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Vancouver offers an exciting mix of natural beauty and urban sophistication. Start with the stunning harbor and glorious mountain setting. Spend time checking out the locally sourced dining options and dig into the region’s diverse cultural heritage.
Whether you’re visiting for just a few hours on a cruise stopover or staying longer, there’s plenty to explore. Places to ski, cycle, hike, sail or kayak are minutes from great shopping, restaurants, museums and spectacular urban parklands.
A 1,000-acre green space bordering the harbor, Stanley Park is a great area to explore by bike. Or, take the free shuttle that stops at wooded glades, the Vancouver Aquarium, historic totem poles and other delights.
Gastown, the city’s original settlement, is just a short walk from the Canada Place cruise pier. It’s a lively enclave of cobblestone streets, Victorian-era streetlamps and historic buildings housing pubs and smart shops. Gastown's centerpiece is the Steam Clock with its steam spouts and whistle chimes.
The second largest Chinatown in North America is a pedestrian-friendly area of herb shops, produce stalls, dim sum restaurants and street markets. Take time out to wander through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, an authentic depiction of a classical, Ming Dynasty garden.
The star attraction at Granville Island is the wonderful public market, offering not just local produce and food products like sea salt and honey, but studio shops where artisans demonstrate glass blowing, pottery making and other crafts.
For fabulous views of Vancouver and its harbor, take the Sky Ride tram up to the 3,700-foot summit of Grouse Mountain. At the top are observatories, restaurants and the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife, a habitat for orphaned wolves and grizzly bears.
The UBC Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus offers a stunning collection of authentic totem poles and exhibits on the history of the region.
Vancouver’s major art museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, is housed in a handsome 1911 courthouse and features changing exhibitions as well as works by British Columbia landscape artist Emily Carr.
British Columbia wines, including ice wine, are among distinctive local products to look for, as are Inuit and First Nation artwork. The Gastown and Yaletown districts are especially good places to find distinctive shops, boutiques and galleries.
Capilano Suspension Bridge: North of downtown, this bridge spans 230 feet above the Capilano River, swinging back and forth as visitors make the walk across the canyon. Adjacent is Treetops Adventure, where visitors traverse from one tree to another on suspension bridges, and Cliffwalk, which has cantilevered walkways high above the river.
High season: June to August
Shoulder seasons: April to May; September to October
Low season: November to March
Vancouver offers a relatively temperate climate year-round, but winters can be chilly and rainy. Summers bring long, sunny days, while spring and fall are crisp and pleasant.
Central Vancouver is easily explored on foot, but the city has an efficient bus system and a light-rail transit system called SkyTrain. Hop-on, hop-off tours are offered by Big Bus and the Vancouver Trolley Company. Another option are the harbor ferries, operated by Aquabus and Blue Creek Ferries, which stop at Granville Island, Yaletown and other points of interest.
Documents: U.S. citizens will need a valid passport.
Language: English is the official language.
Currency: The Canadian dollar is generally on par with the U.S. dollar. The major difference is that there is no one-dollar paper bill. Instead, there are one- and two-dollar coins.
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“If Tim Burton travelled back in time to the 19th century with a troupe of burlesque dancers, Hyde would be the fabulously irreverent outcome. This small, sexy restaurant on Main & 14th (in Mount Pleasant) looks the fever dream of the eccentric filmmaker and the mad doctor, with equally wicked treats on the menu.”
“Many local restaurants are passionate purveyors of local wines, and wine bars pairing B.C. vino with artisanal cheeses and house-cured charcuterie are all the rage.”
“Granville Island: To get to this peninsula, hop a water taxi at the south end of Hornby Street. After disembarking, tour the nearby small art galleries and craft studios, stroll through the daily Public Market, or go for a beer tasting at Granville Island Brewing.”