Best Known For
Three Must Dos
Vancouver International Airport (airport code YVR) is served by a range of European, Canadian, American and Asia-Pacific carriers. It is a beautiful facility, featuring natural materials and West Coast native art. Shops and restaurants employ "street level pricing" so you don't feel gouged. Baggage carts are free.
For service downtown, the new SkyTrain Canada Line is fast, convenient and more affordable than a taxi; access to some hotels may require a bus transfer, or short walk or taxi ride.
Both Canada's VIA Rail and the American Amtrak serve Vancouver, but schedules are limited. Trains arrive at Pacific Central Station, opposite the Main Street/Science World SkyTrain station. If you're planning an extended stay in Canada, consider the three day journey to/from Toronto - through the spectacular western mountains, across the broad prairies and through the boreal forests north of the Great Lakes
Public transit in and out of the downtown core is relatively easy, but getting across town can be problematic. The most direct seeming route may take longer than going though the central city. TransLink has schedules and information and can help you find the quickest way to get around.
Greyhound serves both Canadian and US destinations. Customs and immigration is done at the Pacific Highway border crossing; schedules reflect the time required to process all passengers.
Additional bus service is available from the airport or Pacific Central Station's bus depot to Whistler, Victoria and Seattle.
Stanley Park -
The jewel of Vancouver recreational areas, Stanley Park ranks with Central Park and Golden Gate Park as one of the finest urban oases in the world. Follow the 9 km seawall around the perimeter, taking in views across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore Mountain and back toward the city skyline. Stop at one of four restaurants for lunch; explore the totem polls and Lumberman’s Arch; stroll the formal gardens or trek the many rainforest trails; or take a dip at the outdoor freshwater pool at Second Beach (seasonal).
Vancouver Aquarium -
Slowly divesting itself of cheesy trained dolphin and Beluga shows, the Vancouver Aquarium is increasingly showcasing the regions oceans and waterways. There are both educational and conservation programs, with a strong emphasis on children’s activities – including birthday parties and sleepovers. Located in Stanley Park.
Granville Island -
Formally an industrial site of foundries and shipbuilding, Granville Island now features artist studios, two theatres, a community centre, houseboats, the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, and a huge farmer’s market - open every day. Take the False Creek Ferry from the foot of the Burrard Bridge.
Capilano Suspension Bridge -
Consistently rated one of the most spectacular attractions in the area, the 137m Capilano Suspension Bridge creaks and rocks 70m above the Capilano River gorge. The latest addition, Treetops Adventure, is a system of seven suspended walkways strung between redwoods 30m above the forest floor.
Keeping Fit -
With its emphasis on the outdoors, Vancouver is a young and body conscious community. If your hotel’s facilities are lacking, try: YWCA downtown with 3000 sq ft of cardio, weights and aquatics; Fitness World has two central locations, at Davie & Howe and a 24-hour facility on West Georgia; the YMCA facilities are under reconstruction, due to reopen in late 2009; and Denman Fitness, an independent club with a full schedule of yoga, cardio and Pilates. Also, the YMCA (1166 Alberni Street and Burrard) is now open, the newest gym in the area.
Ski In The Morning -
There are three local ski facilities overlooking Vancouver from the North Shore Mountains: Cypress, Grouse and Seymour. From November through April, snow conditions permitting, you can easily spend a day swooshing the slopes and be back into town in time for dinner and the evening’s entertainment.
Beach in the Afternoon -
Vancouver is surrounded by ocean, inlets and rivers on three sides, which means that you’ll be spending some time at the beach. The key areas are, in order: Second Beach in Stanley Park, English Bay, Sunset, Jericho, Kitsilano and Spanish Banks. In the spring you can literally ski in the morning, and be on the beach for the afternoon – weather permitting.
Nude Beach -
Although it’s something of a commute from downtown, and a taxing decent down (and up!) the bluffs at UBC, the world famous Wreck Beach is well worth a sunny afternoon. For the gay section, keep to the far left when facing the ocean. There’s an underground economy providing burgers, beer, massages and ‘happy cookies’; bring cash. A little further along the shore, past the log booms, there are little pockets of secluded beach and glimpses of boys frolicking in the underbrush.
Museum of Anthropology -
Take advantage of having trekked out to UBC by including a few hours at the Museum of Anthropology, showcasing artefacts from throughout the world while focusing on the Pacific region. The setting, overlooking the Straight of Georgia, and the architecture of Arthur Erickson, whose modern and sensitive buildings dot the Vancouver landscape, are spectacular in themselves.
Fetish & Toy Shopping -
Vancouver has no shortage of sex shops, primarily along Granville Street. Of the GLBT vendors, the largest selection, along with a vast arrange of queer books, magazines and knick-knacks, Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium is your best bet. Priape, part of a national chain, has more club clothes, swimsuits, videos and fetish wear, including leather and latex. Womyn’sWear is girl-centric, offering in-depth advice along with lubes, dildos and good vibrations.
The VAG -
Regardless of the touring exhibitions, the Vancouver Art Gallery is worth a stop for its permanent collection of works by Emily Carr, for whom the local art college is named. The only woman and only West Coast member of Canada’s Group of Seven impressionist painters, her images evoke the ancient forests and native cultures of the region.
Considered the second largest Chinatown in North America (next to San Francisco), this Vancouver neighbourhood preserves the narrow streets and jumbled shops of one of the city’s the founding communities. Look for the 1913 Sam Kee Building, the world’s narrowest building, the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens and other unique sites. Remarkably, the area was nearly bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for an expressway that was, thankfully, never built
Once the city’s warehouse district and rail yards, Yaletown has morphed into Vancouver’s hippest urban neighbourhood: high-rise condos, converted lofts, unique boutiques, brew pubs and trendy eateries - all a stone’s throw from downtown and strolling or cycling seawall.
Whistler & Victoria -
A few hours out of Vancouver by BC Ferries will bring you to the provincial capital, Victoria, considered to be “more English than England”. To the north - by car, bus or rail - is the skiing mecca of Whistler-Blackcomb, home of the annual WinterPRIDE gay ski week and the downhill events of 2010 Winter Olympic Games.