Explore one of the most vibrant cities in Canada with these awesome things to do in Vancouver, British, Columbia.
Whether your passions lie in food, culture, or the outdoors, Vancouver, British Columbia is a destination that is hard not to fall in love with.
Vancouver seems to have it all. Oceans, mountains a diverse and booming food scene, access to incredible natural attractions, and a rich Indigenous heritage.
When compared with other major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Halifax, and Calgary, Vancouver stands proudly apart. And that’s not just because it’s separated from the rest of the country by the massive snow-peaked Rocky Mountains. Vancouver has managed to take everything great about Canadian culture and add its own unique twist to it.
The city of Vancouver, BC itself has a population of about 650,000 people, but Vancouver is far more than just its core. The surrounding Metro Vancouver area blossoms to nearly 2.5 million residents when you consider the many smaller cities, towns and Indigenous First Nations communities that surround the city. These include cities such as Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, and Surrey. This makes it the thirst largest population centre in Canada behind Toronto and Montreal.
Despite being such a large population centre, Vancouver and its surrounding boroughs maintain a smaller-town atmosphere and relaxed vibe thanks to the vast list of things to do, ocean breeze, and ample mountains and marshes that separate the major urban areas from the smaller communities.
The incredible range of things to do in Vancouver draws visitors from around the globe, and Vancouver is definitely one of the hottest destinations in Canada both for Canadians and those travelling from abroad.
About Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is a port town on mainland British Columbia, although sometimes it’s confused with the massive Vancouver Island, which is home to popular British Columbia cities such as Tofino, Victoria, and Nanaimo.
The region’s culture dates way back to 40-50, 000 years ago when ancestors of the Squamish, Coquitlam, and other Indigenous Peoples and First Nations in Canada arrived from the north, creating settlements in what is now known as English Bay.
Between 1592 and 1774 the Spanish cruised past Vancouver and the surrounding shores as part of their scouting, claiming the land under the Treaty of Tordesillas. In 1808, the first member of the fur trade, Simon Frazer arrived, followed by the Hudson Bay Company in 1827.
In 1867, a local fur trader nicknamed “Gassy Jack” set up a saloon in what would, eventually, become Vancouver’s famous “Gastown.” This area quickly became a hub of development and the Canadian Pacific Railroad set up its headquarters in Gastown under its new name “Granville.”
With the arrival of the railway, Granville exploded in popularity, eventually being incorporated as the city of Vancouver in 1886.
Today, Vancouver is a thriving metropolis and one of the most important economic engines in Canada. Among the vast range of things to do in Vancouver are epic outdoor adventures, incredible restaurants, world-class breweries, and stunning cultural experiences.
The Best Things To Do In Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is an awesome city to explore. The vibrant communities and infectious energy of the residents add a certain buzz to the air. The moderate temperatures mean that outdoor fun is year-round. And the access to the mountains, ocean, and nearby experiences means that there is never a dull day.
These Vancouver attractions are just the start of all of the amazing things to do in the city, so let’s explore the top things to do in the city!
Hike, Bike, or Stroll through Stanley Park
There are some absolutely incredible urban parks in Canada. Among the top include Hyde Park in Toronto, the River Valley in Edmonton, and The Forks in Winnipeg. But standing heads and shoulders above all of these are Stanely Park in Vancouver, quite possibly the best urban park in the country.
A visit to Stanley Park should be on every visitor’s “to-do” list in Vancouver. This 400-hectare park encompasses a West Coast rainforest, Vancouver’s iconic sea wall, beautiful beaches, cultural and historical landmarks, and Canada’s largest aquarium.
Hike or cycle the iconic Vancouver Seawall, a ten-kilometre loop starting in Coal Harbour and encircling the peninsula through Brockton Point to the Lost Lagoon. roughly ten-kilometre loop, starting in Coal Harbour and encircling the peninsula by way of Brockton Point, the Lions Gate Bridge, Third Beach, Second Beach, and Lost Lagoon.
Another popular attraction at Stanley Park is the Brockton Point Totem Poles. This incredible collection of massive totem poles and Indigenous carvings represents First Nations cultures from throughout the province.
The collection began in the 1960s and the display has grown from a small group to one of the largest collections on display in the country.
Vancouver parks are open from 6 am to 10 pm unless otherwise posted, and access to washrooms is available from dawn until dusk.
Sip Your Way Through Vancouvers Craft Brewery Scene
When it comes to craft breweries in Canada, Vancouver is leading the charge. Vancouver breweries are famous for combining tasty brews and incredible ciders with amazing views and lively atmospheres.
With popular brewery centres such as Brewery Creek, or East Vancouver (nicknamed Yeast Vancouver), beer in the city is part of the culture. All-in-all, there are more than 50 craft breweries in Vancouver. While all of them are worth a visit, here are a few that you shouldn’t miss.
Steamworks Brewing on Water St. is one of the must-visit brewhouses. Steamworks has been crafting up classic brews since 1995. They recently expanded to a second location and an attached taproom. And as the name suggests, they power their brewing process using steam!
Their brewpub is located next to the Waterfront Sky Train Station and offers amazing views of the towering North Shore Mountains. Their taproom serves up a small collection of classic pub food, and their fish and chips are definitely worth enjoying. You can also order food directly to the pub from nearby restaurants.
Granville Island Brewing on Cartwright St. is one of the original Vancouver craft breweries. In fact, this was the very first microbrewery in Canada.
This classic brewery on Granville Island launched in 1984 and has been delivering flavourful brews throughout British Columbia and across Canada ever since. It’s worth visiting their taproom directly as they have a series of beers that are only available on-site.
Another great Vancouver brewery is 33 Acres Brewing Company on 18th Ave. The brewery is stunningly-designed and offers a great collection of classic snacks. The eats pair well with the more than 11 beers on tap and a revolving selection of limited edition brews (at their location next door called 33 Brewing Experiment), this Vancouver Brewery always has something new in store.
Swing Above The Trees at the Capilano Suspension Bridge
One of the all-time greatest attractions in Vancouver is to make a visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge. This incredible nature experience on the edge of North Vancouver is one of the greatest treetop trekking experiences in Canada.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a massive outdoor experience rather than, as the name suggests, a single bridge. There are a number of trails that wind through the massive trees of the rainforest. Along with these are a series of suspension bridges and a glass-floor lookout.
If you don’t have a car, there’s a free shuttle from downtown. There are a limited number of tickets available, so we recommend that you book your tickets in advance.
Catch The Action At A Canucks Game
Vancouver has some awesome sports teams. The BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and The Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer (MLS) are just a couple. But when it comes to sports in Vancouver, it’s the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League (NHL) that take the top spot.
The Vancouver Canucks play out of Rogers Arena next to Pacific Central Station. Each game is sure to be an incredible show as this is one of the best hockey venues in the league. But make sure to book your tickets ahead of time, they often sell out well in advance.
Climb Grouse Mountain (Or Just Enjoy the View From The Top)
If you spend any time in Vancouver you’re going to hear the term “Grouse Grind” thrown around. This popular 2.5 km (one-way) hike has been a staple of the Vancouver fitness and outdoor communities for years. The trail climbs a mind-blowing 850-metres from start to finish, ending with some of the best views over the city of Vancouver.
For those who don’t want to make the climb, a scenic gondola ride will take you up to the peak where you can see dozens of paragliders launching into the air. There are also a number of hiking trails, a wildlife refuge, and even some great dining and shopping experiences.
During the winter, the list of Grouse Grind attractions grows even more. You’ll find ski hills, snowshoeing trails, a skating pond, and even a light walk.
Enjoy a Dinner Cruise in Vancouver Harbour
Vancouver has one of the most delightful harbours outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia. While there is a great range of ways to enjoy Vancouver Harbour, one of the top experiences is on a sunset dinner cruise. These set sail from the wharf in Coal Harbour, cruising under the iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge and out past Kitsilano Beach.
You’ll enjoy a meal of roast beef, local salmon, vegetables, and dessert before drinking in the gorgeous sunset views over the water. All while celebrating live music with a handful of local wines. Sounds like heaven!
Spot Orca’s on a Whale-Watching Tour
One of the most popular experiences in Vancouver is whale watching. The city is surrounded by incredible nature and wonderful wildlife attractions, but on the open waters off the coast of Vancouver lie some of the world’s most incredible creatures.
The Pacific Ocean near Vancouver is teeming with Humpback, whales, Minke whales, and Gray whales. And of course, the largest member of the porpoise family, the Orca, or Killer Whale. Vancouver whale tours take visitors around the Gulf and San Juan islands where idyllic landscapes and incredible surroundings just add to the magic of the journey.
The best time to enjoy whale watching in Vancouver is from May to October when the weather is fair and the waters are calm. Most tours include tea and coffee as well as access to an expert naturalist who can help you spot the wildlife and offer some history of the city and its waters.
Check Out Vancouver’s Olympic Village
Built for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Vancouver Olympic Village is packed with cool local experiences. You’ll find beer gardens, great Vancouver restaurants, and amazing views of the Vancouver harbour.
You can rent a kayak and paddle through False Creek, or take a ride on the False Creek ferry. Families will love Science World, which, at first glance, is reminiscent of Epcot Centre in Disney World. It’s a stop on the Skytrain, so it’s easily accessible as well.
Grab some grub at Tap & Barrel where you can enjoy their fantastic waterfront patio or take a stroll out to Habitat Island and drink in the majestic harbour views.
Stroll Through Granville Island
A visit to Granville Island is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver. This small island can be accessed by car or boat and is packed with markets, breweries, and restaurants.
Make a stop at Lee’s Donuts for some freshly made treats or shop around for every tasty treat imaginable from freshly made pasta to incredible burgers. Granville Island is a popular place for street performers, live musicians and street vendors. So there’s always something unique and new to experience.
Gaze Over The City at the Vancouver Lookout
One of the best things to do in any Canadian city is to get up high and enjoy its best viewpoints. In Vancouver, there are a lot of amazing views, but the view from the nearly 170-metre hight Vancouver Lookout is one of the best.
Take a glass elevator on a 40-second ride up to the top deck and enjoy some majestic views of the Vancouver skyline from above. If you can time your visit on a clear day at sunset, you’ll be in for an even better treat.
The Vancouver Lookout is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm during the winter and from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm during the summer.
Make A Visit To The Vancouver Aquarium
Home to over 60,000 marine creatures including penguins, otters, jellyfish and more, the Vancouver Aquarium is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver.
This is a world-class aquarium where ethics is among the primary principles here and the captivity of dolphins and whales is banned. But there’s no lack of incredible animals and wonderful biomes to learn about.
The Vancouver Aquarium works towards important conservation projects including the rescue and rehabilitation of otters. Your entrance fee goes towards important rescue projects and breeding programs that help ensure these animals will be around for generations to come.
Get Creative at the Vancouver Art Gallery
For lovers of art and culture, a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery is among the best things to add to your Vancouver itinerary.
The Vancouver art gallery on Robson St. is right in the core of the city and features an incredible range of work from both Canadian artists and those from around the world. You’ll find an incredible series of permanent and rotating exhibits that explore Indigenous art, the Group of Seven, and some of the most spectacular creative work imaginable.
The Vancouver Art Gallery itself is a wonderful building on its own, and simply gazing at the architecture makes this a worthy visit. It’s the largest art gallery in Western Canada.
For something truly unique, head to Hill’s Native Art Gallery, an Indigenous gallery where you’ll find work from many of the most incredible First Nations artists in Canada. On display is a range of brilliant artwork including beadwork, paintings, prints, pottery, and rugs.
Eat Your Way Through The Vancouver Food Scene
Vancouver is home to some of the best restaurants in Canada. The city is a melting pot of cultures where nearly every country on earth is represented to some degree. With this many unique backgrounds coming together in one place, it’s no surprise that Vancouver cuisine is world-class.
Among the top restaurants in Vancouver you’ll want to check out is Botanist, an elegant fine dining establishment where Chef Hector Laguna crafts delightfully artistic plates that are as much a pleasure to the eye as they are to the palate. Chef Laguna studied under famed chef Susur Lee in Toronto.
Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar is another Vancouver restaurant where food and art come together for a magical experience. This intimate diner run by Chef Alex Chen features 10-12 course progressions paired with commentary about the dishes and top-tier wine pairing.
Zarak is an Afghan restaurant on Main St. in Vancouver. This hip, modern restaurant is the sister of Afghan Kitchen in nearby Surrey. The restaurant features incredible food and Afghan-inspired cocktails paired with incredible service and hospitality.
Things To Do Near Vancouver
The list of things to do in Vancouver doesn’t end at the city’s border. There are loads of incredible attractions near Vancouver that are worth experiencing for those who have a little extra time to spend in the city.
Take In The Views from the Sea to Sky Gondola
One of the most popular Vancouver attractions lies in the town of Squamish, about an hour north of central Vancouver.
The Sea-to-Sky Gondola offers bird’s eye views of the coastline and some of British Columbia’s most picture-perfect mountains. This experience is often combined with a drive up to Whistler, B.C. one of the province’s most popular ski resorts.
Road Trip The Sea-to-Sky Highway
Rated among the best road trips in Canada, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a one-and-a-half-hour drive between Vancouver and Whistler. Along the way, the drive takes you past towering waterfalls, jaw-dropping views, and stops where you can enjoy cultural centres and a suspension bridge.
Explore Victoria and Vancouver Island
Hop on the ferry and make the trip to Vancouver Island where you can spend the day (or longer), visiting Victoria B.C. IF you time your visit right, you might be able to take in the Great Canadian Beer Festival, the oldest craft beer festival in the world.
The historic Bastion Square and Chinatown are just two of the reason’s that a trip here is a worthwhile visit. Victoria is home to the Royal BC Museum, the Emily Carr House, and a gorgeous set of lighthouses.
You can check out our guide to the best things to do in Victoria B.C. here.
Adventure Through the Southern Gulf Islands
Getting to the Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver and Victoria is a relaxing experience. Hop on board one of the BC Ferries vessel in Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) enjoy a scenic cruise that includes stops at several idyllic islands. Enjoy the the fresh sea air, be on the lookout for orcas and porpoises.
The Southern Gulf Islands are a series of twelve inhabited islands, and several hundred more smaller islands and islets. The islands are an incredible destination for road trips, hiking, cycling, SCUBA diving, and boating.
You can read about adventures in the Southern Gulf Islands of B.C. here.
Now It’s Time to Experience These Things To Do In Vancouver, British Columbia For Yourself
There are more things to do in Vancouver, British Columbia than meets the eye. From incredible wildlife experiences and fabulous breweries to epic views and outdoor sports, you can find something for everyone in this beautiful region of British Columbia.
Many of these businesses and restaurants are anxious for visitors after a tough year. So let’s support local and make the most of your Edmonton adventure.
Do you have a favourite attraction or restaurant in Canada? Head over to the We Explore Canada Facebook Community and join the conversation! You’ll find an amazing group of people passionate about travel in Canada who love to share their local secrets.
Kevin Wagar is a founder and editor of We Explore Canada. He has been working in the travel media industry since 2015 when he founded his family travel website Wandering Wagars – Adventure Family Travel.
Over the years Kevin has developed a deep love for his home country and aims to showcase the incredible experiences and amazing small businesses found within it.