If you are looking for the best things to do in Vancouver, then you are in for a treat! Vancouver is a world-class city in British Columbia with plenty of things to do at any time of the year. Located on Canada’s west coast, it is full of natural beauty, and a temperate climate. Vancouver is a multicultural city making it full of cultural delights and unique cuisines. The farm to table movement in the restaurant industry provides seasonal delights for diners and the local’s sustainability desires make it one of the most sustainable cities in the world.
While the peak season to visit is over the warm summer months, that does not mean that there are only summer things to do in Vancouver. It just means that you need to plan for the weather! In Vancouver, you can really ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon. You can hike all year round and plenty events make visiting Vancouver at any time a pleasure for all who visit.
While there are countless things to do in Vancouver, here are 99 things to do whether you have lived in the region your whole life, or if you are visiting for just a few days!
Top 10 Things to do in Vancouver
Stanley Park is the jewel of Vancouver. Home to the Vancouver Aquarium, beautiful old-growth forest, biking and walking paths and stunning views! You can rent bikes and ride the Seawall, you can bring your walking shoes and walk, or you can drive around and park at all of the beautiful spots around the park. At Prospect Point you can enjoy stunning views of the Fraser River, North Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge. Grab an ice cream on a sunny day while you take a few photos! There is also a restaurant at Prospect Point.
To kick off the holiday season in November and December, the Vancouver Parks Board hosts Bright Nights Stanely Park. The 20 gauge, 2 km track winds through the forest over ground cleared by Typhoon Freda, the most devastating storm in Vancouver history which blew through in 1962. Passengers can get a close-up look at a vintage engine and a quick photo before boarding for the 15-minute ride. The jewel of the Stanley Park Railway’s collection of old locomotives is a locally-built replica of Canadian Pacific Railway Engine #374, famous for pulling Canada’s first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the late 1880s
Wander Granville Island and check out the local shops (the kids market is a favourite), fresh food and even the water park for the kids! This is one of the popular tourist spots in Vancouver and is also flooded with locals looking to browse the Granville Island Public Market. This is also one of the best places to find Vancouver souvenirs and unique Canadian gifts.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge is another one of the popular Vancouver sights. Completed in 1889, the bridge has seen millions of visitors over the years. The Capitano Suspension Bridge Park now boasts a variety of activities including a cliff walk, treetop platforms and also has self-guided programs for kids! While this is actually in North Vancouver, it is a must-do for the outdoor lover visiting British Columbia.
If you are visiting without a vehicle, you can take this popular half day tour.
In November and December, Capilano Suspension bridge is transformed into a twinkling wonderland full of holiday lights. You can read more about it and where else to see Christmas lights in Vancouver.
Fly Over Canada
If you have never seen Fly Over Canada, then you are in for a treat. During the Ultimate Flying Ride, you will see numerous cities and vistas across the country. The production team for FlyOver Canada was able to select 18 scenes from over 100 hours of footage to represent Canada in the ride film. There are no subtitles or voice-overs during the experience, as we did not want to detract from the flying sensation. Fly over Canada is located inside Canada Place right next to the cruise ship terminal.
Tickets: Book your tickets online in advance here for the lowest price and to ensure availability.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
VanDusen Botanical Gardens is a 55-acre oasis, with over 7,500 plant species from around the world. Take your time within this quiet setting and explore the inspiring architecture, sculptures, a peaceful waterfall, a breathtaking lake, and 50 botanical collections. VanDusen Botanical Garden has are two restaurants with patios – Truffles Café or Shaughnessy Restaurant. Souvenir shoppers will both enjoy the gift shop on the way out!
VanDusen Botanical Gardens hosts seasonal events during the year. It is a popular place to visit in the fall because it is one of the popular places in Vancouver to see the changing leaves.
During the Christmas season is their Festival of Lights. If you are visiting during the holidays, this is one of many popular Christmas activities in Vancouver.
Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery is located in Downtown Vancouver, next to Robson Square. It is recognized as one of Canada’s most renowned and innovative visual arts institutions. It is a National Historic Site and was designed by Francis Rattenbury, the same architect responsible for the parliament buildings in Victoria. Due to its central location it is often used for gatherings and protests.
Hit the Beach
If relaxing, or people-watching is your thing, grab your beach essentials and head over to Kits Beach for the afternoon! No trip to Canada is complete without enjoying some of the West Coast beaches that are right in the city of Vancouver! There is so much more than just Kits beach though, check out Second beach for a swim in the public pool that overlooks the water! You cannot get much better than that!
Metro Vancouver has plenty of beaches, you can read more great locations in this list of swimming beaches in Metro Vancouver.
Stanley Park Seawall
One of the must-dos when visiting Vancouver is to walk Stanley Park’s SeaWall and enjoy everything the park has to offer. With beautiful beaches and views of Deep Cove it is a stop you do not want to miss! While it is long, it is on my list of easy hikes in Vancouver.
One of the notable stops is the totem poles at Brockton Point. These nine totems are one of British Columbia’s most visited attractions. The collection started in the 1920s when the Vancouver Park Board bought 4 totems from Alert Bay on Vancouver Island. The most recent installation was in 2009, carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish First Nations.
Marvel at Stanley Park’s Siwash Rock
The iconic Siwash Rock is the only sea stack you can find in Vancouver. It can be found along the SeaWall and is a popular spot for great photos. It is made of basalt and exists due to a volcanic dyke that formed in the sandstone and mud foundation, forcing the hot magma up and creating a stack as it cooled.
Visit Grouse Mountain at any time of the year
Grouse Mountain is an amazing summer or winter activity in Vancouver! With the hill covered in snow in the winter and amazing hiking and entertainment in the summer, it is well worth a visit! Did you know they have daily shows, a grizzly bear habitat and wolves! The two resident grizzlies, Grinder and Coola, have lived on a five acre refuge on Grouse Mountain since 2001.
Grouse Mountain (and the other local mountains) also offers night skiing in the winter months, making it one of the popular things to do in Vancouver at night with the locals!
Location: 6400 Nancy Green Way, North Vancouver
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
Explore Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge and experience North Vancouver’s amazing parks. Standing 50 meters above a raging river, this is a hidden gem when it comes to Vancouver’s best Instagram spots, as it is much less crowded than nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
The surrounding park is full of trails, waterfalls and swimming areas.
Location: 3663 Park Road, North Vancouver
Book a Photo Shoot
Whether you are a local to Vancouver or in town visiting, it is easy to find a local photographer and book a photo session online! If you are looking for a new Christmas card photo, want to update family pictures or commemorate a family vacation to Vancouver then book a photo shoot before your trip!
If you use the code LINDSAY you will get $25 off your booking as well!
More Things to do in Vancouver
Take the Kids to Science World
Spend the day exploring the geometric dome that is Science World and make sure to catch a movie on the giant five story high IMAX screen! It is the largest dome screen in the world. Kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens can explore the interactive science exhibits at the Telus World of Science.
Current Exhibit: T.rex: The Ultimate Predator (Showing until Jan 23/2023)
Once a fluffy hatchling, learn how the T.rex evolved into a ferocious hunter through interactive activities that bring it to life. Unleash your inner paleontologist, identify the first dinosaur egg and inspect early evidence of dinosaur feathers. Using your imagination, choose a colour scheme for a virtual T.rex then head to the roar mixer to create your own version of its roar by blending the sounds of birds, crocodiles and other living animals. In T.rex: The Ultimate Predator, you will discover a new story about the T.rex and explore how it lived, hunted, and thrived in its environment for millennia.
Location: 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver
Attend a Canucks Game
Take on a Canucks game! While everyone loves to joke about the Vancouver Canucks, hockey is still a passion for so many Vancouverites.
Daytrip to Fort Langley
You can also find some great pumpkin patches in Langley while you are there for a fall visit! Read more about Fall in Vancouver, things to do in Vancouver in October and things to do in Vancouver in November for more fall ideas!
Hike the Chief in Squamish
Hike the Stawamus Chief (or take the new Sea to Sky Gondola!) to experience stunning views of Howe Sound and Garibaldi Provincial Park. This hike is a few hours long, with a large elevation gain and would not be suitable for young children. There are a few small ladders and chains to help navigate the steep sections, but this is a hike that can be done in good running shoes. If hiking is not your thing, you can still access the top of the chief with the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Check out the Water Parks in the Fraser Valley in Summer
Drive out to the Fraser Valley and visit the Otter Coop Outdoor Experience in one of Langley’s outdoor pools! It is open from June to September and is a very popular activity. Book online in advance!
Take the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay Market
The Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver is where you can catch a ride on the Seabus, a passenger-only ferry service in Metro Vancouver. Enjoy a quick 10-12-minute ferry ride as you cross the Burrard Inlet towards the Lonsdale Quay terminal. This is the extension of the transit system. This takes you directly to the Lonsdale Quay Market.
The Lonsdale Quay Market is a waterfront public market that is open year-round. With over 90 specialty shops and services, Lonsdale Quay is the place to visit.
Photograph the Murals in East Van
If you like street art, you’ll enjoy exploring the backstreets of East Vancouver, specifically the Mount Pleasant neighborhood on Main Street (between 4th and 14th Avenue). This is where you will find the best street art in Vancouver. Whether it is photos for instagram or enjoying the art, this is one of the free things to do in Vancouver that is quite popular!
Visit Vancouver’s Chinatown
Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the largest, most vibrant, and historic Chinatowns in North America.
Wander and eat in Gastown.
Gastown is the oldest commercial district in Vancouver and is located along the waterfront between Granville and Main Streets, and north of Hastings Street. It is filled with heritage brick buildings, historic charm, tourist shops, and fine restaurants. Read more: Things to do in Gastown.
Visit the Museum of Anthropology
Did you know that the Indigenous people of Canada have been in the Vancouver area for over 10 000 years. If you thought it was a country populated by European settlers then you will learn a ton at the Museum of Anthropology. See the magnificent indigenous carvings, weavings and contemporary artworks in a spectacular building overlooking mountains and sea. There are various guided tours available throughout the museum.
Head out on a Whale Watching Charter
April to October is the best time to go whale watching in Vancouver. There are several whale-watching tours from Vancouver that offer guests a glipmse into the waters off British Columbia’s coast. They are rich with marine life and Orcas, humpback, gray and minke whales are the most common whales that you will see on a Vancouver whale watching trip!
Take the Hop-on Hop-Off Bus
Did you know Vancouver has a hop on hop off bus? Well if you did not, now you do! It has 29 stops around the city!
Sea to Sky Gondola
Just outside of Squamish is the Sea to Sky Gondola. This newer attraction just outside of Vancouver offers stunning views of Howe Sound as well as hiking trails, a suspension bridge and plenty of outdoor beauty. If you are visiting in the winter, YES, the Sea to Sky gondola is open! It is a popular place to go snowshoeing in Vancouver, so grab some snowshoe rentals at the top and enjoy this winter paradise!
Daytrip to the Britannia Mine Museum
Nestled along the mountainside on the Sea to Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler is the Britannia Mine Museum. This former copper mine is now one of Canada’s National Historic Sites and was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire.
The Britannia Mine Museum was established in 1974 and recently renovated. It provides visitors with a unique blend of experiences offering a soft adventure attraction and education venue that allows guests to leave with a better understanding of mining in BC; past, present, and future. You can buy tickets online in advance here.
Bike Around the CIty
Vancouver is very bike-friendly. It boasts various bikes lanes and even closes off a lane of the road in the summer to allow cyclists more room to ride in Stanley Park in the summer months. There are plenty of bike rental shops as well as short-term bike rentals (called Mobi but I know them as the Shaw bikes since they have a big Shaw logo on them) all over the city.
Make sure to download the Mobi app on your phone to use the city bikes.
If you want someone to show you the city by bike, you can also book a bicycle tour online. If you want to see more of the city without the workout, try a e-bike tour! Once you have tried one, you will not want to get off!
Try a food tour
Food tours are popular all over the world. On this Gastown food tour tantalize your taste buds as you enjoy a 2.5-hour walking food tour of Vancouver’s historic Gastown. Enjoy this culturally rich area while you are taken to 7 eateries to enjoy some delicious food.
Hike the Grouse Grind.
Join in what Vancouverite’s call “fun” by trudging 850M uphill on Grouse Mountain. Known as the Grouse Grind, or “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” this 2.9 km uphill hike is very popular with locals and plenty of visitors get in on the fun as well. When you reach the top (which is essentially the base of the ski hill) enjoy stunning views of Vancouver, summer activities, food and a ride down on the Grouse gondola. (At this time you are only allowed to hike UP the hill due to its popularity and you must download on the Gondola. Arrange your tickets in advance if you do not want to wait to get back down!)
Slow hikers take up to 2 hours to complete the stairclimb. Regulars do it in well under an hour.
This hike is not available in the winter months due to winter conditions on the mountain.
See Vancouver from a New Vantage Point
Want to see Vancouver from above. Take a harbor sea plane tour for views above the city! These float plane tours depart from downtown Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. Take in complete aerial views of the city’s beautiful scenery, the surrounding parks, its beaches and Vancouvers’ stunning coastline.
Enjoy a Boozie Slushy in a park!
Yes it is true, you can now legally drink in “some” Vancouver parks.
Seek out a Photo Spot
Vancouver is an instagrammable city and a photographer’s paradise. With stunning views, beautiful waterfront and a busy city vibe, there is plenty to be had for all photography styles. Check out this guide to Instagram spots in Vancouver.
Eat at World Class Restaurants with Epic Views
Vancouver is full of postcard-worth views. While in town, check out these top waterfront restaurants in Vancouver and enjoy the patio with an epic view!
Go Nude at Wreck Beach
Did you know that Wreck Beach is one of the biggest google searches for beaches in Vancouver? Located on the edge of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, Wreck Beach is where Vancouverites can go if they want to sunbathe naked. Wreck beach is located near the Museum of Anthropology. If you want to see the beauty of this beach, visit in the winter and you are less likely to run into any nude sun bathers!
More Popular things to do in Vancouver
- Shop on Robson St.
- Visit the Bill Reid Gallery.
- Explore the Craft Beer Scene.
- Explore Dr. Sun Yat Sen garden and find your Zen.
- Visit the PNE
- Spend the day at the lake.
- Hike Lynn Canyon.
- Visit the Richmond Night Market
- Take the Dumpling Trail in Richmond.
- Try out Surrey’s spice trail.
- Take the ferry to Victoria for the day (or more!)
- Try a coffee shop, or two! While Tim Horton’s is super “Canadian” you will find much better coffee elsewhere! Try Honolulu Coffee Company or Cafe Artigiano!
- Get tacos from Chanchos!
- Grab a SUP and visit one of the many paddleboard-friendly lakes!
More Vancouver Travel Resources
One of the first things you need to know when you are planning a trip to British Columbia is likely how to get from Vancouver Airport to downtown Vancouver. Vancouver International Airport is not actually in Vancouver, it is in nearby Richmond, but as distance goes, just a few kilometers from the city of Vancouver. Read this post on gettind from Vancouver Airport to downtown. There are a variety of options for visitors.
Renting a Car in Vancouver
Many major car rental companies have desks at YVR, so hiring and returning your rental car is easy and convenient. You should book your car in advance, gone are the days of choosing a car on arrival. If you are planning on heading outside of downtown Vancouver, a rental car is the easiest way to get around. Make sure you check if your hotel has parking included. Parking in the city can add up quickly.
5 Things to Bring with You to Vancouver
A good rain jacket is always a good idea, even in the summer. While you are not likely to get wet in July and August, late august almost always sees a wet day, and May, June and September will also get rain. If you want to read about average rainfall, I have more information on weather in Vancouver. Even if you are coming in the winter, unless you plan on skiing, you can get away with a rain jacket and some good base layers for most of the winter in and around Vancouver.
A good power bank to charge phones and other devices is always a good idea. After a day of videoing, GPS and taking photos, the last thing you want is a dead cell phone. These are inexpensive and come in handy during the day. If you are flying to Vancouver, make sure you keep any power banks in your hand luggage, as security will often remove them from checked bags (I have found that out the hard way before).
A universal adapter is going to be handy for International Visitors. Canada uses the same plugs as the USA but if you are coming from somewhere else abroad, grab yourself one before you arrive.
A good guidebook is something I always get when I am researching a new location. Lonely Planet is the usual go-to, but also check out these.
Reusable shopping bags are available to buy everywhere, but if you want to get a compact one before you arrive, it is a good idea.
Reusable water bottles are also a good idea. You can buy bottled water anywhere that you can get drinks, but Canada does pride itself on recycling as much as possible, and why shell out wasteful dollars when you can drink the tap water all over British Columbia.
Travel Insurance for Canada
There are a few other things to think about when it comes to international travel. The first thing is travel insurance. Whether it is an emergency room visit for something as simple as strep throat, or an emergency appendix surgery, or an unfortunate moped incident things do go wrong when people travel everyday. Canada is a very expensive country for medical care and a doctors visit in an Emergency Room is over $800 to just see the doctor.
I highly suggest travel insurance and a good policy. I personally never travel without it, and I even checked into my policy about care for my children if I am ever in an accident or hospitalized. There are just too many things to think about.
You can find out more information and buy your travel insurance here.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Things to do in Vancouver By Month
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!