HomeTrue North Blog

Best Things to do in Vancouver

Looking forward to a trip to Vancouver? This beautiful West Coast city offers lots of fun activities. It can be a challenge to narrow down exactly what to do during your vacation. Our travel experts have created this list to help you make the most of your time in Vancouver.

We know planning a perfect vacation takes a lot of work. There's booking hotels and restaurants, plus finding all your activities. Without this planning, you could end up wasting a lot of time. That's why it’s best to talk to one of our local travel experts. 

At Canadian Train Vacations, we're committed to creating unforgettable travel experiences. We do all the planning for you. You can just sit back and enjoy your vacation. Our train trip itineraries are personalized to your interests, so you can pick your hotel types, train class, day tours, and more.  

Many of our train vacations start or end in Vancouver. It’s worth adding a couple of days to your trip to spend time exploring this beautiful oceanside city. Our office is in Vancouver , so we know all the fun things to do here. There's sightseeing spots, gorgeous parks, amazing beaches, and memorable tours. Here is our list of unique things to do in Vancouver, Canada

Why Vancouver? 

Before we dive into all the interesting things to do in Vancouver, let’s tell you why this city should be included on your trip itinerary. 

Situated on Canada’s west coast, Vancouver is a beautiful coastal city and the capital of British Columbia. With the Coast Mountains to the north, and the Strait of Georgia and Pacific Ocean to the west, Vancouver is a popular destination for visitors to North America. Because of the city’s location by the ocean and the temperate rainforest that surrounds it, Vancouver has a mild climate year-round —in the winter, it is one of the warmest places in Canada!  

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts are attracted to Vancouver’s lush landscapes, sandy beaches, and snow-capped mountains. In the summer, popular activities include hiking, biking, kayaking, and whale watching. When the temperature drops and the snow falls, locals and tourists alike flock to the nearby ski hills. 

And while nature is a big part of Vancouver, it’s not the only reason for visiting. The city has a range of lively neighbourhoods and a vibrant culinary scene that represents many different cultures. You can find everything from award-winning seafood restaurants to must-try food trucks and elegant cocktail bars. Visit Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, to see the iconic steam clock; wander through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens in Chinatown; and taste local goods at the market on Granville Island. Robson Street is the perfect place for shopping and dining, while Coal Harbour and Yaletown have lovely waterfront areas.  

For those who enjoy museums and art galleries, Vancouver doesn’t disappoint. The Museum of Anthropology, Science World, Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art are some of the top attractions in the city.  

1. Stanley Park

Person walking along the Seawall in Stanley Park

A walk-through Stanley Park (1) is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver. Since its grand opening in 1888, the park has attracted locals and tourists, with 8 million visitors a year. A walk-through Stanley Park (1) is one of the most popular things to do in the city. Since its grand opening in 1888, the park has attracted locals and tourists, with 8 million visitor a year. People love its incredible gardens, beautiful beaches, and over 27 km of hiking trails. During your visit, look for wildlife, totem poles, and other monuments.

As Vancouver's first and largest park, there's a little something for everyone here. Dine at one of the park's classic restaurants (2) or spend time at the Vancouver Aquarium (read more below).

The park is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. and is free to enter. If you're looking to avoid a crowd, try arriving at Stanley Park in the early morning hours.

Parking is available but the best way to visit the park is to walk, bike, or take the bus. TransLink's #19 bus will take you directly to Stanley Park.

“Take a city tour,” advises Katherine Foxcroft, product manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. “A private tour is the best way to see all the top sights. Let your advisor know the locations you want to see and they will request them on the agenda.”

Explore more: Coast to Coast Canada Train

#1 Travel Tip: Hop-on, hop-off

Quote IconQuote Icon

Hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours are ideal if you want to discover the city at your own pace. You can get a 48-hour pass and explore Vancouver’s top neighbourhoods and attractions, including Stanley Park, Gastown, and Granville Island.

Blog Author - Hannah Poaros-Mcdermott
Hannah Poaros-McDermott
Travel Writer and Senior Content Coordinator

2. Brockton Point Totem Poles

Totem poles at Stanley Park, Vancouver

The Brockton Point Totem Poles (3) in Stanley Park are one of the top 10 sights in Vancouver. Relax in a picturesque meadow setting while you admire the intricate wood carvings. The collection, which includes nine different totem poles, dates from the 1920s. The original totem poles are now in museums for preservation, replaced with replicas.

As discussed above, Stanley Park is easily accessible from downtown. If you book a city tour, it can take you to the Brockton Point Totem Poles.

3. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Take your nature walk to new heights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (4). Open since 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park offers some of the best adventure activities in Vancouver. Marvel at the spectacular views as you trek across the 450 ft long bridge that hangs 230 ft in the air. Or enjoy one of the park's other activities, including the story centre, cliff walks, rainforest trails, and more.

“There are so many amazing photo opportunities at Capilano Suspension Bridge,” Foxcroft says. “It also gives people a chance to get a bird eye’s view of Vancouver’s incredible old-growth trees without a strenuous hike.”

This award-winning park is open daily between May and January, with hours varying depending on the season. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park admission is $65.95 for adults and includes access to all of the park's various activities.

The park offers free shuttle services from various pickup points in downtown Vancouver. Your vacation advisor can arrange a tour which includes Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Download our Canada By Train Brochure

Keep reading or discover more travel inspiration in our brochure. This guide showcases our world-famous train journeys, with ideas for personalizing your Canadian vacation.

Download brochure

4. Granville Island

View of Granville Island Public Market and the marina with Aquabus in front

Shop, eat, and experience Vancouver's diverse culture at Granville Island (5). Surrounded by stunning waterfront views, Granville Island sees millions of visitors each year. They come for the cafes and dock-side restaurants, boutiques, theatres and art galleries. You can easily spend a whole day on the island. Wander through the public market for hand-crafted gifts, and vibrant produce stands. The public market is open daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and is accessible by bus, car, boat, and on foot.

The local travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations recommend a food tour, as a great way to experience Granville Island. 

“There’s a lot to see and try on Granville Island" says Shannon Brand, vacation advisor at Fresh Tracks Canada. "It’s helpful to have someone curate the best bites — plus there’s lots of opportunities to pick up foodie souvenirs.”

5. Seaplane tour over Vancouver

single otter seaplane flies over English Bay with views of Stanley Park and Vancouver skyline in background

Get a bird's-eye view of the stunning city of Vancouver on a seaplane tour. Trips on Harbour Air’s sight-seeing tours range in length from 20 minutes to over an hour. Each one brings the promise of unbeatable views. So buckle up and get ready to see this beautiful mountain town as you've never seen it before.

“A seaplane over Vancouver gives a unique perspective on the city,” says Foxcroft. “Flying over the Lions Gate Bridge is always a special moment.”

For the ultimate excursion, request a private plane tour.

An ideal way to incorporate this experience is to add a day in Victoria and to travel there by seaplane. Your vacation advisor can take care of all the details. Schedule a call now.

6. Whale Watching in Vancouver

Two Orcas breaching close-up

There are few sights more thrilling than spotting a whale jumping out of the water. One of the best whale-watching areas in Canada, Vancouver is home to magnificent minke, orca, gray, and humpback whales. You're likely to spot a few other animals including sea lions, bald eagles, and more. The best time to see whales is between April and October. Most whale-watching companies promise a 90% chance or higher.

“Whale watching is one of our most popular add-on activities,” says Brand. “You have the opportunity to see wildlife, plus some great views of the mountains—and the city from the water.”

Ask your vacation advisor about adding whale-watching to your Canadian train vacation. Options include zodiac tours or larger catamaran vessels.

#2 Travel Tip: Easy day trips

Quote IconQuote Icon

There are some fantastic day trips that you can do from Vancouver. Head up the Sea to Sky highway to visit the famous resort town of Whistler or enjoy a scenic ferry ride to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

7. Sea to Sky Gondola Squamish

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish

Travel 885m above sea level to some spectacular sights on the Sea to Sky gondola ride (6). There's more than breathtaking views. The gondola experience offers mountain-top yoga, live musical performances, and excellent hiking trails.

The Sea to Sky Gondola is open Sunday to Thursday, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Most visitors enjoy a return trip on the gondola, but you can also hike up to the top then take the gondola back down. The hike is quite steep and is classed as intermediate level. If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Vancouver and Squamish, then definitely try the Sea to Summit trail.

The gondola is a short drive from Vancouver. Your vacation advisor can arrange a private tour with scenic stops along the way. 

8. Cycle the City

Cycling on the Vancouver seawall

Every year, more people are riding bikes through Vancouver. It's an efficient way to see many of the city's popular sites. You can plan your entire trip using the Vancouver cycling routes guide (7). Stop at markets, parks, and cafes to keep your bike ride interesting.

Your vacation advisor can also arrange a guided bike tour. These can be suitable for any comfort level, even novice bikers. Combine two of the top things to do in Vancouver city and cycle along the seawall in Stanley Park. 

9. Vancouver Art Gallery

Downtown Vancouver Robson Square and Vancouver Art Gallery

Let inspiration flow through you when you visit the Vancouver Art Gallery (8). With its carefully curated collection, it's no wonder that this gallery is one of the most respected in North America. Open seven days a week, Vancouver Art Gallery is an ideal stop for both art and history lovers. It is also a great spot to snag some unique souvenirs by local artisans.

Enjoy the works of Canadian and international artists as you embark on a guided public tour. The gallery owns the largest group of paintings and works by Canadian painter Emily Carr. Her work drew inspiration from the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. General admission costs $29 per person and gives you access to the Museum as well as the on-site shops and bistro. Tuesday nights offer admission with a donation amount of your choice.

10. Vancouver Aquarium

A couple explores the Vancouver aquarium watching a sea lion in the tank.

Take a trip under the sea! Located in the heart of Stanley Park, The Vancouver Aquarium is home to various marine mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, and more. As Canada's largest aquarium, there's no shortage of things to see and do here. Visit the touch pools (9) where you can roll your sleeves up and gently touch a sea creature. Or take a stroll through the Amazon Gallery where you'll see a crocodile and some sleepy sloths.

The aquarium’s hours change through the seasons, but it is generally open 9:30a.m. to 5:00p.m. in the summer, and 10:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. in the winter, spring,and fall. Since the Vancouver Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Vancouver with kids, it's recommended that you purchase tickets in advance.

11. Grouse Mountain

The gondola up to Grouse Mountain
The Grouse Grind is a famous Vancouver hike, but you don’t have to be an avid hiker to enjoy this fun thing to do in Vancouver. Grouse Mountain has a variety of activities on offer, including the Peak Chairlift and the Skyride, a gondola trip back down to the mountain base (10). Don’t miss the Grizzly Bear Habitat, a wilderness sanctuary for endangered animals. Your vacation advisor can arrange a private tour of Vancouver that will include this must-see destination. 

12. VanDusen Botanical Gardens

VanDusen Botanical Garden Laburnum Walk in Vancouver

With Vancouver’s mild weather and temperate climate, there is always something in bloom at VanDusen Garden (11). Wander the Elizabethan Maze, search for the sculptures throughout, and linger over lunch in the Shaughnessy Restaurant.

A favourite summer-time activity is to grab a picnic basket with afternoon tea from the café to enjoy in a shady spot near the colourful blooms. The garden is open from 10:00 to 5:00 in March through October, with hours extended until 6:00 on weekends in August; and from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 from November through February.

13. False Creek

Evening view of Vancouver's False Creek and geodesic dome of Science World.

False Creek is a unique waterfront community located in the heart of the city. If you're looking for fun things to do in Vancouver, False Creek will not disappoint. Home to popular destinations such as Granville Island and Olympic Village, there's a little something for everyone to enjoy here.

In 2010, False Creek served as a home for the Olympic athletes. Today, the area offers beautiful walking and cycling trails as well as gorgeous harbourfront views for residents and visitors alike.

Spend an entire afternoon dipping in and out of local shops and indulging in some of Vancouver's tastiest restaurants. Looking for a little "me time"? False Creek is home to a handful of beauty and wellness shops so you can relax and pamper yourself. Locals love this neighborhood, and it is not one of the typical touristy things to do in Vancouver. 

14. Vancouver Aquabus

Vancouver's Aquabus on False Creek

See False Creek from a different perspective when you take a ride on Vancouver's Aquabus. Open daily from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., Aquabus has been helping people make memories since 1985. The Aquabus features eight different stops and a vessel comes around every 15 minutes, so you never have to worry about being late and missing your ride.

Aquabus vessels are used by locals and tourists alike. The busiest time to ride the Aquabus is in the summer, but the ferries operate during the winter months as well. Looking to avoid a crowd? You can arrange to book a private trip for yourself and your companions. Riding the Aquabus is one of the cool things to do in Vancouver.

15. Sunset in English Bay

Sunset over English Bay

Any local will tell you, there's no better place to watch the sunset than English Bay Beach. Located along the Stanley Park seawall, English Bay is one of the most popular beaches in the city. Sit and relax while you watch vibrant pink and purple skies reflected in the sea below. Sitting on the beach and watching the sunset is one of the most romantic things to do in Vancouver. 

English Bay has everything, including concessions, chair rentals, volleyball courts, and more. The beach is open daily from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m and is accessible by transit — or your advisor can arrange a private transfer. There is no entry fee but those who drive will have to pay for parking. 

[ Read: 10 Most Romantic Vacations in Canada ]

16. Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver

As one of the oldest surviving buildings in downtown Vancouver, Christ Church Cathedral (12) is full of history. Regardless of your religious views, the church is adorned with stunning works of art, stained glass windows, and aesthetic architecture for you to enjoy. Normally open for visitors Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m Christ Church Cathedral frequently offers live music and performances. After you've toured the church, don't forget to stop at The Maundy Café for a little treat.

17. Chinatown

Chinatown Gate in Vancouver

Bustling with food and locals, the neighbourhood of Chinatown offers some excellent night activities in Vancouver. Sip cocktails in a few of the city's best bars and eateries or spend a day shopping for unique treasures and treats. With origins dating back to 1886, Chinatown is steeped in history and is Canada's largest Chinatown. You should plan to spend at least half a day exploring the area if you want to soak in all this popular tourist destination has to offer.

The streets here are covered with cultural architecture, stunning murals, and colourful shop signs. With such a vibrant atmosphere, you may never want to leave this area. There is paid parking available in the area, but Chinatown is best enjoyed on foot.

18. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the Fall

Walking through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden feels like taking a deep breath. The peaceful oasis is a Ming Dynasty-style garden home and is the first of its kind (13)to be built outside of China. A cultural and educational hub, this garden offers a variety of exhibitions, guided tours, and special events. Experience all kinds of beautiful blooms, fish ponds, and calming architecture as you stroll through the garden grounds.

The garden is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. with tickets ranging from $13 to $16. The garden is easily accessible by public transit from downtown Vancouver, or your Fresh Tracks Advisor can arrange a private transfer. The garden is easily accessible by public transit from downtown Vancouver, or your vacation advisor can arrange a private transfer. 

19. Kitsilano Beach

Volleyball on Kits Beach at sunset

Located on the shores of English Bay, Kitsilano Beach sees a variety of beachgoers from fitness buffs to families and picnic-lovers alike. Referred to by locals as Kits Beach, you'll find the seawall, basketball courts, tennis courts, and excellent swimming here. The beach also has a public pool and concession stands. During your visit, stop for lunch or dinner at The Boathouse Restaurant (14) where you can enjoy fresh seafood and hand-crafted cocktails. Paid parking is available and the beach is open 24 hours a day.

20. Jericho Beach

Two women sitting on a log at Jericho beach with the Vancouver skyline behind

With plenty of recreational activities on offer, Jericho Beach is the perfect spot if you're looking for group activities in Vancouver. Enjoy cycling trails, tennis courts, bird watching, and an annual folk music festival all while you soak up the stunning beach views. There are several perfect picnic areas here so be sure to pack a lunch or hit up one of the beach concession stands for a bite to eat. During the summer months, the beach is open from dawn until dusk and admission is free.

21. Wreck Beach

Sunset from Wreck Beach in Vancouver BC

If you're looking for unique things to do in Vancouver, look no further than Wreck Beach. The famous, clothing-optional beach sees roughly half a million visitors each year and promotes body acceptance and natural lifestyles. Seeing visitors from over 150 different countries, there's more to the beach than nudity. Enjoy swimming, events, and stunning sunsets while you visit as well. If you're looking for a calm, quiet day at the beach, however, this isn't the spot for you.

On average Wreck Beach has up to 14,000 visitors each day and is usually packed. For a less busy trip, try visiting during the colder months. The beach is accessible by public transit, or your vacation advisor can arrange a private transfer.

The beach is accessible by public transit, or your Fresh Tracks Advisor can arrange a private transfer. The trip will also take you through University of British Columbia’s stunning campus. Be warned: getting down to the sand will require you to hike down a large staircase — with 490 steps!

22. Pam Rocks in Howe Sound

Sea Safari in the Fjord of Howe Sound, Sewell's Marina

Located in Howe Sound, Pam Rocks is a windy little island with a lot to offer. Embark on snorkelling or boat trip where you'll enjoy scenic views—and maybe spot a seal or two soaking up the sun. Your vacation advisor can book you on a Sea Safari. 

Take advantage of this recognized bird breeding area and enjoy some peaceful bird watching. 

23. Pacific Arts Market

One of Vancouver's hottest shopping spots for art and hand-crafted gifts, Pacific Arts Market (15) is a welcoming hub for artists in the area. Explore the pop-up gallery space where you'll find new artists and works every four weeks. Or head upstairs to the market space where you'll find local vendors selling everything from leather jewelry to wooden furniture. Occasionally Pacific Arts Market opens their studio space to the public so you can see artists at work. If you're there at the right time you might also catch some live music and free snacks at a special event. As a small artisan market, do check the hours before visiting, but the posted times are Wednesday to Friday, 12:00p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 to 5:30 p.m.

24. Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver during the summer

Flora lovers take note, Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver (16) is one of the lushest parks in the area. You can spend hours casually strolling past well-manicured gardens, exotic trees, and local flora that will have you stopping to take hundreds of nature photos. The park is situated 125 m above sea level–making it the highest point in Vancouver. With all of its unique qualities, it's no wonder that this park is frequently used for weddings and photoshoots.

You will spot stunning sculptures, water fountains, and unimaginable views during your park visit. Queen Elizabeth Park is also home to Bloedel Conservatory–a tropical paradise housing over 100 exotic birds and hundreds of tropical plants.

25. Hike to Shannon Falls

A tour to Shannon Falls near Vancouver

This short and simple trail takes, on average, 18 minutes one way and is a great addition if you do the Sea to Sky gondola. Ideal for beginner or casual hikers, the views along the way make every step worthwhile. Take your time admiring the picturesque Shannon Falls from the marked trails. Don't forget to stop for photos. This is a popular hiking area so be prepared to face a crowd. Parking is available for a fee at the nearby Stawamus Chief and Sea to Sky Gondola parking lots. In total, the looped hike should take between 30 minutes and one hour to complete.

Final Thoughts

Vancouver offers something for every kind of traveller and is a must-visit city in Canada. There are opportunities to spend time in nature, taste delicious food, sunbathe on the beach, discover the local culture, and so much more. It’s worth spending a couple of days in Vancouver so you can see some of the city’s top attractions. 

If you still have questions about what things to do in Vancouver or what train trip is best for you, please contact your vacation advisor.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days are enough in Vancouver?

With so many things to see and experience, you should stay as long as you can in Vancouver. A seven-day trip can easily be filled with various activities, but if you're short on time, a three-day trip should be enough to take in a handful of the best things to do in Vancouver, Canada.

What should you not miss in Vancouver?

If it's your first time visiting Vancouver, you won't want to miss walking along the Stanley Park Seawall, going whale watching, and shopping your way through the Granville Island public market. With so many unforgettable experiences on offer, you might need to come back to Vancouver a few times to fit it all in.

What are the best night activities in Vancouver?

Vancouver offers a bustling nightlife from clubbing in Davie Village to rocking out to live music in the Granville Entertainment district. A trip to the Richmond Night Market is also highly recommended.

What are the most popular adventure activities in Vancouver?

Hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, swimming, and paddle boarding are all very popular activities in Vancouver. Surrounded by beautiful bodies of water, beaches, and awe-inspiring mountains, the city inspires outdoor adventures.

Is Vancouver Downtown safe at night?

Vancouver ranks among the top 10 cities for health and safety (17).However, that's not to say the downtown core is free of crime. If you're planning to walk downtown at night, always walk with a friend.

What are the best outdoor activities in Vancouver?

Some of the best outdoor activities in Vancouver include the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Brockton Point Totem Poles. There are also lots of beautiful spots for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, swimming, and paddle boarding.

When visiting Vancouver, take advantage of its stunning location near the ocean and mountains. If you only have a short amount of time in the city, be sure to visit Stanley Park. If you have more time, add in a whale-watching excursion, which will get you out on the water.

Our team of travel experts at Fresh Tracks Canada can help you plan your perfect itinerary, no matter how many days you have to explore Vancouver.

About the author: Louise Weiss is Director of Legendary Hospitality with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for more than 25 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in North Vancouver and has spent time... Read more

Discuss your Canadian train vacation with a local travel expert

Cartoon polar bear speaking on the phone

Or call us toll free

Cartoon polar bear speaking on the phone