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Unique Vancouver Experiences to Try at Least Once in Your Life

Heading out west? There are plenty of things to do in Vancouver year-round. From gorgeous hikes, urban parks, and revolving restaurants, Vancouver has a little something for everyone. Get exploring here with our guide to the best experiences to be had to BC’s biggest beautiful city on the coast.

view of vancouver from the north shore with snowy moutains. things to do in Vancouver
Vancouver skyline in winter

Planning a visit to Canada’s most popular city? You’ll find exciting activities for all ages and tastes in western Canada’s largest city. Whether you are looking for fine dining, art, shopping, or time in nature – you’ve come to the right place. Don’t worry if you’ve heard of Canada’s chilly reputation. Unlike other parts of the country, Vancouver has a temperate climate which lends favourably to being outdoors throughout the year. Here are our picks for unique Vancouver experiences to have at least once in your life.

Top Vancouver Experiences

1. Explore Vancouver’s Stanley Park and Seawall

There is no easier place to enjoy Vancouver’s natural beauty than in this miniature rainforest that borders the Pacific shoreline. Take a scenic walk in or around this 400-hectare protected space on the tip of the city’s main peninsula. The list of things to see here is endless. See the beavers at Beaver Lake, roam the acres of towering indigenous cedars and big-leaf maple trees, and visit the famous totem poles at Brockton Point to celebrate the art of First Nations people in Canada.

The seawall that surrounds the park is a great way to get an ocean view. You can walk, run, cycle or roller-skate along the portion of the pathway at the edge of Stanley Park. If you would rather take it easy, the Stanley Park Train takes in the highlights, from coastal rainforest to sandy beaches. You can catch the Stanley Park Train near the Vancouver Aquarium.

2. Cross a suspension bridge

Get a tree’s eye view of the Vancouver North Shore’s lush continental rainforest at one of the local suspension bridges. The Capilano Suspension bridge is the biggest, highest and by far the most well-known. This 140-metre bridge has been amazing visitors since 1889. If you are brave enough to cross it, you will find yourself 140 metres above the Capilano river, breathing in the aroma of evergreens and fresh spring water. They also offer a Treetops adventure, which is a series of bridges suspended on 250-year-old Douglas fir trees. On their platforms, you can stand over 30 metres above the forest floor.

People walking on the Capilano suspension bridge. Things to do in Vancouver.
Capilano Suspension Bridge

Winter in Vancouver

If you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver in December, this spectacular sight is brightened during the holiday season when the gigantic firs get all dressed up with festive lights to delight young and old alike. 

Travelling on a budget? Then consider checking out the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in North Vancouver. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s also smaller – though it is above a waterfall. Lynn Canyon is where the Vancouver locals go hiking, swimming and sometimes cliff jumping. In the colder months, the waterfall becomes even fuller and more beautiful. 

3. Eat and shop on Granville Island

This little peninsula manages to capture some world-class flavours you won’t forget. Granville Island Public Market is a chef’s paradise, featuring local finds and exotic delights alike. Six buildings make up the public market. They used to house manufacturing equipment companies that served Vancouver’s logging and shipping industries, but now they cater almost exclusively to foodies. Granville Island offers foodie tours where you can skip the lines and try over 20 signature Canadian foods.

If you are looking for a uniquely Canadian tasting experience and want to learn more about the foods you are eating, definitely give it a try. There is more than just food here, you will also find a famous local brewery and lots of arts, crafts and gifts for everyone. However, with artisan food shops and trendy restaurants, you are advised to bring your appetite!

Check out: A Guide to Vancouver’s Brewery District.

Granville street in Vancouver by night. Things to do in Vancouver.
Things to do in Vancouver | Skyscanner Canada

4. Chill out in Kitsilano

Known to the locals as “Kits”, this area of Vancouver was a famous hangout for hippies in the 60s. This legacy lives on in the beloved vegetarian restaurants, metaphysical shops, and overall laid-back vibe. For things to do in Vancouver over the summer, Kitsilano Beach or “Kits Beach” is a favourite among the beaches of Vancouver. It has gorgeous ocean views, windsurfing and plenty of volleyball nets for volleyball tournaments. There is even a large outdoor saltwater pool to swim in while you bask in the sun.

Taking a family trip to Vancouver?

Want to know some of the top things to do in Vancouver with kids? Kitsilano is also home to some of Vancouver’s best family-friendly destinations like the Space Centre, the Maritime Museum and the Museum of Vancouver. And for Vancouver summer fun, this area also offers plenty of things to do. On top of the beautiful beaches, visitors can catch Bard on the Beach: an outdoor Shakespeare festival that runs from June to September. 

Kitsilano beach by sunset. Things to do in Vancouver.
Kitsilano Beach by Sunset

5. Hang out in historic Gastown 

Vancouver is a relatively young urban centre, but Gastown is the designated historic area which has preserved its Victorian architecture and cobblestone streets. This trendy Vancouver neighbourhood features an exciting nightlife and lots of modern art shops. If you are needing to buy souvenirs for your loved ones back home then this is the place for you! Plenty of weird and wonderful indie art and decor can be found here, as well as gorgeous pieces by First Nations artists.

You will also find the famous Gastown Steam Clock and a statue of “Gassy Jack”, who turned the area into the city centre by having a tavern built. For fun things to do in Vancouver at night, the neighbourhood remains Vancouver’s top areas for drinking. Gastown is filled with wine bars, pubs and clubs to keep you partying into the late hours. 

Looking for accommodation? Find a Vancouver hotel deal below.

6. Dine with a view at Vancouver’s revolving restaurant 

At the Top of Vancouver revolving restaurant, you can experience breathtaking panoramic views while you enjoy continental cuisine. A favourite among tourists, this restaurant sits 553 feet above the city. It offers a completely unobstructed 360-degree view of Vancouver city, ocean, and mountains. It does a complete revolution every 60 minutes, so take the time to savour your food and see it all. There is a separate viewing area if you aren’t hungry but you still want the view and there are also lots of local wines and beer available for you to try. 

overview of busy markets in vancouver's chinatown
Vancouver’s Chinatown

7. Check out Vancouver’s Chinatown

Checking out Chinatown is a must on any list of top Vancouver experiences. Established as a community over a century ago, it gained official recognition as a historic site in 2011. The Vancouver Chinatown festival features tons of live entertainment, dance, art, and food of course.

All the colours, sights, sounds and smells will intoxicate your senses. The festival happens in August, but you can browse all the boutiques for exotic produce, herbs, teas and other products. If you’re hungry and like to try a little bit of everything, you can feast the day away one of Vancouver Chinatown’s famous dim sum restaurants. 

8. Be zen at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

An oasis awaits you in the heart of Vancouver’s busy Chinatown! The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is the perfect place to reflect, contemplate, meditate or just take some beautiful photographs. It was modelled after the Ming Dynasty scholars’ gardens in Suzhou, China. Designed and created by 53 master artisans, it became the first of its kind to be built outside of China. The garden is now a registered museum and offers guided tours and educational programs. It also hosts an array of events and programming to celebrate Chinese culture in Vancouver. 

Gastown Steam Clock. Things to do in Vancouver.
Things to do in Vancouver | Skyscanner Canada

9. Get outside at Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain

If you are athletic and outdoorsy, then Vancouver is the ideal destination for you. Grouse Mountain is one of Vancouver’s best destinations for nature lovers and adventure seekers. You can test your speed and endurance on the Grouse Grind, affectionately known as “nature’s Stairmaster”. The current record to beat is just under 24 minutes, which is staggering, but the average time is about an hour and a half to two hours.

Tall steps on a steep incline at Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain make this a worthy challenge and are also the reason why you will need to take the gondola to get back down. All that hard work will be well-rewarded with epic views and a chance to see some gorgeous grizzly bears who live in the sanctuary at the summit. 

Tips for things to do in Vancouver for Christmas

Grouse Mountain is one of the best things to do in Vancouver over the Christmas season! The area turns into Vancouver’s North Pole, and you’ll get a chance to meet some real reindeer. Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb all those stairs to get to the summit – you can always go for the Skyride. The winter months here in Vancouver are also ideal as you can ski or take a sleigh ride. 

10. Take a hike!

Vancouver has a fabulous selection of hiking trails for all levels and you’re sure to find a outdoor Vancouver experience here that’s right for you. Just outside of Van City you can find Deer Lake or Pacific Spirit trail, both of which offer easy, flat paths where you can bring your dog. Over on the North Shore you’ll find tons of options. Lynn Headwaters Park alone offers everything from a 20-minute nature walk to a multi-day adventure. If you would like to keep it short but still want to be rewarded with a breathtaking view, then check out Deep Cove.

If you have a bit more time, try Cypress mountain – it features trails for hiking and mountain biking, and once you’re up there, the scenery stretches from the Cascade mountains to the Georgia Strait. Vancouver’s mild climate makes it a good place to get outdoors, whatever the season. Be sure to research your trails before heading out to ensure that you are prepared and always wear good shoes! 

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