This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Vancouver is one of the coolest cities in British Columbia – and all of Canada for that matter! It has stunning mountain views, an amazing food scene, and fascinating history and culture. In fact, we love Vancouver so much that we actually moved there!
Most travelers only spend a couple of days in Vancouver. But with so many things to do in Vancouver, it can be hard to pack everything in. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can relax – we’re here to help you! As seasoned Vancouverites, we’ve spent a lot of time not only exploring the city but also playing tour guide to friends and family who visited.
Many of our guests came for 3 days, so we really got a feel for what you can do and see in that time frame. As such, we’ve designed this 3-day itinerary to give you a balanced overview of the city. We made sure to include all kinds of activities from the best cafes and restaurants in Vancouver to fun tours and nature excursions. So if you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, keep reading for a local’s guide on spending 3 days in this fabulous city!
- Day 1 in Vancouver – Vancouver City
- Day 2 in Vancouver – North Vancouver area
- Day 3 in Vancouver
- Other Things to do While You’re in Vancouver
- Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
- Renting a Car in British Columbia
Day 1 in Vancouver – Vancouver City
Breakfast – Jam Cafe
You’re going to need a hearty breakfast for your first day of exploring Vancouver, and there’s really no better place than Jam Cafe.
Their menu will make you feel like you’ve died and gone to brunch heaven. This place serves up southern-style comfort food galore. We’re talking pulled pork pancakes, peanut butter-smothered waffles, and fried chicken french toast. When I went, I ordered the Lavender Latte and a Buffalo Blue Eggs Benedict (the right way to start the morning!).
Jam Cafe has two branches in Vancouver but the Yaletown one is the best. Plus, it’s conveniently located right downtown and you’ll get to check out Yaletown in the process. It’s open from 8 am until 2:30 pm (or 3 pm on weekends), but we recommend getting there as early as possible. This place is incredibly popular, but it’s walk-in only so the early bird gets the jam!
Morning – Granville Island
Now that you’re stuffed full of yummy food, you can head to Granville Island! Although it’s a peninsula, it feels more like an island (or a magical escape from busy city life). It’s known for outdoor sports, awesome restaurants, and shopping. Ultimately, it’s the kind of place you could spend hours walking around and be fully entertained.
To reach Granville Island, you can either take an Aquabus ferry or a taxi. If you’re in the mood to walk off your breakfast, it’s only 2 km (1.25 mi) from Jam Cafe to the Aquabus ferry terminal. But if you’ve slipped into a food coma, take an 8-minute Uber directly to the island instead.
The Aquabus runs from the Hornby Street Dock to Granville Island every 5 minutes from 7:05 am until 8:55 pm. You can buy tickets on the day for $8 CAD roundtrip or $6.50 CAD if you book online. Booking online does save you money, but you don’t need to worry about availability. You can rock up on the same day and rest assured there will be tickets!
Personally, I love taking the Aquabus because it’s such a unique (and very Vancouver) way to get around. Plus, the beautiful views of Vancouver from the water are a big bonus!
Once you get to Granville Island, you can head to the famous Granville Island Public Market. This is the best place to wander leisurely and watch some street performers. I also highly recommend grabbing a drink by the waterfront to enjoy the views of the Vancouver skyline. Honestly, this is just such a nice place to hang out and soak up all the good vibes!
And if you want to explore this area in more depth, then you should definitely take a tour of Granville Island. On this 2-hour walking tour, our guide took us all around the legendary market to learn about Vancouver’s awesome food culture. They shared insider information and got us chatting with all the vendors (and, of course, sampling their food!). In fact, you get to eat so much food on this tour that it’s best to show up with an empty stomach!
This VIP tour costs $129 CAD, including all the exclusive samples and your locally-savvy guide – which is a great deal for all you get. The tour begins at the Granville Market at 10:30 am, and you should definitely wear comfortable walking shoes. These VIP tours are usually available Thursday through Monday, but you can check availability and book your tour online here!
Related Read: Aside from all the goodies you might buy, walking around Granville Island is a free activity. If you’re on a budget or a fan of economic outings, check out our list of free things to do in Vancouver!
There’s a ton to explore at Granville Island Public Market, so you’ll have some time to digest your breakfast as you browse all of the unique artisan wares. And when you’re ready for lunch, you’ve got options! There are tons of great food stalls and restaurants around.
When visiting Granville Island, seafood is the way to go! And if you love lobster, then you have to visit The Lobster Man for a fresh lobster roll served in a brioche bun. It’s located less than 5 minutes walking distance from the market and is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm.
If you prefer a sit-down seafood meal, we recommend eating at The Sandbar. Their lunch menu offers sushi, poké, or seared scallops that are absolutely amazing. It’s on Johnston St. just a few doors down from the market (everything is really close on the island!).
And of course, it would be wrong of us not to recommend a visit to one of our favorite breweries in Vancouver – Granville Island Brewing Co! You can buy their beer all over the country, but there’s nothing like drinking it in the OG brewery itself.
We think that this is some of the best craft beer around and you can try all of the classics, as well as some more experimental limited edition creations. And if you don’t know what to order, you can do a tasting flight of 4 for $12 CAD, or a full map of 10 for $24 CAD. It’s open every day from 12 pm – 8 pm, so it makes a great lunchtime or late afternoon option.
Afternoon – Stanley Park
After seafood and beer, you’ll probably need to stretch your legs outdoors – and Stanley Park is the perfect place! Pretty much all locals agree that spending time in Stanley Park is an absolute must while you’re in Vancouver.
From Granville Island, it’s best to get an Uber to the park (which should take around 15 minutes). Stanley Park is huge at 4 km² (1.4 mi²), and since there are so many things to see and do in Stanley Park, it’s best to explore by bike. Trust us, you can’t walk it all in a single afternoon. You can rent a bicycle from one of the many rental shops at the park entrance, which should cost you around $20 CAD for 1.5 hours.
Stanley Park is also a peninsula, so it’s surrounded by water on 3 sides. As such, you can cycle the famous Seawall, which hugs the coastline and offers incredible views of the mountains, ocean, and Vancouver skyline. The cycle trail is 12 km (7.5 mi) long and takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to bike the loop.
This is definitely one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon in the city. And given how much incredible food there is in Vancouver, the exercise definitely doesn’t hurt!
If you want to cycle the Seawall with a guide, consider joining one of the popular tours of Stanley Park. This chilled-out small group tour is the perfect option. You’ll spend 3 hours cycling the path, checking out attractions like the Brockton Point Totem Poles and the beautiful Third Beach. Plus, you’ll get loads of local tips and info about Vancouver.
It costs $89 CAD for adults or $72 CAD for kids aged 10-17, and you can make things easier by upgrading to an e-bike for an extra $30 CAD. Tours begin at 9 am or 2 pm – but the afternoon options are limited, so check availability and book this tour online here!
If you want to maximize your time on your first day, take this tour of both Granville Island and Stanley Park. You’ll see the highlights of both and get to pass by Gastown and Chinatown on the way. I found this option super convenient because you don’t need to worry about transportation between places – it’s all included!
You can arrange hotel pickup in advance or meet at the Georgian Court Hotel 30 minutes before your scheduled tour. Tours leave at 10 am, 2 pm, and 3 pm. And at $79 CAD for adults and $47 CAD for kids, we think that this tour is really good value for money! But again, the afternoon options sell out fast so book your spot in advance!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
Optional – Vancouver Aquarium
If you’re a fan of sea creatures, you should definitely visit the Vancouver Aquarium. It’s conveniently located right inside Stanley Park.
What I love about this aquarium is that it’s a non-profit conservation project, so you can feel good about visiting! It’s often listed as one of the best aquariums not only in Canada but in the whole world. So if you’re only visiting Vancouver for one day and love sea life, consider adding it to your itinerary.
Unfortunately, you can’t just rock up to the Aquarium on the day. You need to book tickets online and reserve a time slot. Prices vary between $38 and $50 CAD for adults (13-64) and $23-28 CAD for kids, depending on the date and time you choose.
The Aquarium is open 10 am – 5 pm daily. However, we recommend going before 2 pm so that you can see the feedings. Ideally, you could come here before cycling around Stanley Park.
What’s better than watching the sunset at the beach? Not much! And since Vancouver is a coastal city, this is something you can enjoy while you’re in the city!
There are many amazing beaches in Vancouver, but for this activity, we’d go for Sunset Beach – I mean, it’s right there in the name! It’s at the mouth of False Creek, along the Seawall. And from the entrance of Stanley Park, it’s only a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute Uber ride. This is also a quieter beach so it’s perfect for a romantic evening in Vancouver.
English Bay Beach is a long beach in the southernmost section of Stanley Park. It’s a busier park and a popular place to play volleyball in the summer – so if you’re looking for a more upbeat vibe, come here!
English Bay Beach is also a good spot for sundowners. We recommend grabbing food and drinks at the Cactus Club, which looks out over the ocean. They’ve got really good frozen cosmos and jalapeño margaritas and a big food menu with everything from sushi to tacos to steak! They’re open from 11:30 am – midnight, and prices here are pretty reasonable too.
Second Beach is on the southwestern coast of Stanley Park. It’s smaller than English Bay Beach but there’s a heated outdoor pool here which opens seasonally and only costs $7 CAD. When we visited, we watched the sunset while floating in the warm water – such a relaxing way to end a day. But if you don’t feel like swimming, you can still chill on the golden sand and watch the sunset for free!
Last but not least, we think that Kitsilano Beach has the best vibe of all! It’s about 4.3 km (2.7 mi) from Stanley Park, so it takes about 15 minutes to get there in an Uber. From here, you can the Vancouver skyline all lit up with the mountains in the backdrop. There’s also an open-air saltwater pool if you want to swim!
If you do head to Kitsilano, there are many delicious restaurants here! After the sunset, I would definitely go to Danbo Ramen for Vancouver’s best ramen. It’s open daily from 11 am – 11 pm, but you’ll need to wait for a table because it’s always busy. But trust us, it’s so worth it – and at $12-18 CAD for a bowl, it’s cheap, too!
Your first day in Vancouver is almost over, but it wouldn’t be complete without a nice dinner. And believe me when I say this city full of amazing eats.
MeeT is an awesome, socially conscious restaurant in Yaletown with a unique menu offering plant-based comfort food – who knew vegan poutine could be so good? It’s always open from 11 am – 11 pm but closes an hour later Friday and Saturday and opens at 10 am on weekends.
Or if you’re in the mood for Japanese food, head to Minami, one of our favorite sushi joints. Their menu is made by traditionally trained Japanese chefs, so you can be sure you’re getting the real deal here. You can reserve a table online which we recommend doing since this place is pretty popular! They’re open Sunday – Thursday from 12 pm – 9:30 pm and Friday/Saturday from 12 pm – 10 pm.
Meanwhile, DownLow Chicken has incredible crispy fried chicken, and it’s one of our go-tos when we’re in the mood for fast food. They have two locations in Vancouver, one close to UBC and another east of downtown. They’re both open daily from 11 am – 9:30 pm but close at 4:30 pm on Sundays.
And for a livelier vibe, Score on Davie (unsurprisingly on Davie St.) is definitely the place to go. It’s a sports pub serving tacos, burgers, and Asian fusion, but the real draw here is the Caesars. In case you didn’t know, a Caesar is THE quintessential Canadian cocktail. It’s basically a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato juice, which is a mixture of tomato juice and clam broth (we know it sounds weird, but trust us on this one).
If you’re going to try a Caesar while you’re in Vancouver, then you’ve got to do it at Score on Davie. They take it to the next level with their toppings, which include deep-fried mac and cheese balls, hot wings, and even sliders! For $60 CAD you can even order a Big Caesar which comes with a burger, a slider, a hot dog, a brownie, and an entire game hen on top. If it sounds insane, it’s because it is.
Score on Davie is also open till 1 or 2 am, so it’s a good choice if you want to stay out late.
Day 2 in Vancouver – North Vancouver area
Breakfast – Cafe Medina
We’re kicking off Day 2 with breakfast at Cafe Medina, a European-style brunch spot. They’re open daily from 9 am – 3 pm – so you can sleep in a little before enjoying a tasty meal! What I love about their menu is how fresh and satisfying everything is, with options for vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
This spot is popular though, so you should reserve a table in advance. You can book up to two weeks beforehand, although they do hold a few tables for walk-ins. So if you don’t get a reservation, it might still be worth trying your luck! And just a heads up: there’s a $10 CAD per person deposit on weekends and public holidays.
Morning – Lynn Canyon or Capilano Suspension Bridge
You can’t go wrong because both options have stunning scenery. But if we had to choose, we think that Capilano is the more beautiful of the two. However, Lynn Canyon is free so it’s a better option if you’re on a budget.
Lynn Canyon is in North Vancouver and it’s home to lots of well-maintained hiking trails. The top sights here include the gorgeous Twin Falls and the scenic 30 Foot Pool. There’s also a 50-meter (164-foot) high suspension bridge here which offers incredible views over the canyon.
This area has some of the best hikes in Vancouver. The trails are very well marked and connected so you don’t need to be a pro hiker to enjoy exploring the canyon on foot, and we think that it’s a great place for families to visit (although the trails aren’t stroller friendly).
You can take an Uber to Lynn Canyon Park but to be honest, the traffic is so bad that we think you’re better off taking the SeaBus. You can catch it from the Waterfront Station in Gastown to the Lonsdale Quay.
The SeaBus runs like clockwork every 10 minutes during peak times and every 15-30 minutes during non-peak times. Ferries operate Monday to Saturday from about 6 am – 1 am and Sundays from 8 am – 11 pm, and you can check the full Seabus schedule online here. It’s only $4.45 CAD for a ticket or you can grab a day pass (covering all types of public transport) for just $11 CAD, making this a great money-saver!
Once you get to Lonsdale Quay, you can catch the #228 bus and ride to the Lynn Valley Rd Stop. You can also use the TransLink trip planner to figure out the best route and times. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to Lynn Canyon, where your adventure begins!
Related Read: If you have the time, you can stop and enjoy Lonsdale Quay as well. There is plenty to do and see in this area, so read our complete guide to Lonsdale Quay here.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is something of a Vancouver icon. It’s not just a bridge, either, it’s actually a whole area with forested walking trails. My favorite portion of this park is the Cliffwalk, a winding boardwalk hovering high above the ground.
Admission to Capilano Suspension Bridge costs $73 CAD for adults, $42 CAD for teens, and $31 CAD for kids (ages 6-12). The park is open from 9 am – 6 pm daily with the last entry being at 5 pm. However, there’s a limit on visitor numbers, so we definitely recommend booking your tickets in advance!
The tickets are a little pricey, but it’s a beautiful place and only 9 km (5.6 mi) from downtown Vancouver. Plus, you can get there for free on the Capilano Suspension Bridge Shuttle that runs from downtown. The shuttle operates year-round but the schedule changes slightly according to the season. You can check out the schedule on their website and can catch the shuttle from Canada Place, the Hyatt Regency, or the Blue Horizon Hotel.
If you visit Capilano Suspension Bridge instead of Lynn Canyon, then you could have lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant & Bar. It’s perched on a cliff (hence the name) and has really beautiful views, as well as tasty food! And best of all, they have lots of local wine and craft beer to wash it down with. It’s open 10 am – 6:30 pm, so lunch is really the ideal time to come.
Alternatively, you can always head up Grouse Mountain for lunch (and spoiler alert: that’s our next stop anyway!).
We recommend Altitudes Bistro which has a casual vibe with a spectacular view! They offer Canadian pub classics like burgers, sandwiches, and waffles (yum) – and if you’re gluten-free or vegetarian, you’ll find options to fit your needs! To top it off, it’s also not too pricey with most mains between $22-25 CAD. So head here between 12 pm and 9 pm to enjoy a tasty meal overlooking the city.
Afternoon – Grouse Mountain
One thing we loved about living in Vancouver was that we had mountains right in our backyard. On this next stop, you’ll get to visit one of my favorites. There’s so much to do on Grouse Mountain, with stunning views to boot!
To reach Grouse Mountain, you’ll need to take the Skyride gondola up, which is a must-do Vancouver attraction, no matter the time of year! The Grouse Mountain gondola station is just 3.8 km (2.3 mi) from Capilano Suspension Bridge, and you can catch the #232 or #236 buses between the two, which should take about 7 minutes. You can check out the bus schedule and plan your route on the TransLink website.
Skyride tickets to Grouse Mountain cost $81 CAD for adults, $70 for seniors (ages 65+), $59 for teens (ages 13-17), and $42 for kids (ages 5-12). Although it sounds pricey, a lot more is included with your admission! Not only do you get the gondola ride, but you get access to a whole host of entertainment options.
On the mountain, you can see shows and many seasonal attractions included in your entry fee. I personally loved stepping into The Eye of the Wind, a glass-viewing pod inside a wind turbine. Once inside, you’ll have epic views over Vancouver! It’s the perfect photo opp to remember your day.
You’ll find plenty to keep you entertained atop Grouse Mountain. If you’re an animal lover, say hi to some furry friends (including grizzly bears!) at the wildlife sanctuary. But if you prefer something more physical, you can hike, zipline, or play disc golf. When visiting Vancouver in winter, Grouse Mountain is a popular ski destination, but you can also snowshoe, ice skate, or go sledding.
One of our favorite summertime activities in Vancouver (from May to October) is heading up to Grouse Mountain to watch the shows. During the Lumberjack Show, you can see some of Canada’s best fallers throwing axes and rolling logs (with shows at 11:15 am, 2 pm, or 4:30 pm).
Meanwhile, the Birds in Motion show features majestic birds of prey, including Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Red-tailed Hawks. It’s really amazing to see the falconers in action, so head to the animal sanctuary at either 12:45 pm, 3:15 pm, or 5:30 pm to catch the show. Like the Lumberjack show, this is only on during the summer.
If you know you want to visit Grouse Mountain (which you should!), we suggest booking your Skyride ticket ahead of time online.
But if you don’t want to arrange all the logistics, I recommend taking this Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain Tour. Tours include hotel pickup around 10:30 am and cover all transportation and entry tickets to both locations. We felt this 5.5-hour tour gave us just the right amount of organization and freedom, with 1.5 hours at each destination so we could explore on our own.
These tours really take the pressure off planning – which makes it so worth it! One person costs $224 CAD, but this tour does sell out fast, so check availability and book your ticket online here.
Related Read: Grouse Mountain is just one of North Vancouver’s top sights. Further east, you’ll find the beautiful coastal town of Deep Cove, with lots of outdoor activities and cute eateries.
We love a good sunset cruise, especially when it comes with dinner and live music. There are many fun boat tours of Vancouver, but this Harbor Sunset Cruise is definitely the best option! Whether you’re having a romantic evening or traveling with friends or family, it’s an absolute blast!
When we went on the cruise, we got to see many of Vancouver’s top sights from the water. It took us under the famous Lions Gate Bridge and out to Kitsilano (which, as you may remember from earlier, is home to one of our favorite beaches!). We were also treated to a lovely dinner with onboard entertainment.
It’s really beautiful to watch the sun sink over the city and the food is also delicious. It’s a buffet situation that includes salmon, roast beef, salads, and a ton of indulgent desserts. Basically, this is the ultimate way to treat yourself while in Vancouver!
You’ll need to arrive at the Coal Harbour wharf in time for a 7 pm departure. The sunset cruise lasts 2.5 hours and costs $209 CAD, including dinner and entertainment. Drinks cost extra, but it only seemed right to have a glass (or three) of wine as we enjoyed the scenery and live music. It truly is a magical evening, so check availability and book your tour online here!
And if you want to learn ALL the details of this sunset cruise, you can read more about it on our blog here!
Late Night – Keefer Bar
Visiting The Keefer Bar gives you a peek into Vancouver’s Chinatown neighborhood and its nightlife scene in one go. While the city is home to lots of top cocktail bars, none compare to this one! The Keefer Bar was voted not only one of the top 50 bars in North America but also one of the top 3 bars in Canada. People travel from all over Vancouver to check it out and believe me, you should too!
The Keefer Bar serves over 25 unique cocktails and everyone that visits, including me, loves them. Two of my favorite cocktails are Chinatown Sour and Fantasy Island. They also serve fantastic food, although I usually only go for cocktails.
You won’t find this place in many blogs, partly because the locals love to keep it secret. That’s why I needed to move here to discover the real Vancouver!
Keefer Bar is located on Keefer St which makes sense! It’s open nightly from 4 pm – 1 or 2 am. They have live music, DJs, and Happy Hour Friday to Sunday from 4 pm – 6 pm. You can check out their menu and event schedule online here.
Hot Tip: Reservations are highly recommended to visit the Keefer Bar. Plan in advance and book a table a few days ahead of time!
Day 3 in Vancouver
Morning – seaplane or whale watching tour
A Vancouver seaplane flight is always a super exciting experience and a unique way to see the city. You get bird’s eye views of the skyline, the ocean, and the mountains that surround the city. I also loved taking off and landing on the water, which is a pretty thrilling experience in itself!
Vancouver seaplanes are pretty iconic and the city actually has the biggest fleet in North America. Because of this fact, there are lots of different flight options available, so if a seaplane ride is on your bucket list you’ll hopefully be able to find one that fits your budget.
This 20-minute ride takes you over the city and the Olympic Village (which was used for the 2010 Winter Games). It caps off at 7 people, so it gives you a more personalized experience. Starting the day with such spectacular views was really invigorating and made me appreciate Vancouver even more!
You’ll need to arrive at the Harbour Airport 30 minutes before your flight. Tours cost $168 CAD per adult and there are various morning departures per day starting from 8:30 am onward. They also have afternoon options if you prefer to go at a later time. But because this is one of the most budget-friendly options, flights tend to book up fast so we recommend booking well in advance.
There are also full-day experiences available, like this roundtrip scenic flight to Victoria. You’ll have 35 minutes each way, giving you over an hour total in the air. One of my favorite parts of the tour was passing over the Gulf Islands and Mount Baker on the way to Victoria.
This one costs $572 CAD for adults and $303 for kids, including your transport around Victoria. You can see so much with this full-day tour which is why it also sells out fast. So check availability and book your tickets online here.
You didn’t think we forgot about breakfast, did you?!
Since flights usually leave from Coal Harbour on the downtown waterfront, we recommend grabbing a bite here. It’s a pretty cool part of the city with art installations around, like the Digital Orca.
One convenient breakfast spot is the Renaissance Cafe & Bakery which is just a 10-minute walk from the Seaplane Terminal. It has that neighborhood cafe vibe and friendly staff. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8 am – 5 pm and Saturdays 10 am – 5 pm, but it’s closed on Sundays.
Coffee and breakfast followed by a seaplane ride over Vancouver make for an amazing day in the city. We found the seaplane flight super exciting and the views were epic! But we also realize that it’s expensive and not everyone enjoys flying, which is why we have an equally amazing alternative below – whale watching!
Whale watching in Vancouver is one of our most memorable experiences here. And if you’re visiting between May and October, then you have the chance to go too! We’re super passionate about whales and have done a ton of these tours all over the world, but some of our best experiences were at home in Vancouver.
You can go on this half-day whale watching tour around the Gulf and San Juan Islands, which honestly would be worth it for the views alone, but seeing whales makes it 10 times better. We saw lots of humpback whales and orcas when we did the tour, which really was a dream come true.
This 5-hour tour is offered at 8:30 and 2:30 pm, but obviously, you’ll want to book the morning option if you’re following our itinerary! You should be ready to go by 8 am at the meeting spot behind Bridges Restaurant. Once onboard, you get free hot drinks to warm you up while marine experts teach you all about these amazing creatures.
The tour costs around $225 CAD and comes with a lifetime guarantee, so if you don’t spot any whales, you can repeat the experience as many times as needed. So if whale watching is more your thing, book your ticket online here!
Seaplane and whale watching combo
But, if you can’t decide between a seaplane flight or whale watching, you don’t have to! For a truly incredible day out, you can have both on this Victoria Seaplane and Whale Watching Tour!
This full-day tour meets at the Seaplane Terminal where you’ll experience a water take-off and begin your adventure. You’ll see all the beautiful sights between Vancouver and Victoria. What I enjoyed about this tour is we got to go whale watching in Victoria as well as explore this beautiful city.
For $604 CAD, you’ll get a scenic flight, whale watching, and a chance to explore Victoria. When booking the cruise, you also get to choose between an open-topped Zodiac or a covered Ocean Cruiser. Unfortunately, this tour only operates from March to October and does sell out. So if you’re visiting during this period, book your full-day experience online!
Related Read: Victoria is an awesome city worth visiting on its own. So if you’d like to spend more time there, read about how to get from Vancouver to Victoria here.
Day/early afternoon – Gastown
Gastown is the heart and soul of Vancouver. In fact, it was actually the original settlement that the city was built around, and it’s got a super interesting history. Gastown got its name from Jack Deighton aka “Gassy Jack”, a saloon owner who got sawmill workers to build a bar for him in exchange for whisky.
This neighborhood has definitely been through the wringer, from fires to demolition plans and a myriad of social issues. It was once the red light district of Vancouver. Now it’s celebrated for its old-world charm and amazing food scene.
Gastown is within walking distance of downtown Vancouver. If you’re coming from further out, you can take the sea bus, SkyTrain, or metro to Waterfront Station and then walk from there.
There are many things to do in Gastown, but eating and drinking top the list! There are tons of incredible restaurants in Gastown. To start your day, enjoy a mimosa-filled brunch at Twisted Fork with tasty French fare, local beer, and breakfast cocktails. This upscale bistro serves brunch every day from 9 am – 3 pm but is open til 10 pm Thursdays to Saturdays.
If Italian is more your vibe, indulge in some delicious fresh pasta at Di Beppe. You can pick from great antipasti, pizzas, and pasta any day from 11:30 am – 10 pm.
For craft beer, our place of choice is the Steamworks Brewpub. The incredible location overlooks the harbor, so you get a view while sipping a local beer or enjoying brunch. They are open Monday to Friday at 11:30 am and weekends at 11 am, staying open till midnight or later. And if you’re like us and just can’t wait, check out their menu options and tap beers online!
If you just can’t decide where to start, this 2.5-hour food tour will take you to all of the top culinary spots. So bring your appetite and get ready to stuff your face with the best of Gastown’s cuisine. You should also wear comfy walking shoes while exploring the neighborhood and learning all about its history from your friendly guide.
Tours start at 1:45 or 2:45 pm from the Waterfront Station. It costs $125 CAD per person and we definitely think we got our money’s worth with all of the incredible food and drink we had! So if you’re a foodie, you should definitely book this tour online here!
But Gastown is about more than just food and drink. You should definitely go and check out the Steam Clock, which is right on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. There are actually only a few steam clocks in the world that still work and this is one of them! It puffs out steam every 15 minutes so stick around to watch it in action.
There are also lots of cool independent shops and boutiques along Water Street and Cordova Street where you can grab souvenirs for your friends and family (or just buy presents for yourself, we won’t judge!).
Gastown has a super dark history, so you can also get into the spirit with this murder mystery adventure. We loved this tour since we got to play detective and race around the streets solving crimes. It passed by top locations like the Steam Clock and the Vancouver Lookout, so we got to see sights while playing the game.
There are 6 starting times between 11 am – 6 pm, and you can play in groups of 2-5 people. When we went, we had so much fun and felt like the $38 CAD per person was well worth it. If you’re into interactive sightseeing or just something different, book your murder mystery adventure online here!
The murder mystery tour ends at the Vancouver Lookout. But even if you don’t book it, you should still visit this iconic spot! It definitely has that wow factor, offering amazing views over downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, the North Shore Mountains, and the Burrard Inlet (which you can see in the picture above).
It’s just a few minutes walk from Gastown and is open from 11 am – 6 pm daily. Adult entry is $18.25 CAD while students and children (ages 6-17) are $13.25 CAD. You can buy a ticket and check the schedule on the Vancouver Lookout website.
Related Read: If you have a bit more time in the city, check out our 4-day Vancouver itinerary for even more ideas!
Night – Dinner in Gastown
If you can’t already tell, we’re pretty obsessed with Gastown’s food scene. We often came to the neighborhood for dinner when we were living in Vancouver and basically ate our way through all of the best restaurants!
For a romantic dinner, head to Rodney’s Oyster House for, well, oysters! Their menu also has amazing New England Clam Chowder. They’re open Wednesday to Saturday from 4 pm – 10 pm and Sundays from 2 pm – 8 pm, and you can make a reservation online just to be safe!
We also love the burgers at Black Frog which are great value for your money. Located by the Steam Clock, it’s a good place to go if you get hungry while sightseeing. This casual spot offers pints on tap and sports on TV. It opens on weekdays at 11:30 am and weekends at noon and closes between 12 am – 2 am.
And if you’re in the mood for sushi, then head to Momo for some really great sushi at an affordable price. Vancouver is a city of great sushi, but Momo’s menu and food quality really stand out for us! It’s open every day from 11 am to 9 pm, but table seating is limited so you might want to get there early.
Of course, if you took Gastown’s Historic Food Tour, you’re probably not going to get hungry again until late. So, you might want to wait and eat in the neighborhood wherever you’re staying in Vancouver.
Full-day tour to Whistler
Whistler is a gorgeous mountain town just 90 minutes from Vancouver. It’s renowned for winter sports but is stunning year-round. So if you’ve heard of it and always wanted to visit, you can scrap the day in Gastown and go on a day tour to Whistler instead!
This full-day Whistler tour is the best option and hits all the top spots along the Sea to Sky Highway connecting Vancouver to Whistler. I loved this tour because I got to explore Shannon Falls Provincial Park, take the Sea to Sky Gondola for an epic view, and also have time to explore the charming Whistler village.
Whistler is bursting with winter activities and is a world-class ski destination. And if you visit Whistler in the summer, it’s an outdoor playground with lots of great hikes, ziplining tours, ATV adventures, and scenic golf courses. Plus, the village itself is super cute, with lots of independent boutiques and galleries. And if you love cafe-hopping (like me!), you can check out some of Whistler’s cutest cafes and coffee shops.
I appreciate that this 10-hour tour starts at a reasonable hour (around 9 am) and includes hotel pickup. The $214 CAD price covers all transportation, the gondola ticket, and your knowledgeable guide – but bring extra money for food and any souvenirs.
It’s a really fun and convenient way to see Whistler, especially if you don’t have time to stay overnight. And you’ll be back in Vancouver just in time for a delicious final dinner in the city! So to experience this incredible day trip from Vancouver, just pick your date and book online here!
Related Read: If you enjoy tours, but prefer to stick to Vancouver, check out the best Vancouver city tours here!
Other Things to do While You’re in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city filled with tons of things to do and see. So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities:
- Explore Kitsilano – One of our favorite areas in all of Vancouver is Kitsilano. This suburb is super trendy and has many cute stores, cafés, and restaurants that are well worth checking out. On top of that, Kitsilano Beach is one of the best beaches in Vancouver and the perfect place to relax. It’s also our favorite place to watch the sunset.
- Hiking – There are a ton of amazing hikes in and around Vancouver. Challenge yourself with the famous Grouse Grind, wander the trails near the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, or even drive towards Squamish and do The Chief.
- Visit the Richmond Night Market – If you have energy at the end of your day, check out the Richmond Night Market! Happening Friday – Sunday nights from May through October, this market has some of the most interesting cuisine in the city, from funky Asian fusion to classic Canadian dishes. You can also buy local handmade goods and cheap clothes or let the kids enjoy carnival games and a bouncy castle.
- Check out craft breweries – Vancouver’s craft beer scene is booming! We already mentioned a few top Vancouver breweries on this list, but a brewery tour can help you try many more. For a self-guided tour, Mt Pleasant is the heart of Vancouver’s brewery scene where you’ll find Faculty Brewing Co., Tree Brewing Co., and Main Street Brewing Co. But to drink like a local, we definitely recommend this behind-the-scenes craft beer tour.
Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada! If you’re coming for three days, you’ll want to stay somewhere central to maximize your time.
Regardless of what time of year you visit, accommodations can fill up fast. So check out our full blog on where to stay in Vancouver or some of our favorite places below and make sure to book your stay well in advance.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – $$$
The Hyatt Regency is situated right in the middle of all of the activities on this list. Rooms are spacious, super clean, and have floor-to-ceiling windows with awesome views of downtown Vancouver. The hotel has everything you could need on site including a gym, business center, heated pool and hot tub, bar, restaurant, and even a Starbucks to start your mornings! There are suites and rooms of all types with prices starting around $300. To book this top-notch luxury stay, check availability online here!
Times Square Suites – $$
Times Square Suites is a beautiful hotel close to both Stanley Park and the Seaplane Terminal – two stops on our itinerary! There’s a free gym nearby and a rooftop patio with great views of the surrounding area. We stayed in their one-bedroom suite, and had a super restful sleep thanks to their plush beds! Rooms start as low as $202 CAD when booked well in advance online.
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – $
The Cambie Hostel is a great budget choice for backpackers and travelers looking to stay in the heart of Gastown. It’s close to many of Gastown’s best restaurants, and there’s also a great bar attached to the hostel. The bathrooms are a bit cramped, but the rooms are clean, there’s free Wi-Fi, and the staff are really friendly and helpful. Rooms here start at $110 CAD so book ahead on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com to snag this deal!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Vancouver is such an amazing city, and I love playing tour guide to my friends and family that visit! It has really helped me narrow down the best activities for a 3-day trip. As such, I hope this itinerary comes in handy when planning your vacation too!
If you enjoyed this blog, check out my other articles about Canada. I cover everything from location guides to the best road trips across the country. Below is a sampling of just some of the topics I write about. Thanks for reading and safe travels!