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Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver British Columbia Canada
© Mike Leco / USATourist.com

Many adventurous travelers visit the Capilano Bridge and experience the wonders of a northwest rainforest from a treetop point of view.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia is the largest and possibly the most beautiful city in the westernmost province of Canada. It is located just 24 miles (38 km) north of the US border and less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, Washington. The city is situated at the Fraser River Delta on the Pacific Coast. Eighteen surrounding communities spread over the adjacent 2930 square kilometer area make it a large vibrant metropolitan center. Vancouver is 60 miles (96 km) northeast of Victoria, the capitol of British Columbia, located on the southern tip of nearby Vancouver Island.

In the midst of spectacular scenery

The city of Vancouver sits in the midst of some spectacular scenery. The Ocean Strait of Georgia frames its western edges with the great harbor basin of English Bay and Burrard Inlet to the north. Across the inlet, high mountain peaks rise directly out of its northern suburbs. More lofty mountains define its eastern horizon.

Downtown Vancouver sits astride the hilly spine of a small peninsula jutting into the bay. It is composed of an interesting mixture of high-rise office buildings, hotels and apartments interspersed with many private homes and lower structures containing small shops, restaurants and boutiques. It exudes the atmosphere of a large cosmopolitan city and simultaneously of a small intimate town. The northern tip of this peninsula is devoted to Stanley Park, one of the finest urban recreational areas in North America. The remainder of the peninsula is covered with various interesting neighborhoods featuring shopping, business, restaurants, theaters and urban living.

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Interesting downtown neighborhoods

The Gastown district is one of the oldest neighborhoods in downtown featuring a selection of boutiques, art galleries, Inuit craft shops and restaurants plus a unique steam powered clock that chimes every quarter hour. It is a favorite haunt of tourists shopping for Canadian souvenirs and for native art. Nearby, the Chinatown District offers a glimpse of traditional Chinese architecture and culture. It includes the exquisite Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese Gardens and a large vibrant Asian community with many shops and restaurants. Granville Island, just south of downtown in False Creek Inlet, houses a large market selling fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, baked goods and succulent foods from many nations. It also features art galleries, craft shops and small boutiques.

Vancouver contains dozens of parks and botanical gardens. Stanley Park, at the tip of the downtown peninsula, encompasses 1000 acres (400 hectares) of sports and recreational facilities including vast tracts of preserved Douglas fir wilderness and 8 km of picturesque seawall. Attractions include the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center, a rose garden, totem poles and many miles of trails for walking, jogging or riding in horse-drawn carriages. Queen Elizabeth Park, atop Little Mountain in the central part of the city, contains a magnificent arboretum and spectacular panoramic views of the city. On most mornings, hundreds of Tai Chi practitioners work out in these beautiful hilltop gardens.

Grouse Mountain overlooking Vancouver British Columbia in Canada © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain offers spectacular views of the city as well as year round outdoor activities such as skiing, ziplining, hiking and paragliding.

The most popular attraction

Grouse Mountain is the most popular scenic attraction of the city. Just 15 minutes from downtown, the Skyride Gondola whisks you to a mountaintop plateau far above the city. Attractions at the summit include an I-Max film, a lumberjack show, a display of giant chainsaw sculpture and a refuge for two orphaned bear cubs. In the winter, skiing and snowboarding are popular diversions. Near the bottom of the mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge provides an exhilarating opportunity to cross a 450 feet long swaying footbridge 230 feet above the rocky gorge of the Capilano River.

You can take bus tours or trolley tours of the city. You can take boat tours of the harbor or seaplane tours of the environs. The BC Ferries can take you to Victoria, to the Suncoast or to several destinations on the Channel Islands. Train tours depart from the city for scenic destinations in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. You can take fishing or whale watching charter cruises in the nearby waterways. Luxurious cruise ships depart from the city piers for voyages to Alaska. You can go sea kayaking. The internationally famous ski resorts of Whistler and Blackcomb are less than two hours north of Vancouver. The tourism possibilities are endless.

Gastown Clock in Vancouver © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
A steam-powered clock sits in the Gastown District, a favorite haunt of tourists shopping for souvenirs and native art.

Sports, culture, entertainment and shopping

Vancouver offers a lot for sports enthusiasts. Beside fishing, swimming, bicycling, jogging, sea kayaking, and skiing, the city offers dozens of golf courses and many outdoor adventure activities. If you are just a spectator, the city has a professional hockey team, football team, baseball team and soccer team. For cultural diversion, Vancouver has a world class symphony, an opera company, over 40 dance companies and 30 theater companies. It has over 100 art galleries. The city has hundreds of fine restaurants featuring all sorts of ethnic cuisine as well as traditional northwestern fare.

If you want to shop for souvenirs or gifts, the Gastown district has a wide selection of local products including Inuit and Native American art. Chinatown offers Asian goods of all types while the Little India section south of downtown offers a wide variety of unique Indian products. The market on Granville Island has fresh fruit, produce and baked goods plus artistic creations. For serious shoppers, there are the Pacific Centre Mall and the Royal Centre Mall downtown, the Metrotown Mall in Burnaby, Oakridge Centre Mall on Cambie Street or the Lansdowne Centre Mall in Richmond. Asia Center in Richmond is a unique shopping mall that features all sorts of Asian made products.

Getting There

Vancouver International Airport is located on Sea Island just south of the city near the suburb of Richmond. It has many flights to destinations throughout North America and to every other continent. Taxis to downtown cost about $20 to $30. The Airporter Shuttle Bus costs $12 and a limo costs $35 for up to eight passengers. Many visitors from the USA drive north on US interstate 5 which turns into Canadian 99 at the border. Vancouver is at the western terminus of the Canadian Transcontinental railway and the TransCanada highway. Both connect to the eastern Canadian provinces via spectacularly beautiful but very long routes.

Vancouver is also a major terminus for many cruise ships that offer voyages to Alaska from mid May through early October.

Accommodations

There are a number of hotels located near Vancouver International Airport and in the neighboring community of Richmond. Other hotels are located along routes 99 and 99A or in the suburb of North Vancouver. The greatest concentration of accommodations is in downtown. We stayed at the Park Hill Hotel in the center of downtown. It was conveniently located near most of the attractions with plenty of restaurants, convenience stores and shops within a short walk. For a moderate price, we had a spacious suite with a balcony overlooking the magnificent harbor and free parking in a secure garage.  You can check the availability of hotel accommodations in Vancouver by clicking here

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Matthew Field (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)
Photo Description: The Vancouver, BC skyline lit up at night with the North Shore Mountains in the background.