One of the largest cities in Western Canada, Vancouver boasts all the excitement of a thriving urban area but with that friendly, small-town feel. No wonder international Olympic officials have chosen Vancouver as the site of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games!
Vancouver...I came here first on a book tour, and liked it immediately. It's a place I like to come back to...It's a restaurant town, it's a foodie town, it's a chef town, it's a multicultural city, a proverbial melting pot where the elements don't melt too much and lose distinct flavour.
- Anthony Bourdain, Host of Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure program 'Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations'
With a plethora of things to see and do, this welcoming city is a delight for visitors of all ages. From the joy of visiting the city’s many diverse neighborhoods – like Gastown and Chinatown – to shopping on famous Robson Street, to enjoying the great outdoors at places like Stanley Park, English Bay Beach, and Granville Island, Vancouver is a delight for all the senses.
But don’t stop there! In Vancouver, you can enjoy world-class theater and concerts, five-star restaurants, and a nightlife scene at the city’s Entertainment District that rivals that of any large city. Combine all that with the friendly smiles of the Vancouver-ites, and you’ll have a holiday that’ll be remembered for a lifetime.
Here are some of the areas of downtown Vancouver that you won't want to miss!
A popular swimming locale since the turn-of-the-20th-century, English Bay Beach is located along Vancouver’s Stanley Park seawall system. On a warm summer day, especially on the weekends, tons of Vancouverites and visitors of all ages gather along this strip of sand for a day of fun in the refreshing waters of English Bay.
English Bay Beach has all the amenities you need for a day in the sun, including a fully-equipped bathhouse and washrooms, concession stands for hungry beach-goers, kayak rentals, and nearby locations for preparing a family barbecue. The beach is lifeguard-protected from late May until early September, making it the perfect location for families with young children and beginning swimmers.
At 400 hectares (1,000 acres) in size, Stanley Park is a green oasis in the midst of a bustling city. The park, opened in 1889, is one of the city’s top attractions and easy to reach from the downtown area. Visitors flock here all-year-long to walk, jog, bike, or skate along the park’s expansive seawall or to simply enjoy some peace and quiet on the park benches that overlook English Bay and the Burrard Inlet.
Stanley Park is also home to a fascinating Visitors’ Centre as well as eight of the most-photographed totem poles in North America, built by several First Nations tribes. Kids and adults alike also enjoy the park’s Vancouver Aquarium, where guests can peruse huge tanks of fish and laugh at the antics of resident seals, otters, and sea lions.
One of Vancouver’s most successful urban renewal projects, pretty Granville Island - located on False Creek – is a tourist’s mecca, especially for those who love to play on the water.
Indeed, the water is the main attraction here as visitors rent yachts from one of Granville Island’s many outfitters or climb aboard charters for a day of deep-sea fishing or whale watching. Those who prefer small craft can rent a kayak for a guided tour of the waters around Vancouver and the city’s fascinating coastline.
Granville Island also boasts three museums - the Sport Fishing Museum, the Model Ships Museum, and the Model Trains Museum, Canada’s first micro-brewery, zany street entertainers, a free waterpark for the little ones, and The Kids’ Market, where children can enjoy two dozen kid-themed stores and a giant indoor play area.
No one can accuse Vancouver of being proper and stodgy! Just make a visit to the city’s Granville Street Entertainment District after dark and you can watch the city come alive with a vibrant nightlife that rivals that of other large North American cities.
Throughout the past decade, Vancouver has pumped up the excitement along Granville Street with the opening of lots of trendy new night clubs, bars, micro-breweries, comedy clubs, and other establishments that stay open until the wee hours of the morning.
A true delight for shopping fanatics, the Robson Street district even has something for the person who has everything! Rub arms with the rich and famous as you stroll down the street once known as Robsonstrasse, due to the abundance of European (particularly German) shops situated along the way.
Today, Robson Street’s German influence is gone, but in its place you’ll find a diverse selection of shops peddling well-known international brands, like BeBe and Swatch, as well as high-end stores like Armani and Ferragamo, and small, trendy boutiques promoting creations by today’s budding designers.
Restaurants are nearly as diverse as the shopping opportunities. Visitors can enjoy everything from local Northwest specialties to down-home Southern cooking to five-star French cuisine.
What a fascinating world you’ll find as you enter Vancouver’s amazing Chinatown! As the largest Chinatown in Canada, this neighbourhood is alive with a myriad of sights and sounds of the Far East. Step into the world of the largest ethnic minority in Vancouver and explore colorful shops boasting a variety of unique items, including Chinese clothing, baskets, and linens; martial arts equipment; exquisite antiques, stationery, and artwork; and fascinating Chinese herbs.
When it’s time to eat, you’ll find the choices are staggering. From traditional Chinese cuisine to Asian Fusion, the restaurants in Chinatown are top-notch.
In 1867, a gentleman known as Jack “Gassy” Deighton – so nicknamed because of his love for telling long, tall tales - arrived on the barren north shore of the Burrard Inlet and asked local mill workers to build him a saloon. Having been deprived of drink for a long time, they obliged and completed it in less than a day! Hence, Gastown was born!
Today, Gastown is far from a one-saloon neighbourhood! Along Gastown’s beautiful cobblestone streets and amid its Victorian-style buildings, visitors can shop in trendy boutiques, go antique hunting, admire fine regional works of art at the neighbourhood’s many galleries, and grab a bite to eat at one of Gastown’s many diverse restaurants.
Don’t miss the statue of “Gassy” Jack himself and be sure to stop by the quirky Gastown Steam Clock, where 5 enormous brass whistles play Westminster Chimes every 15 minutes!