Here are the most popular “must-see” attractions in the Vancouver area:
B.C. Sports Hall of Fame
777 Pacific Boulevard South
The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame highlights some of the greatest moments in the history of British Columbia sports. It’s a great place to take the kids, featuring educational and energizing displays and information exhibits. Visitors will feel the passion and commitment of sports stars as they walk through time. Mementos can be found throughout the museum including hockey sticks, medals and track shoes.
Learn about Terry Fox’s famous journey across Canada to raise money for cancer research and Rick Hansen’s Man-in-Motion tour. The History Galleries take you back as far as the 1860’s, where you can learn about the games played in Victoria and Barkerville. The Starlight Theatre features sport news from the 1930s. The galleries continue to take you through the past sports history right up to the ’90s. Admission. Free to kids five and under.
This is the second-largest Chinatown in North America, next to San Fransisco’s. The community is encompassed by Pender and Keefer Streets, and Carrol and Gore Streets. The first Chinese immigrants settled in the province during the Fraser Gold Rush in the 1850s. Today the past is alive in Chinatown. It remains an exotic place of wonder to outsiders and millions of people tour Chinatown every year. Chinatown is a haven for treasures and fabulous food. Its architecture is distinctive to China. The Sam Kee Building at 8 West Pender is the narrowest commercial building in the world and the Chinese Cultural Centre, an integral part of the Chinese community, is located at 50 East Pender. These are just a couple of points of interest in Chinatown. After one visit, you’ll be sure to come back for many more.
Double Decker Connector
255 East 1st Ave.
1-800-667-0882 or (604) 879-1105
Visitors can enjoy a trip to the Capilano Suspension Bridge or Grouse Mountain Skyride aboard the Double Decker Connector, which is offered as a tour independent to the bridge and Skyride. Tours run daily from downtown to the bridge and Skyride from May 20 to Sept. 15. Buses depart every 80 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Admission.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall Street
A photographer’s dream, this Chinese garden offers extensive symbolism. From winding corridors unfold beauty and serenity. The governments of Canada and the People’s Republic of China collaborated to create this Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) garden. More than 50 artisans from China were involved in the creation of this garden, which captures the beauty of every season. The garden is open year round from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission. Children under the age of five get in free.
Water Street area
Vancouver’s Gastown is likely one of its most famous areas. Entering Gastown is like taking a step back in time to 1867 when the city of Vancouver was founded. Back then it was named after a colorful saloon owner named Gassy Jack Deighton. In 1886 a huge fire completely destroyed the city. The blaze was sparked by a Canadian Pacific Railway fire that spread out of control. In less than an hour, two of the 400 original houses were left standing in Gastown. A year after the fire, Vancouverites celebrated when the city was chosen as the western head office of the Canadian Pacific Railroads and would finally be connected to the rest of the country by rail.
More than 100 years later, the area still features turn-of-the-century street lamps, cobblestone streets, Victorian architecture, and courtyards. Much more of Gastown’s history is scattered along the way. The Steam Clock can be heard throughout Gastown hour on the hour and historic buildings such as The Europe Hotel tower over Gastown. Gaolers Mews is located on the grounds where the city’s first jail was built as well as home to Gastown’s first constable Jonathan Miller. On the edge of Gastown is Harbour Centre Mall, located beneath the Harbour Centre Tower. Visitors to Gastown are greeted by The Landing, a first-class shopping mall. At the corner of Hastings and Granville Streets sits Sinclair Centre, a shopping experience comprised of four heritage buildings under glass. Gastown is also famous for its nightlife. Water Street is home to many nightclubs and lounges, as well as exquisite restaurants.
South side of False Creek
Vancouver’s charm wouldn’t be complete without Granville Island.The former industrial site has been renovated into a huge urban success. Located in this giant sandbar is a variety of interesting tourist attractions, restaurants and free entertainment. A walk out on the island begins with the Kids Only Market, where youngsters can play to their hearts’ delight, laugh at the clowns and have their faces painted. Crowds gather at the Waterfront Theatre to watch acting rehearsals.
The famous Granville Island Market is a Vancouver attraction that most people don’t want to miss. Its a 4,000 square foot indoor emporium featuring stalls selling seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, poultry, meat and cheese. Bridges’ deck is a great place to go to wave at passing fishermen who are coming or going with their catches. The Emily Carr College of Art has two public galleries open for viewing. The Arts Club Mainstage and the Arts Club Revue Theatres are located on the west side of the island. Popular year-round, the Revue is a dinner theatre (optional) which offers great performances on the Mainstage. Much of Granville’s charm also comes with the buskers and free street entertainment. Two days are never the same. You’ll see anything from magicians to musicians to jugglers on the island. Several festivals are held on the island each year as well including the duMaurier Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, the Bluegrass Festival, Comedy Festival, New Play Festival and Festival of Lights. Getting to Granville Island is easy. There’s plenty of free parking, you can take the bus, taxi or walk across to the island.
Grouse Mountain is one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions. It’s the site of the oldest and most developed recreational site in the North Shore Mountains. More than 4,100 feet above sea level, the mountain offers an incredible view of the city, a Skyride, theatre in the sky and scenic peak chair ride. Helicopter rides are also offered and visitors can get a snack or meal at one of the restaurants. During the winter the mountains turns into a winter wonderland offering horse-drawn sleigh rides and alpine skiing. Skiers love Grouse Mountain because of the great runs they can ski down until 10 p.m. while the lights of the Lions Gate Bridge and City of Vancouver sparkle below. The mountain playground is open year round and General Admission. Free for tots 4 and under.
Harbour Centre Tower
555 Hastings Street
The lookout in Harbour Centre Tower soars above the skyline at 167 metres. To get up to the top of the world you’ll step aboard the glass Skylift elevator to take a 50 second ride up to the lookout. You’ll be dazzled by the display from the full-circle windows. Inside, the tower’s large screen offers video presentations, an information centre and helpful guides who will be sure to tell you about your best tourist bets. At the base of the tower is the Harbour Centre Mall, a great place to pick up souvenirs and travel necessities. The mall features a pharmacy, post office, one-hour photo finishing location as well as souvenirs. After a visit up the tower, grab a bite to eat in the food court at the base of the tower. The viewing deck is open year round. During the summer the Lookout’s hours are 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day of the week and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the winter.
Pacific National Exhibition Grounds, off Hastings
(604) 254-1631 or 1-800-677-7702
Spend a day at the races! Hastings Park features the thrill and excitement of Thoroughbred horse racing. Located just four miles from downtown Vancouver on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds, you can catch all the action from the grandstand or the Table Terrace Restaurant. You get a great view of the action on the track as well as the picturesque beauty of the North Shore Mountains and Burrard Inlet. Races are held on Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends from April 10 to Oct. 18. From Oct. 22 to Nov. 7 races are held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with post times at 6:30 p.m.
Lions Gate Bridge
Crosses Burrard Inlet from the north shore to Stanley Park. This famous bridge was built in 1937 by the Guiness family, which is famous for its beer. This 1,476-foot structure was the longest suspension bridge in the world during the first few years of its life. More than 60,000 drivers go across the three-lane bridge every day.
Museum of Anthropology
6393 NW Marine Drive (UBC Endowment Lands)
(604) 822-3825 or (604) 822-5087
The museum features art and artifacts from around the world. Visitors enter the museum through a giant bent cedar box created by ‘Ksan master carvers. The Masterpiece Gallery offers dramatic views and exquisitely carved works in gold, silver, argillite and wood. Visitors are invited to stroll outside among the totem poles and Haida houses which overlook the mountains and the ocean. MOA is open in the summer from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Winter hours are the same except the museum is closed Mondays. Admission. Kids five and under get in free.
1455 Quebec Street
Science World is jam-packed with unique experiments and activities the whole family can enjoy. Experience a breathtaking OmniMax film on one of the world’s largest dome screens. The 3D Laser Theatre will blow your mind and each of the theatres offer a variety of incredible shows year round. The Science Centre is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Admission for adults is $9, $5.50 for seniors and people aged four to 18 and kids under four get in free.
Stanley Park is a favorite site for Vancouverites and visitors alike. The park, discovered by Captain Vancouver in 1792, sprawls over 1,000 acres of land. A couple of great places to visit in the park are the Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park Zoo and Vancouver Aquarium. The Lost Lagoon is a bird watcher’s haven. A feeding program has been in place since 1938 and thousands of birds of different species gather in their designated home. The Stanley Park Zoo is a great place for a family to spend a day at. It ‘s home to polar bears, penguins, river otters, seals and monkeys. The zoo has an aviary which contains several exotic bird species. The Vancouver Aquarium is a fascinating underwater experience. Featuring 8,000 animals and 600 species, the Aquarium is a plays host to thousands of visitors every day.
Vancouver Police Centennial Museum
240 E. Cordova Street
The museum, featuring historical displays about some of Vancouver’s best-known crimes, celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. Educational displays are a large component of the museum as well as an excellent weapons display. The museum is open from May to August from Monday to Saturday at 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission. Kids get in free.
The aquarium offers visitors a look at more than 8,000 aquatic animals representing 600 species. This private, non-profit institution was founded in 1950 and today has more than 55,000 supporting members. Naturalists are on hand to tell visitors about the animals and their behaviors and habitat. The Pacific Coral Reef Display is a replica of a shallow South Pacific lagoon. Sharks and coral reef fish swim about in the display. The Graham Amazon Gallery is home to Amazon jungle animals including sloths, snakes and spiders.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
1905 Ogden Avenue (Kitsilano)
A visit to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself in the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Most displays are hands-on adventures and many of the models are life size. The Children’s Maritime Discovery Centre offers a look at the boats in the harbor through a high-powered telescope. Kids will be delighted to take a step further by actually setting foot on one of the boats such as a scale-model tugboat. Also at the museum is the historic St. Roch, a restored Royal Canadian Mounted Police auxiliary schooner. Its original crew was the first set of RCMP members to sail from west to east through the Northwest Passage. These attractions and many more await you at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week but closed Mondays in the winter.
1100 Chestnut Street
This is Canada’s largest civic museum. True to its name, it focuses on Vancouver’s past, present and future. Displays and educational programs describe the history, culture and natural development of the Lower Mainland. The museum also contains a gift shop featuring First Nations art and jewellery. open daily from 10am-5pm and on Thursdays from 10am-9pm. Closed December 25th only. Admission. Children under 4 are free.
Vancouver Mineral Museum
848 West Hastings Street
Vancouver’s newest museum profiles beautiful minerals, gemstones, meteorites, fossils and other natural geo-materials from around the world (and beyond it!)