What to See & Do in Vancouver?
Vancouver is “Hollywood North“, and has great shopping, dining, and nightlife. Visitors enjoy sunning at the close-by rugged beaches, rollerblading and sightseeing around Stanley Park, kayaking or sailing on the many waterways, and hiking, biking or skiing in the North Shore Mountains (and nearby Whistler). All this fun is right at your fingertips!
Vancouver is nestled around the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, a natural deepwater harbour, and the mouth of the huge Fraser River. Vancouver became the base for exploration into BC’s interior. And, to day it is the head office for companies that develop and exploit the province’s timber and mineral resources. The city’s British heritage still pervades the downtown area, as well as the tonier established neighbourhoods.
Vancouver forms the core for the 1.7 million people that live in the “Lower Mainland” of British Columbia. Because of the constraints of mountains to the north, water to the west and the US border on the south, the city’s growth can only go in two directions: east and up!
There are several close-in municipalities along the Burrard Inlet and Fraser River and connected by many bridges. These include (from north to south:) West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Moody/Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, Tsawwassen and White Rock.
The city has, over the last decade experienced phenomenal population growth and expansion to eastern suburbs (municipalities in their own right) including Surrey, Langley and Pitt Meadows. The SkyTrain Light Rail Transit system was opened in 1986 connecting Vancouver to Surrey which has eased the city’s commuter traffic, and the SkyTrain has expanded south to Vancouver Airport and into Richmond for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and a new line extends east to Coquitlam and Port Moody.
Vancouver combines the cultural sophistication of Los Angeles with the rainy-foggy charm of San Francisco, with the added plus of having mountains RIGHT THERE!
It’s the only city in Canada where you can snow-ski and go sailing on the same day, almost year-round. The city’s moist climate gives the city its year-round green color.
The fine weather has also attracted several new audiences: the leisurely and recreation-oriented youth, those of retirement age who no longer want to deal with harsh Canadian winters, and Asians looking for a North American base. In fact half of Vancouver’s population is now non-white and very Asian. It has Canada’s biggest Chinatown, and very strong communities of those of Korean, Vietnamese, Philippine or Japanese descent.
Whether it’s a visit to the zoo, an art gallery or the mountains, Vancouver offers its visitors and residents lots to do every day of the week. And don’t just stick to the typical downtown and Kistsilano, which are the typical tourist hangouts.
There is lots to see in the outlying communities, heading NORTH: North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler all on the North Shore as you head up the Sea to Sky Highway #99. And heading south from Vancouver are the bustling communities of Richmond, Delta, Tswawwassen and White Rock on Highway #99 south toward the US border. And heading east are Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Moody and Surrey continuing into the mixed rural /urban landscape of the Fraser Valley toward Hope
From Horseshoe Bay east, the #1 Trans-Canada Highway is a divided highway west all the way to Hope, while the scenic #7 Lougheed Highway winds through the gently rolling farmlands of the north shore of the Fraser Valley and has views of the snow-capped Mount Baker (a dormant volcano) in Washington state.
Bicyclists getting off the Ferry from Vancouver Island, should take the first right, into Horseshoe Bay to get off the #1, and take Marine Drive (which has some significant ups & downs) eat until either the Lion’s Gate Bridge or take the Seabus across the Burrard Inlet form Lonsdale Quay. The Lion’s Gate Bridge has a significant climb (best view is on the est side, facing downtown), and cyclists would ride on the pedestrian sidewalks.
The Seabus is inexpensive and provides great views of the downtown as you cross the water. Head east on Hastings until you get to the #7, though we’ve marked a shortcut through Coquitlam on the map below. The #7 Lougheed Highway is a gently rolling route, and has a number of towns, cities and fruit-stands along the way for sustenance.