- Rent a bike and explore - there are bike paths everywhere, and it's simple and easy to get around on two wheels. You can explore the city center and surrounding areas quite easily by bicycle.
- Sure, Stanley Park is no secret place, but there's a reason it's near the top in all the guide books. It's a pretty awesome green oasis in the middle of a big city. There are miles of biking, rollerblading, and walking trails, and it would be quite easy to waste away several days exploring this park while not spending a dime.
- Take a small water taxi or ferry across to Granville Island and check out the Granville Island Public Market. Markets are always great places to check out what the locals are up to while getting some great food.
- If you find yourself in Vancouver during the summer months (June through September) and like to explore markets, be sure to check out the Richmond Night Market. You may feel like you've been transported to Bangkok and a large Asian market, but this is a great place to pick up some souvenirs and some tasty street food.
Why you should add Vancouver to your RTW travel list
- Catch a ferry out to Vancouver Island.
- Don't look down as you cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
- Walk in Stanley Park to Prospect Point to get a wonderful view of the city.
- Stroll down to English Bay and hang out in the very cool Kitsilano area.
- Talk in the greenery at Butchart Gardens.
- Seattle is only two hours away.
- The food is great and diverse, with a large Asian population providing plenty of tasty eats.
- Go skiing in the mountains and windsurf in the ocean - all in one day!
- Great public transport and a good hub for getting around to other parts of the world.
- Celebrate Chinese New Year in Chinatown.
Why you should not add Vancouver to your RTW travel list
- The prices are high and your budget can take a major hit.
- Like most of the Pacific Northwest region, it rains a lot, making taking advantage of all the outdoor activities problematic at times.
- Most cheap accommodations are located on or around Granville Street, the most touristy and commercial street in the city.
- Many of the so-called must see attractions and experiences come with a hefty price tag.
Often thought of as one of the most livable large cities in North America, Vancouver will suck you in too, especially if you visit during the few dry months in summer. Actually, for a city that has famously gray and rainy weather there is a major emphasis on outdoor activities in Vancouver. Stanley Park is one of the largest urban green spaces in North America and several other major parks also fill up at the slightest hint of decent weather. Even during the mild winters it’s easy to get outside, as some excellent skiing and snowboarding are available not far away.
What To Do
Stanley Park should not be missed. There is a lot more to it than a giant square lawn, and even during bad weather the views of the harbor and surrounding areas are worth seeing. Granville Island is actually a peninsula within the city limits and is host to Vancouver’s oldest public market. It looks a bit touristy, but the locals are regulars also as there is interesting shopping and crafts as well as great and affordable restaurants.
The Gastown District is getting better every year. This old town section used to be dominated by skid row elements, but it has transformed into an area with trendy bars and restaurants while still maintaining some of the rough edges of its past. The Vancouver Aquarium is a world-class facility where you can witness their research and rehabilitation programs. The attractions are somewhat spread out so Vancouver is a great place to take a city tour, especially right after you arrive. There is a trolley tour that is well narrated and is a great way to get familiar with the big picture before you set your agenda.
Unless you are arriving by train from Seattle or elsewhere in Canada you’ll want to book a flight into Vancouver International Airport. It’s a major airport so good deals are often available. If you are going to rent a car anyway you might also check flights into Seattle. Sometimes they can be much cheaper and the cities are only a few hours away by car and the drive is nice. There is a public bus that runs from the Vancouver airport into the center in about 40 minutes, and there are shuttle services that are a bit faster and more expensive.
Where To Stay
Vancouver is fairly spread out and the public transportation system is good so it might be worth it to book a cheaper place away from the center if you are on a tight budget. There are several very good areas for nightlife and one of them, Gastown, has some cheap and rundown sleeping options, but it’s still safe at night. There are several hostels in Vancouver and loads of hotels, but during peak times they fill up early so plan ahead.