When I was eighteen, doe-eyed and naive to the world of travel, I boarded my first ever solo international flight. The destination: Canada.
This country had me captivated from day one. With its white snow-capped mountains, infectious love of hockey, and stunning first nations art and history, I was hooked. Two years later, I packed up my life and returned on a working holiday visa.
I lived in the heart of Vancouver for six months, exploring the best things to do in Vancouver. Then, I spent another three years between Whistler and Vancouver.
Now, as I write this, I sit in a little town just north of Vancouver. This city, with its mountain-filled horizons, epic dining, vibrant city life and wild natural landscapes, has always left me wanting to come back for more.
While it is often best known as the international arrival port to the popular Whistler Mountain resort (just two hours north of Vancouver), there are so many fun things to do in Vancouver without leaving the city.
From all my years exploring this lively urban jungle, I have narrowed down my absolute best experiences in this western Canadian hub. If you are wondering what to do in Vancouver, wonder no more.
From dining, arts, and truly magnificent outdoor adventures, let’s dive into the top things to do in Vancouver.
Other blog posts you might be interested in…
- The best things to do in Canada: the ultimate bucket list
- North America: the ultimate travel guide
- A guide to planning a British Columbia road trip
- How to budget for a road trip through the Canadian Rockies
- A 7-day Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary: Banff, Jasper & Yoho National Parks
- The best things to do in Jasper National Park
- 12 reasons you should visit the Kootenay Rockies
- A 1-week road trip itinerary for the Kootenay Rockies
- The best things to do in Banff National Park in summer
- The best things to do on Vancouver Island
- My top things to do in Vancouver in summer
The best things to do in Vancouver..
1. Bike around Stanley Park
Biking in Vancouver is a way of life. City streets are lined with bike paths winding their way through every nook and cranny – making traversing this city a genuine joy. Wondering what to do in Vancouver on a bike? One of the best places to explore by bike (not to mention one of the most fun things to do in Vancouver!) is Stanley Park.
This green oasis is the Vancouver equivalent of Central Park in New York City. With over 400 hectares of West Coast rainforest, mountain views and the famous seawall – a bike is the only real way to experience it all. Don’t have a bike? Try Evo. Simply download the app, find a bike rack, unlock and go! This is easily one of the best things to do in Vancouver in the summer.
2. Visit Grouse Mountain
Whether you are looking for things to do in Vancouver in the winter or things to do in Vancouver in the summer, Grouse is a year-round must-do. In the summer months, tick off the Grouse Grind, locally known as ‘mother nature’s Stairmaster’. This 2.5km trail winds its way up the face of Grouse Mountain and is one of the best things to do in Vancouver to get your heart pumping. Just make sure to purchase your Skyride trip down the mountain before you head off (downhill walking isn’t permitted).
In the winter months, Grouse Mountain transforms into a local skiing hill. This is a great beginner hill and a way to get that skiing fix for anyone who is looking for things to do in Vancouver in winter. If you are looking for a little more of a challenge (and don’t mind the drive), I would highly recommend venturing up to Whistler Blackcomb for a ski weekend. With two mountains, hundreds of trails and only two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler is by far one of the best places to visit in Canada to go skiing. That being said, regardless of where you choose to adventure, skiing is by far one of the most fun things to do in Vancouver and a must-do when deciding what to do in Vancouver.
3. Explore Granville Island
Granville Island is home to some of the best markets and dining in Vancouver. Best of all, this waterfront, urban location makes shopping feel like an event. Stop by the public market (open daily from 9 am – 7 pm) to wander among the deli, seasonal produce, international cuisines, and countless speciality stores. Your taste buds will thank you for it!
4. Visit the Vogue theatre
The Vogue Theatre is a timeless piece of Vancouver’s arts scene located in the Granville Entertainment District. As one of the last remaining theatres from Vancouver’s ex-theatre row, this 1940’s theatre is both visually and culturally iconic.
On my first visit to Vancouver, I lined up on the frosty side-walk underneath the neon red sign with a few hundred other people to watch a gold-coin donation showing of the Christmas classic Love Actually for the local food drive. As we piled into the theatre, I was catapulted back in time by this theatre’s high ceilings and velvet decor. Be sure to look up the schedule when you’re in town and experience this iconic theatre for yourself. It was easily one of my favourite downtown experiences and one of the best things to do in Vancouver.
5. Drive the Sea-to-sky Highway
Just beyond Vancouver is the Sea-to-Sky Highway. This highway is the route to Whistler, the beautiful Garibaldi Provincial Park, and endless nature and hikes. Winding alongside the deep blues of Howe Sound, this drive offers panoramic views of the water and mountains that are bound to have you in awe.
This is easily one of the best places to visit in Canada for spectacular driving views. If you have a car rental and are wondering what to do in Vancouver and beyond, I would highly recommend a day trip (or two!).
6. Walk on a suspension bridge
Vancouver has two suspension bridges: Capilano Suspension Bridge and Lynn Canyon. Capilano Suspension Bridge is by far the most popular and crosses the Capilano River in North Vancouver. Suspended 70-metres above the river and traversing a 140-metre-wide canyon, this is a great place to face your fears and explore the local forests to learn about the different flora in the area. The downside? This spot is quite touristy (drawing over 1.2 million tourists annually) and costs around $63 CAD.
If you prefer exploring little off-the-beaten-path local spots, check out the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. This bridge offers beautiful views without the price tag. In fact, this suspension bridge is completely free. In addition to the scenic suspension bridge, there is also a great little swimming spot just around the corner called the 30 Foot Pool.
Coming here to cool off in the icy water on a summer day can not be missed. Pack your swimmers, a towel and a few snacks for an afternoon of riverside relaxation. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Vancouver in the summer. Don’t want to choose? Why not do both?
7. Go to a Canucks game at Rogers Arena
You have not experienced Canada unless you have seen the wild chaos of a hockey game. What better place to do so than at the home arena of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Game tickets start at around $35 CAD (depending on seating and the time of year). This is one of the best places to visit in Canada to catch a game if you’re in the area.
8. Go to Deep Cove
Whenever anyone asks me what to do in Vancouver, my response is always the same: go to Deep Cove. When I first moved to Vancouver, I landed a job working in Deep Cove. When I realized how far out of the city it was, I reluctantly caught two buses from downtown Vancouver to get there. After an hour or so, I arrived in a small little town overlooking a bay, and I immediately knew I had stumbled on Vancouver’s best-kept secret.
This place is full of small-town charm, just a stone’s throw from the city. The trek is absolutely worth it. One of the best things to do in Deep Cove is to do the Quarry Rock hike. After a beautiful hike under the forest canopy, you will emerge to picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and the city in the distance. This hike is around 3.8 km long and takes around 1.5-2 hours return.
Once you have made your way back into town, grab a doughnut from Honey Doughnuts – these are unbelievably good to the point that you will likely forget to take a photo of them (like I did). If the weather is too warm for a doughnut, grab a gelato from Deep Cove Ice Cream Cafe instead. If you have a bit more time, I recommend getting here early in the morning and renting a kayak to explore the bay. This is frequently rated as one of the best places to visit in Canada for kayaking. A single kayak rental costs around $45 CAD for two hours, which is plenty to get a feel for the area. This is easily one of the most fun things to do in Vancouver, BC!
9. Dine at Dark Table
Have you ever watched the movie About Time? If you have, chances are you have dreamed about dining in the dark. Luckily you can tick off this bucket list experience at Dark Table in Kitsilano. Based in the waterfront suburb of Kitsilano, you begin this dining experience by choosing your meal with the host.
Then, a blind server will come and lead you into a pitch-black room to your table. Push your comfort zone as you blindly taste meals put in front of you and try to guess the ‘mystery dish. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Vancouver for anyone looking for unique, one-off experiences.
10. Stop by Gastown
Gastown is the original birthright of Vancouver and the oldest commercial district in Vancouver. If you’re stuck on what to do in Vancouver, simply make your way to Gastown and walk around – there is so much to explore in this little corner of the city. Step back in time as you wander down cobbled streets, window shop in the vintage boutique stores, and feast at one of the many eateries. Gastown is also revered for its beer scene and is studded with micro-breweries, bars and cocktail joints.
Most importantly, a visit to Gastown wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Gastown steam clock. This is one of only a few working steam clocks in the world. Every quarter of an hour, this steam clock shows off and puts on a whistle and steam show for lucky onlookers. While it is a bit gimmicky and touristy, I still recommend this as one of the best things to do in Vancouver.
There you have it, my top recommendations of what to do in Vancouver. Vancouver is a special city. With stunning hikes, natural beauty and entertainment galore, it’s no wonder why it is so often ranked as one of the best places to visit in Canada.
Are there any best places to visit in Canada that you would like to read about next?
Are there any other top things to do in Vancouver, things to do in Vancouver in winter or things to do in Vancouver in summer that we missed? Any other fun things to do in Vancouver or in the surrounding area that you would add?
Love as always and happy adventuring…
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