1-day vancouver itinerary what to do

25 Best Things to Do in Vancouver, BC (Canada)

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Vancouver is a popular tourist destination in British Columbia, and during our last trip there, I quickly discovered why that is. There are tons of things to do in Vancouver. The city is also surrounded by some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes, but you can find plenty of Vancouver attractions downtown too.

Since I’m crazy about whales, we did a 2-day layover in Vancouver before heading to the Canadian Rockies (Yes, Vancouver is one of the best places in the world for killer whale watching). However, I was surprised by the number of places to visit in Vancouver, Canada, so I came back six months later to keep exploring the city.

There is never a wrong time to visit, as there are always things to do in Vancouver. I recommend you spend at least one day in Vancouver’s downtown district, another day if you want to take a whale watching tour, and one more day to explore the fjords and mountains that surround this beautiful city. However, if you’re short on time, I recommend this 4-hour tour or this 7-hour city tour. There is also a hop on, hop off sightseeing bus that will take you to the most popular areas in case you want to explore the city on your own.

To help you plan your trip and figure out what to do in Vancouver, check out our top 25 things to do in Vancouver, BC, below.

1. Biking in Stanley Park, the best thing to do in Vancouver

Stanley Park is one of the best places to visit in Vancouver. It’s full of walking and biking paths, and one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver is to take a bike tour there. We did this one, which takes you around the park as a guide shares historic tidbits about the area.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can bike around the park and other parts of the city on this tour. Still, when considering what to do in Vancouver, I recommend budgeting enough time for Stanley Park.

Stanley Park, the best Vancouver attractions

1. Biking in Stanley Park, the best thing to do in Vancouver

As you pass by Brockton Point on the east side, be sure to check out the lighthouse and the First Nations totem poles, which represent the indigenous Coast Salish people. To the northeast, try to spot the Girl in a Wetsuit sculpture sitting on a rock in the water.

Prospect Point is also on the park’s northern tip and offers great sightseeing in Vancouver. Here, you’ll be at the highest point in Stanley Park, so you’ll have views of the city, the Lions Gate Bridge, and the walkers and bikers along the Seawall Path. The path makes a 5.5-mile loop around the park, so it’s a nice place for a leisurely stroll.

Nearby, you can see Siwash Rock, a basalt outcropping that towers over the water. It was formed 32 million years ago and is the subject of a Squamish legend about a man who was transformed into an indestructible rock.

If you want a more nature-centered adventure, I suggest walking along the Cathedral Trail or Beaver Lake Trail. The latter path will take you to Beaver Lake, a mile-long wetland where you may spot native wildlife and enjoy some quiet time. Alternatively, you can visit the Second Beach or Third Beach on the southern coast. These are some of the best beaches in Vancouver, which I will share more about later in this article.

2. Granville Island, a place you don’t want to miss in Vancouver Canada

Another great attraction by the water is Granville Island. This peninsula shopping district is accessible via the Granville Street Bridge. The moment you cross the bridge, you can feel the relaxed vibe of this place.

As an artistic and cultural hub, one of the best Vancouver attractions here is the Granville Island Public Market. Open 7 days a week, it’s where you can find fresh produce, artisan foods, and all sorts of accessories and items. This multi-cultural market is one of the fun things to do in Vancouver, not to mention a great way to support local businesses.

Visit the Granville Island, things to do in Vancouver British Columbia

2. Granville Island, a place you don’t want to miss in Vancouver Canada

I also recommend checking out the Granville Island Brewing Co. for some seasonal beers. This is what to do in Vancouver if you want to totally immerse yourself in easy-breezy island culture. For something more action-packed, check out the island’s waterpark or rent a kayak or paddleboard and hit the water. You could also walk along the Seawall to get away from it all and take a nature break.

Granville Island is also kid-friendly, so a visit here is one of the best things to do in Vancouver for families. There are lots of kids’ markets, playgrounds, and specialty shops like toy stores and magic shops. The island is also a popular spot for whale watching and boating.

3. Capilano Suspension Bridge & Cliffwalk

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the best things to do in Vancouver BC, and it’s much more than a simple bridge. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver, so I recommend booking this self-guided tour in advance (it includes a discounted entrance + shuttle from Vancouver city).

You’ll stand 230 feet above the ground while traversing the 450-foot-long suspension bridge. What’s cool about the Capilano bridge is that it has several lookout points. In addition to the bridge itself, you can check out Treetops Adventure, which is a collection of seven attached bridges hanging among gorgeous Douglas-firs. The bridges and platforms are at various heights, so you can observe the forest from wherever you feel most comfortable.

Capilano Suspension Bridge & Cliffwalk, best things to do in Vancouver BC

3. Capilano Suspension Bridge & Cliffwalk, one of the most spectacular views over Vancouver

You can also brave the Cliffwalk, a circular and narrow path that winds 700 feet through the rainforest. While the safety rails stand at about shoulder-height, it’s still a heart-stopping experience! After this thrilling activity, I recommend checking out the educational center where you can learn about the First Nations people at Kai’palano and their traditional totem poles.

The suspension bridge is very touristy and crowded, but still a worthy thing to do in Vancouver. It overlooks the Capilano River and Regional Park, which you may also want to visit. Unlike the Capilano Bridge, entry to the park is free, as is the Cleveland Dam, which has a walking bridge and observation deck above it. The huge and thunderous spillway, which can hold 16.5 billion gallons of water, is quite a sight. For more tranquil things to do in Vancouver, I suggest kayaking or canoeing in the regional park.

If you find the Capilano Bridge entrance expensive, another suggestion is Lynn Canyon, which is less impressive but free. Here, you can find hiking trails, swimming holes, waterfalls, and a suspension bridge 160 feet above the canyon. Located further east, it’s a bit more out of the way, but still a pretty (and more peaceful) place to visit.

4. Gastown, something interesting to do in Vancouver, BC

Gastown is a must-see neighborhood in Vancouver. Not only it is a historical place, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable places to go in Vancouver. It has a downtown feel, but the old-time details are still there, including cobblestone streets and the Steam Clock, one of the most famous Vancouver attractions.

You can find the Steam Clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Streets. While at one time it was powered by electricity, today the clock uses a low-pressure steam heating network to operate a pendulum clock. When it strikes the time, you can hear it whistle throughout the square.

Gastown, must see in Vancouver

4. Gastown, something interesting to do in Vancouver, BC

While you’re in Gastown, you must try the food. I suggest this walking food tour, which will take you to nine different restaurants and shops. You’ll get to sample a variety of cuisines as well as some sweet treats.

This old neighborhood is also known for its nightlife scene, so if that’s your thing, I recommend checking out some bars. Some of the places host live music, while others are more laid-back. Gastown is also the host of the Vancouver International Jazz festival every summer. Whether you want to browse the boutiques, grab a bite to eat, or listen to live entertainment, this Vancouver neighborhood is one of the hippest spots to check out.

5. Chinatown, an awesome place to visit in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver has the largest Chinatown in Canada, and it offers lots of free things to do in Vancouver. The first and most obvious attraction is the Millennium Gate, which you can find on Pender Street. The gate stands three stories tall and features a tiled roof made of terra cotta, bright colors, and two stone lions on either side.

Over the past decade or so, Chinatown has undergone a huge transformation, thanks to revitalization efforts and recognition as a National Historic Site. Today, you can explore the modernization of this neighborhood while glimpsing a few remnants from the past.

Visit Chinatown, things to do in Vancouver British Columbia

5. Chinatown, an awesome place to visit in Vancouver, Canada

The Ho Ho Restaurant and Sun Ah Hotel has been around for decades and still displays its 1950s neon sign. The five-story building was built in 1911 for a wealthy Chinese merchant, and today it offers authentic Chinese fare like chop suey. I also suggest trying dim sum while in Chinatown. This is a meal of small Cantonese dishes, such as dumplings, buns, seafood, and vegetables.

Besides food, there is a lot of history in Chinatown. The oldest building in the area is the Wing Sang Building, the former home of a Chinese immigrant who came to Canada in search of gold in the late 1800s.

I also highly recommend the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Canada’s first Chinese “scholars” garden (and the first outside of China).  The surrounding park is free to enter, and the garden admission fee is CAD $16. Here, you can walk through lush greenery, stroll past serene lakes, and take a peaceful moment of rest in a pagoda-inspired gazebo. Throughout the grounds, you’ll see feng shui and Taoist elements, including koi ponds, symbolic dragons, and delicate plants juxtaposed with large rocks. It’s one of the downtown Vancouver attractions you can’t miss.

6. Grouse Mountain, an unforgettable place to go in Vancouver

We love to get out in nature no matter where we go, and Grouse Mountain is one of the best places to visit in Vancouver at any time of year. While it offers plenty of winter activities, it’s the most-visited natural attraction in Vancouver year-round.

Grouse Mountain is one of the North Shore Mountains of the Pacific Range, and just a 20-minute drive from the city center. If you’re not sure what to do in Vancouver, I suggest taking a day trip here since there is something for everyone.

Grouse Mountain, things to do in Vancouver BC

6. Grouse Mountain, an unforgettable place to go in Vancouver

The mountain has two cable cars. The Super Skyride is the main one and can carry about 100 passengers at once from the valley to the top of the mountain. A round-trip Skyride ticket is included with general admission, which you can purchase in advance here along with a complimentary shuttle from Vancouver downtown.

The great thing about Grouse Mountain is that it’s open year-round. Depending on the season, you can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, eco-walks, paragliding, disc golf, ziplining, ice skating, skiing, or snowboarding. The mountain has a popular hiking trail, the Grouse Grind, which is nicknamed “Mother Nature’s Staircase.” It’s a nearly two-mile climb that takes you up 2,800 feet. An alternative is the elevator-accessible observation deck, where you can see the Eye of the Wind, a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. It provides 25% of the resort’s energy supply.

Grouse Mountain has some add-on attractions that you can purchase separately, one of which is the Mountain Zipline. The five-line circuit passes over the valleys below and the entire “tour” lasts about two hours, but it is one of the most memorable things to do in Vancouver.

If you want something equally as exciting but maybe closer to the ground, this combo ticket includes Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

7. Whale Watching Tours, the best thing to do in Vancouver, BC

If you are in Vancouver between April and October, be sure to add whale-watching to your things to do in Vancouver. This is the best time of year to catch orcas, humpbacks, dolphins, and even sea lions. There are several tours available in the area as I already wrote in our Vancouver whale watching guide.

The thing with seeing whales in the wild is that they can’t guarantee that you’ll see these majestic creatures. However, if you go during the summer, you have a good chance of spotting some whales. This is always one of my favorite activities in Vancouver, and the reason why I took the tour again during my second trip to this marvelous city.

Whale Watching Tour, one of the best activities in Vancouver

7. Whale Watching Tours, the best thing to do in Vancouver, BC

Wild whales are the best things to see in Vancouver, and since it’s a coastal city, you don’t have to go far. I took this tour from Granville Island both times I’ve been in the city and I was lucky in May and even in November. Both times I saw killer whales, humpbacks, and sea lions. However, don’t worry. If you don’t see any whales the first time around, you get a complimentary second tour.

A whale-watching tour is a wonderful family activity to do in Vancouver, too. Just be sure to dress for the weather, and don’t forget to bring a camera. Safely observing these wild creatures from a distance, in a beautiful place like British Columbia, is a one-of-a-kind experience.

8. Panorama Tour by Seaplane, a unique thing to do in Vancouver

Lots of cities have bus and boat tours but seeing the city from a seaplane is an entirely different experience. A panorama tour by seaplane is a great way to see all the top places in Vancouver from a birds-eye view. It’s also an unforgettable experience for the whole family. Riding in a seaplane is especially exciting because you get a huge spray of water when you take off and land. To be honest, it feels quite different from being in a typical airplane!

I didn’t take the tour during my first trip but, after seeing how the seaplanes landed next to Stanley Park, I thought it would be a great idea to do it when we were back in the city, so I took this tour six months later.

Panorama Tour by Seaplane, Vancouver must do

8. Panorama Tour by Seaplane, a unique thing to do in Vancouver

It is the most popular one, and it departs from downtown, at Vancouver Seaplane Terminal, next to Stanley Park. Plus, it flies over the city in a loop, so you get a complete tour. During those 20 minutes, you’ll see Vancouver Island and the North Shore Mountains, as well as aerial views of hotspots like Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, and Granville Island. If you would also like admission to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, check out this combo tour.

Right next to the seaplane terminal, at the Convention Center, be sure to check out the digital orca statue. The sculpture was created in 2009 and is made of powder-coated aluminum and steel. It has become a popular landmark in the city, and its interesting pixelated form is something you don’t see every day. Visiting it is one of the fun things to do in Vancouver, BC for free.

9. Waterfront Sightseeing Adventure, a popular thing to do in Vancouver

You can’t leave Vancouver without a waterfront sightseeing adventure. This is a tour that takes you on a 1.5-hour boat ride along the English Bay, North Shore, and more. The waterfront offers lovely views of the city, making it one of the nicest things to do in Vancouver. It’s pretty popular and there are different companies offering it, but we took this one.

Some of the best places along the waterfront include Coal Harbour, North Shore, and False Creek. Coal Harbour is the area of the Burrard Inlet between the downtown peninsula and Brockton Point. This is where you’ll see lots of piers, marinas, and rowing clubs, as well as a good view of the Vancouver skyline.

Waterfront Sightseeing Adventure, what to do in Vancouver

9. Waterfront Sightseeing Adventure, a popular thing to do in Vancouver

The North Shore is another section of the Burrard Inlet where you can get views of Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour. This area is popular with water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. The south side of the inlet is where you’ll find False Creek, which got its name from a hydrographer in the 1850s. This body of water is crossed by major transit bridges and is a popular spot for kayaking and boating.

As you make your way to English Bay, you’ll approach Stanley Park, and you might see some seals or dolphins too.

If you’re traveling on a budget, a good alternative is to take the ferry to North Vancouver. It’s not the same, but at least you can see the city skyline and Canada Place. This huge building includes the Vancouver Convention Centre, digital orca statue, and FlyOver Canada, a virtual flight ride.

10. Whistler, one of the most popular places to go in Vancouver

Whistler sits in the Coast Mountains along the southern Pacific Ranges, about 75 miles north of Vancouver. The region is most known for its Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, the largest in North America.

Whistler was the 2010 Winter Olympics venue, and it’s easy to see why. The area offers 200 ski runs, dozens of lifts, and over 400 inches of snow each year. It’s the ultimate playground for winter sports, so a visit here is one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter.

Whistler, places to visit in Vancouver

10. Whistler, one of the most popular places to go in Vancouver

While you’re there, check out the Sliding Center, where you can race down the ice track in a bobsleigh or skeleton sled. There are also snowmobile tours and Zipline tours, in which you glide down a series of ziplines. The most popular one is the Ziptrek, the longest zipline in North America. The Glacier sightseeing experience by seaplane from Whistler is another of the top activities you can do here. When it’s time to relax, head to the Scandinave Spa for a massage or Scandinavian bath. Pricing depends on the service, but it is a separate charge from Whistler Blackcomb admission.

Whistler is about a 90-minute drive from the city center, so if you don’t have a car, I suggest booking this full-day tour with transportation included. It’ll take you along the Sea to Sky Highway, where you can take in the views of Horseshoe Bay and Tantalus Glacier.

If you visit Whistler in the warmer months, it’s still one of the most fun things to do in Vancouver, BC. Summertime activities at the resort include mountain biking, hiking, and the Cloudraker Skybridge. The suspended bridge extends nearly 430 feet long over the Whistler valley. Admission is included in the Peak 2 Peak Gondola ticket that you can buy when you get there.

No matter the time of year, a Whistler visit is one of the best things to do in Vancouver, BC.

11. Sea-to-Sky Gondola, another thing to experience in Vancouver

The Sea-to-Sky Gondola is one of the top tourist attractions in Vancouver any time of year. It takes you from the Shannon Falls Provincial Park basecamp up to the Summit Lodge 9,000 feet above ground. To make the most of your time, I recommend this day trip, which combines the Sea to Sky Gondola with some of the best attractions in Metro Vancouver.

The area that the Sea-to-Sky Gondola covers is full of photo opportunities. Shannon Falls Provincial Park has the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia, at nearly 2,000 feet. Howe Sound is on the edge of the park and joins a series of fjords around the Strait of Georgia. The nearby islands are accessible via ferry and see few visitors during the year.

Sea-to-Sky Gondola, things to do in Vancouver

11. Sea-to-Sky Gondola, another thing to experience in Vancouver

At the summit of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, you’ll have views of Whistler Village, Pacific Ocean, the Sea to Sky Highway, and the surrounding mountain peaks. The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is another one of the cool things to do in Vancouver. Those who are brave enough to step across this 330-foot-long bridge will get 360-degree views of the natural landscape. It leads to a series of observation decks, including the 5,000 square foot Summit Lodge Viewing Deck, which hosts events throughout the year.

You can grab a bite to eat at the Summit Lodge or embark on a hiking or walking adventure. A series of paths are accessible form the top of the gondola, as is the Via Terrata, a fixed-ropes course overlooking the Squamish area. It requires a certain level of physical fitness since it involves hiking and climbing.

Whether you choose to stay at base camp, or you climb to the Summit Lodge, the Sea-to-Sky Gondola is one of the most amazing things to do in Vancouver.

12. Vancouver Island – Victoria, one of the best places to go near Vancouver

One of the nicest things to do in Vancouver, British Columbia, is to take a trip to Victoria. Situated in southern Vancouver Island, Victoria is home to urban green spaces and hiking trails. You can get to Victoria by plane but I always recommend this option since it includes the ferry to Vancouver Island and you can see whales on your way there. Besides, it also includes admission to Victoria’s Butchart Gardens.

The gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada and bring in over a million guests annually. Established over 100 years ago, the gardens now cover 55 acres and include 26 greenhouses and 900 plant varieties. Butchart Gardens offers activities year-round, such as electric boat tours and fireworks in the summer, Christmas events in the winter, fall foliage and greenhouse tours, and beautiful springtime blooms.

Vancouver Island - Victoria, to do in Vancouver

12. Vancouver Island – Victoria, one of the best places to go near Vancouver

Another site worth visiting in Victoria is Beacon Hill Park, which opened in 1882. Here, you can visit landscaped gardens and ponds, walking several trails, or hang out by the playground or tennis courts. The park is a scenic spot to picnic or people watch, and various events are held at the pavilion throughout the year.

Besides Victoria, Vancouver Island has many other places that are worth visiting. If you are into outdoor activities, I suggest checking out the West Coast Trail for some great hiking or backpacking. The trail is part of the Pacific Rim National Park, which has world-renown hiking trails. Along the West Coast Trail, you’ll find waterways, campgrounds, forests, and bogs. There are a few climbing and rappelling spots around here, too. The rest of the national park has recreational areas for water sports, including scuba diving at Long Beach.

Victoria and Vancouver Island is a can’t-miss day trip during your stay in Vancouver, especially if you love being in nature.

13. Richmond Night Market, a place to enjoy the nightlife in Vancouver

Every major city has a vibrant nightlife, and that includes Vancouver. During the summer months, be sure to check out the Richmond Night Market, which brings the River Road area along the Fraser River to life. The night market is one of the fun things to do in Vancouver, BC both for locals and tourists.

It’s in the Richmond neighborhood, south of downtown, and it’s the best place to learn about the impact of Asian influence on Canada’s west coast. The population of the neighborhood is mainly Asian, making up 65% of the total population. Restaurants, shops, grocery stores – for a second you will think you’re somewhere in China. Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world and at Richmond Night Market, we experienced this firsthand.

Richmond Night Market, things to do in Vancouver at night

13. Richmond Night Market, a place to enjoy the nightlife in Vancouver

Here, you can sample some of the best Asian food in the city. It is one of the things to do in Vancouver that engages all your senses, and you won’t go home hungry since there are over 250 food stalls. The convenient location makes it easy to get there, simply take the Canada Line on the SkyTrain. Before you arrive, be aware that there is a CAD $4 entry fee and most of the stalls are cash-only. I suggest taking public transportation to avoid the headache of finding a parking spot.

The Richmond Night Market isn’t just for food. You can also find arts and crafts and other goodies. There is also nightly entertainment, so you may hear local musicians and performers on the main stage while you’re there. The venue is open from 7 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays. It’s open from May to October, so if you visit during this time, be sure to check it out.

14. Second Beach, one of the best beaches in Vancouver

When you think of where to go in Vancouver, you probably think of mountainous areas. However, the city also has lots of beaches that I recommend checking out. One of the most popular beaches is Second Beach, which is in Stanley Park. Here, you can enjoy beach volleyball, picnicking, a dog-friendly area, and a stroll along the Seawall.

There is also the Second Beach Pool, a heated, oceanside pool that’s a huge hit with visitors. The entrance fee is around CAD $6, and you can check the pool’s schedule here. It’s open daily, but there are specific time slots for public swimming sessions.

Second Beach, the best beach in Vancouver, Canada

14. Second Beach, one of the best beaches in Vancouver

While you’re exploring Second Beach, it may be worth visiting the other beaches in Vancouver. First Beach, also known as English Bay, is also in Stanley Park. This family-friendly beach has a café, kayak rentals, a water slide, volleyball courts, and parking. This is also the site for the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver.

Stanley Park’s Third Beach is a crowd favorite for watching the sunset. It’s surrounded by lush forest, so it offers a nice break from the noisier areas. Jericho Beach is another beach with a relaxed vibe, located to the west of Kitsilano. People come here to picnic or play sports. For an even more laid-back beach, there is Wreck Beach, where clothing is optional. Close to the University of British Columbia, this beach is part of Pacific Spirit Regional Park, a nature reserve with over 45 miles of hiking trails, as well as horseback riding and bike paths.

The Spanish Banks are a few blocks west of Jericho Beach and is a great spot for water sports like kitesurfing. If you go past Jericho Beach, you’ll arrive at Kitsilano Beach, a summertime hotspot. Facing the English Bay, it features a salt-water outdoor pool, playgrounds, and several sports fields. Clearly, hitting the beach is one of the things to do in Vancouver Canada!

15. Indian Arm, a tranquil place to visit in Vancouver

Indian Arm is one of the nicest places to visit in Vancouver, and a must-see for water lovers. It’s a beautiful glacial fjord that extends out of the Burrard Inlet and runs into Burnaby Mountain. This tranquil waterway was formed during the last Ice Age and remains relatively untouched, with no crossings and limited road access.

I highly recommend this half-day cruise of Indian Arm for a calm and scenic four-hour boat ride. Traveling on Indian Arm is a reminder how vast the natural world is, and you’ll be surrounded by lush forests and granite cliffs. The surrounding area is home to several waterfalls, including Granite Falls, Silver Falls, and Spray of Pearls Falls.

Indian Arm, quiet things to do in Vancouver British Columbia

15. Indian Arm, a tranquil place to visit in Vancouver

The isolated and pristine nature of this place means that you have a high chance of coming across various wildlife, such as seals, bald eagles, black bears, and waterfowl. Nearby is Indian Arm Provincial Park, which covers nearly 17,000 acres and includes a few campgrounds. Here, there are also areas for kayaking and diving.

To the southeast, you can find Panorama Park in Deep Cove. This is another haven for nature and water sports enthusiasts. While there, you’ll have views of Burnaby Mountain in the distance. Getting time away from the big city is a great idea, and Indian Arm is one of the top things to do in Vancouver, Canada.

16. Elaho Whitewater, something exciting to do in Vancouver

Another gorgeous waterway in Vancouver is the Elaho River. Unlike Indian Arm, this river has some invigorating rapids. If you’re down for it, Elaho whitewater rafting is one of the coolest things to do in Vancouver, Canada.

Elaho Whitewater, one of the best activities in Vancouver

16. Elaho Whitewater, something exciting to do in Vancouver

I suggest booking this tour in advance, which meets at either Squamish, Vancouver, or Whistler. It includes your wetsuit, safety gear, lunch, and guidance from an experienced rafting instructor. The rapids are Class 3-4, so they’re fine for beginners who aren’t afraid to challenge themselves.

Along the Elaho River, you’ll witness a gorgeous alpine forest, one of the most beautiful things to see in Vancouver. The entire river is over 40 miles long and starts in the Coast Mountains near Whistler. The tour we did was incredible because our guide shared a lot of information about the area, such as the geography and native wildlife. We even spotted some native birds and a beautiful waterfall.

17. Commercial Drive Dining (aka “The Drive”), a must-visit in Vancouver

For things to do in Vancouver downtown, you can’t miss Commercial Drive. Lovingly known as “The Drive” among locals, this is one of the oldest and most unique streets in the city center. The road extends from the East Vancouver neighborhood north to the Grandview-Woodland district, where it approaches the waterfront at Powell Street.

The Drive is full of local businesses, cultural icons, and residential homes. It’s also easily accessible via the SkyTrain, just hop off at the Commercial-Broadway Station. I recommend The Drive if you’re in the mood for great food. The restaurants and cafes on this street will take your taste buds on a cultural journey. Here, you can find lots of ethnic cuisines spanning Italian, Latin American, Asian, Indian, African, and other communities.

Commercial Drive Dining, places to visit in Vancouver

17. Commercial Drive Dining (aka “The Drive”), a must-visit in Vancouver

Many people consider The Drive to be a beautiful testament to Vancouver’s diversity, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a great place to simply walk around and take in the sights, although you could also support local business and restaurant owners. If you head towards John Hendry Park to the south, you can find a nice green space. From May to October, there is a Saturday farmer’s market there, too.

Visiting The Drive is one of the fun things to do in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a must-do when you’re downtown. In addition to cafes, coffee shops, and bars, you can find alternative shops, clubs, and other entertainment venues. The neighborhood is LGBT-friendly and open to Canada’s counterculture, so it’s a great place to learn something new and meet outgoing people.

This area also hosts cultural events throughout the year. If you visit in early July, you can catch Car Free Day, where Commercial Drive is closed to vehicles to make room for performers, artists, and outdoor activities.

18. Greenheart TreeWalk, another fun thing to do in Vancouver

The Greenheart TreeWalk is one of the best things to do in Vancouver with kids. It’s also a lot of fun for adults! This hanging walkway is over 1,000 feet long and is suspended over 65 feet in the air. As you journey across the pathway, you’ll get up close and personal with the forest, trees, and the lush ambience of the rainforest.

This attraction is part of the largest UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia. It’s the oldest university botanical garden and covers 110 acres. On the grounds, you’ll find smaller gardens including an Asian garden, medicinal garden, and alpine garden. There is also the Nitobe Memorial Garden, a 2.5-acre Japanese Garden.

Greenheart TreeWalk, things to do in Vancouver with kids

18. Greenheart TreeWalk, another fun thing to do in Vancouver

I would plan a few hours to visit the UBC Botanical Garden as well as the Greenheart TreeWalk. The TreeWalk is open between April 1st and October 31st, and guided tours are available. General admission to the Botanical Garden costs CAD $10 for adults and CAD $5 for kids, while the TreeWalk is an additional CAD $13 for adults and CAD $5 for kids. The Nitobe Memorial Garden has a CAD $5 entry fee for everyone over six years old.

The UBC Botanical Garden has several smaller areas to check out, such as the BC Rainforest Garden, Carolinian Forest Garden, and Food Garden. If you’re wondering what is there to do in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia has got you covered.

19. Kayak in the Gulf Islands, a tranquil place to go in Vancouver

To the southwest of Vancouver, you can find the Gulf Islands, a beautiful area for outdoor recreation. If you need some time away from the city but you don’t want to go far, visiting the Gulf Islands is one of the best things to do in Vancouver, BC.

Here, you can explore provincial parks and protected areas and spend some much-needed time in nature. The Gulf Islands are in the Strait of Georgia, between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The Islands are typically split between the north and south and are accessible via ferry.

Kayak in the Gulf Islands, a good activity to do in Vancouver

19. Kayak in the Gulf Islands, a tranquil place to go in Vancouver

There are regional parks and recreational areas on several of the islands. For example, Galiano Island is home to the Dionisio Point and Montague Harbour Marine provincial parks. Both offer hiking trails, and Montague Harbour Marine park is popular with kayakers. The area is camper-friendly, so it’s a nice spot to spend the day kayaking and resting on shore.

If you want a no-fuss kayaking trip to the Gulf Islands, I suggest booking this tour, which includes equipment, lunch, guided kayaking along the Canadian Pacific Coast, and a short seaplane flight. It’s truly one of the most memorable things to do in Vancouver, British Columbia, and something I will do for sure on my third trip to Vancouver one day.

If you decide to journey out on your own, you might want to check out Hornby Island’s Helliwell Provincial Park. It’s a great spot for scuba diving and canoeing, plus the cliffs overlooking the Strait of Georgia are magnificent.

20. Museum of Anthropology, an interesting attraction in Vancouver

In addition to the botanical gardens, there is other stuff to do in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia. The school also houses the Museum of Anthropology, a major attraction with a collection of nearly 50,000 ethnographic objects and 535,000 archaeological artifacts.

The MOA is a teaching museum as well as an internationally recognized facility for conservation, anthropology, archaeology, and First Nations works. Founded in 1947, some of the museum’s first objects were salvaged totem poles and First Nations art. Over the years, the facility expanded to include offices, laboratories, research rooms, exhibition halls, and a recording studio.

Museum of Anthropology, one of the best museums to visit in Vancouver

20. Museum of Anthropology, an interesting attraction in Vancouver

The museum’s exterior is quite impressive too and features a reflecting pool out front. Inside, there are several galleries where you can browse through ceramics, cultural artifacts, sculptures, textiles, photographs, and more. Admission costs CAD $18 and the museum is easily accessible via public transportation (get off at the West Mall stop).

The MOA hosts temporary exhibits to accompany its permanent collection. Some highlights include the Great Hall, Bill Reid Rotunda and The Raven and the First Men sculpture, and the outdoor museum grounds, where you’ll find a Haida house and Mortuary House designed by indigenous artists. A visit to the MOA is one of those things to do in Vancouver if you want to learn more about the culture and history of the area.

21. Vancouver Art Gallery, a great activity to do in Vancouver

One of the other cultural things to do in Vancouver is to visit an art gallery. The Vancouver Art Gallery is where you can see the city’s greatest collection of fine art, all nestled in a neoclassical courthouse. It’s the largest public art museum in Western Canada and makes for a nice way to spend a few hours.

The art gallery contains over 10,000 pieces by North American and Vancouver artists. The works span a variety of media, including photographs, paintings, sketches, and ceramics. The facility holds complimentary tours and lectures. Admission is CAD $23 for adults, or by-donation on Tuesdays.

Vancouver Art Gallery, must see museum in Vancouver

21. Vancouver Art Gallery, a great activity to do in Vancouver

Another place to check out some art is at the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG). It offers free admission and works from local, national, and international artists. The exhibitions change throughout the year and range from art installations to photography collections to video content and more traditional media.

You might also want to check out South Granville Street, also known as “Gallery Row.” This strip of road is home to different art and antique stores as well as public art displays. It’s a less formal way to take in the local arts culture and maybe bring home a new piece for your collection.

22. VanDusen Botanical Gardens, a lovely place to go in Vancouver

Another gorgeous outdoor attraction in Vancouver is the VanDusen Botanical Garden. The garden covers 55 acres and houses plants from all over the world, including native Northwest Coast varieties. May is the perfect time of year to visit since both the Laburnum and Rhododendrons are in full bloom. Even so, the garden is open year-round and offers a stunning display of foliage and plant life no matter the season.

Between April and October, you can take a volunteer-guided tour of the grounds via golf cart to learn more about the plant and tree varieties. In the springtime, there is a huge plant sale where you can pick up some blooms like the beautiful blue poppy. The VanDusen Garden is open to the public, and admission ranges from CAD $8 to CAD $12, depending on the season.

VanDusen Botanical Gardens, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Vancouver Canada

22. VanDusen Botanical Gardens, a lovely place to go in Vancouver

Nearby, you can find the Bloedel Conservatory, which sits in Queen Elizabeth Park. The conservatory is an impressive 70-foot dome structure made of plexiglass and measuring 140 feet in diameter. It is separated into three habitats: a tropical rainforest, subtropical rainforest, and desert. Throughout the dome, you’ll see birds flying free, as well as hundreds of species of plants ranging from citrus trees to figs to yucca. Admission costs CAD $5.30.

Taking a stroll around Queen Elizabeth Park is one of the free things to do in Vancouver, BC, and I suggest paying a visit while you’re at the Gardens or Conservatory. You can get a nice view of the grounds from the top of Little Mountain, and the park includes an arboretum, fountains, gardens, and serene resting spots.

23. Pacific Spirit Park, a must-see in Vancouver

For some natural sightseeing in Vancouver, I recommend visiting Pacific Spirit Park. Located near the University of British Columbia, this wide expanse of green space is super accessible and perfect for catching a break from the city’s hustle and bustle.

The park covers over 2,100 acres and offers miles of walking, hiking, and biking paths. If you follow Trail #7, you’ll arrive at Wreck Beach, and there are other trails that can take you to the Spanish Banks or Jericho Beach. Pacific Spirit Park is within close proximity to several tourist attractions such as the UBC Botanical Gardens and Museum of Anthropology, so it’s one of the top-rated places to visit in Vancouver.

Pacific Spirit Park, beautiful places to go in Vancouver

23. Pacific Spirit Park, a must-see in Vancouver

This place has something for everyone and offers plenty of things to do in Vancouver, BC. You could travel along the hiking trails through forests and bogs, or spend some time soaking in the sun at one of the beaches. Besides being accessible for all ages and abilities, the park is free to access. It opens at 7 a.m. and closes around dusk, although hours vary depending on the time of year.

Whether you choose to spend a few hours here or just stroll through on your way to a nearby attraction, you’ll want to check out Pacific Spirit Park. It’s one of the best places to get your nature fix without leaving the city center.

24. Ice hockey match, something you can’t miss in Vancouver

It’s impossible to visit Canada without hearing about hockey. Watching an ice hockey match is a Vancouver must-do if you’re a sports fan. The Vancouver Canucks are the local team here, and they play their home games at the Rogers Arena in the city center.

Ice hockey match, cool activities in Vancouver

24. Ice hockey match, something you can’t miss in Vancouver

The arena not only hosts the Canucks games, but it was also a venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Throughout the year, the facility hosts concerts, UFC events, and WWE matches. So, even if you’re not into ice hockey, there are other fun things to do in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.

If you want to check out other local ice hockey teams, I recommend checking out the Pacific Coliseum, which is about 3.5 miles east of Rogers Arena. Known to locals as the Rink on Renfrew, the Pacific Coliseum hosts several sports teams, and in the past has offered community skating events. It’s one of the things to do in Vancouver if the weather isn’t cooperating!

25. Visit the Canadian Rockies, the best thing to do from Vancouver

As I said during the intro of this article, we did a 2-day layover in Vancouver before our trip to the Canadian Rockies. Actually, for many international travelers, Vancouver is the biggest city they can pass through to reach the Canadian Rockies.

If you’ve never been there, it’s not only one of the best places to visit from Vancouver, but one of the most beautiful destinations worldwide. It will take your breath away.

These mountains include the Alberta Rockies and B.C. Rockies, and it’s no surprise they’ve been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A trip to this area is one of the top things to do in Vancouver, and well worth the traveling. To make things easier, you might consider a guided 5-day tour like this one, which also includes a visit to Monte Creek Winery and Spahats Falls on your way there.

Visit the Canadian Rockies, things to do near Vancouver

25. Visit the Canadian Rockies, the best thing to do from Vancouver

Of course, there are numerous national parks and recreational areas to visit in the Canadian Rockies, and it’s impossible to list them all here. So, you should check our guide for visiting the Canadian Rockies. Still, there are a few places I must recommend.

First are the national parks: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, and Waterton. Banff is where you’ll find gorgeous and world-famous lakes, including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. If you travel along the Icefields Parkway, you can journey into Jasper National Park. This is where you can visit the Athabasca Glacier and Falls, the Columbia Icefield, and Pyramid Mountain. Besides, it’s one of the best places for wildlife spotting in Canada.

Kootenay National Park is home to the Radium Hot Springs and the Sinclair and Marble Canyons. Waterton Lakes National Park borders the state of Montana and features scenic trails and prairies. Yoho National Park is smaller, but has some of the most stunning geology, including Takakkaw Falls, Wapta Falls, Mount Stephen, and Mount Burgess. If you go to Yoho, I recommend stopping by Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge of the Kicking Horse River.

The Rockies may be last on our list, but it’s one of the most exciting adventures to do in Vancouver.

Finally, I’ll conclude this guide with a handy map of Vancouver.

I hope you find our list of what to do in Vancouver useful! This Canadian city is full of activity, but there is no denying its easy-going Pacific Northwest feel. We’d love to know which Vancouver attractions you are most excited to see! Feel free to drop us a comment or reach out if you have any questions.

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Hey there, I'm Ascen, your personal trip planner on a mission to help you craft the most incredible adventure of your life. While I'm based in Las Vegas, you won't find me there often. As a full-time traveler, I'm always on the go, exploring new destinations and capturing the world through my lens. From the enchanting shores of Almeria, Spain, where I grew up, to the far reaches of the globe, I'm here to provide you with detailed travel guides and practical tips to make your trip planning a breeze. Find out more about me here.
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