HI Hostels Blog

Top 10 Places to Visit in Vancouver

Welcome to Vancouver.  We’re excited to have you here. Let me start by asking, which HI Vancouver Hostel is right for you?  Regardless of your choice, you have made an excellent decision to come and visit our beautiful city.  Take a look at the Activities Board that’s posted to the hostel wall.  It lists many daytime and night time events at HI Vancouver.  Please join us for something fun.  Remember to grab a map of Vancouver at the front desk. You’ll need a map for the adventures I’m about to suggest.  Maybe, you’re not here yet. Please download an electronic Map of Vancouver from Tourism Vancouver.  Please note that some activities are limited to seasonal availability.


10.  The North Shore Mountains

Cypress Mountain

The mountains are beautiful year round.  I love breathing in fresh mountain air.  Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain all feature great hiking in the summer and excellent skiing/snowboarding in the winter.  You can rent clothing and equipment during ski season.  All three mountains offer breathtaking views throughout the year.  Grouse Mountain is home to two rescued grizzly bears: Grinder and Coola and Grouse Mountain Bear Cam is a great way to spot them if you can.  In winter, they hibernate inside a custom built log cabin.  You might have seen Cypress Mountain and not known it!  It was the location for freestyle skiing and snowboarding during the 2010 Winter Olympics.


9.  Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge

The bridge crosses the canyon, above Capilano River, in North Vancouver.  Capilano Suspension Bridge features a 136 metre (446 ft) long bridge that rises 70 metres (230 ft) above the canyon. There’s also Treetops adventures, where visitors can walk from treetop to treetop, along smaller elevated suspension bridges, some reaching as high as 30 metres (100 ft) above the forest floor.  A new addition in 2011 was the Cliffwalk, it takes you along a series of suspended walkways, jutting out from the granite cliff face, above Capilano River, to unexplored areas of the park.  Join HI – Vancouver host, Erik Graff, who recently received the 2011 WorldHost Customer Service Award, from the BC Tourism Industry.  Erik does an excellent tour of the North Shore during spring and summer.


8.  Granville Island

Granville Island

Granville Island is a great place to go for the afternoon.  I like to go to the Public Market and browse the cornucopia of wonderful foods on display.  Sometimes, the hardest thing you want to do at Granville Island is decide what to have for lunch.  There are also farmers’ markets, day vendors and a wide assortment of boutique style shops.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you can catch a performance at the Arts Club Theatre Company, or go for a tour at the Granville Island Brewing Company.  Yes, there are beer samples during the tour!   HI – Vancouver does guided tours of Granville Island throughout the entire year. Also known as the Island Oasis in the middle of Vancouver.


7.  Pacific Centre and Metrotown

Pacific Centre Downtown

Shop till you drop.  I realize the outdoors aren’t for everyone.  Head to city centre and enjoy the underground shopping complex at Pacific Centre.  Check out the latest “value priced” Versace fashions, designed exclusively for H&M clothing store.  Visit the Apple Store for help with the latest “app”.  Take a 20 minute ride to the suburb of Burnaby and enjoy the second largest mall in western Canada.  You could get lost in Metrotown, it’s so big!  My favourite new store is the Disney Store.  They’re actually selling Muppets there!


6. BC Place

BC Place

BC Place and Rogers Arena sporting events.  Right, maybe you don’t want to ski double black diamonds (expert level) at Cypress Mountain, or scale your way through rainforests at Capilano.  OK, we talk about two things in Vancouver: the weather and the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Team.  HI – Vancouver has season tickets to all the Vancouver Canucks games.  The Vancouver Canucks play at Rogers Arena – location of the Men’s Olympic Hockey games, during the 2010 Winter Olympics.  We also have season tickets to the BC Lions (North American) Football Team.  The BC Lions play at the newly renovated BC Place Stadium – location of the opening and closing ceremonies, during the 2010 Winter Olympics.  In summer, we also have ticket vouchers for the Vancouver Canadians, Minor League, Baseball Team.  An HI – Vancouver host will explain the rules of the hockey/football/baseball game and personally guide you to the arena/stadium.  Enjoy a cold beer with your game.


5.  Chinatown and Sun Yat Sen Garden

Sun Yat Sen Garden

Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the largest and most historic Chinatowns in North America.  The neighbourhood is complete with traditional restaurants, specialty eastern medicine stores and tea shops.  Have dim sum lunch at Floata Seafood Restaurant.  FYI: the “China Gate”, on Pender Street, was donated by the People’s Republic of China, following the Expo ’86 world’s fair.  Recently, nearby Sun Yat Sen Garden was voted Best City Garden in the World by National Geographic.  Speaking of the best, Rolling Stone Magazine just voted Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time.  Little known, is the fact that Jimi Hendrix spent his summers in Vancouver.  His father was from Seattle.  Jimi spent summers hanging out at his grandmother’s restaurant, located near Chinatown.  There’s a very informal Jimi Hendrix shrine next to Chinatown.


4.  Kitsilano


Kitsilano Beach is simply my favourite beach in Vancouver city.  Actor, Hugh Jackman, liked to do laps in the heated, outdoor swimming pool.  There’s also tennis courts, basketball courts and beach volleyball.  It’s got some really good picnic and BBQ areas too.  In the summer, I like to go there for suntanning and people watching.  Next door to Kits is Vanier Park.  At the end of summer 2011, in the park, I enjoyed large servings of free salmon during the Pink Salmon Festival.   Granted, it’s quiet in the winter, but it’s still a great place to take a walk and enjoy some crisp salt air.  Year round, it’s also a great place to watch the Pacific sun slowly dip into the horizon. Vancouver is one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Beach Cities.


3.  VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Visitor's Centre

The gardens cover 22 hectares (55 acres) and showcases exotic plants gathered from all over the world.  A new Visitor’s Centre, architecturally designed in the shape of an orchid, welcomes everyone to the garden. There’s a garden shop, a restaurant, a maze, a small waterfall, and many incredible smaller gardens.  It is like a Zen sanctuary in the middle of the city.  It’s where I go to decompress.  A walk through the catfish pond, or stroll through the bamboo forest always makes me feel better.  You might even spot a wild coyote!  Take a stroll through the Zen pebble garden too. You might also want to visit VanDusen Botanical Garden.


2.  The University of British Columbia (UBC)

UBC Rose Garden

Why am I recommending the University of British Columbia as a tourist attraction?!  It’s not so much the school, as it is what’s in the surrounding campus.  UBC campus includes UBC Botanical Garden, with a wide assortment of flora.  UBC Botanical also features it’s own unique Tree Canopy Walkway with small suspension bridges that go from treetop to treetop (they’re harder to walk than the ones at Capilano).  There’s the Nitobe Japanese Garden with an amazing kaleidoscope of colourful koi fish.  Also on campus is the UBC Museum of Anthropology. The 80,000 square foot museum is internationally known for its First Nations art.  Then, there’s the Beaty Natural History Museum.  Explore the 20,000 square feet of exhibits, visit the teaching lab, and view the largest blue whale skeleton on display in Canada.  UBC also features many nearby beaches: Wreck Beach (clothing optional), Locarno and Spanish Banks.


1.  Stanley Park

Brockton Point in Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a 404.9 hectare (1,001 acre) urban park peninsula, within the downtown peninsula.  It attracts about 8 million visitors every year.  The perimeter features a paved seawall that’s 8.8 kilometres (5.5 miles) around.  2.5 million pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters use the seawall every year.  You might spot squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, nesting eagles, or herons at Stanley Park.  There’s an aquarium, a miniature railway, four restaurants, old growth forest and two beaches.  In summer, visit the Klahowya Aboriginal village for a showcase of First Nations culture, art and cuisine.  In summer, join us at HI – Vancouver for a group tour of Stanley Park, or an exhilarating bike ride around the Seawall.


Did I miss anything?  There’s so much to see.  Check out The Georgia Straight newspaper for listings of music and live theatre.  ColdPlay returns to Vancouver in April 2012.   You’ll just have to come here to experience it all.  Have fun at the hostel.  Please tell us if there’s anything we can do to make your stay more enjoyable.

We can’t wait to meet you.  Vancouver welcomes you in 2012.  Here are some more resources for you…

HI Vancouver Central

Hostels in British Columbia

Super Natural British Columbia – Official Travel Website of BC

Near Me BC –  iPhone app with 4000 activities and attractions

Tourism Vancouver

Please let us know what you think and share!

Written By: Ron Au-Yang  (Hostelling International – Pacific Mountain Region 2011 Volunteer of the Year)

Photo Credits: Ron Au-Yang

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