Photo Courtesy of Grant Harder
Vancouver is blessed. This modern city, with its glittering high-rise downtown, is ringed by some of the most beautiful water and mountain scenery on the planet. Visitors love the laid-back and outdoorsy lifestyle: You can ski in the morning, chill on the beach or paddleboard in the afternoon, and s…pend the night people-watching on a patio overlooking superlative mountain views. Vancouver also appeals to foodies, thanks to world-class restaurants, some of the best sushi outside of Japan, and a cutting-edge cocktail scene. Gateway to the Olympic-class mountains of Whistler, the Asian malls of Richmond, and Canada’s most English city, Victoria, there's adventure all around this Pacific Northwest paradise.
What to know before you go to Vancouver
Sure, Vancouver has a reputation for rain—it’s even nicknamed Rain City, or Raincouver, by the locals—but that’s how it gets such gorgeous blooms from spring to fall. No matter when you visit, make sure you bring an umbrella. Year-round the climate is pleasingly mild. During winter it rarely snows except on the local ski hills, and the temperatures hover around 40° to 50° Fahrenheit. Spring arrives early in February or March, and summer ramps up around June but lasts till late September, with temperatures just above 70° Fahrenheit and long, lingering sunsets. The city fills with cruise-going tourists throughout July and August, so canny travelers come in September to enjoy those balmy late-summer days without the crowds.
Vancouver’s nearest airport is Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which connects in 30 minutes to the city by the cheap and efficient Skytrain on the Canada Line. If you’re coming from Seattle or Portland, the Bolt Bus is a budget option, dropping off at the central Pacific Station; there’s also a Greyhound terminal there. Pricier but fantastically scenic is Amtrak’s Cascades route from Seattle, which hugs the coastline along the way.
Vancouver’s downtown core is easily explored by foot, bike, or public transit. The latter is plentiful and well-connected, with options including the sea bus to the North Shore, the Skytrain, and buses. Car share companies Car2Go, ZipCar, Moda, and Evo are all very popular with Vancouverites. There are also water taxis who ply their trade around False Creek to such attractions as Granville Island and Science world.
Nothing says "Vancouver" more than a cycle along the 22-kilometer Seawall. Wrapping around Downtown and including Coal Harbour, False Creek, and Stanley Park, you can snap selfies against a truly dazzling backdrop of mountains, sea, and glittering glass high-rises.
Vancouver is a cosmopolitan, multicultural city. After English and Chinese, the most common mother tongues are Punjabi, German, Italian, French, Tagalog, and Spanish. This translates into a thrillingly diverse dining scene that benefits from the first-class produce grown in the fertile lower mainland and Fraser Valley, as well as from the superb seafood harvested from the waters nearby. Vancouver’s Asian food scene is second to none, with excellent sushi bars, ramen joints, and izakayas in every neighborhood. You’ll also discover award-winning BC wines, a thriving craft brewing scene, and distilleries creating uniquely Canadian spirits with local ingredients.
The Museum of Anthropology at the UBC campus is home to one of the world’s best collections of First Nations peoples' carvings, totem poles, and artifacts. Chinatown’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a must-see, as is the Bill Reid Gallery and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra have their home at the ornate Orpheum Theatre, and the city has a lively dance, opera, and theater scene.
Vancouver has more than its fair share of summer celebrations, from the cultural Bard on the Beach Shakespeare-fest, to the three-day Celebration of Light fireworks extravaganza, to the annual Seawheeze Half-Marathon, where 10,000 Lycra-clad yoga fans arrive for a weekend of running, partying in the park, and sunset yoga. But you'll find something fun to take part in no matter what time of year it is, including winter's Talking Stick Festival, which celebrates First Nations culture, and the spring Cherry Blossom Festival.
Vancouver (or Lotus Land, as it's sometimes called) really does deliver on the hype implied by its regular inclusion on those best places to live lists.
- The city's inhabitants know there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes—so don't let a spot of rain scare you away.
- Free shuttle buses run throughout the summer to Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, so get out into the mountains and enjoy the dense, incredibly green forests, no matter the weather.
- Also dive into BC’s incredibly diverse wines, brews, and spirits while you’re here—very little gets exported, so it’s a rare chance to soak up the local flavors.
- Vancouverites are an English-speaking bunch, with just a smattering of French and other languages tossed into the mix.
- On the appliance front, all of Canada runs on the same standard voltage of 110-120 v as the United States. Your hair dryer will work just fine, no adapter necessary.
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