Ocean and mountain vistas adorn every angle of the Vancouver skyscape, so it's hardly surprising that the great outdoors play a significant role in the city's lifestyle. Golfing, hiking, sailing, swimming, and skiing are all within a 30-minute reach of downtown while team sports, both indoor and out, are enjoyed in outstanding settings throughout the metropolitan region.
But this city offers more than a pretty place to play games. Vancouverites love their cultural entertainments almost as much as their sports. Theater arts, dance, rock concerts, opera, and symphony all have a place in Vancouver as do annual international festivals of every stripe – jazz, folk, dance, humor, writing, film, to name only a few.
Some years ago Vancouverites agreed to keep freeways out of the city core and let condos into the mix of office towers, entertainment districts, and shopping centers, thus encouraging people to live and play as well as work downtown. That sort of recipe created liveliness both day and night, which made the place attractive for visitors as well as locals. Add in ethnic diversity, restaurants galore, a temperate climate, and you have several reasons why Vancouver is always listed among the most liveable cities in the world.
Oh – that rumor about gloomy rainy days? Truthfully, yes, it is often so during winter months. But wet streets below usually mean snow up top, so shoveling walks isn't as much of a pastime in Vancouver as is heading for fun on the slopes. Also, it is certainly true that nature’s greenery loves rain, and Vancouverites love their greenery so much that city leaders publicly proclaimed their intention to make Vancouver the “world’s greenest city.”
Walking is a green and pleasant pastime much encouraged in Vancouver. Starting at the city's heart at Georgia and Granville Streets, a 20-minute walk west on Georgia brings you to famous Stanley Park and English Bay to the left and Coal Harbor to the right.
About four blocks north of Georgia, on Granville, the unique sail-shaped roof of Canada Place points across Burrard Inlet to the bedroom communities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver.
Southbound on Granville, the Granville Street Bridge leads to the trendy districts of Granville Island, False Creek, and Kitsilano.
Going east from Granville, about three blocks along Georgia, you come in sight of Library Square whose Romanesque features make it a distinctive Vancouver landmark. Taking a right here leads to Yaletown, yet another water-bordered district.
All of these communities are linked with sea walks and parkways so that one could spend days on end doing nothing but strolling from one scenic inner-city locale to another.
It must be admitted that, alongside these many positive attributes, Vancouver has its share of underworld activities and resultant gang wars, desperation thievery, and street violence. So solo travelers need to be just as vigilant here as in any other big city.
For a change from city scenes, day trip excursions to outlying tourist spots are doable. Ferries run frequently to Victoria on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and the Gulf Islands. A bus or train ride to the resort town of Whistler covers some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet. The historic towns of Steveston or Fort Langley retain the past, and beyond those places lay the valleys and peaks of British Columbia's ten mountain ranges and thousands of "Super Natural" holiday destinations.
About 10 km or 30 minutes' drive south of downtown.
Clearing Customs: At border crossings, American citizens may be asked to produce identification in the form of a passport. Citizens of other countries will require a valid passport and, in some cases, a visa, which must be obtained prior to arrival in Canada. Check with Canadian consulates abroad.
Canada Line: Rapid transit departs every 8 minutes from the Airport to Richmond and downtown Vancouver, 26 minutes.
Taxi Fare: About $45 to downtown.
Airport South: A free shuttle operates from YVR to the south terminal, a regional hub for small aircraft, float planes, and helicopter operations.
Bus Transportation: Courtesy shuttles and buses depart at the arrivals level for Whistler, the Sunshine Coast, Victoria, Vancouver Island, and Washington State.
Details: Vancouver Airport
The main inter-city bus and terminal is located at the Pacific Central Station (also called VIA Rail Station), 1150 Station Street, Vancouver. SkyTrain Station: Main/Science World.
Greyhound Lines of Canada: Trans-Canada services.
Quick Shuttle: Vancouver to Seattle, Bellingham, and SEA-TAC airport.
Malaspina Coach Lines: Vancouver to Sunshine Coast, and Powell River.
Pacific Coach Lines: Vancouver / airport to Victoria and Nanaimo.
VIA Rail, The Canadian: Thrice-weekly transcontinental train service, Vancouver to Toronto.
Amtrak Cascade: Daily train service Vancouver to Seattle, Eugene, and Portland.
Rocky Mountaineer: Train tours (April through October) to Banff, and Jasper.
Tsawwassen Terminal, about 30 km south of downtown, serves Victoria (Swartz Bay), Nanaimo, and the southern Gulf Islands. Pacific Coach Lines from YVR or Rail Station.
Horseshoe Bay Terminal, about 20 km northwest, serves Nanaimo, Bowen Island, and the Sunshine Coast. Bus #s 250, 257 to Horseshoe Bay from downtown, Georgia at Seymour. Or, Malaspina Coach Lines from Airport or Rail Station.
Translink: coordinates metro-wide buses, trolleys, rapid transit, and SeaBus. Tickets interchangeable. Exact change required on board or purchase tickets and Day Passes wherever a FareDealer sign is displayed (Mac's, 7-Eleven, Safeway or London Drugs). Transfers good for 90 minutes in any direction.
HandyDART: Van service for people with disabilities. Application required. Reservations: Tel. 604-575-6600
SkyTrain: Three rapid transit lines link suburbs to downtown. Expo and Millennium Lines connect to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. Canada Line connects to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and the city of Richmond.
SeaBus: Links SkyTrain to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.
West Coast Express: Commuter service between Mission and Vancouver during rush hours, Monday through Friday.
West Vancouver Transit: Downtown (Georgia Street) to West Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay.
Fares & Schedules; Tel. 604-953-3333
Serves False Creek and English Bay between Granville Island, Sunset Beach, Vanier Park, Stamps Landing, and Yaletown.
Hop-on/off through the 80-minute loop. Route begins at Canada Place and stops at 29 city attractions and downtown hotels at 20-minute (40-minute in winter) intervals.
Spokes Bike Rental at Stanley Park, 1798 West Georgia.
Visitor Centre, Plaza Level at 200 Burrard Street and Waterfront. Maps, sightseeing, accommodation, tickets. Open: daily 8:30am to 6pm. SkyTrain Station: Waterfront.
Events: Georgia Straight, available at news stands, is the best source for events, clubs, critiques. Weekend Vancouver Sun or The Province newspapers also include useful calendars.
Money: C$1.00 = US$.75. Exchange foreign funds at banks, trust companies, or currency exchange outlets. Banking hours vary, with closing times between 3pm and 8pm and some openings on Saturdays. Credit and debit cards widely accepted. Automated teller machines plentiful.
Taxes: Expect to pay a 7% Provincial Sales Tax and a 5% Goods & Services Tax added to nearly all purchases.
Chinatown: Vibrant neighborhood running, roughly, east from Columbia Street to Gore Street, and East Hastings and East Pender Streets to the north and south. Traditional shops and restaurants. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Chinatown.
Gastown: Water Street between Richards and Columbia Streets and bounded by Burrard Inlet to the north. This is where Vancouver began. Shops, clubs, cafés, and galleries specializing in northwest native art. SkyTrain: Waterfront Station; Vancouver Trolley Stop: Gastown.
Granville Island: Rejuvenated industrial area in the heart of the city. Public market. Artist studios. Galleries. Restaurants. Theaters. Boat rentals. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Granville Island.
Granville & Georgia Streets: The Bay department store. Pacific Centre Shopping Mall. Cinemas. There is a honky-tonk (but normally quite safe) district for several blocks along Granville between Nelson and Drake Streets. Further south, past the Granville Bridge you find upscale antique shops, art galleries and boutiques. SkyTrain Station: City Centre.
Kitsilano & Fourth Avenue: West of Burrard to roughly MacDonald, English Bay (north), and Broadway (south). Hip neighborhood epitomizes west-coast lifestyle, with cozy, lived-in appeal: beaches, parks, health-food stores, cafés, arts, crafts. Bus #s 044, 002, 022, 007.
Robson & Denman Streets to English Bay: Lively "west-end" district of high-rise apartments, shops, restaurants, cafés and people out strolling at all hours. Vancouver Trolley Stop: English Bay.
Ambleside, Dundarave, West Vancouver. Village atmosphere on north shore for browsing Marine Drive shops and strolling the sea walk and park lands facing Burrard Inlet. West Vancouver "Blue" bus #s 250, 251, 252, 253, 250 from Georgia and Seymour to any stop between 13th and 24th.
Yaletown. Neighborhood of restored warehouses, office buildings, and new high-rise condos, waterfront parks, roughly between Library Square and Pacific Boulevard. Cafés, clubs, shops. Granville Island Ferries or Vancouver Trolley Stops: Yaletown.
YWCA Hotel Residence, 733 Beatty Street, Vancouver, BC, V6V 2M4. Tel. 1-604-895-5830. 155 rooms. Comfortable but basic. Downtown location, across from BC Place Stadium. Communal kitchen. Mini-fridge in every room. Pool & gym facilities. Rates: From C$62 plus 11.5% tax. SkyTrain Station: Stadium.
Bed & Breakfast Lodging. Province-wide homestay and small inns as well as hotels in all categories listed at HelloBC.com. Rates: C$75-$260.
Buchan Hotel, 1906 Haro Street, Vancouver, BC, V6G 1H7 Tel. 1-604-685-5354. 61 rooms. Reader recommended, non-smoking, budget class hotel, well-located in residential west-end, within walking distance of downtown and one block to Stanley Park and Denman Street for restaurants, browsing, and beaches. Rates: From $80, plus taxes to 17%. Bus #005 at Denman and Haro.
Sutton Place, 845 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2K6. Tel. 1-800-961-7555, 1-604-682-5511. 397 units. Elegantly appointed, full-service hotel with health club, pool and sun deck, restaurants, bar. About 10 minutes' walk to Granville & Georgia. Rates: $175-415 plus 17% tax. SkyTrain.
Wedgewood Hotel, 845 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1V1. Tel. 1-604- 689-7777, 1-800-663-0666. Chic boutique hotel in prime downtown location across from Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Full service hotel facilities and spa services. Rates: From C$239 plus 16.5% taxes/fees. SkyTrain Station: City Centre or Burrard.
BC Place Stadium, Robson and Pacific Boulevard. Tel. 1-604-669-2300. Home of BC Lions (CFL) football team, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, and large scale concert venue. SkyTrain Station: Stadium.
Harbour Cruises Ltd,, 1 North Foot of Denman Street. Tel. 1-604-688-7246. Sightseeing, dinner, and special event cruises of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. Departures May through September.
Canada Place. Unique five-sail design, waterfront complex includes a cruise ship terminal, convention centre, hotels, restaurants, and public promenade for great photo-ops. SkyTrain, Waterfront Station.
Capilano Suspension Bridge, 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver, BC. Tel. 1-604-985-7474. Suspension foot bridge. Totem-carving displays and nature park. Open: Daily except Christmas. Bus #240 on Georgia; transfer at Capilano Road to #246 eastbound to Ridgewood Drive.
Capilano River Regional Park, North/West Vancouver. Easily accessible forest and hiking trails, Cleveland Dam, salmon hatchery. Sea Bus to Lonsdale Quay; transfer to #236.
Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, 578 Carrall Street, Vancouver, BC. Authentically styled Ming Dynasty garden. Open: daily. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Chinatown.
Edgewater Casino, BC Place. Downtown gaming, dining, entertainment complex. Open: 24 hours daily. Skytrain Station: Stadium.
The Centre in Vancouver,777 Homer Street. Major musical theater events. Tel. 1-604-602-0616. SkyTrain Station: City Centre.
Rogers Arena, 800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver, BC. Hockey is king in this city and this is home to the Canucks (NHL). Behind-the-scene tours available Wednesdays through Saturdays. SkyTrain Station: Stadium.
Grouse Mountain, 6400 Nancy Green Way, North Vancouver, BC, V7R 4K9. Tel. 1-604-984-0661. Aerial tramway, restaurants, Theatre in the Sky, helicopter tours, logging shows, gold panning, paragliding, walking and hiking trails (summer). Alpine, X-country skiing, ice-skating, snowboarding, snowshoeing (Nov-April). Seabus to Lonsdale Quay, transfer to bus #236.
Museum of Anthropology, 6393 NW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC. Renowned collection of Northwest Coast First Nations' art. Bus #044 to UBC loop, walk north 10 minutes to NW Marine Drive, or transfer at Alma St to Bus C19 (hourly service) directly to museum.
Orpheum Theatre, Smithe at Seymour or Granville. Heritage home of Vancouver Symphony orchestra. Skytrain Station: City Centre.
Science World, 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC. Hands-on displays, theaters including OMNIMAX. Open: Daily, except Christmas. SkyTrain Station: Main/Science World.
Stanley Park. This 1,000 acre green space in the heart of the city is the most famous of dozens of Vancouver parks. Seawall walk, beaches, pitch and putt, Theatre Under the Stars (summer), Aquarium. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Stanley Park.
Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby St. The city's premier venue for fine art exhibitions. Its permanent collection includes significant number of paintings by the modernist landscape painter Emily Carr. Open: Daily. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Art Gallery.
Vancouver Public Library, Library Square, West Georgia between Homer and Hamilton Streets. Readings. Displays. Special events. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Library Square.
Vanier Park Home of: Pacific Space Centre, HR MacMillan Planetarium, Vancouver Museum, Maritime Museum. Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival (June-September). Open: Varied hours. Vancouver Trolley Stop: Vanier Park.
Social and sports activities that welcome singles on a pay-as-you-go basis.