The largest metropolitan area in western Canada, Vancouver is a center of commerce and a transportation hub that also just happens to be nestled between the sea and coastal mountains. The result is all the activity of one of the nation’s biggest cities and some of the most spectacular urban scenery in Canada. Vancouverites broadly split their city into three: the Westside, the Eastside (or East Van) and City Centre. With most of the city’s major attractions located in and close to City Centre, for a short trip, it’s recommended to stay in this vicinity. Public transportation is ample, so more distant attractions that might appeal to visitors are within easy reach, regardless.
Only the weather and your own interests limit your activities in Vancouver. Most people will definitely want to spend a day exploring local and regional culture, history, arts and architecture. A solid itinerary would include the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and its intensive exploration of the people of the Northwest Coast and their history. The Vancouver Art Gallery downtown is another must-see, and, while smaller and lesser-known, the Contemporary Art Gallery downtown on Nelson Street is well respected in the art world. The shiny geodesic dome of the Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World) is interesting for the whole family with a focus on making science fun and accessible to youngsters. Architectural highlights include the distinctive sails of Canada Place, the adjacent Vancouver Convention Centre and the Art Deco styling of the Marine Building. While exploring the city, note that Robson Street in City Centre is the primary shopping area, but Gastown, the city’s oldest neighborhood, offers more local and eclectic shopping. World-class dining abounds, with some top choices being Bishop’s and The Oakwood Canadian Bistro for Canadian and regionally-inspired food; L’Abbatoir for contemporary French and Miku for Japanese fare and sushi. For those in need of more American flavors, Cactus Club Café is a reliable option.
An outdoor-oriented itinerary should start with exploration of two sites – Stanley Park, the arguable center of activity in the city, and the city’s seawall (which wraps around several neighborhoods, including Stanley Park). Here one can enjoy any number of passive and light-action activities. The more active adventurer will find no limit of options here, depending on weather – from relaxing on the beach to snow-skiing in the nearby mountains (Vancouver is gateway to Whistler, one of the most acclaimed ski destinations on the continent) to beach volleyball, golf, tennis and exciting rental boat racing across the beautiful coastal waters.
Few destinations in North America offer the myriad possibilities that Vancouver does – from haute cuisine dining and high culture to laid-back beachcombing and world-class snow skiing. Regardless of which dominates one’s itinerary, Vancouver will remain firmly rooted in any visitor’s memory as distinct and utterly beautiful.
Access: Vancouver International Airport is served by most major carriers.
Population: Approx. 2.3 million (Metro area)
Climate: Temperate with dry summers and wet winters
Main Attractions: Terrific scenery, ranging from the oceanfront to the mountains, and all related sporting and outdoor opportunities; arts and culture; historical and architectural treasures.
The Triumvirate: Are you up to the challenge? Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean and play a round of golf all in the same day.
Planning: There are a variety of attractions passes available that help visitors save on retail admissions, such as the See Vancouver Smartvisit Card and the Vancouver Five in One Card. Plan in advance!
Rosewood Hotel Georgia is a beautiful downtown boutique hotel across from the Vancouver Art Gallery. A wonderful vibe permeates the recently renovated 1920s hotel, from the décor, artwork on the walls, and the friendliness of the staff. www.rosewoodhotels.com
Wedgewood Hotel & Spa draws visitors with classis style and appeal, from the doorman at the entrance to comfortable rooms and world-class service. Spa amenities add a touch of extra luxury to an already award-winning hotel near the heart of activity in Vancouver. www.wedgewoodhotel.com