Ringed by forested mountains and sporting glimmering azure waterways, green leafy totem pole parks, and suspension bridges over waterfalls, Vancouver, British Columbia is a not-to-be-missed summer destination. The weather is warm and breezy, and Vancouver exemplifies the very best of the Pacific Northwest.
Float planes zip in and out of the harbor on a regular basis. There are miles of sandy beaches and a stunningly beautiful waterfront where cruise ships arrive and depart daily. It’s sophisticated, modern, hip, warm and inviting. And it’s not only clean, it’s green. According to a tourism board, “Vancouver’s goal is to be the cleanest and greenest city in the world by the year 2020.”
Here are just some of the reasons to put this delightful Canadian city on your summer travel bucket list.
Stanley Park is often called Vancouver’s Emerald Jewel. The 1000-acre lush verdant recreation area has been named the top urban park in the world.
We finally got to see the nine totem poles we’d heard so much about at Brockton Point. British Columbia’s most visited tourist attraction; the totems were carved in the late 1900s by authentic Squamish artists. These iconic symbols of the Northwest pay tribute to their native ancestors who once occupied the land.
A 5.5-mile hiking and biking Seawall Promenade offers extraordinary views of the bay. Getting around the park by bike was our best bet for experiencing all there is to see here in this massive park. At the northernmost tip, Prospect Point lookout provides an amazing perspective of the soaring Lions Gate Bridge, North Vancouver, and surrounding mountain peaks.
Canada Place and Vancouver Harbor
Vancouver Harbor and its land component Canada Place comprise Canada’s flagship harbor and the city’s cruise ship terminal. The terminal is situated in an incredibly beautiful part of the harbor with stunning water and mountain views with spectacular sunsets.
The collection of five towering white sails framing the cruise ships is one of Vancouver’s most photographed sites. The harbor area also commemorates the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic games with a massive cauldron torch lit by world-famous hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
Located in the downtown Harbour Center, the Vancouver Lookout at a height of 430 feet, is the perfect place to get 360-degree views of the city’s picture-perfect sights. Guests take a 40-second ride in a glass elevator to a rotating observation deck. This is the perfect vantage point for breathtaking views of the harbor, mountain, park, and downtown.
Granville Island is without a doubt Vancouver’s best culinary adventure. Visitors can walk, drive over the Granville Street Bridge or board a water taxi from downtown Vancouver.
The tiny peninsula located on the waters of False Creek is the ideal place to sample a cornucopia of the area’s very best farm produce. Stalls at the Public Market sell local fruit, vegetables, flowers, just-caught fish, seafood, local meats, sausages, farm-made cheeses, pastries, baked goods, and wines from the province’s vineyards.
The island has numerous eateries and artsy boutiques, and its docks are filled with food vendors and live musical performances. The island also retains some of its original industrial working class footprint. A large still-functioning cement plant has been artistically incorporated into the island’s colorful appealing architecture. A popular draw for tourist photos are the eye-catching, massive, towering cement silos painted as gigantic Lego-like characters.
Gastown & Yaletown
With its myriad of shade trees, colorful hanging flower baskets adorning each street corner, Gastown fully embraces its British heritage. The area’s vibrant cultural scene features street-side cafes, brick lofts, art galleries, and one-of-a-kind specialty shops.
The quaint Victorian-esque community is home to only one of a few steam-powered clocks in the world that steam and whistle every 15 minutes. The town was founded by Jack Deighton, known as “Gassy Jack.” One can only imagine the origin of the nickname, but locals assured us it was attributed to his blustery and boisterous monologues as a saloon keeper—and nothing more.
Nearby Yaletown with its distinctive European flavor was once a warehouse district dominated by textile shops and train yards. Today, the 20-block cobblestoned urban neighborhood is home to cutting-edge restaurants and a lively bar scene. Word has it Yaletown is where more celebrity sightings occur than any other neighborhood in Vancouver.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
A partial-day trip within itself and an absolute must-do while in Vancouver is the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Stretching 450 feet across the canyon, the swaying heart-stopping bridge towers 230 feet above the Capilano River. Even for those like me who are afraid of heights, the views are so spectacular it’s more than worth the sweat-it-out adventure!
The bridge is located in a natural verdantly green park filled with massive, towering cedar, pine, and fir evergreens. This cedar-scented preserve includes a unique treetop adventure experience consisting of seven multi-leveled foot-bridges with views 110 feet above the forest floor. The remarkable crisscrossing treetop walkways were reminiscent of the Ewok village in the old Star Wars Movie, Return of the Jedi.
The park’s newest attraction Cliffwalk is a cantilevered walkway clinging precariously to the granite cliffs high above Capilano Canyon. You just have to do it.
Vancouverites love a “good cuppa Joe.” Artisan coffee at its best can be found at Caffè Artigiano, one of 13 popular coffee bistros located throughout Canada. Locals recommended this café to see the talented baristas in action, and we were so glad we did.
The smooth, naturally sweet Spanish Latte was one of the best we’ve ever tasted. And perfect to ward off an overcast Vancouver morning. Not only was it delicious, but the barista artistically added creative decorative designs to the cream atop the coffee’s surface.
Vancouver is culturally diverse. And of no surprise, there’s an exciting mix of food choices available throughout the city giving visitors and residents a chance to literally “eat around the globe.”
Lunch at the Flying Pig in Gastown was definitely a unique experience. One might assume the menu is heavy on pork, but nothing can be further from the truth. The name originates from an inside family story about owner and chef, John Crook. Growing up in a large Irish family, Crook promised his mother who cooked nonstop for her large brood that someday he would own a restaurant and cook for her. Mama’s response was “Yes, John. When pigs fly.” Hence the name.
Entrées are seasonally based using the freshest ingredients available from local farms and waters. The Rocket & Watercress Beetroot Salad with local Chevre goat cheese, pears and walnuts was outstanding. Each ingredient held its own while melding the flavors into a delectable blend of perfection.
Cactus Club Café Coal Harbour is a prime oceanfront dining location with stunning views of Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains. The menu runs the gamut from utterly delicious butternut squash ravioli with prawns to perfectly-prepared tender juicy prime cut steaks. Accompanied by magnificent water views and majestic sunsets, the restaurant is in high demand, and reservations are a must.
It’s no wonder that everyone who’s been to Vancouver always comes away with a wonderfully positive experience. This multifaceted city is filled with stunning natural beauty and a spirit of adventure. With its vibrant culture, friendly people and great food, Vancouver is one of the most beautiful and in the world. We’re so glad we finally got to experience it for ourselves.