine Cafe for (what else) a hot mug of Ovaltine. The place is a bit shabby, but it hasn’t changed much in 30 years, and that’s what makes it so great.
The Eastside Culture Crawl is one of the most popular and most anticipated events in Vancouver every year. Hundreds of artists open their studio doors throughout November — in locations all across the Eastside — the display and talk about their work.
– Be sure to grab a crawl map from one of the participating locations, because there are quite a few magnificent spots you may miss otherwise.
– 1000 Parker Street is the biggest and most popular building. It’s a must see, but prepare for crowds.
Show your support for the BC Children’s Hospital while you watch the lighting of the giant menorah in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Fire performers and hot chocolate are there to warm you up on the first day of the festival of lights as well.
– Bring an unwrapped new toy for BC Children’s Hospital.
– Try a traditional Jewish savoury snack — latke — at one of the food stands.
Come check out the lights and decorations of Yaletown in this free winter festival. Mainland Street will come alive with music, food and fun for one weekend in November. Local artisans will also be selling their handicrafts in an outdoor market, and Santa might even pay a visit.
– Free horse and carriage rides are available for kids and adults.
The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival will take place on December 21, for the 20th consecutive year. Events take place in four Vancouver neighbourhoods to celebrate the return of longer days. Some of the events are free while others cost a small fee, so check the website for something fun and free happening near you.
– Get involved in free lantern-making or drumming workshops. Call or email to reserve your spot.
– In case of rain or snow, indoor venues are available as well.
The Carol Ships have been a Vancouver tradition for 50 years. With over 100,000 lights and 50 boats participating, there’s simply no better show to get you in Christmas spirit. You can see the carol ships from many shore-side points from Kitsilano to West Vancouver.
– Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the carolers singing the songs of the season.
– Some beaches have “Carol Nights” celebrations with bonfires and hot chocolate, so check the website to find out when and where.
Still struggling to get in the Christmas spirit? The 11th annual Santa Claus parade, featuring festive floats and an appearance of Santa Claus himself, is fun for the whole family. Fill out an application online, and your business or organization can be in the parade as well.
– Bring a couple of dollars or canned goods to donate to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.
Prepare to be wowed when you view over 3 million lights on the Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park for a donation amount of your choice. And although train rides cost $11 for adults, you’ve got to try it at least once a year.
– Check the website for train ride hours and dates before you go.
– Because the train rides are so popular, grab your tickets ahead of time on Ticketmaster.
The Robson Square Ice Rink opens in mid-November, so you can spend a number of your winter nights ice skating in this picturesque downtown Vancouver setting.
– Benches surround the rink, so parents can watch their kids from the exterior if they don’t want to join in on the fun.
The Burnaby Art Gallery displays artwork and performances by contemporary artists from around the world. The art shows are held at the Cepperly House, but the gallery often hosts other events around the community. Educational programs provided by the gallery are available for adults and children as well. Admission to this event is by a donation of your choice.
– The gallery is located by Deer Lake Park, so wear your walking shoes if you’d like to take a walk after your visit.
Head to The Columbia every Sunday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to see world-class blues musicians perform in a vintage New Orleans-style lounge. The atmosphere and the music are to die for, so you may want to attend this admission-free event every week.
From mid-May to early September, the Chinatown Vancouver Night Market is open for business every weekend on Keefer Street. Visitors enjoy street performers, live music, Mahjong, shopping and tons of food.
– The market hosts an outdoor movie night a few times a year, so check the website to see what’s playing and when.
– Join a ping pong tournament if you think you can beat Chinatown’s best.
Pay just $12 to visit the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens adjacent to the park (the two share the same pond), but if you just want a nice little taste of zen you can visit the park for free. Admire the ornamental trees, small bridges, statues and other traditional Chinese elements.
– Bring an umbrella, because if it rains, there isn’t any shelter in the park.
Twenty-two kilometers of scenic waterfront is what makes Vancouver’s seawall area popular to tourists and locals alike. The seawall is extremely busy on sunny weekend days, and there are separate sides for walkers and cyclists, so it’s important to be aware of what side of the path you should be on.
– It takes two to three hours to walk the 9 kilometer portion around Stanley Park and one hour to cycle.
– In the spring and summer months concessions are often available for those cruising the seawall.
Because it rests 152 metres above sea level, Queen Elizabeth Park is one of the best spots in the city to see gorgeous views of the skyline and the mountains. The park encompasses 52 hectares and is home to amazing floral displays, native and exotic trees, a rock garden and breathtaking sculptures — including one by the famous artist Henry Moore.
– The park is just 15 minutes from downtown by car or public transit.
– Queen Elizabeth Park is one of Vancouver’s most popular spots for wedding photos, so in the summer and spring, you’re guaranteed to see happy couples posing on the weekend.
The Vancouver Art Gallery has steadily been gaining attention for the caliber of its permanent collection as well as the rotating exhibits it brings to the city. Their signature Emily Carr collection is widely known as being one of the best in the country. Every Tuesday night, the gallery opens its doors to the public from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to make art accessible to anyone by donation.
– Get there early, because the gallery can get very busy.
– The gallery cafe is open until 6 p.m. serving delicious food in case you want to enjoy a meal before you walk the gallery.
Lynn Canyon Park is an outdoor haven close to the city. It’s over 617 acres in size and most of the trees are over 100 years old. Take advantage of the picnic spot, pools and trails, but the best part is the suspension bridge that spans the canyon — it was built when the park opened in 1912.
– Don’t be tempted to cliff jump into the pools below. Many people have risked their lives here doing that, and you’ll see their memorials at the entrance to the park.
– The trails connect to the popular Baden Powell Trail. Just make sure to wear proper footwear and consult the map before you embark — the trails can be a bit confusing.
– In the warmer months, a cafe at the park entrance is available for grabbing a snack, coffee or lunch.
Granville Island is most likely Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction. What used to be an industrial site was transformed in the 1970’s and 80’s into the cultural hub it is today. You’ll find a farmers market, art studios, restaurants, theatres, live music and buskers. If at all possible, try to visit on a weekday as the weekends are much busier.
– Take the Aquabus over from downtown; it’ll save you from having to find parking, and it’s fun.
– The market is closed every Monday in January.
– Watch your food when you’re eating outside; Granville Island is known for having the most aggressive seagulls in town.
The Vancouver Inspiration Pass is only for Vancouver residents, but that means you can be a tourist in your own city. The pass gives you free entry for up to two adults and four children to visit everything from museums to fitness centres and the aquarium. Available for pickup at any Vancouver Public Library location, you can keep the pass for up to two weeks.
– There’s a waiting list for the pass, so put your name on the list if you know you want it.
– It’s important to keep your check-out slip (from the library) to gain free entry, so don’t lose it.
– You can only borrow the pass once a year, so when your turn comes, make it worth your while.
The biggest farmers’ market in Vancouver actually includes a few separate markets bundled into one. The “Your Local Farmers’ Market Society” has been around since 1995 bringing Vancouver the best in farm-fresh produce, prepared foods, artisan crafts and food trucks. With a goal of bringing the community together, the farmers’ markets are now in almost every neighbourhood in the greater Vancouver area.
– Most of the markets now have a bike valet and a food-scraps program, so you can be as eco-friendly as you want to be.
– Forgot your cash? Don’t worry as the market has “market money” that you can buy with your debit card and purchase goods from any vendor at the market.
Every Tuesday night throughout the summer — at Second Beach in Stanley Park — you can haul your beach chairs, blankets and picnic supplies down to the big field and wait for the sun to go down. The movies start at dusk, but if you make an evening of it and get there earlier, you’ll get better seats.
– Bring socks, a blanket and possibly a second sweater. Even in the summer, it gets remarkably cold when the sun goes down.
– Parking is limited, so try to take public transit if you can.
At 7.8 kilometers in length, Wreck Beach is the largest clothing-optional beach in all of North America. It’s just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, but be aware that you’re in for a bit of a hike, because the beach is down a large flight of stairs.
– Wreck Beach closes at sundown.
– Should you forget your sunscreen, you’ll be able to buy that (and tons of other beach goods) from one of the many vendors on the beach.
Located in North Vancouver, this 11-kilometer paved trail takes you deep into the watershed. It’s mostly flat (with just a few hills) and is popular with bikers, joggers and rollerbladers. You can find outhouses and picnic areas along the way to stop and enjoy the natural surroundings.
– There’s a noteworthy dam and a small fish hatchery at the end of the trail.
– Keep your eyes open for bears. This is a wilderness area and at certain times of the year the bears are more active.
Indulge in four separate self-guided mural tours throughout Vancouver. All of the walking tours take 30-60 minutes and feature a cell phone audio component and downloadable map.
– Many of the murals are located in the alleys, so when the mural address is located on a street front and there’s not a mural right there, check the back alley.
Ambleside is a beautiful waterfront park in West Vancouver just north of the Lions Gate Bridge. Visitors can use the sports fields, skate park and playground, and in the summer, the park is packed with beach-goers, picnics and barbeques. There’s also a large off-leash dog park on the south end.
– Ambleside is part of the North Shore Spirit Trail system that runs from North Vancouver to Dundarave, so you can work a visit in with a bike ride.
– Look for wildlife such as seals, otters, bald eagles and the occasional dolphin or whale.
A great spot for an easy family walk and bird watching, the Maplewood Mud Flats off Dollarton Highway in North Vancouver is managed by the Wild Bird Trust of B.C. It’s free to enter, but there’s a donation box if you’re feeling generous.
– At the entrance to the park, there’s a board with the birds and critters that have been recently spotted in the flats.
– Don’t miss the art installation by the renowned artist Ken Lum called, “From Shangri-La to Shangri-La.”
The Richmond Night Market is free to kids under 10 years old as well as seniors over 60, but adults are charged $2.00. Although the market is not 100 percent free, it’s certainly worth a visit. Now in its 14th year, the Night Market offers one of the most authentic street-food experiences in North America. There’s also a shopping market where you can buy a variety of interesting imports.
– Richmond is home to the best Chinese food outside of China, so you can be assured that you’ll be eating some authentic fare.
– Take the Skytrain to get there; it’s fast and easy.
The Granville Island Water Park is the largest free water park in North America. It’s open from the Victoria Day long weekend to the Labour Day long weekend. The park features fire hydrants, sprayers, water slides and a toddler area.
– Children must be 3-feet and 6-inches tall to use the water slides.
– The water park is a short walk to the public market for a tasty lunch or cold drinks.
With eight themed gardens on 2.8 acres of land, this little oasis in the midst of a North Vancouver shopping mall is a nice diversion from the hubbub of parking, grocery shopping and banking.
– There’s a Starbucks and J.J. Bean Coffee nearby, so you can grab a coffee and a snack before you go.
– At Christmas the gardens are lit up with a fabulous display of lights.
The Capilano Fish Hatchery is located on the Capilano River in North Vancouver. Check out the interpretive centre and self-guided tour where you can see the life cycle of the fish from eggs to juvenile fish that are released in the spring. Don’t forget about the hiking trails or scenic picnic areas either.
– Visit the “fishway” viewing window where you can see the salmon climb the ladder and jump from one pool to the next.
– At certain times of year, you can fish in Capilano River.
– Keep an eye out for whitewater kayakers in the river riding the rapids.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can get a really great workout on what they call, “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” at the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver. It’s a 2.9 kilometer hike up 853 metres to the top of the “Peak of Vancouver.” It’ll take the average hiker one to two hours to complete it, but there are regulars who run it in just 50 minutes.
– It’s free to hike, but if you want to take the gondola back down (to save your knees), it’ll cost you a few dollars.
– The trail is closed during the winter months due to treacherous conditions.
– Do not wear flip flops. Proper shoes are a requirement for this hike.
The Marine Building sits on the corner of Burrard and Dunsmuir and was once the tallest building in the British Empire. It opened it’s doors in 1930 and is renowned for its art deco details. There was once an observation deck on top, but few could afford the 25 cent admission during the depression.
– If you go inside, you can see the massive brass doors of the elevator featuring images of crabs, snails and other sea life.
– Look down at the lobby floor for the 12 inlaid signs of the Zodiac.
The Burrard Bridge is an art deco steel-truss bridge built in the early 1930s that connects downtown to Kitsilano. You can get good views of both Granville Island and False Creek when you look one way, and English Bay and the North Shore mountains when you look the other.
– A wide bike lane has been added to the bridge, so it’s a quick and easy ride to get from one side to the other.
– The two lamps at either end of the span are a tribute to Canadian WWII prisoners of war — the symbolism shows that the prisoners had to huddle around a fire to keep warm.
Vanier Park is located in Kitsilano and is the front yard to the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the Vancouver Museum and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. If the wind is blowing, you’ll be able to spot people flying kites on the tallest hill in the park.
– Look up to see the kites as well as eagles that are often in the area. Its’ said there is a nest in one of the surrounding trees.
– There is an off-leash dog beach at the park, so bring your pups.
The Rosewood Hotel Georgia has curated a spectacular collection of modern Canadian art. Artists such as Douglas Coupland, Jack Shadbolt and Guido Molinari adorn the walls. The hotel itself is impressive as well, and be sure to check out the 31-foot chandelier hanging in the lobby.
– If you ask at the front desk, they’ll give you a map to direct you through the hotel’s art.
Tour Guys offers walking tours around Vancouver for free, and although tips are recommended, they are not mandatory. The Tour Guys offer a food tour and a beer tour as well as tours of Granville Island, Chinatown and downtown Vancouver.
– The tours are closed for the months of December and January due to the cold.
– They also perform private tours and school trips for a fee.
The Quarry Rock Bluffs hike in Deep Cove is a favourite of locals and tourists alike. The trail head is right near the village, and when you get to the end of the trail, you’re rewarded with an amazing view of Deep Cove looking towards downtown Vancouver. Give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy the hike as you’ll want to spend a little time sitting on the rocks staring at the view.
– Wear running or hiking shoes. Roots and rocks are abundant and improper footwear will lead to sprained ankles.
– The trail is not overly difficult, but it does have some fairly good hills, so it’s important to know your limits.
– After your hike, visit Honey’s Doughnuts in the village. It’s a busy hub of activity with great coffee, sandwiches and of course, the old fashioned doughnuts.
This trail starts at the same cross-country and snowshoe area as Cypress Mountain, but since the trail is within the boundaries of the Cypress Provincial Park, it’s free to use. Views of downtown, Grouse Mountain and the Lions are your reward for making it to the top.
– You can rent snowshoes in the office if you don’t have your own.
Canada Place was built for the World’s Fair in 1986. The white sails are a draw to tourists because of their design and proximity to downtown.There are a variety of things to do here, and some like “Fly Over Canda” cost money, but there are also plenty of free exhibits to explore, such as, “The War of 1812.”
– Canada Place is within walking distance to and from Waterfront Station, where you can take the Seabus from the North Shore to the last stop for the Skytrain.
Spanish Banks is one of the best beaches to enjoy in the summer because when the tide goes out, the beach gets massive — 1 kilometer to be exact. Coupled with the incredible views looking towards the North Shore mountains, this Point Grey beach is seriously spectacular.
– There’s an off-leash dog area for your furry friends to play.
– A concession stand, barbeque pits, volleyball courts and a picnic area are available on site.
This is the beach to see and be seen. Located in the heart of Kitsilano, Kits Beach is the place to play beach volleyball and show off your tan. Kits is also known as being the best beach to swim as the waters are calmer here.
– Right across the street from the beach there are some bars, restaurants and coffee shops to refuel.
– If you don’t like swimming in the ocean, there’s also a big swimming pool — called Kits Pool — where you can take a dip.
The West Vancouver Seawall is a popular 1.5-kilometer walk year-round, but on a beautiful sunny day, it is absolutely packed with people of all ages enjoying the views of Stanley Park, UBC and the Lions Gate Bridge. You can enter the seawall from either Dundarave Village or John Lawson Park.
– There is a dog walk alongside the seawall, but make sure your dog is OK off-leash as it runs very close to the train tracks.
– You can have a lovely lunch or drink on the patio of the Beach House Cafe on the Dundarave end.
The Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory is a great spot to gaze star-ward with their ½-metre Cassegrain telescope. The dome was built in 1979 and has been a popular spot to view the universe ever since.
– If you feel like treating yourself, the laser light and music show inside the Space Centre is spectacular.
Olives on Tap is a unique store that sells nothing but the highest quality olive oils and vinegars from around the world. The best part is that you can try them all before you buy. There are a lot to choose from and a lot to taste, and depending on what time of year you visit, you’ll have different varieties to try.
– You can book a tasting party for 10 people any time of year. Food and refreshments will be served, and you can have a personalized tasting and be educated on how to shop for olive oil – and it’s all free.
Christ Church Anglican Cathedral is one of the most prominent and beautiful churches in the city. It’s a place of worship, but it’s also a venue for musical shows, book readings and lectures. It’s a progressive church, and it fully welcomes the GLBT community.
– Check the website for times when their evening Gregorian Chants take place, it’s an experience not to be missed.
Lower Lonsdale comes alive every Friday night in the summer (from May until September) with live music, food trucks and a farmers’ and artists’ market. Walk down the pier to find a good spot to watch the sunset or just to enjoy your food truck dinner.
– Bring your ID because there’s a beer garden.
– If you’re going to drive, you can park in the ICBC lot (near Lonsdale Quay) for free on evenings and weekends.
Didn’t know there was a shrine to Jimi Hendrix in Vancouver? Jimi was actually from Seattle, but he spent a lot of time in Vancouver with his grandparents. The shrine is located in a heritage building where his grandmother Norah used to cook. There’s memorabilia for viewing as well as photos of the neighbourhood and Jimi Hendrix.
– The shrine is open from June to September from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
– The shrine is in Chinatown, and it’s located behind the Creekside student residences.
Nine totem poles — located at Brockton Point — draw in curious locals and tourists on a daily basis. The first four totem poles were brought over in the 1920s from Alert Bay, and the others were subsequently purchased from the Haida Gwaii and various other places in B.C. The totem poles were once located at Lumberman’s Arch, but were moved to Brockton Point in the 1960s.
– Be sure to check out the 100-year-old Brockton Point Lighthouse after you see the totem poles.
West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park is a remarkably scenic place where you can walk among a virgin rainforest and hike one of the many trails to the beautiful vistas of Burrard Inlet. This is where West Vancouver’s last standing 500-year-old Douglas Fir trees are located.
– It’s easily accessible by car, bus or bike, but make sure to bring proper shoes, because the trails can be a bit rough.
– When you’re at the shore, keep your eyes open for seals, otters and bald eagles.
– Dogs are allowed off leash in this park.
South Granville is known as Gallery Row for a reason — the 16 antique dealers and art galleries that line the streets are all unique and incredible in their own right. Give yourself a whole afternoon to visit, because you’ll want to see them all.
– Join in the ArtWalk Saturday, June 21, 2014.
– Hop eon the South Granville website for a map of Gallery Row.
The International Buddhist Temple in Richmond aims to bring Buddhist philosophies to the Western world through charity, traditional Buddhist ceremonies, meditation and much more. Even if you’re only on vacation in Vancouver for a few days, this Buddhist temple is a must-see.
– The temple holds a variety of unique cultural events, so check their schedule and put them on your calendar.
– Guided tours of the temple are available, so request a tour online, and set one up today.
Bob Rennie is one of Vancouver’s most successful realtors, and he’s also a collector of fine art. Rennie has one of the largest contemporary art collections in Canada, and the artworks are often lent out to other institutions for viewing. The gallery is located in Chinatown’s oldest building — Wing Sang.
– You have to make an appointment to see the collection.
Train and history buffs fall in love with Engine 374. The Roundhouse is located in Yaletown, and inside the pavillion sits a 127-year-old engine that pulled the first passenger train from Vancouver to Port Moody joining the East and the West.
– Just across the street is Urban Fare, a great spot for coffee or lunch. Sometimes they offer square watermelons for $100.
The Vancouver Biennale is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to making international museum quality art accessible in public spaces. The current 2014-2016 exhibition features artworks by internationally renowned artists across four cities in Metro Vancouver.
Whether you lace up your sneakers or hop on your bike, nothing gets better than exploring a neighborhood through the exhibition’s unique public art tours: http://www.
Every January an eagle count is conducted in the small community of Brackendale, which is about an hour north of Vancouver between Squamish and Whistler. Brackendale boasts the largest gathering of bald eagles in North America.
– The best place to view the eagles is the Eagle Viewing Dyke right across from the Easter Seals camp between Squamish and Brackendale.
-The Brackendale Art Gallery and Teahouse is a great spot to stop and have lunch while on the search for eagles.
Steveston is a lovely seaside village in Richmond that is accessible by car, transit or bicycle. There are a few points along the dyke in Richmond and Delta to start your ride, but Garry Point Park is a great starting place and one of the best sunset spots.
– Check out the Terra Nova Natural Area for bird watching.
– Pajo’s in Steveston is known for the best fish and chips in the city.
If you love birds and other wildlife, then OWL is a Vancouver must-see. The Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is home to a wide variety birds, and guided tours are available to learn about all of the different species. OWL is where all types of injured wildlife are brought to be nursed back to health and sent into the wild.
– For a fee (and a great cause) you can have your birthday party at OWL. Learn about birds and experience them up close.
– From September through June, the tours only run on weekends. In July and August they run daily.
The Senior Animals in Need Today Society (SAINTS) is an animal rescue, a farm and a place where homeless elderly animals can roam free and receive all of the love and attention they desire. SAINTS gives tours every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.
– Don’t wear your nicest clothes. It’s a farm, and there will be muddy dogs jumping on you.
– Feel free to bring dog biscuits for the animals.
The grounds of this Surrey park were once a homestead to an early pioneer in the area named David Brown. He gave his twin sons 40 acres each, and they immediately began planting exotic trees and evergreens. The sons lived on the land their entire lives, and their house is still a focal point of the park.
– This is a fabulous spot for a picnic.
– There’s a 5-kilometer walking path within the park — give yourself an hour and a half to do it.
Portions of this article were written by Andrea Mueller.