There’s a reason Vancouverites like to say the west coast is the best coast. Our weather is mild, the ocean is right there and the mountains are right over there, and there’s no shortage of things to do and see.

Welcome to the Vancouver Sun’s ultimate visitors guide.

This post is updated regularly with new content.


When should you visit Vancouver?

Due to our mild weather, you’ll find a pretty regular stream of visitors almost any time of year. Here’s a rundown on weather in Vancouver and the best time to visit. (For the latest Vancouver weather forecast, click here.)

Best time to ski? Anytime after Christmas and up until mid-spring, depending on what kind of winter we’ve had. Cypress, Grouse and Seymour are all within an hour’s drive of Vancouver.

Best weather? Though there’s still the odd day of rain throughout the summer (it is Vancouver, after all) the period from May to October is pretty great. July and August tend to be more dry and the heat isn’t unbearable.

Best whale watching? Southern resident orcas like to frequent the Strait of Georgia between May to October to feed on migrating salmon, while northern resident orcas feed in the Johnstone Strait during the late summer.

Best time for sports? October is when you’ll want to visit if you’re looking for big league sports action; the B.C. Lions (CFL), the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (MLS) and the Vancouver Canucks (NHL) will all be playing at that time. The Rugby Sevens Series is always a hoot in March, and the Vancouver Canadians (MiLB) are a Vancouver tradition, playing from June through August.


Vancouver Canucks fans go crazy during a game against the Calgary Flames on April 15, 2015.

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Neighbourhoods

Not sure where to stay or where to go? Here are a few of the more popular neighbourhoods for visitors to Vancouver.

Commercial Drive: There’s a difference between hipster and hippie and Commercial Drive definitely leans more toward the latter. It’s also a bit of a cultural mosaic, thanks to generations of immigrants who have contributed to the fabric of the Drive.

Downtown: This neighbourhood mixes business, shopping and the Granville Entertainment District. Cruise ships dock at the north end and you’ll find plenty of places to stay, eat, play and shop.

Gastown: The original site of Vancouver is now a mix of stylish boutiques, studios, restaurants and Vancouver Film School, along cobblestone-paved streets and historic brick buildings. You’ll also find plenty of touristy photo ops and the Gastown steam clock.

Kitsilano: Laid-back but there’s no slouching here. Named for Squamish Chief August Jack Khatsahlano, this neighbourhood is also the birthplace of Greenpeace and remains a vibrant neighbourhood for active lifestyles. Local shops mix with international brands as well.

Mount Pleasant: Hipster haven – grab a coffee and browse boutiques, handmade knick knacks and record shops before stopping for a happy hour pint on a patio. Plenty of young families around these parts.

West End: Anything and everything goes. The home of Vancouver Pride boasts insane views of the Pacific Ocean from English Bay and endless options for food and drink.

Yaletown: Posh and trendy – it’s where Carrie Bradshaw would live if she were a Vancouverite. Plenty of designer boutiques and cocktail bars, mixed in with beauty salons and restaurants.




Orcas in the waters off Vancouver Island.

photo credit: Tourism BC /

photo credit: Tourism BC

Things to do in Vancouver

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, there is no shortage of activities on the mountains, the water or in the city. Or perhaps you’re coming for a major sports event or a concert? Whatever the reason for your visit, there’s plenty to do and plenty to see.

Start here with our our top five must-see attractions for tourists.

Visiting with kids? Some family-friendly ideas:

• On a budget? Here’s 20 things to do for under $20 with kids.
• Check our our map of Vancouver pools, splash pads and water parks.

Other ideas:

• Strap on a life vest, get out on the water and enjoy a whale-watching tour.
• Scout out Hollywood North movie sets and filming locations.
• Check out local craft breweries by doing a brewery crawl in Mount Pleasant.



Vancouver boasts some of the top restaurants in Canada.

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Food and dining

Whatever you’re in the mood for, Vancouver’s got it. We’ve got countless restaurants to cater to any appetite.

If you’re a big foodie, we’d even recommend you visit during Dine Out Vancouver, a 17-day festival in January and February that sees more than 250 restaurants offering up prixe-fixe meals at $20, $30 or $40 a person. You can read our Dine Out Vancouver coverage right here.

• Our food critic Mia Stainsby lists her picks for the 10 best new restaurants of 2018.
• If your trip to Vancouver has your travel budget maxed out, you can see Mia’s picks for cheap eats.
• We also figured out where you can enjoy Metro Vancouver’s best pizza, best taco, best burger and best sandwich.
• Looking for Vancouver restaurant reviews? Browse our archives here.


Shopping and retail

Looking to drop some cash on clothing, souvenirs and other great mementos to remember Vancouver by? Our lifestyle editor Aleesha Harris offers up her picks for the best shopping districts in Vancouver, can’t-miss boutiques and legendary warehouse sales.

• A few tips for shopping the Aritzia Warehouse Sale, an annual event for the Vancouver brand.
• Search for Vancouver retailers and services through our dedicated directory.



The annual Pacific National Exhibition is a tradition in Vancouver.

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Festivals and celebrations

Vancouver knows how to celebrate. From Car Free Days to the world-class Vancouver Pride, festivals celebrating large-scale murals and international musical acts, there’s something happening at almost any time of year. Many are kid-friendly free events, while others are ticketed.

Here’s a quick introduction to some of our favourites:

Vancouver Pride is the second-largest Pride celebration in Canada, with people travelling from around to the world to come take in the annual parade, which happens each summer. If you’re coming from out of town, book your accommodations early because Vancouver’s West End, where much of the celebrations take place, can fill up quickly. Check out all of our previous coverage right here.

The Celebration of Light fireworks competition takes place in English Bay over four evenings in late July and early August, two on weekdays and two on weekends. The free competition also features some musical performances and family-friendly activities. It’s a hectic evening if you’ve never been but here are some tips on the best viewing spots around town and here’s how the judges pick the winners and what they look for.


People gather to watch the Celebration of Light fireworks competition at English Bay Beach in Vancouver, B.C.

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The Pacific National Exhibition boasts the historic Wooden Roller Coaster, weird and wacky foods and enough beer and nightly entertainment to keep you buzzing for a while. The PNE usually kicks off in late Augusts and continues for two weeks into early September. See our 2018 guide to the festival for information on getting there and previous coverage of the unique food offerings available.

The Vancouver Christmas Market is among the countless Christmas-themed events taking place in the city each year. The market, which begins in November and ends the first week of January, is inspired by German winter markets and yes, definitely includes glühwein. Check out what you can expect in this video recap of 2018’s market.

Vancouver’s 4/20 event is a protest, rally, farmers’ market and celebration all rolled into one. It’s among the biggest events of its kind, with thousands of people from across the Metro Vancouver region congregating to partake of the good stuff. The April 20 event is not without its fair share of headlines and has certainly been the subject of many polarizing discussions but read our cannabis coverage and decide for yourself.



Rapper Drake is among the many international artists who have performed in Vancouver. He’s pictured wearing a Vancouver Canucks jersey on stage during his September 2016 show at Rogers Arena.

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Arts and entertainment

Vancouver’s arts scene is tight-knit and it’s easy to miss events if you’re not plugged in. If you like to check out local bands and theatre plays while travelling to get a feel for a city, Vancouver’s the perfect place for it.

Music: We recommend checking out the calendars for small to mid-size venues such as the Biltmore Cabaret, the Imperial and the Fox Cabaret, which regularly feature both local and touring acts. Larger international acts generally play at the Orpheum, the Commodore Ballroom, Rogers Arena and B.C. Place.

• Check our concert announcements listings to see who’s coming through town.
• Read music reviews, arts features and interviews by our arts writer Stuart Derdeyn.
• Two staples of the local festival scene? The Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. There’s also a few that are close to Vancouver, like Surrey’s Fvded in the Park and the Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival.

Theatre: There are a number of theatre companies in the city, ranging from small productions to larger Broadway Across Canada touring productions. We suggest starting with the Arts Club Theatre, which puts on shows at three different stages year-round, and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, which hosts touring productions.

• Our theatre critic Jerry Wasserman shares his reviews of local stage productions.
• See all of our local theatre coverage right here.

Film: Vancouver has a number of film festivals, both big and small, celebrating everything from international titles to indie fare. We’re also known as Hollywood North, due to the massive number of film productions that choose to film in B.C.

• Check out our past coverage on the Vancouver International Film Festival.
• See which movie stars are in town filming by reading our Hollywood North coverage.
• Big Riverdale fan? See all of our coverage on the locally filmed Archie Comics show.

Other things to do: Be sure to check out our online database of events happening around Metro Vancouver, which can be searched by date or event category.



The famous steam clock in Gastown is among the many classic tourist photo ops in Vancouver.

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Best walks around Vancouver

Vancouver is an easy city to navigate even without a rental car. Between public transit, bike shares and your own two feet, you can explore a good chunk of the city in an afternoon.

Here are some of our favourite ways to spend an afternoon walking through the city, with stops for coffee and Instagram photo ops.

South False Creek to Yaletown: Starting from the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station area, you can walk past the iconic Science World dome and snap some great waterfront photos of the downtown Vancouver skyline before stopping in the Olympic Village for brunch or a coffee and pastry. Visit with Myfanwy MacLeod’s The Birds sculpture in the village square and Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures sculpture in Hinge Park and before continuing west along the pedestrian and cycling path.

Make a stop at Dog Park to pet a good doggy or two before arriving at Granville Island where you could easily spend hours just browsing the public market offerings, artisan shops or lounging on the dock facing into False Creek and watching boats go by. From the island, you can hop on board an Aquabus or False Creek Ferry – or if you’re not tired yet, walk across the bridge – over to Yaletown where you can do more shopping or stop for a meal.

Gastown to English Bay: Here’s a nice walk if you’re into statues, classic tourist photo ops and leisurely strolling. Starting at Gastown’s Steam Clock, follow the cobble-stone streets toward Waterfront Station, the city’s main terminus for several transit lines and which is located in a historic Canadian Pacific Railway Station built in 1910. Following the paved walkway, you can snap photos of Inges Indee’s The Drop sculpture, and Digital Orca, created by Vancouver’s own Douglas Coupland.

Following the Coal Harbour seawall and you’ll soon see Stanley Park in the distance. Following the signage will take you onto the Stanley Park seawall, where you can stop as frequently as you like to take in the views of the city behind you and enjoy the many sculptures and landmarks that pepper the park. The seawall eventually leads you back to the edge of English Bay where you can grab a hot dog from a local cart, enjoy the sunset and take one last photo of the famous Inukshuk sculpture.


A walk along the False Creek seawall will get you a great view of the city’s downtown lights.

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Day trips and unique experiences

Vancouver is a pretty compact city, with ocean on one side and plenty of mountains and hiking trails on the other. So if you’re looking to get away from the city, you don’t have to go far. Here are some suggestions for venturing out of Vancouver.


The drive along the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler showcases mountain and ocean views.

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• Looking for a uniquely B.C. experience? These 4 trips will get you out of your comfort zone.
• Limited on time? Here are 3 easy day trips within two hours of Vancouver.
• To see the best of B.C., here are 7 places to put on your B.C. Travel Bucket List.
• Planning a camping trip? You can’t go wrong with these 5 favourite B.C. campgrounds.
• If you’ve got time and keys to a car, here are 5 ultimate B.C. road trips you can do in 7 days.
• World’s largest penny? It’s on our list of 10 record-breaking novelty roadside attractions in B.C.
• Play hike and seek with these 5 family-friendly hikes along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
• Looking for the best Instagram spots in B.C.? Here are 10 unique locations to take a photo.
• Here are the three ultimate road trips to the farthest reaches of B.C.
• Headed to Salt Spring Island? Here are 8 things to do for nature lovers.
• Love hot springs and feeling adventurous? Here are 5 unique hot springs to visit in British Columbia.

Check out more of our B.C. Travel coverage right here.

sip@postmedia.com
twitter.com/stephanie_ip





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