After spending a month exploring Vancouver and the surrounding areas, it’s easy for me to see why people fall in love with British Columbia. The backdrop of the Cascades and Coast Mountains, coupled with the waterways and greenery interwoven within the cityscape is strikingly beautiful.
Known for their great outdoors, the west coast boasts hiking adventures that lead to unparalleled vistas overlooking the local flora and fauna. For the adrenaline lovers, rock climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, and backcountry camping are popular draws to the area.
Rivaling some of the trendiest places in the world, the city’s art, food, and culture scene is growing increasingly vibrant and renown. Serving as a popular filming destination, Vancouver is also known as Hollywood North. Big Blockbusters including X-Men, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Deadpool have filmed here. Local wines and craft beers make for the perfect pairings to the delicacies of the area—including some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever indulged in.
Whether looking to explore the city or get outdoors, we’ve got you covered with our recommendations on what to do and where to stay when visiting Vancouver and the surrounding areas.
WHAT TO DO:
FLIGHTSEEING FLOATPLANE ADVENTURE:
For some of the most incredible views of Vancouver, enjoy a floatplane tour with Harbour Air via Get Your Guide. This 20 to 30 minute panoramic tour offers some of the most scenic views of the city. Harbour Air’s friendly pilots are sure to make your adventure all the more pleasing, highlighting the different attractions Vancouver has to offer.
SEA TO SKY GONDOLA
Road trip to Squamish and be immersed in the thick of the mountains. Take the Sea to Sky Gondola up to the summit and take in the mile-long views from the different lookout points.
To round out your Sea to Sky experience, make reservations and dine at one of the restaurants at the top.
Affectionately nicknamed “Kits,” Kitsilano is a laid back area serving up an extensive food hub and optimal outdoor fitness experience. With eclectic restaurants within walking distance from the beach, Kits is the perfect place to seemingly get away from the city, without leaving the city’s limits.
Named one of the “Top 10 Best City Beaches in the World,” Kitsilano Beach boasts volleyball nets, basketball courts, a boardwalk, and stunning sunset views.
Grab a pizza from Nook and head to Kits Beach to watch the sun go down over a beer. Yes. A beer. In certain parks and beaches in Vancouver, it is legal to consume alcohol—Kits Beach is one of these approved spots.
After the beach, head to Lucky Tacos for some Mexican food or The Cider House to taste some local ciders. If you’re vegan, make sure to try Chi Vegan.
Bordered by Vancouver’s Downtown, Burrard Inlet, and English Bay, this 405-hectare public park consists of the Vancouver Seawall; running, walking, and biking trails; beaches; play areas; the Vancouver Aquarium; half a million trees—some of which are hundreds of years old; and so much more.
Morning runs: highly suggested. Evening biking: strongly encouraged. Weekend beach days: a must.
NORTH AND WEST VANCOUVER:
Take the seabus or cross over the Lions Gate Bridge to explore the other side of Vancouver.
Head into North Van to check out the quaint and cute Lonsdale Quay Market. Grab a coffee or ice cream and wander around the marketplace and pier. Order food from one of the local vendors and enjoy it overlooking the water.
Spend the day at Deep Cove paddle boarding, kayaking, or relaxing by the pristine water.
Get your steps in by tackling the Grouse Grind. Dubbed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” the Grind is a 2.9k, 2,830 step stairway trail up the face of Grouse Mountain. Now a popular cardio workout challenge, individuals attempt to climb the mountain in record times. The fastest climb? 23 minutes, 48 seconds.
Head over to West Van to explore Lighthouse Park. With plenty of trails, you can spend your entire day wandering around and still be left with things to see.
WEEKEND IN WHISTLER:
Stay at Blackcomb Springs Suites
This beautiful ski lodge-inspired, condo-style hotel is a peaceful oasis, ideal for unwinding after a day of exploring Whistler’s great outdoors. Located just off Blackcomb Mountain, this prime location offers easy access into the town and is an exceptional spot for any season’s adventures. With easy access to hiking and biking trails in the summer, to their ski-in, ski-out offerings in the winter, you can’t beat this setting.
Warm wood accents, rock fireplaces, large balconies, a heated pool, and two slopeside jacuzzis make for the best, most cozy and relaxing vibes, providing an environment fit for group stays, family getaways, or romantic retreats. There are studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom suites available, all equipped with the everyday essentials including a full kitchen.
Barbecues on the shared patio are available for reservation and are perfect for grilling up one of Bearfoot Bistro’s BBQ Boxes. These boxes created by Executive Chef Melissa Craig combine the familiar flavours of local ingredients with international twists and new techniques. Featuring exceptional seafood, wild game, and vegetables local to British Columbia, Chef Craig compliments these with delicious flavours from around the globe.
We enjoyed our stay at Blackcomb Springs Suites so much so that we extended not one, not two, but three nights! The cherry on top: the friendly staff is readily available and happy to help with any recommendations or things you might need during your stay.
Whistler Blackcomb Mountain
In the summer, take the gondola up to the top of Blackcomb and go on an alpine hiking adventure. Decker’s Loop is a great trail with a beautiful view of the glacier at the top. From peaks to creeks, adventure is awaiting around every corner.
The Peak-to-Peak Gondola allows adventurers to travel between Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain. As the world’s longest continuous lift system, the Peak-to-Peak experience offers awe-inspiring vistas as it bridges the gap between the two mountains. The serene ride showcases aerial views of Whistler Village, the surrounding lakes, and the flora and fauna of the area, including the protected wildlife habitats encompassed by Blackcomb and Whistler.
Post-hike—or after the gondola ride—refuel by grabbing an espresso at Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb’s side or relax by enjoying an Okanagan wine from Steeps Grill & Wine Bar on the Whistler side.
As ski and snowboarding season arrives in Whistler, gear up for some of the best skiing and snowboarding Canada has to offer.
Buggy or ATV Tour with Canadian Wilderness Adventures
This experience makes for the perfect early afternoon adventure. Enjoy ripping through the forest and up the rugged mountainside in a buggy or on an ATV with Canadian Wilderness Adventures.
The Odyssey tour allows you to power through streams and over boulders, stopping along the way to take in the views. Venturing through bear, deer, and grouse habitat, be on the lookout for wildlife.
Strap on those hiking boots and challenge yourself to a big, day-long hike. The breathtaking views of Panorama Ridge make the heavy breathing from the climb well worth it. This popular 30k trail takes about 11-13 hours depending on pace and number of stops taken.
Make sure to travel with bear spray as they are common in the area—we saw one in the distance while on our lunch break. Pack food as well as water and water tablets as the hike is intense and long—but well worth it!
Don’t forget to secure your day passes for the provincial park you’re heading to right at 6AM, day-of your hike. Some locations sell out extremely quick, especially over the weekend.
Train Wreck Trail:
Take it easy on this Train Wreck Trail that leads you to the box car train wreck of 1956. This easy-to-follow path leads you through the lush forest and across a suspension bridge before arriving at the abandoned carts, which are now completely covered in graffiti.
Unwind at Scandinave Spa
Set within a spruce and cedar forest, this silent spa overlooks mountain scenery and is a Nordic-inspired oasis. The complete silence allows for spa-goers to fully immerse into relaxation in the calm heart of nature.
This hydrotherapy experience offers hot baths, cold pools, Nordic waterfalls, rain showers, fire pits, eucalyptus steam rooms, saunas, and solariums.
For more information on what to do in Whistler, visit Go Whistler.
WHERE TO STAY:
For the busy bee who loves shopping, stay in the DOWNTOWN CORE.
Accommodation Recommendation: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is idyllic. With a bike program, indoor pool, state-of-the-art Fitness Centre, and the hotel dogs—yes, “hotel dogs,” you read that correctly—the Fairmont makes for a great home away from home.
Located in the downtown core, the neighbourhood has some of the best dining and shopping options within walking distance. The hotel’s very own upscale bistro, Notch8, offers dine-in seating, in-room dining, and ‘grab & go’ options.
Ella and Elly are the hotel dogs who serve as lobby greeters and lead the hotel’s Canine Ambassador Program. This pet-friendly hotel is perfect for the whole family, furry friends included.
For the one who loves the beach and eclectic cafes and restaurants, opt for KITSILANO.
Accommodation Recommendation: Though there aren’t many hotels, there are a plethora of AirBnB and Vacation Rental options for Kitsilano.
For the person who likes the chic spots, head to YALETOWN.
Accommodation Recommendation: Hotel Blu
Enjoy the boutique hotel life in this new Yaletown spot. The eco friendly accommodation includes amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, Roxy concierge services, complimentary access to the Press Reader App, and a 55” 4K Smart TV—all within the comfort of each room. The hotel is also equipped with a jacuzzi, pool, fitness centre, and outdoor terrace.
Lucky Tacos – Location: Kitsilano – Type: Mexican
Slickity Jim’s – Location: Mt. Pleasant – Type: Breakfast
Kulinarya – Location: Downtown and Coquitlam – Type: Filipino, family-style with vegan options
Nook – Location: Kitsilano – Type: Pizza
Chi Vegan – Location: Kitsilano – Type: Japanese, Asian-Fusion, Vegan
Teahouse in Stanley Park – Location: Stanley Park – Type: New Canadian, Seafood
Italian Kitchen – Location: Downtown – Type: Italian
The Greek – Location: Gastown – Type: Greek
Cardero’s – Location: Coal Harbour, Downtown – Type: Seafood
Forage – Location: Downtown – Type: Pacific Northwest
AnnaLena – Location: Kitsilano – Type: Contemporary Canadian