Family Holiday and attractions in Vancouver
Vancouver is a dynamic, bustling, modern city. It is
considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world
– and rightly so. It is nicknamed “the crown jewel of
western Canada” due to its fantastic location between
tall mountains and bays dotted with countless islands
and the Pacific Ocean. It has a great combination of
natural wilderness, well cared for parks and city
scenery which includes skyscrapers, interesting
architecture, and unique neighbourhoods and
marketplaces. It’s no wonder the Conde Nast Traveller
magazine picked Vancouver as one of the top ten cities
to visit in the world.
The city is relatively young (a little over 100 years old) but it grows at a particularly high pace. Two million people live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, while about half a million of these live in the city itself. It is the third largest city in Canada and the largest in western Canada. Despite not being the capital of British Columbia, it is the cultural, industrial, and financial centre of the state. Vancouver harbour is one of the biggest and busiest harbours in North America.
Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city; its residents have
come there from all over the world. Today, half of its
residents are of non-European origin. It has the second
largest Chinese community in North America (after San
Francisco) as well as people from Iran, India, Pakistan,
and any other country you might think of. Everyone lives
in harmony in a peaceful, liberal atmosphere. They all
contribute to the city’s cultural diversity, which is
expressed in architectural styles, holidays and
festivals, and of course the many ethnic foods available
in the wide selection of restaurants the city offers.
It’s no wonder people from every corner of the world
continue to flock to Vancouver, including people from
other areas of Canada and from the US. Thanks to this,
the average age in Vancouver is the lowest in all of
Vancouver is surrounded by water, beaches, forests and mountains. You can go skiing in the morning, sailing in the afternoon, and spend the evening in one of the many cultural events that take place in the city. With so much to do, it’s no wonder 7 million tourists visit Vancouver every year!
Because so many people live, work, and enjoy leisure time in the Downtown area, it is active and bustling from early in the morning to late at night. Unlike downtowns in other big cities in North America, Vancouver’s Downtown area is relatively safe to visit after dark as well.
The three most interesting areas in Downtown Vancouver are:
The oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver. It is the historical centre of the city, with many restored Victorian-era buildings, factories, and warehouses which have been turned into restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and clubs. I recommend walking on foot down Water Street, the main street of the neighbourhood. In the summer months it is full of grocers and street performers which add to the lively atmosphere of the city. The street is paved with bricks and decorated with antique lamp posts. At the western end of the street is the famous steam-powered clock which whistles every 15 minutes. It is the world’s first steam-powered clock, built to hide a steam tap which was used to heat the buildings of the area in the past. The clock was built to look antique in order to blend in with the area, but was in fact built only in 1977 during major reconstruction of the area.
Located east of Gastown, Vancouver’s China Town is the second biggest China Town in all of North America. This is a colourful place with busy narrow streets full of market stalls, souvenir shops and Chinese restaurants. The houses are built in typical Chinese fashion and all the street signs are written in Chinese. Visiting this area is both a cultural and culinary experience. China Town is especially lively from morning to around noon. The place is practically empty after 6PM except on weekends in the summer, during which a Chinese night market is open between 6:30PM-11PM.
Another popular area in Downtown Vancouver. It used to be the warehouse district of the Downtown area but is now considered one of the most fashionable districts in the city. The warehouses underwent construction and were turned into studio apartments, boutiques, designer shops, art galleries, bars, and stylish restaurants. Many young people flock here in the evenings to enjoy themselves.
You can find plenty of information about the city in Tourism Vancouver at 200 Burrard Street. You can acquire public transport tickets and maps there, as well as brochures and assistance in finding lodging – from hotels to Bed and Breakfasts. Tourism Vancouver is open every day from late May to early September between 8AM to 6PM. In all other months it is open from Monday to Saturday between 9AM-5PM.
gift shop and steam clock
Recommended Hotels in Vancouver
Vancouver has plenty of options for accommodation: fancy hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, hostels and more. The city has over 18,000 rooms for rent, 10,000 of which are in the centre of the city. The prices range for night are between 60 dollars to thousands of dollars. The most expensive hotels are in the centre of the city, right on the water.
summer, despite the wide selection available, it is
recommended you book rooms far in advance in order to
get good rooms at good prices – especially in the
popular places – as tourism in the city flourishes at
that time and often demand exceeds availability. In the
winter months, prices go down significantly.
Many hotel and motel chains offer accommodation in the city, some in the heart of the shopping, entertainment and business areas of Vancouver. These hotels are more expensive than their farther away counterparts. Cheaper ones can be found in North Vancouver or east of the city centre.
5 star hotel. A restaurant in the hotel, Spa services, fitness center, a business center and concierge services. 42” flat-screen TVs are provided in each room, Free Wi-Fi.
All guests have access to a free car service within downtown, and free use of bicycles.
Gastown and Stanley Park are located 1 km away.
Hotel Le Soleil by Executive Hotels
5 star hotel. An on-site restaurant and bar, fitness center and business center.
A refrigerator is included in each room and flat-screen TV and work desk
Vancouver Convention Centre is 5 minutes’ walk away.
3 star hotel featuring an indoor swimming pool and hot
tub. Free wireless internet is provided in all rooms.
Offering a flat-screen cable TV, every room also includes a fully equipped kitchen, a seating area and an en suite bathroom. A fitness centre and a business centre are onsite.
Times Square Suites
3 star hotel. Fully furnished suites with separate living and sleeping areas, fully equipped kitchen, gas fireplace and laundry facilities.
Located in the lively centre of Vancouver's West End, just minutes from attractions such as Stanley Park, the financial district and the city's best entertainment venues.
Richmond offers hotels closest to the airport. Most of them have free transportation services to and from the airport. Fairmont Vancouver Airport is actually inside the airport itself. Richmond has hotels of every price and class, most of which belong to one hotel chain or another – from the expensive Hilton and Marriott to the cheaper Best Western and Comfort Inn.
Breakfasts, or B&Bs, are very popular in western Canada
and in Vancouver particularly. There is an impressive
selection in this category as well. From simple rooms
with no extras to fancy rooms with delicious breakfasts
in houses reminiscent of castles with full privacy. The
prices, of course, vary accordingly.
The two most important questions you must ask while looking for a B&B are:
1) The kind of breakfast served: Full or continental.
2) Does each room have its own private bathroom or shared bathroom.
Recommended B&B: Granville House Bed and Breakfast
Located on Granville Street in Central Vancouver, this 4 star luxury inn offers spacious, bright suites with a spacious seating area, free Wi-Fi and small refrigerator .
North Vancouver has B&Bs in great locations: many of
them overlook beautiful views; some of them are in tree
groves or forests, others on the beach and still others
farther away at the foot of the mountains. The big
advantage of this area is that on the one hand you get
to live in the heart iof nature while on the other hand
you are only a short drive away from the busy centre of
town. Often, prices in this area are lower than those in
the centre of the city.
Those with a very limited budget can stay in a hostel in the city.
Vancouver, like most big cities, is not a great place for camping, despite being a green city full of parks. There’s a small number of camping sites but all of them are for trailers rather than tents. You can stay in camping sites outside of the city. Information on camping in British Columbia can be found here.
The weather in Vancouver
is nice and convenient compared to other places in
Canada thanks to the influence of the Pacific Ocean in
the west and the Rocky Mountains in the east. During the
winter months the temperature rarely goes below 0°C and
in the summer months the temperature almost never
exceeds 28°C. The only disadvantage of the weather is
the huge quantities of rain and the permanently-grey
skies for several long months a year.
However, thanks to these rains the city is green and blooming. The residents of the city are used to them, and you won’t catch them without an umbrella close at hand, but for tourists, the rain may be a bother. The summer months, June to August, are much drier, but even in those months rain might suddenly strike, even on a bright and sunny day. The rainiest months are November through March. Snow rarely falls and when it does, it melts before it can pile up. Anyone who wants to see large quantities of snow can head north of the city to the tall mountains where there are advanced ski facilities, a mere half-hour drive away.
The best time to visit Vancouver (and British Columbia in general) is between early June and early October. This time of the year is less rainy, the weather is nice and warm and daylight lasts longer. Take into consideration, however, that this season is also tourist season.
You can reach Vancouver by flight, train, ship or ferry, and of course by car.
The international airport of Vancouver is on an island (connected to the mainland by three bridges) 13 kilometres south of the city centre, near Richmond. It has two terminals: one for domestic flights and one for international flights. Many companies offer direct international flights to Vancouver, including Air Canada, United Airlines, American Airlines, Continental and Northwest. As for domestic flights, the selection is more limited. Among other companies, Air Canada offers flights from Vancouver and Victoria to all of Canada’s big cities.
The passenger ship terminal is located in Canada Place on Burrard Street, at the end of the business district of the city. All of the big cruise ship companies stop at Vancouver harbour, including Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival. Over a million people go on cruises to Alaska from Vancouver harbour every year. The harbour is only a short walk away from many hotels in the city centre and is connected to every part of the city via public transport.
The main ferry service connecting Vancouver city and Vancouver Island (Where Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is) is BC Ferries. The ferry ride is 95 minutes long, but take into account roughly two more hours for leaving and arriving at the terminal, as well as waiting on the dock. Those riding the ferry without a car can reach the dock via public transport.
the big car rental companies have branches in both
Vancouver airport and the city centre.
In the city itself there are no highways. Districts of the city which are on peninsulas or islands are connected to the mainland by several bridges. The northern and western areas of Vancouver are connected to the central area by a bridge called Lion’s Gate Bridge. Another bridge which connects the north to the centre of Vancouver is Second Narrows Bridge. The southern side is connected to the central area by three more bridges.
Vancouver has a very efficient public transportation system called Translink (also known as BC Transit) which includes buses, ferries and light rails and goes to every area of the city and its suburbs. Translink tickets are usable on any form of Translink transportation.
There are plenty of taxis in Vancouver. You can catch a taxi on a main street, at the entrance to any major hotel, or book them via telephone. The major Taxi companies are Yellow, Vancouver Taxi.
Railway companies connect Vancouver to other major destinations in Canada and the US:
Main Attractions in Vancouver:
A unique building in the shape of a large ship. Its white roof looks like the open sails of a boat. It was built as the Canadian building for Expo 86 and today serves as a convention centre, hotel, dock, and more. Along the building is a boardwalk lined with restaurants and shops from which you can see a beautiful view of Downtown Vancouver, the harbour, the bay, the north shore and the surrounding mountains.
An even more
impressive viewpoint overlooking the city is from the
top of the Harbour Centre building. The viewpoint at its
top, called Vancouver Lookout, can be reached via glass
elevator which makes the trip up the skyscraper in only
50 seconds. The tower is 177 metres tall and is the
tallest building in all of British Columbia. From this
viewpoint you can see a 360-view of the city, the ocean,
the islands and the mountains. Harbour Centre is close
to Canada Place. At its top is a revolving restaurant.
The viewpoint is open every day of the year between 9AM
and 9PM (in the summer, opening hours are even longer).
Another interesting building is Vancouver’s public library, which was designed to look like a modern Colosseum. The library was built in 1995 by world-famous architect Moshe Safdie.
An enormous 40,000 m2 park, located between the downtown area and the Lion’s Gate Bridge. It is one of the biggest parks in the world and the biggest in North America (20% larger than New York’s Central Park). The park has beaches, a large swimming pool, sports facilities (including tennis, golf, and bowling), a small water park, nature trails, biking trails, a forest, gardens, lagoons, playgrounds, picnic areas, and many tourist attractions. The park is surrounded by a 10-kilometre trail called Seawall Promenade. The trail has one lane for walking and one lane for biking and rollerblading.
Vancouver Aquarium is the most well-known attraction in Vancouver which over a million people come to see every year. This is the biggest aquarium in Canada (the third-biggest in all of North America) and is considered to be one of the best and most interesting aquariums in the world. It has over 8,000 creatures in big glass tanks divided into separate displays by climate. The tropical sea display and the Amazon display are particularly interesting, as is the aquarium’s main attraction: a giant tank of water with an enormous glass wall containing killer whales. Other interesting animals in the aquarium are giant octopuses, sharks, eels, and piranhas. Outside the main building is a river with salmons and pools of water containing seals, whales and dolphins. There are animal feedings and shows several times a day. The place also serves as a research facility and conservation centre.
UBC Museum of Anthropology
The UBC Museum of Anthropology is considered to be one of the best and most famous museums in the world for Native American art and culture. The museum, which was established in 1947, is in an impressive building designed by one of Canada’s most distinguished architects, Arthur Erickson. The building tries to imitate the style of houses of the original inhabitants of the area. The building is part of the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the western area of the city, roughly 20 minutes away from the city centre.
The museum takes up one whole floor of the building and has many galleries. Its entrance hall, called the Great Hall, displays a large collection of totem poles, canoes and wood carvings. Also displayed in the museum are artefacts from ancient cultures, including jewellery, household items, items of religious origin, masks, and clothes. The emphasis is on the creations of the Native American tribes that lived in British Columbia; in particular: Haida, Salish, Kwakiutl, and Tsimshian.
Vanier Park Museums
Vanier Park has three museums: Vancouver Museum, the Maritime Museum, and H.R. Macmillan Space Centre. The park also has a great beach where many people go for jogging and kite-flying, sports facilities, a pool, and a maple tree grove.
The museum has displays dealing with history, arts, anthropology and natural histry of Vancouver and southwest British Columbia. The most interesting part of the museum is the display about day-to-day life in Vancouver and the life of immigrants who came to the city. The display includes things such as a train car from 1880, clothes from 1930, and street signs. The museum building looks somewhat like a flying saucer in shape, and next to it is a modern metal sculpture which looks like a giant crab.
The Maritime Museum is a mere 150 metres away from Vancouver Museum. It includes a central building featuring wooden model ships, old rowboats, and displays of sailor uniforms, ship decorations, and other items. The building also features Alcan Children’s Maritime Discovery Centre which has interactive displays, sailor costumes, telescopes aimed at the ships in the bay, and a “Pirate Bay” where you will find a model pirate ship where children can dress up as pirates and hunt for treasure. Near the building is a ship called St. Rosh which was built in 1928 and belongs to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This ship is considered a national historical site, as it was the first ship to sail back and forth in the Northwest Passage during WWII.
H.R. Macmillan Space Centre
Located in the same building as Vancouver Museum. The Space Centre has interactive displays about Canada’s space programs, including a film about Apollo 17, the planning of a spaceship, and navigation of a robot on the moon. The main attractions of this place are a space flight simulator and a planetarium with a variety of star and laser shows on a 20-metre dome.
British Columbia Science World
Located in a uniquely shaped building at the foot of Expo 86. The building has interactive displays which invite visitors to touch, activate and experiment in many areas of science. Light, sound, colour, water, fire, electricity and so on. The place also hosts shows and lectures which include entertaining scientific demonstrations. Science World also has an OMNIMAX theatre with an enormous screen on which IMAX films are screened hourly.
Vancouver Centennial Police Museum
A small, strange museum with pictures, equipment and information relating to mysteries that the Vancouver police has solved over the course of the city’s short but colourful history.
You can spend several days just visiting Vancouver’s many botanical gardens. Besides the enormous Stanley Park and the Chinese Gardens described earlier, there are other botanical gardens in Vancouver, each more beautiful than the last, which flower and bloom thanks to the comfortable climate of the city.
Vandusen Botanical Gardens
Opened in 1975 on grounds owned by the Canadian railway company, which planned to build residential skyscrapers there. Thanks to the protests of residents living in the area and the generous donation of one W. J. Vandusen, the intended use of the grounds changed. The gardens are home to rich plant life including over 7500 types of plants from six states, interspersed with lakes and marble statues. In the spring, thousands of daffodils and alpine lilies bloom in these gardens. In the summer, roses are in full bloom. In the autumn, the gardens turn orange and red. The gardens are also home to 65 species of birds. One of the attractions of the place is an Elizabethan maze (one of six in North America). The variety of plants in the place is truly impressive: From gigantic Sequoia trees to 24 species of maple, to flowers from the Himalaya.
Queen Elizabeth Park
This park sits on a small hill which marks the highest point in the city, and thanks to this, it overlooks and gorgeous view. Besides flowers and beautiful plantlife, this park also offers many sports facilities, such as tennis courts, golf, Frisbee, mini golf, and well cared-for lawns. The park is a popular place for marriage ceremonies and photos. At the head the hill is a greenhouse called Bloedel Conservatory, which contains 500 types of plants from three different climates – from deep jungle plants to desert plants, 50 species of tropical birds, and colourful fish.
UBC Botanical Gardens
Contain more than 7000 types of plants from all over the world. The gardens are located at the southern end of the campus and include an alpine garden, an Asian garden, a garden with plants typical to British Columbia, a winter plant garden, and an edible plant garden which features fruit-bearing trees and medical herbs from the 16th century.
Nitobe Memorial Gardens
These gardens are traditional Japanese gardens. They’re considered some of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in the world (outside of Japan). The garden has a traditional tea house and many plants which bloom in particular seasons, such as cherry trees and Japanese maple trees. The garden has typical Japanese elements such as small bridges, waterfalls and small streams. The entry fee is 3 Canadian dollars per adult. This garden is also located within the University of British Columbia, near the anthropology museum.
Minter Gardens are in River Valley Fraser near Chilliwack, southeast of Vancouver, roughly 90 minutes away from the city. There may be many beautiful gardens in the city itself, one should not miss the lovely minter Gardens. The gardens are on the way to the Canadain Rockies, so they make a great stop to break up the long car ride. The place is made up of 11 gardens, including Chinese gardens, Rhododendron gardens, fern gardens, and rose gardens of every colour.
Canada flag made from flowers
The main attraction, however, are the big, beautiful sculptures made of bushes and flowers. Among them you can find a colourful peacock, Victorian women with umbrellas, a Canadian flag, and a maze.
North Vancouver Attractions
Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park
This is the oldest attraction of Vancouver. The first hanging bridge was built as early as 1889. The bridge hanging today is the fourth one to be built in the same place. The bridge, which is 145 metres long and hangs 74 metres over the river and bridges the two sides of the canyon. This is longest hanging bridge intended for crossing by foot. While you cross the bridge it jiggles, which entertains the young and young at heart. Crossing is not recommended for people with a fear of heights, but it is an enjoyable experience for anyone else. The park has several other nice attractions, such as a toten pole area, natural trails, and an interactive display about the flora and fauna in the rainforests. In a hut called the Big House local Native Americans demonstrate sculting and crafting techniques and explain their traditions and customs. The park also has a coffee shop, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop.
Grouse Mountain is in Nancy Green Way, roughly a 15-minute drive from the centre of the city. The mountain is 1200 metres high and from its top you can see a beautiful view of all of Vancouver, the ocean and the islands and even the mountains north of there. When visibility is good you can also see Vancouver Island and even the city of Seattle. The site is active all year round and in the winter serves as the closest ski site to Vancouver. In the summer it is also full of attractions and has been for over 100 years. I recommend visiting it for half a day at the very least. You can get to the top of the mountain via a modern cable car called the Skyride, which can transport up to 100 people at a time! This is the largest railway car in all of Canada. During the ride, which is 8 minutes long, information is given about the surrounding view and about the many activities available at the top of the mountain.
Capilano Salmon Hatchery
These were built to try to preserve the dwindling salmon population of the area and help them in their difficult journey upstream. Every year, roughly two million salmons pass through here. You can see the salmon swimming upstream through huge glass windows. There are also tanks where you can see the salmon in their various stages of growth. Nearby are displays explaining the unique natural growth process of salmons from hatching to adulthood. Entry is free.
Borders Capilano Lake, which supplies quality drinking water to most of the greater Vancouver area. The view of the waterfall erupting from the dam is impressive. From here, you can see a breathtaking view of the twin Lion peaks. Cleveland Dam is found north of the salmon hatchery, only a short drive away. Entry is free.
Lynn Canyon Park
Located in a rainforest which was known for its tall trees. Due to many of the trees being cut down before the place was declared a city park (in 1912), you can now only see the remains of the trees which used to stand 90 meters tall. Still, you can enjoy it and get acquainted with the plant life typical of the rainforests of the coast of northwest America. The park has many nature trails and a hanging bridge over the canyon which, while not quite as long and high up as the Capilano Bridge, is still impressive. Most importantly, entry to the park is free! There is also an ecological centre at the park where you can learn about the flora and fauna of the area through a display and short films.