Vancouver's University of British Columbia (UBC) is a great place to hang out just for a day or even as a home base while exploring the city. The campus is really a completely self-contained community with restaurants, theaters, museums, libraries, sports venues, and gorgeous gardens all open to visitors as well as students. During summer months, tourists are welcome to stay in a variety of well-run student lodging priced from C$33-$55 for a single bedroom with shared facilities, or C$139-$199 for a fully equipped studio.
Surrounded by lush rain forest, the UBC campus protrudes into the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Point Grey Peninsula is given over to the Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Some 34 trails meander for over 50 kilometres through this park. These trails are popular with dog walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers, but their presence wont detract from the sense of tranquility that prevails. It's hard to believe downtown Vancouver is mere minutes away.
The Museum of Anthropology is an Arthur Erickson-designed building located on the cliffs of Point Grey, overlooking English Bay and the North Shore Mountains. It is probably Canada's most memorable museum, housing one of the finest and most colorful displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art found anywhere.
Inside the soaring glass and concrete structure of the Great Hall, with its 14-meter-high windows that allow natural illumination to flood into the interior, you will see the totem poles, feast dishes, and canoes of the Gitxsan, Haida, and Coast Salish peoples among others.
The museum also features the world's largest collection of works by acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid, including his most famous sculpture The Raven and the First Men.
Outside, in the area between the museum and the cliff, you will find totem poles of the Kwakiutl, Haida, and Gitxsan people as well as two Haida houses, one for the living and one for the dead. From here you get a good view of the museum's main building, a unique design if ever there was one.
The Nitobe Memorial Garden is an authentic Japanese tea garden where visitors can stroll past waterfalls, rivers, islands, and mountains, and of course all paths lead to the teahouse. The cherry blossoms in April or May and the iris blooms in June are spectacular.
The UBC Botanical Gardens and Centre for Plant Research is a 70-acre coastal forest with plants from temperate regions around the world. For rhododendron fans, the Asian Garden features more than 400 species, while traditional gardeners will enjoy the physic garden for medicinal herbs, which is planted around a sundial in a geometric design.
The UBC Rose Garden was completed in 1994 and adorns the top of an underground car park. On a clear day, you can see the mountains along Howe Sound for miles. From the Rose Garden the campus stretches along tree-lined roads with a pleasing mixture of older and newer buildings. One of these is the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful theatre that holds regular concerts of classical music featuring distinguished artists from around the world.
At the very tip of the Point Grey peninsula lies Wreck Beach. This is Canada's largest nude beach and the only one in the Lower Mainland. The path to this unspoiled strand is down hundreds of steps and to get there you have to take Trail 6 on the UBC Campus near Gate 6. The beach is very private and has a slight drug culture reputation.
Several different bus lines serve all parts of the city to and from the loop adjacent the Student Union Building (SUB). Downtown is about 30 to 40 minutes by bus numbers 4, 44, or 17. On the way you pass trendy Kitsilano and three popular beaches Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach, and Spanish Banks for windsurfing, kayaking, and sunning.
Free guided tours depart the SUB daily from May to August, and if you are lucky you might find a top notch movie running in the SUB's Norm Theatre (about $3). The School of Music offers free or nearly free concerts, and the Pacific Museum of the Earth hosts ongoing lecture series.