Stanley Park is the largest “urban” park in North America (slightly bigger than Manhattan’s Central Park) so while it is a great place for a walk, it is probably an even better place for a bike ride or a bike tour. You can also get a one-hour horse-drawn tour of Stanley Park. I say this from experience. Combine shoes that are not broken in and trekking all over the park and you can, like me, end up with blisters that hobble you for the rest of your trip.
Calling Stanley Park an urban part seems a bit silly because while Central Park has buildings on all 4 sides, Stanley Park is almost completely surrounded by water. There are great views from the park of bridges, barges, boats, and even sightseeing seaplanes that take off and land every few minutes between the park and nearby Canada Place.
One of the more popular features of the part is a collection of First Nation’s totem poles. Near that collection is Vancouver’s Girl in a Wetsuit statue. This statue is often found wearing more than just a wetsuit like this Vancouver Canucks jersey.
Stanley Park is also the home of the Vancouver Aquarium.
When we first visited Vancouver for the 1986 World Expo, with 300,000 of our closest friends, we stayed in the Chinatown neighborhood. It has a few rough edges but Vancouver has a vibrant Asian population. One site I have not yet seen is the Chinatown Night Market which is supposed to be reminiscent of the night markets in Hong Kong and other Chinese cities.
For great upscale Chinese food try the Bao Bei restaurant.
Granville Island is best known for its large and delicious public market, its many restaurants, and its artist workshops. For me, a visit to a glass-blowing workshop is the most memorable experience, but the market is not just a gastronomic tour de force but also a photographic one. You can take an organized food tour of Granville Island or just make your own!
False Creek Ferries
Part of the fun of Granville Island is getting there. The best way to get there is by crossing False Creek on one of the False Creek Ferries. These tiny ferries look like a child’s bathtub toy, but the waters of False Creek are sheltered and the ride is enjoyable. Back in 1986 the area north of False Creek from Granville Island was the home for the World Expo but is now mostly residential neighborhoods.
Two buildings left over from the 1986 Expo are the Canada and British Columbia pavilions. With its distinctive sail-like roof Canada Place is now the convention center and cruise ship terminal. The geodesic dome of the old British Columbia pavilion is now a great hands-on Science Museum located near False Creek.
The rise of a great food truck, food cart culture in Vancouver is relatively new. When I was last in Vancouver I ate great gourmet tacos from a food truck and a to die for chicken and gravy sandwich from a food cart. Food trucks can come and go in more ways than one so a great resource for tracking down your new favorite in Vancouver is the Street Food App (http://streetfoodapp.com/vancouver)
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
You can hope a free shuttle bus from the Canada place (where the cruise ships stop) to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park which is a bouncy bridge that crosses a picturesque gorge north of the city. You can also buy a ticket with a shuttle pickup. They also have both a cliff walk and a treetop walk which makes the visit more worth the price of admission. Those who have a fear of heights should skip this stop.
Nearby Grouse Mountain is the “most hiked mountain in the world”. The climb is 850 meters and is a strenuous climb. For those not inclined to inclines, you can ride the gondola, the Skyride, up to the mountain instead.
If mountains are your pleasure then I would recommend a side trip from Vancouver to Whistler. Whistler is a popular ski resort but it is fun (and cheaper) in the summer as well when you can take the lifts up to climb on the mountains or see the glacier on the far side of the mountain.
Gastown is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhoods and still retains some of its charms. The best-known feature in Gastown is a steam-powered clock but it is the restaurants, shops, and galleries that are the real attraction. The neighborhood is named after ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton a former British sailor and the owner of the neighborhood’s first saloon. I am not sure I want to know how he got that nickname. Canada.com has a great gallery walk to use to explore Gastown.
You can make a quick stop to see the Gastown Steam clock or you can take a walking tour of Gastown like a food tour if you have more time.
This busy shopping and dining street is also the first place that I ever saw two Starbucks across the intersection from each other. If the weather is nice a few of the restaurants in the area have rooftop dining.
Vancouver Island and the Straight of Georgia
Just across the Straight of Georgia from Vancouver is beautiful Vancouver Island and the stately city of Victoria. Consider extending your trip to visit Victoria also. Or at least think about doing a whale watching tour from Vancouver to get out on the water.
To learn more listen to the episode we did on Vancouver: Travel to Vancouver, British Columbia – Amateur Traveler Episode 739.
Flights to Vancouver arrive at Vancouver International Airport. The easiest way into Vancouver from the airport is via the airport’s rapid transit rail link. Trains will get you from the airport to downtown in 26 minutes and run every 7 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes off-peak.