Vancouver, British Columbia, is already one of the world’s most desirable places to live, and it’s quickly soaring up the ranks in becoming the ultimate tourist hotspot as well. A metropolitan city surrounded by ocean and snow-capped mountains means that natural beauty alone is a reason to put it on your must-visit list. The laidback and outdoorsy lifestyle of the city means that there are plenty of recreational activities to go around, like skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and kayaking. For a night on the town, trendy Yaletown is home to numerous galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. From gay-friendly neighborhoods and hipster hangouts to the historic Gastown section, Vancouver offers a variety of nooks and crannies that are solely unique to this city.
The city is split into three main sections: the Westside, the Eastside (East Van), and Downtown. Home to the University of British Columbia, South Vancouver, and distinctive neighborhoods like Kitsilano and South Granville, the Westside offers plenty in the way of visitor attractions; including the markets of Granville Island, sidewalk cafes, beaches, museums, and a thriving arts scene. East Vancouver is a diverse, largely residential area with distinct communities like bohemian South Main (SoMa) and Punjabi Market. At the heart of Downtown are areas such as Yaletown, with its central business and entertainment districts, the West End’s Stanley Park, and the revitalized and tourist-oriented old Gastown.
Along with some of North America’s best skiing and snowboarding conditions just minutes outside the city (catch the 2010 Winter Olympics, anyone?), Vancouver boasts an absolute surplus of natural and urban-based attractions. Though more like a giant hill when compared to some of the company it keeps, Grouse Mountain is a confluence of wilderness and civilization; hosting a 5-acre wildlife refuge, daredevil ziplines, long list of snow sports and world-class dining and shopping. For a taste of culture and science, be sure to check out downtown’s Vancouver Art Gallery and family-friendly Science World perched right on the waterfront. A trip to this lotusland wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Granville Island’s many public markets, craft studios, restaurants, and bars.
As one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities, the cuisine of Vancouver is nothing short of global. Seafood lovers will rejoice in the plethora of restaurants offering gorgeous scenery and the freshest seafood and fish available. Diners can celebrate the many fruits of the sea at hotspots like downtown’s Coast or the Blue Water Café + Raw Bar in Yaletown. For an American staple with a Japanese twist, try a Japa Dog. Instead of the normal fixings, this New York-style hot dog comes with seaweed and okonomiyaki sauce. The neighborhood of Kitsilano (Kits) has become a gastronomic hotbed in recent years and hosts some authentic Greek restaurants like Athene and Pantheon. Sushi and coffee bars are plunked on almost every corner and other city-wide favorites include De Dutch in the West End serving up traditional Netherlands fare and the Belgian spot, Chambar where moule frites and Belgian beer are mainstays.
Located just south of the city, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the main hub of Western Canada and serves most Canadian and American airlines carries (in addition to some international ones). From the airport, there are several options to get into the city, including taxi and limousine service, but the most convenient way is to take the SkyTrain (the Canada Line). It offers direct, rapid service to downtown for around $8.75 CAD. To get around Vancouver, the easiest mode of transportation (aside from walking) is the public transit system, TransLink. The Link includes a system of buses, SkyTrain, and ferries. Vancouver is also a bicycle-friendly city and has several seawall bike routes along Stanley Park, False Creek, and Kitsilano.
With a western marine climate, Vancouver enjoys some of the mildest weather in all of Canada. The summer months are typically dry and tend to see average high temperatures of around 71° F (22° C). Due to a combination of the location of the Pacific Ocean and a lack of Arctic air, Vancouver winters will normally stay above freezing and have average temperatures of 38° F (3.3° C). Heavier snowfall occurs near the higher elevations, and temperatures can vary up to 10°, depending on whether you’re coastal or inland. Vancouver is a year-round destination with no one best time to visit. Visit in the winter and autumn for snow sports and the spring and summer for farmer’s markets and beaches. Visit any time for the breath-taking natural beauty that makes this Western Canadian destination one of a kind.