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.
Today I’m comfortably in between and this will only be to your benefit.
Here’s the most eclectic Vancouver to-do list online.
Best Things to Do in Vancouver BC Canada
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.
The Peak of Vancouver is Vancouver’s year-round alpine recreational playground.
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 have breakfast 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.
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.
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.
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.
This mud flat just south of downtown Vancouver has swapped its turn of the century sawmills and machine shops for local artists and their art galleries, street performers, artisan 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 Theater Sports League also can’t miss.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Breakfast for $2.95
Two eggs any way, hash browns, ham, and toast.
If you get back to your top Vancouver hotels super late after a few too many cocktails there’s nothing more liberating than leaving your breakfast to Bon’s Off Broadway for the price of a ride on Skytrain.
It won’t quite be like the food vendors at Granville Island, but it’s a great Vancouver answer to Denny’s at a quarter of the price.
Sunset at English Bay
In Vancouver’s trendy West End right along the Seawall you’ll find the aptly named Sunset Beach and its view over English Bay.
Locals and tourists alike gather to sit on the sand and logs (salvaged from tugboats in the logging industry) and bid another day adieu. Keep an eye out for Stanley Park on the right.
I like grabbing a beer or/and cider from Denman street to take down. Just make sure you put them in a plastic cup unless you want the cops to pour it out.
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.
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.
Better than China? I don’t know, but it doesn’t hurt to try!
The Best Restaurants in Chinatown are a good place to start.
Ah, Vancouver in the summer months – spending a relaxing afternoon swimming, tanning, and barbecuing at one of Vancouver’s best beaches.
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.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Right off the UBC campus you’ll find this 8.4 square kilometer forest of huge trees that’s connected by over 30 trails – the perfect place for quiet reflection or a walk with the dog.
I remember walking through these forest trails as a kid feeding on blackberries, trying to catch tadpoles, and looking up at and imposing old growth forest that makes you forget you’re in the middle of one of the world’s most livable cities.
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.
Robson Street Shopping
Vancouver’s answer to Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue is quickly turning into one of North America’s shopping districts, complete with luxury hotels and epic people watching.
The area’s heart stretches along Robson between Granville and Bute. Check out neighbouring Alberni Street for ultra-luxurious European brand-names, jewelry stores and upscale restaurants.
Robson is definitely one of the most popular places in the city for shoppers and people watchers alike.
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.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
The Vancouver Maritime Museum aims to recount the stories of people, places and vessels that helped write Vancouver’s rich nautical history.
Climb aboard the historic St. Roch, the first vessel to traverse the treacherous Northwest Passage in the 1940’s. Then saunter down to Heritage Harbour, where you can walk amongst a collection of historic vessel tied up in False Creek.
The’re also another popular pot here: the Children’s Maritime Discovery Centre. It’s a fun hands on area catered to children where they can take the helm of a model tugboat and peer through a telescope at English Bay.
North Vancouver’s Shipyards District
Once the heart of British Columbia’s shipbuilding industry, this vibrant North Vancouver neighbourhood is now home to numerous bustling bars, restaurants and cafes.
Grab a couple drinks on a patio and soak in the spectacular views of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver’s skyline – they’ve even got a food market that’s like a mini Granville Island Public Market.
The district is conveniently located near the Lonsdale Quay Seabus Terminal, making it a great option for those planning to visit North Shore tourist attractions like Grouse Mountain, Quarry Rock or the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
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.
This historic fishing village along the Fraser River remains the largest commercial fishing port in Canada with over 600 boats calling it home. However, today you’ll find more tourists then fishermen walking up and down the Steveston Village’s iconic boardwalks.
Experience a rare glimpse into Pacific Canada’s history at national historic sites like the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Museum and Britannia Shipyards. Embark on an exciting whale watching adventure or explore Garry Park’s endless network of walking trails.
But most of all, you’ll want to sample seafood so fresh you’ll think you caught it yourself. Try Pajo’s at Fisherman’s Wharf for the best fish and chips on this side of the Atlantic.
Here’s one of the best new things to do in Vancouver, even if many citizens have been pretending it’s kosher for decades.
On October 17th, 2018 cannabis became legal for recreational consumption all across Canada. This means tourists 19 and over can consume the flowers, drops, and capsules available at private and government-run stores.
So far Vancouver only has 19 legal stores but there are certainly more to come.
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.
Whether you’re looking for European or American football you’ll find your fill at BC Place Stadium: the city’s 54,000 capacity retractable roof stadium in the heart of downtown Vancouver.
The BC Lions (May-November) of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Vancouver Whitecaps (March-October) of Major League Soccer (MLS) provide the best sporting bang for your buck in the city.
The best part of all? Unlike the Vancouver Canucks these teams haven’t really had the chance to break our hearts.
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.
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.
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.
Eye of the Wind
Found on Grouse Mountain, the city’s highest viewpoint is the world’s only wind turbine with an observation deck. And who wouldn’t want one with its amazing views of the skyline, Stanley Park, and English Bay Beach and its fjords?
The massive carbon-fiber blades of the Eye of the Wind roll at 300 km/hour and generate enough energy to power 260 homes.
If you don’t want to shell out for pricey whale watching tours there’s still a way to explore Vancouver from the water – and you’ll be able to do it with the shrapnel in your pocket.
Richmond Night Market
With over 50% of Richmond’s population identifying as Chinese, it’s no wonder this Asian-style shopping and food extravaganza counting over 100 food stalls and 200 vendors finds itself here.
There’s also live music, entertainment, and carnival games and rides for the kids.
I love visiting the Richmond Night Market as part of a night out at the River Rock Casino, which is just meters away.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
This lush Chinatown garden and urban park offers a perfect reprieve from the rigours of urban sightseeing.
Built in 1986 to maintain and enhance the bridge of understanding between Western and Chinese cultures, the facility is the first Chinese Scholars Garden built outside of Asia.
Each plant is carefully chosen to emphasize seasonal changes and invoke a deep spiritual meaning in accordance with the principles of Taoism. This makes the garden a year round attraction.
When the sweltering July heat finally begins to arrive then there is one location to which every Vancouver family flocks for a brief reprieve. At 137 metres (150 yards), Kitsilano Pool is the longest pool in North America.
With its turquoise water, white bottom, and stunning outdoor waterfront location a trip to Kitsilano Beach and its outdoor pool almost feels like a tropical vacation – were it not for Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains in the background.
The pool is located just 5 minutes from downtown Vancouver in the neighbourhood of Kitsilano.
Summer visitors to Vancouver can’t miss the Pacific National Exhibition: Vancouver’s annual 17-day summer fair which will easily take up an entire day.
The famous wooden rollercoaster at Playland, the nightly fireworks, and any combination of food trucks and concerts make this the funnest time of year.
Feeling lucky? Enter the PNE Prize Home draw for a chance at winning your very own home in the city.
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.
If you’re a couple or a foodie or both there’s no better area to bank on for a dinner at one of Vancouver’s top restaurants.
This trendy neighbourhood dominated by green glass residential towers is where trends touch down.
Some suggestions: Cioppino’s (Italian), Blue Water Cafe (local seafood), and Minami (Japanese).
When I was a kid this out of this world (literally and figuratively) Vancouver astronomy museum was not so elegantly called the Planetarium – though now it’s the HR MacMillan Space Centre.
Go here to try on space suits, break down rockets, and even touch a piece of the moon. Children really love the interactive exhibits and the Star Theater where you’ll take a journey through all the galaxies, black holes, and meteor shows you can handle.
For a true treat, visit on Saturday night when the Gordon Southam Observatory opens to visitors. This allows you to gaze deep into the heavens through a 1/2 meter Cassegrain telescope.
Best of all, general admission is by donation only!
This is one of those fun things to do in Vancouver that might get you a little tipsy long the way – so if you’re a fan of artisanal alcohol then look no further than the fermented, triple-distilled spirits made with local British Columbia grains from Liberty Distillery.
This Granville Island institution gets its quality from its limited batches and hand-crafted copper stills.
The result is some of the best vodka, gin, and whiskey you’ve ever tasted. Their $10.00 gin tasting flight is one of the best price-quality ratio offerings in the city.
If you’re a big baseball fan or a curious tourist there’s hardly a better summertime activity than having a couple beers, some BBQ food, and catching a ‘nooner’ at Nat Bailey Stadium: the prettiest little ballpark in the world.
The single-A baseball (the youngest possible drafted players for Major League Baseball) players give you a raw, entertaining, and energetic game where you just might see the world’s next superstars.
Kayaking 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.
The Vancouver Police Museum
Set at the crossroads of Gastown and Chinatown, North America’s oldest police museum is set inside what was once the city’s functioning morgue and autopsy facility.
This unique location presents visitors with a once in a lifetime opportunity to step into a real life C.S.I set to learn about the evolution of forensics. You can even look at preserved organs!
Proceed through the remaining exhibits to gaze at over 20,000 rare artifacts; including seized firearms, counterfeit currency and police uniforms.
Vancouverites brag that they can finish at the office downtown at 5:00 and be in the middle of any number of outdoor activities, particularily bombing down the local ski hills by 6:00.
It’s true, traffic willing.
With Grouse Mountain, Cypress, and Seymour serving ski and snowboard bums between late November and early March you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Tourists usually go to Grouse Mountain for its proximity and spectacular views of the city.
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.
Also, any comments (good or bad) that you have on any of the activities listed above or the website in general will be greatly appreciated.
Let’s keep the discussion going.