I’ve been looking for things to do in Vancouver since 1986.
As a kid I was happy with forest trails, a dig for clams at the beach, or a trip to feed the squirrels in Stanley Park: then I grew up and wanted culture, cuisine, and cocktails.
Now, I’m comfortably in between – so let’s get into my eclectic list of the most fun things to do in Vancouver.
Best Things to Do in Vancouver BC Canada
Climb Grouse Mountain
The Peak of Vancouver is Vancouver’s year-round alpine recreational playground.
From the epic Grouse Grind hike and zip lining in Vancouver in summer, to skiing in Vancouver in winter, the mountain has no shortage of year round activities on offer.
However, it’s also a vital cultural and educational hub as well. Visit the popular wildlife sanctuary, take in a world-famous lumberjack show or even the best breakfast in Vancouver – because it’s with the grizzly bears.
Located just 15 minutes from downtown, Vancouver’s most visited year-round attraction is simply a must on any Vancouver itinerary.
Go Whale Watching
How many big cities can offer you once in a lifetime wildlife right on the doorstep?
Especially between March and September you’ll find the top Vancouver whale watching tours in full stride.
Here, just outside of Vancouver harbour you can experience killer whales, humpback whales, and all sorts of Pacific wildlife to last a lifetime.
Half day tours roll with expert naturists, state of the art boats, and even food and drinks.
Half Day Whale Watching Tour Info
Cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Name any top tourist attraction that can string you on a line through an old growth rain forest 280 feet above the thundering, salmon-filled Capilano River, then give you the rush of a roller coaster without even a slight drop in altitude.
The 800,000 people who traverse North Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge every year will tell you it’s one of the most unique experiences you can have.
Beyond the bridge you’ve also got a daring Cliff Walk attraction and the exciting Treetops Adventure included in the price.
Related: Capilano Suspension Bridge vs. Sea to Sky Gondola: Which is Better?
Take an Aerial Tour of the City
To truly appreciate all of Vancouver’s beauty together these 20 minute Vancouver seaplane tours are a great option.
You’ll take off right in front of Canada Place and the Vancouver Cruise Terminal, cruise past Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge, trace the majestic Coast Mountains, then circle back for views of Vancouver’s beaches and cityscape.
Even better? You’ll be flying the world’s first carbon neutral airline.
Related: Best Vancouver Sightseeing Tours
Take in the Museum of Anthropology
Those looking for a window into the rich history of the Northwest Coast First Nations will find answers in the art and archaeology at MOA: Vancouver’s most decorated museum that was commemorated with a Canada Post stamp in 1999.
The 535,000 archaeological objects also include a notable presence from far away continents like Africa and Asia, though the piece de resistance is a yellow cedar sculpture called The Raven and the First Men – a depiction of a common Haida creation myth.
A little tip: plan the visit around dusk so you can see a spectacular sunset down at nearby Wreck Beach.
Walk Through Stanley Park
The mother of all Vancouver parks.
Stanley Park actually checks in about one-fifth bigger than Central Park in New York with about (just a guess) 72 times more natural beauty.
It’s home to the Vancouver Aquarium, a miniature railway, and the city center’s world famous Seawall.
What makes this truly Vancouveresque however is the city’s hands-off approach: Stanley Park isn’t the work of a landscape architect but simply an old growth forest that was allowed to evolve with a city next door.
You’ll swear you’re in the middle of the bush, not a city of millions.
Related: Best Vancouver Festivals
Go on Vancouver Food Tours
For me there’s no better way to discover a city than eating up its local delicacies with a guide who feeds you a bit of history as well.
Among our list of the best Vancouver food tours you’ll find the:
- Granville Island Market Food Tour
- Chinatown Walking Food Tour
- Gastown Historic Food Tour
- Little Italy Food Tour
- Richmond Dumpling Tour
Along the way you’ll get to try signature eats like Canada’s national dish poutine, local smoked salmon, gourmet food from top restaurants, and local beers and wines.
Visit Granville Island
Granville Island used to be a boring mud flat just south of downtown Vancouver, but today it has swapped its turn of the century sawmills and machine shops for local artists and their art galleries.
It’s also home to street performers, some of Vancouver’s best shopping, and the city’s top food market.
When I visit I go straight to Granville Island Public Market for the double smoked sockeye salmon strips – everything else is just a secondary attraction, including our beloved maple syrup!
A local seafood meal at Sandbar or a night at The Improv Centre also can’t miss.
Cross the Country with a 4D Flight Simulator
Visit Canada Place, right next to the Vancouver Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver for what has been dubbed “the ultimate flying experience”.
Flyover Canada utilizes state-of-the-art 4D video technology to simulate the sensations of flight across all of Canada’s disparate landscapes.
You’ll be strapped in to hang suspended in front of a 20-metre spherical screen for your exhilarating 8 minute journey clear across Canada.
Along the way special effects such as wind, mist and scents will be combined with motion to create a true lifelike experience.
Take a Vancouver Boat Tour
Vancouver’s city motto is by sea, land, and air we prosper – so it’s only fitting that to pay tribute to the sea by taking Vancouver’s best boat tours.
And we’ve got some pretty insane options: harbour cruises, wildlife boat tours, whale watching tours, dinner cruises, sunset excursions and more.
As a base expect most tours to take you along city beaches, Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge, the Coast Mountains, and the city skyline.
Hit the Vancouver Art Gallery
The largest art gallery in Western Canada hosts a permanent collection of about 11,000 pieces of art – with some notable contributions from Emily Carr, Marc Chagall, and the Group of Seven.
You won’t miss this National Historic Site of Canada building when walking down famous Robson Street. The Vancouver Art Gallery is often the site of protests and demonstrations and is the city’s true cultural heart.
All the big international exhibitions touch down here.
A bonus? The cafe here is one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets as it offers a garden oasis in the middle fo the city, yet is rarely packed. They also have wine, and in the winter there is ice skating out in the square.
Ride the Sea to Sky Highway
If you’re renting a car there’s no greater way to soak up the breathtaking beauty of British Columbia than burning up this 132 km (88 mile) stretch of highway that connects Vancouver with world class ski resort Whistler.
Along the way you can stop at the breathtaking Sea to Sky Gondola or the historic Britannia Mine Museum.
Pick a sunny day and your senses won’t be able to decide between the evergreen elegance of our mountain rain forest or the scintillating sea below.
Just keep an eye on the road!
Related: How Many Days Do I Need to Spend in Vancouver?
Visit the Museum of Vancouver
The Museum of Vancouver is a popular civic-history museum that recounts the history of its namesake city.
Learn about the history of the three local First Nations who called the area home long before the arrival of European explorers.
Proceed in chronological order through the exhibits to gain an informative look at Vancouver’s dramatic transformation from a rough and tumble pioneer outpost to the cosmopolitan city we see today.
Go for Chinese Food
Many of Vancouver’s Best Restaurants tend to have an Asian twist.
Conde Nast Traveler even made the bold claim that Vancouver not only has the best Chinese food in Canada but the best Chinese food in the world.
Their reviewer was left ‘trembling’ by the city’s variety of top Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Szechuan chefs utilizing the area’s top notch seafood and produce.
Peaceful Restaurant is a good start, and Dinesty Dumping House and Chinatown BBQ are great value spots.
The Best Restaurants in Chinatown are a good place to start.
Visit Gastown’s Steam Clock
It may not get the air time as other Vancouver landmarks but this is one of the only functioning steam clocks in the world. It was built in 1977 as part of a throwback revitalization plan for Gastown.
You’ll see it in action on the hour and every 15 minutes after.
You can find more information in our Gastown neighbourhood guide.
Go For Sushi
The 600 sushi restaurants in Greater Vancouver account for about 10% of the city’s total eateries, making them as common as coffee shops. Still not impressed by the number? Los Angeles only has 300 and they’re 7 times bigger.
Vancouverites are sushi mad – but that’s because there’s an abundance of affordable yet delicious fish available around all of coastal British Columbia.
Another fun fact: the california roll was invented in Vancouver at Tojo’s. Tom Sushi is also rated the second best restaurant in Canada, and it’s not even that expensive!
Hit Some Vancouver Beaches
Ah, Vancouver in the summer months – spending a relaxing afternoon swimming, tanning, and barbecuing at one of Vancouver’s best beaches.
To hang with the beautiful people and check out Canada’s longest swimming pool, look no further than Kitsilano beach: a quick taxi from downtown Vancouver.
If you’re staying downtown though you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches facing west into English Bay.
For a more laid-back experience you can head to Jericho, Locarno or Spanish Banks on the city’s West side.
More adventurous souls may want to head out to the University of British Columbia to check out Wreck Beach, Canada’s largest nude beach.
See the Bloedel Conservatory
If Vancouver’s gloomy weather has got you down then don’t fret, the city is home to its own domed tropical paradise. Located at beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory was constructed to foster “a better appreciation and understanding of the world of plants”.
In pursuit of this goal this beautiful domed heritage building was stocked with over 500 species of tropical plants and 120 free-flying birds in its tropical temperature-controlled confines.
Adjoining Queen Elizabeth Park is located at the highest point in Vancouver and thus contains some of the very best views in town. So be sure to bring your camera.
Take in the Seaside Inukshuks
What was once a traditional stone landmark and navigational aid for Inuit cultures has become a symbol of the city and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games logo, owing to Alvin Kanak’s inukshuk built in English Bay in 1986.
Just west of the famous landmark you’ll see hundreds of copycats along the Seawall trying to recreate their own versions representing the theme of northern hospitality and friendship.
After your attempt you’re walking distance to the West End for coffee, drinks, or a delicious ethnic meal.
Experience Commercial Drive
Vancouver’s Commercial Drive is part Little Italy and part hipster haven.
Here you can get into some Neapolitan pizza, hit a craft beer tasting room, sample some affordable cocktails, and visit a board game pub where dice determine your shots.
It’s one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in Vancouver if you can find an Airbnb, and regardless of being a bit far from downtown it’s easily accessible via Skytrain.
Get Lost in VanDusen Botanical Garden
This 22 hectare public garden maintained by over 1200 volunteers displays plant species from all over the world with a particular focus on plants native to British Columbia.
If you’re visiting VanDusen Botanical Gardens in May you’ll be treated to one of the world’s biggest Rhododendron collections, counting over 1000 varieties.
Also of note is the totem pole, Elizabethan hedge maze, and heirloom vegetable garden.
Get Educated at Science World
Yes, us locals still refer to Telus World of Science as Science World and quite frankly you should too for that full integration factor.
Here we get an iconic Vancouver building: a geodesic sphere at the edge of False Creek that looks like Las Vegas had its way with a golf ball.
With a huge variety of science-themed galleries like BodyWorks, Puzzles & Illusions, Environmental Trail, and the Wonder Gallery you’ll be edu-tained like no other place.
The kicker? It’s got the largest OMNIMAX dome screen in the world.
Plan My Science World Visit Now
Eat Some Canadian Food
When I travel people always ask me if there are any traditional Canadian dishes. I usually mumble something self-deprecating and say ‘maple syrup’ before changing the subject.
But you won’t have to.
Salmon n’ Bannock is a modest yet attentive restaurant where you can try updated Indigenous classics, such as salmon, elk, bison pot roast, and oolichans. While the Mr. Bannock food truck offers inventive “Indian fusion” items like Indian Tacos.
Many of the top downtown Vancouver restaurants also offer West Coast cuisine unique to our region.
Go Kayaking in False Creek
Why not discover Vancouver by water and perfect a useful skill while getting into shape at the same time? If you’re visiting between late April and early October then hit up Creekside Kayaks.
False Creek is our recommendation due to its connection with downtown Vancouver, sheltered waters and great stop-off options; like Science World, Granville Island and Yaletown.
For an extra treat, choose from amongst a variety of kayaking tours offered in the area. They’re a unique and engaging way to learn about False Creek and Vancouver while getting a little exercise.
Things to Do in Vancouver Canada FAQ
What are the must do things to do in Vancouver?
The things you absolutely must do in Vancouver are seeing Capilano Suspension Bridge, visiting Stanley Park, heading up Grouse Mountain, shopping Granville Island, and taking a whale watching tour.
What are some fun things to do in Vancouver Canada?
There are literally hundreds of fine choices but in my opinion the most fun things to do in Vancouver are:
- Crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Whale watching
- Taking a food tour of Granville Island
- Taking a bike tour through Stanley Park
- Riding the Flyover Canada 4D flight simulator
- Riding the gondola up to Grouse Mountain
- Walking tours of Gastown
- Kayaking False Creek
What are some non touristy things to do in Vancouver?
Non touristy things to do include visiting beaches on the West side (Locarno, Jericho), going to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, going to Lonsdale Quay Market, and eating in Chinatown and Punjabi Market.
Still Looking for Awesome Things to Do in Vancouver?
This isn’t just a website where I give you the top things to do in Vancouver and just run for the hills. Even though that would be easy particularly easy in this city!
If you need any custom advice on your upcoming holiday or night out in Vancity then please hit me up in the comments below.
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