33 of the Absolute BEST Things to do in Vancouver
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Vancouver is one of Canada’s more vibrant cities. For outdoor enthusiasts, adventure lovers, or even those who are interested in food and culture, Vancouver has something exciting to offer – the trick is knowing where to look!
Being from Canada, I have been Vancouver several times. Each time I visit I cross a few different activities off my “to do” Vancouver bucket list. This time, I spent a couple of weeks exploring Vancouver and really dived into all of the different activities all around the city. Some were great, and some were well, not so great.
After all of my Vancouver adventures, I’ve come up with this list of the 33 best things to do in Vancouver. This list is composed of the most exciting, unique and absolute best-rated ways to spend some time in Vancouver.
And since so many call Vancouver “expensive” (and it can be) I have also included many activities which are cheap or even free things to do in Vancouver – so even those on a budget can enjoy this amazing city!
1. Bike the Seawall in Stanley Park
This is number one on my list simply because it is the most iconic thing to do in Vancouver city. Stanley Park is one of Canada’s most famous parks and it is conveniently located right in the heart of the city.
Stanley Park itself is over 4km² – it’s pretty big! You can walk around the park but it would take a long time. That is why bicycling in Stanley Park has become so popular. In particular, people cycle along the seawall which has an allocated bicycle lane.
The seawall wraps all the way around the outer edge of Stanley Park along the water’s edge. During the entire ride you’ll get amazing views and even be able to stop at a beach (or two) for a break and swim.
The cycle trail around the Stanley Park sea wall is 12 kilometers long and takes about 1.5-2 hours to cycle at a moderate pace. There are many different bicycle shops near the entrance to Stanley Park where you can rent a bike. Expect to pay around $20 CAD for an hour and a half of riding.
You can also just join a bicycle tour in Vancouver. This particular bicycle tour includes cycling around Stanley Park, but also includes going to a few other main attractions such as Gastown, Chinatown, and taking the Aqua Ferry over to Granville Island! And the best part? It is a full-day guided tour that doesn’t cost much more than you would pay for bicycle rental for the day!
2. Go on a Brewery Tour
The craft beer scene in Canada is booming and Vancouver is a huge part of it! Around Vancouver, there are several different breweries that you can visit and try some of their locally made craft beer.
I personally love Granville Island Brewing. Not only do they have great beer and are located on Granville Island (a must-visit place in Vancouver) they also offer brewery tours. Tours run every day throughout the day and cost $12 per person. This fee not only covers you guided tour of the brewery but also a tasting flight of beer at the end!
For real beer lovers though you need to go to more than just one Vancouver brewery. This craft beer and food tour takes you to a handful of different breweries around the city where you can try tons of beer all while eating at the same time. Sounds like a fun time if you ask me!
3. Join a Food Tour
Foodies will love Vancouver. There is so much amazing food to try, however, it can be hard to know where to even start. A food tour will let you in on all of the best local spots for amazing food.
When we went on a food tour in Vancouver we tried everything from Sushi to poutine to ice cream (and more!) Our guide was a Vancouver local who had a passion for food and was excited to show us all of his favorite restaurants that took him years to discover.
We went on our tour with Secret Food Tours and it was awesome (we personally recommend these guys.) However, there are a few different food tour companies to choose from. Booking online in advance is also a great idea during the summer and winter peak tourist times!
4. Capilano Suspension Bridge
Visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge is another iconic Vancouver activity. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is located only a 20-minute drive from Vancouver city center. Here, you can walk the treetop walk and cross the world-famous Capilano suspension bridge.
You only need an hour or two to explore here and the entrance fee is $56 for adults. They also run a free shuttle from downtown so you don’t have to worry about getting there!
You can skip the line and guarantee your spot on the free shuttle if you buy your tickets in advance online here.
5. Go kayaking in False Creek
False Creek has very calm waters and offers some incredible views of Vancouver city including the Stadium. From Kitsilano, you can jump on a kayak and explore False Creek on a nice leisurely ride.
In False Creek it is also common to see seals! If you’re lucky they may swim up not too far from your kayak! But besides seals, you’ll also be able to spot a variety of birds and fish.
You can choose to either rent your kayaks on an hourly rate of $20 for a single, or you can join a scheduled kayaking tour with a guide. This particular kayaking tour goes for 2.5 hours, costs less than $50 CAD, and departs every morning at 9 am from Wednesday to Sunday!
6. Explore Deep Cove and climb Quarry Rock
North Vancouver is gorgeous. Many tourists never actually venture as far as North Vancouver, but in my opinion, they should!
The area of Deep Cove is located across the harbor only about a half an hour drive from Vancouver city. It is also easily reached by public transport.
In Deep Cove, you’ll find cute cafes, restaurants, art galleries, and a waterfront park that you could easily spend a few hours relaxing at.
Just next to the park is the Quarry Rock hiking trail. This short hike only takes about 2 hours both ways and is about 7 kilometers long. The trail is well maintained but does offer some tougher sections of steep inclines or even stairs.
At the end of the trail, you’ll end at Quarry Rock – a large rock with incredible views of the surrounding mountains and Vancouver city.
This hike is short and beautiful and well worth doing if you have the chance. However, it can get very busy with both tourists and locals. I recommend visiting first thing in the morning in order to avoid the crowds as much as possible!
You can also book a tour that includes visiting deep cove. This north Vancouver tour goes not only to Deep Cove, but also Capilano Suspension Bridge, English Bay, Stanley Park, and more!
7. All you can eat Japanese BBQ
This one is another one for foodies (or even those who just like to eat!) Often, all you can eat restaurants sacrifice quality for quantity.
But not this diamond in the rough.
Shabusen Japanese restaurant offers extremely high-quality food in their all you can eat selection. It is a local “secret” as not only is the food amazing, but you only pay $20 CAD!
What I particularly like about this all you can eat Japanese is that it isn’t a buffet. You actually order everything you want, and if you didn’t order enough the first time around then you can just keep ordering more!
The food on offer is a selection of sushi, sashimi, meats, traditional Japanese dishes like dumplings and gyros, salad, noodles, and BBQ! They also have a BBQ in the middle of your table so you actually cook your own BBQ meats exactly how you want. This unique little feature makes this restaurant more of an activity or experience rather than just a place to eat.
8. Sea to Sky Gondola
We absolutely loved the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. The views were out of this world and the gondola ride was very affordable considering how far up the mountain it took us! For only $45 CAD you can catch the gondola up to a ridge next to Mount Habrich.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located in Squamish about a 45-minute drive from Vancouver. The drive itself is very scenic and a thing to do on its own. If you don’t have your own transport, there are also day tours available from Vancouver.
Check out this tour from Vancouver that includes transport to and from the Sea to Sky Gondola, a stop at Shannon Falls, as well as your entrance fee for only $100!
9. Drink in Gastown
Gastown is one very unique neighborhood in Vancouver. Not only is it the oldest area in Vancouver (it has the cobblestoned streets to prove it) it is also one of the trendiest. The old European-style streets are lined with pubs and patios perfect for enjoying a happy hour drink.
If you want a cheap place to drink, check out the Cambie who has $3 happy hour deals. If you want a delicious cocktail that is a bit pricier but totally worth it, check out The Diamond cocktail bar right on Powell Street.
10. Visit Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is a mountain located right in Vancouver. You can either take the cable car to the top or hike the trail called “The Grind”. From the top, you’ll get views of Vancouver as well as have access to a variety of different activities.
Some of the most popular activities include the Wildlife Refuge (where you can usually see Grizzly Bears), the Lumber Jack show, zip-lining, ropes course, and there are even restaurants! So, why not make a day of it and enjoy the top of Grouse Mountain!
Skip the line and buy you admission tickets to Grouse Mountain (including the gondola ride and other included activities and shows) online here!
11. Rent a speed boat in Coal Harbor
Coal Harbour is a gorgeous place, but it’s even more beautiful from out on the water! Get a group of people together and rent a speed boat for a couple of hours. You don’t even need a boat license to drive, the rental company actually issues you a temporary one!
It costs about $200 for a two-hour rental in a speed boat that can have up to 6 people. Two hours is the minimum amount of time I would recommend as this way you can actually get out and explore. In the two hours we rented the boat for we actually got all the way out to Indian Arm!
It was a fun afternoon and something I really recommend especially if you’re traveling in a group!
12. Attend a festival or event
There always seems to be something going on in Vancouver. Festivals, shows, events, you name it! Some of the most popular annual events include the pride festival, music festival, and film festival. But there are literally hundreds more!
We actually went to the Greek Festival and there were just blocks and blocks of vendors! There was tons of food, performers, and different stalls to check out.
Check out what’s going on in Vancouver on the tourism website.
13. Check out some markets
Markets are a popular thing for locals to do in Vancouver. There are some markets that are seasonal, some that focus on fresh produce, and some that focus on cooked food.
One market that operates from May to October which has become famous is the Richmond Night Market. Every night from 7 pm dozens of vendors sell food and other goodies. According to locals, the food is just as good (if not better than) as the food from Asia itself! There are also games and entertainment to keep you busy.
The Richmond Night Market is located on 8351 River Road – one block away from Bridgeport Station on the Canada Line. It costs $4.75 per adult for an entrance fee.
14. Explore Granville Island
No trip to Vancouver is complete without checking out Granville Island. On Granville Island, there are a few different things to do and explore. My personal favorite though is the markets.
The markets offer fresh produce, meat and fish, souvenirs, as well as many stalls where you can have a tasty meal. There is literally so much food at the Granville Island Markets; it’s a great place to go for lunch!
Other things to do on Granville Island include shopping, watching street performers, going to the Kids Markets, or even checking out the brewery.
You can get to Granville Island with a taxi or bus, but the most popular (and most fun) way to get to Granville is riding the Aqua Bus Ferry from the city center. The ferry runs continually throughout the day and will pick you up from a couple of different stops in the city and take you right to Granville Island. The ferry costs $5 and only accepts cash. Not only is it a method of public transport – it’s a fun thing to do on its own!
15. Go to the Science Center
The Science Centre in Vancouver is highly rated and really interesting. To me, it’s the perfect thing to do in Vancouver on a rainy day!
Located right in the city, the Science Center offers a range of different exhibits, shows, and interactive displays guaranteed to keep you busy for a couple of hours.
Entrance costs $27.15 for an adult, but if you want to watch and IMAX film it’ll be an additional $6.50. They also offer discounted rates or seniors, children, and students (with ID).
Hours of operation vary seasonally so be sure to check out the Science Center website before for their opening hours and what’s on that day!
16. Wander Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Located on the outskirts of Chinatown in Vancouver city center, there is a beautiful Chinese Garden well-worth a wander. The gardens are relatively small and only a couple minutes to walk around, but make for a great photo opportunity.
Entrance to the main gardens is free, but don’t get confused by the admission desk! There is a private section to the gardens that you must pay $14 per person to enter. To me, the free section is nice enough so I don’t recommend paying to check out the other section.
The gardens are located on 578 Carrall Street.
17. Day trip to Whistler
If you’ve never been to Whistler before, it’s about time to go! Whistler is the cutest little town that’s famous for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking and mountain biking in the summer! But, there are so many things to do in Whistler that you’re guaranteed to find something fun to do! In fact, just wandering along the pedestrian street in the Village is a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
It takes about 2 hours to get from Vancouver to Whistler driving. You drive along the Sea to Sky Highway which is a very scenic drive – you’ll likely stop a lot for photos so allow extra time. If you think its a little rushed then consider staying a night or two in Whistler to truly explore the area.
If you don’t have your own transport, consider booking a tour. This particular tour that includes stops at some of the most popular attractions along the way to Whistler including Shannon Falls and the Sea to Sky Gondola!
18. Go to English Bay beach
English Bay Beach (often called First Beach) is the most popular beach right in the city – which is no surprise, it’s simply stunning! You can go for a swim, just enjoy the views, play volleyball, or even eat at one of the nearby restaurants (the Cactus Club is my personal fave!)
English Bay is in the city so it’s easily accessible on foot, public transport, or even bicycle! In fact, if you plan on cycling the Stanley Park Sea Wall a short stop at English Bay Beach is a great place to start.
19. Visit Kitsilano
If English Bay didn’t quite do it for you, consider heading to Kitsilano. Here, there is a larger beach (Kits Beach) is and it’s only a 10-minute drive from the city.
But Kitsilano is more than just a beach, it’s a neighborhood filled with trendy bars, restaurants, and shops. Going for a stroll on the beach for sunset and then heading out for dinner and drinks afterward is a perfect way to spend an evening in Vancouver.
There are also lots of activities in Kitsilano including the waterfront public swimming pool, kayaking, biking, the farmers’ markets, as well as the Maritime Museum.
20. Spend a day at Lake Alouette
A visit to Lake Alouette makes for a superb summer day trip from Vancouver. Why? Well, first of all, it is huge and ideal for swimming, boating, or even fishing! Second of all, it’s only an hour drive from the city!
Lake Alouette is located in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Here, you’ll find lots of hiking trails, campsites, and of course, the beach at Lake Alouette. Chances are you will love it and won’t want to leave, so maybe take advantage of the campsites and spend a night or two!
21. Walk Lynn Canyon
For an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and a taste of nature, head to Lynn Canyon. Here, there is a gorgeous nature walk that also takes you on a suspension bridge. You’ll wander the forest, pear down from the bridge at the river below, and just enjoy the serenity.
There is one problem though. Lynn Canyon can be very busy. At times during the summer there can be multiple busloads of people making what I supposed to be a city escape even more hectic that the streets of Yaletown.
My best advice is to go first thing in the morning. Head over early (before 9 am) and you’ll beat the crowds! That is what we did and as we were leaving there was literally a line to cross the suspension bridge.
If you don’t have your own transport, consider one of these guided tours to Lynn Canyon!
22. Check out the Vancouver Lookout
Go up into the clouds 169m above Vancouver and enjoy panoramic views! You’ll jump into a glass elevator and take a 40-second ride up to the top viewing deck where you can see Vancouver from up above!
The Lookout is open from 9am-pm in the winter and from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm in the summer. It costs $18.25 for an adult.
Skip the line and buy your Vancouver Lookout tickets in advance online!
23. Eat at Olympic Village
If you want to get out of the city and explore another area of Vancouver, the trendy Olympic Village could be the spot! Originally built for the 2010 Winter Olympics that were hosted in Vancouver, the Olympic Village is now a fun area to hang out. Here, you can enjoy beer gardens, harbor views, and a selection of restaurants.
You can reach the Olympic Village on the train or bus, but you can also take the Aqua Ferry (that I mentioned for getting to Granville Island) from the city.
24. Sunset Harbour Dinner Cruise
Doesn’t it just sound fantastic! Nothing quite says you’re on holidays like dinner, drinks, and a magical Vancouver sunset all while out on the water!
A cruise on the harbor is fun on its own (and there are many different types of cruises to choose from in Vancouver) but to me, one at sunset complete with dinner and drinks makes it that much better!
And the best part? It’s only $100 for the cruise complete with dinner – a bargain! Check out availability and price details!
25. Butchart Gardens
If you don’t have time to explore Vancouver Island for a few days it doesn’t mean you can’t visit on a day trip! One of the best things to do on the island is to visit the world-famous Butchart Gardens. These gardens are nothing short of phenomenal and will likely be the most beautiful gardens you’ve ever seen.
In order to get to the gardens, you’ll have to ride the ferry over to the island. It is about a 4-hour ferry ride and then the gardens are only an hour drive away. You can go on your own, or you can book a tour.
There are tours that take you on the ferry and then there are some tours that actually fly there! The flight tours are more expensive but the scenic ride over to the island is an experience in itself not to mention it is way quicker!
Entrance to the gardens is $33.80 but be sure to bring extra money in case you want to have lunch, a glass of wine, or buy a souvenir!
26. Vancouver Aquarium
Being on the coast, Vancouver sees its fair share of sea life. But it isn’t always easy to find these guys in the wild – that’s where an aquarium comes in!
The Vancouver Aquarium has more than 60,000 aquatic creatures including sea lions, dolphins and whales. They have daily shows including the dolphin feeding and an IMAX presentation.
What I like most about the Vancouver Aquarium is that they are a conservation project. It’s actually a non-profit so your entrance fee goes towards a few really neat projects to help protect sea life!
Admission is $38 for an adult, but you can often get a better deal booking online (which also allows you to skip the line!)
27. Vancouver City sight-seeing tour
If you’re only in Vancouver for a couple of days then one of the best ways to get to know the city is on a city sightseeing tour. As much as I like to explore cities on my own, when I don’t have much time I find that a guided tour is the best way to see lots and learn lots all in a matter of a few hours!
There are a few different sightseeing tours to choose from. Some drive you around, some are cycling, and some are even walking tour! I personally recommend this particular city tour because it actually drives you around (wasting less time getting around) and takes you to all of Vancouver’s highlights including Granville Island, Gastown, Chinatown, Stanley Park, the Lookout, and more!
Most tours are around $100 per person and include a knowledgeable guide and entry fees. Most go for a few hours (4 hours or so) and some include a stop for lunch.
28. Explore the Vancouver Art Gallery
If you’re into art then the Vancouver Art Gallery is a must! Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t go. Neither Daniel nor I really “get” art and we were already pressed for time so we had to give it a miss this time around. However, we did speak to a lovely English couple who went and they have rave reviews.
First of all, the Art Gallery is in a historic and beautiful building. Many people take photos on the steps, and actually many movies are also filmed there. And then inside there is a collection of international and local art. There are actually over 11,600 pieces of artwork in the gallery – so give yourself lots of time to explore.
The art gallery costs $24 for an adult and easily reached right in the city. They’re open every day from 10am-5 except for Tuesdays, when they are open until 9 pm.
Senior 20, student 18, children 6.50
29. Go Wine Tasting in the Fraser Valley
This is one of my personal favorite things on the list! Anyone who knows me knows that I love wine, and the only thing I love more than wine is wine tours!
The Fraser Valley just outside of Vancouver is a beautiful wine region producing some really tasty wines. A wine tour to the Fraser Valley will take you around to some of the best wineries and you get to taste all the wine for yourself! Sounds like a good day if you ask me!
This Fraser Valley Wine tour is a five-hour that takes you to four different wineries where you can try a variety of boutique wines. The tour will pick you up and drop you off at your Vancouver hotel so all you have to worry about is having a brilliant day!
30. Ride in a Seaplane!
If you ever spend some time watching the Vancouver Harbour you’ll notice all of the seaplanes taking off and landing. In Vancouver, taking a scenic plane ride is one of the most popular things to do.
You can choose from a scenic city tour, flights that take you to Tofino, Victoria, Whistler, and even Seattle! There are actually even seaplane tours that also combines with whale watching for a really special day.
Prices range depending on the tour but start at $135. The planes typically depart in the harbor but sometimes they leave from the Richmond airport only a short drive away.
Seaplanes tours are especially popular in Vancouver so be sure to book online in advance. Check out all of the different choices for seaplanes tours in Vancouver here!
31. Tour Vancouver Island
I mentioned before heading to Victoria for the day to check out the gardens, but the truth is that if you have more time you should really take a few days on the island!
There are plenty of great multi-day Vancouver Island tours that depart directly from Vancouver. These are a great option if you don’t have your own transport (Vancouver Island is HUGE and you’ll need to be able to get around) not to mention, tours mean you don’t need to do any planning!
Alternatively, book the BC Ferry, a couple of hotels, and explore the island on your own. Be sure to check out Tofino as it is one interesting beach town that you’re guaranteed to love!
Check out some of these awesome overnight trips from Vancouver! This one particular tour goes all the way to Revelstoke, Banff, and then Jasper before heading back to Vancouver for less than $1,400 for 5 days!
32. Explore Chinatown
Vancouver has a very vibrant Chinatown right in the city! Why? Well, there is a huge Chinese population in Vancouver! In fact, it is approximately 27% of Vancouver’s population is Chinese.
In Chinatown, you’ll be able to visit a variety of shops but also eat some tasty Chinese food! If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry, there is a day tour in Chinatown that promises to show you some of the locals favorite places!
Chinatown is located right in the city (next to Gastown) and can be reached by walking from most Vancouver city hotels.
33. Visit a ski mountain
Last, but certainly not least! In the winter, you need to go skiing or snowboarding! The most popular and closest places for hitting the slopes in Vancouver include Mt Seymour, Cypress Mountain, and Grouse Mountain. You can rent gear and even just get a day pass if you only want to spend one day.
In the summer the fun doesn’t end. You should still visit one of the mountains. In the summer these ski mountains turn into an awesome place for hiking or even mountain biking!
I personally really enjoyed walking the trails from the top of Mt Seymour. You can drive all the way to the top parking lot and then choose from a variety of different hiking trails from there. Mystery Lake is a great short hike that can be done in an hour or so!
Accommodation in Vancouver
Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is in the summer and winter the city books up in advance very fast! Booking well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!
Things to do this summer in Whistler – Whistler is a paradise home to many stunning hikes and beautiful places to explore. here’s our list of the best things to do while your there this summer!
Things to do in Kelowna BC – Kelowna is in the heart of the Okanagan Valley and a must-visit city in Canada! This is our list of the best things the city has to offer!
An Ideal Banff 3-Day Itinerary – This blog lets you in on how to spend, 1, 2, or 3 days in Banff including the best things to do and places to see!
November 15, 2019