A multicultural metropolis with snowcapped crags, city-hugging beaches and waterfront forests
Backpacking in Vancouver
Vancouver is a popular destination for backpackers from all over the world. This is partly because as a backpacker wanting to explore Canada or the Pacific Rim, Vancouver is a well-connected place and easy to travel from. Vancouver is also a good base from which to take short hops to resorts such as Whistler, where those with work permits often find temporary jobs which allow them to have a working skiing or snowboarding holiday before setting off to the next adventure. Canada has working student agreements with many countries including the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands, which allows full time students to apply for short-term working visas. There are also other work visas for young people which although limited by number are relatively easy to apply for.
Vancouver suits backpackers well as it’s a laid-back city with a great social life, as well as plenty of reasonably priced places to eat and drink. There are a number of very good hostels, including three Hostelling International locations in central Vancouver, a SameSun hostel and the reasonable Cambie hostels on Cambie and Seymour. All of these have their own cheap bars and restaurants or are situated within spitting distance of good places to hang out and meet fellow travellers.
Beach in Vancouver
Vancouver certainly has beaches after all, the city has 11 miles of shoreline. There are lots of different types of beaches that will suit pretty much any taste. If you’re looking for a secluded spot to enjoy the views then settle yourself at Vancouver's quiet Spanish Bank West beach.
If you’re looking for seclusion to enjoy a bit of personal freedom, then Wreck Beach, with its clothing optional policy is one of the most secluded beaches on the Vancouver coast. Not that peace and quiet is everything. If your beach experience isn’t complete without some form of exercise then check out Spanish Bank East, with its eight volleyball courts. If windsurfing is your passion then head out to Kitsilano, Locarno and Jericho beaches. Jericho beach and Spanish Banks are known as party beaches, as is White Rock Park.
Culture and Arts in Vancouver
Vancouver is an excellent destination for a culture and arts holiday. Although it may not have the classical cultural history of some European destinations, Vancouver has a rich and fascinating arts and culture scene.
Granville Island with its artisan workshops and galleries is an obvious destination, for art lovers, although there is also Vancouver Art Gallery with its extensive collection of Emily Carr paintings.
Of course there is also a wealth of First Nations art, with the fabulous Bill Reid Gallery on Hornby Street showcasing contemporary Aboriginal arts from the northwest coast of Canada.
Vancouver also has a thriving theatre scene, with 32 local theatre companies and 21 venues, you can see something different every night. And that’s without mentioning the tremendously popular Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, Western Canada’s largest professional Shakespeare Festival. The festival happens every summer in Vanier Park. The plays are performed on the waterfront in open-ended tents with the mountains, sea and sky as a backdrop.
Music is also a speciality of Vancouver’s. The jazz scene is big and diverse; venues such as Western Front on East 8th Avenue and The Cellar on Broadway are prime venues for live performances. Gigs of every type of music are easy to find, with local bands such as Danny Echo playing regularly at bars such as The Backstage Lounge on Granville Island whilst bigger acts gravitate towards venues such as the Commodore Ballroom. Classical music is also well-represented. Vancouver has its own opera company, as well as a symphony orchestra and chamber choir, among others. The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts is the place to catch live performances.
Disabled Needs in Vancouver
As befits a modern city, Vancouver has excellent information and facilites for disabled people whether they are tourists or residents. The majority of buildings, public transport and visitor attractions are accessible. Buses have ramps for wheelchairs and the SkyTrain and SeaBus are also accessible.
If you’re flying into Vancouver International Airport you should have no problem getting an accessible taxi from Vancouver Taxi to take you from the airport to your destination (call to order on 604-871-1111). If buses are more your thing, all public buses from the airport are wheelchair accessible. Take the bus from the airport to Airport Station and transfer to the #98 bus for downtown. The scheduled airport bus run by Airporter can accommodate wheelchairs if users are not wheelchair bound and the wheelchair can be folded. Call 604-946-8866 from Vancouver or 1-800-668-3141 toll free.
The British Columbia Paraplegic Society has produced a tip sheet for travellers, which you can read and download online at http://www.bcpara.org. They also have helpful advice on accessible accommodation in Vancouver.
Family Holiday in Vancouver
As a relaxed city with lots of open space, Vancouver is a good place to take a family holiday. That’s not to say that the only thing to do is take the kids to Stanley Park and tire them out cycling or rollerblading. Stanley Park is definitely a number one destination for families on Hholiday on Vancouver as uit has pretty much everything you could possibly want. Apart from general running around space there’s a children’s farmyard and miniature train, a Water Park with slides, and a good safe family beach. Not only that, Vancouver Aquarium is situated within the bounds of the park and is perfect for families. It’s been recently refurbished and many of the displays are stunning, not to mention the excellent dolphin, whale and otter feeding times and shows.
Beyond the park another fun-yet-secretly-educational attraction is Science World at the end of False Creek. It has lots of interactive displays, plus the enormous OMNIMAX Theatre cinema.
A good combination of adult and child-friendly family holiday activities isn Granville Island. Granville Island has great shops and workshops for adults, but also has a dedicated Kids Market with sweets, toys and child-friendly food outlets.
Another good family activity when you’re holidaying in Vancouver is a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, suspended 230 feet above a canyon. If you’ve managed that then try the neighbouring Treetops Adventure, which is a series of bridges set high above the rainforest.
If it’s winter or spring, you might also consider taking the family to play in the snow on Grouse Mountain.
The range of food and dining styles, particularly at the casual end of the market definitely suits families, even those with picky eaters.
Gay and Lesbian in Vancouver
Vancouver is a very laid back city, so no surprise that it’s a great place for gay and lesbian holidaymakers. Vancouver is home to the largest gay population in Western Canada. The Vancouver gay community is centred around two distinctly different neighbourhoods - the West End and Commercial Drive, both of which enjoy a wide variety of restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and boutiques catering to gays and lesbians. There’s a wealth of websites that will put you in touch with gay and lesbian-friendly places to stay as well as acquaint an out-of-towners with the lively gay scene. See sites such as http://www.gayvan.com for more details.
Honeymoon in Vancouver
Vancouver is a great honeymoon holiday destination. After all, with a backdrop of mountains, ocean views and long sea walks it’s pretty damn perfectly romantic. There’s also no shortage of gorgeous romantic hotels, from the large Four Seasons hotel on Georgia Street to the intimate O’Canada luxury Bed and Breakfast just off Robson Street. Vancouver is also known for its dining, and romantic restaurants for loved up honeymooning couples are not difficult to find. For perfect honeymoon holiday atmosphere, try the exotic Villa del Lupo on Hamilton Street, La Terrazza Restaurant on Cambie street in Yaletown or Chambar Belgian Restaurant on Beatty Street.
Naturism in Vancouver
Vancouver is quite well set up for those seeking a naturist holiday. Vancouver boasts one of Canada’s only naturist beaches, Wreck Beach. In fact, Wreck Beach with its 7.8kms of wilderness-like beach is the largest naturist beach in North America. It’s also right in Vancouver itself, by the University of British Columbia. It’s a beautiful spot with rainforest, cliffs and all manner of birds and wildlife.
Apart from Wreck Beach, naturists and nudists can also look to the Van Tan Club, http://www.vantan.ca. The Van Tan Club has been on the go since 1939 and sits 30 minutes away from downtown Vancouver on the lower slopes of Grouse Mountain looking out over Burrard Inlet and Greater Vancouver. The Van Tan Club provides a private park for the enjoyment of social nudism. Facilities include a wood-fired sauna, sports such as volleyball, badminton and croquet. There’s a wading pool, extensive lawns and shady trees.
Couples Holiday in Vancouver
Vancouver is a great place for couples to go for some time together. After all, with a backdrop of mountains, ocean views and long sea walks it’s a rather romantic place to visit. It’s not just about the romance, however. Vancouver has such a wide variety of things to do it’s a great place to go to try something new together, whether it’s skiing, rollerblading or relaxing on the beach. There’s also no shortage of lovely romantic hotels, from the large Four Seasons hotel on Georgia Street to the intimate O’Canada luxury Bed and Breakfast just off Robson Street.
At the other end of the scale, most hostels will also accommodate couples, either in private rooms or mixed dorms. Vancouver is also known for its dining, and romantic restaurants for loved up couples are not difficult to find. For perfect couples holiday atmosphere, try the exotic Villa del Lupo on Hamilton Street (which also has the reputation for being a great place to propose, by the way), or Chambar Belgian Restaurant on Beatty Street.
Golf Activity Holiday in Vancouver
If you thought Scotland was a mecca for golf, then think again. Canadians are golf-crazy, with more golfers in Canada per capita than in any other country in the world. This means that there are lots of excellent golf courses available to those seeking a great golfing holiday in Vancouver.
Vancouver and the North Shore boast six public courses to tempt the golfing visitor. They’re all good, but the standout courses in terms of challenge, design and conditioning, are Fraserview in Vancouver, Northlands in North Vancouver and Riverway, in Burnaby, located just east of Vancouver.
If you’re coming to Vancouver for a golfing holiday in the summer, you would be wide to book your tee time as far in advance as possible, as golf is incredibly popular in the summer months. If advance booking isn’t possible, try calling the A-1 Last Minute Golf Hotline (800-684-6344 or 604-878-1833) who might be able to help you out.
From Vancouver it’s also possible to spread your golfing net wide to Whistler, where the Golf Resort of Whistler is located. With its three championship courses it makes a great package when combined with golfing in Vancouver.
Skiing - Snow Boarding in Vancouver
Although the resorts of Whistler and Banff are bigger and more renowned for skiing and snowboarding than Vancouver, the city still sports some of the best skiing in Canada. After all, Vancouver has three ‘local’ mountains only a short drive from the centre of town. It’s a proud boast of the locals that during spring you can ski in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon – the perfect après ski!
Grouse Mountain is fifteen minutes from the centre of Vancouver and has award winning terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders of all levels as well as a well-respected snow school for those wishing to learn or brush up on their skills. And if you don’t want to ski or board Grouse Mountain offers lots of alternatives, including the newly installed zipwire tour.
Cypress Mountain is 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and sports the most vertical drop, most terrain and most lifts on the highest skiing and riding peak of Vancouver's three mountains. As well as straightforward skiing and snowboarding, Cypress Mountain has Canada's most popular cross country skiing area, a huge Snowtubing Park and offers Snowshoeing Tours.
35 minutes from downtown Vancouver is Mount Seymour. Mount Seymour was one of the first places to teach snowboarding in the 1980s and still maintains a great snow school teaching new skiers and snowboarders the ropes. It also has other activities such as snowshoeing and snowtubing for those who tire of skiing or boarding.
Sailing Activity Holiday in Vancouver
As Vancouver is bordered on three sides by water, those looking for a sailing holiday will never be disappointed here. In fact, the Pacific Northwest is one of the worlds most sought after sailing destinations, and Vancouver’s protected coastline and archipelagos provide the ideal destination to learn to sail or just relax and explore. Of course, it’s not all about the sea. Vancouver has a large number of spectacular waterways, with fjords, waterfalls, lakes and rivers as well as the popular coastal waters.
There are good land-side facilities for sailors on holiday in Vancouver: many ports have resort marinas with a bar and or a restaurant, shops for supplies, fuel dock, laundry facilities and showers. Public docks are identified by red-painted railings. There are numerous local charter companies, which offer both bareboat and skippered charters, as well as cruise and learn boat and flotilla trips. In addition to private companies, there are also local sailing clubs of every description, including the Vancouver Sailing Club, which offers sailboat charters and rentals, plus lessons for the less experienced.
Scuba Diving Activity Holiday in Vancouver
As Vancouver is surrounded by water, you may not be surprised to learn that the Vancouver area is home to some of the most spectacular dive sites in North America – perfect for a scuba diving holiday. Scuba divers visiting Vancouver can look forward to exceptionally clear waters populated by abundant marine life including plumose anemones, wolf eels, giant Pacific Ocean octopi, urchins and starfish. In addition to the creatures of the deep a scuba diving holiday in Vancouver offers exciting dive sites, as many ships and vessels have been scuttled to create amazing artificial reefs, and steep drop-offs provide the perfect environment to explore underwater walls. Average underwater dive temperatures are 8-12°C (46.4-53.6°F) in Vancouver and surrounding areas.
There are a number of dive shops and scuba diving schools in Vancouver itself such as the International Diving Centre on Arbutus Street. Most teach diving as well as running trips to the most popular dive sites including out of town favourites such as Vancouver Island (across the Georgia Strait), Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast, all offering scuba holidaymakers a diversity of unique diving opportunities.
Hiking Activity Holiday in Vancouver
If you like to hike, then Vancouver has pretty much everything you could want right on your doorstep. From wilderness hikes in the urban expanse of Stanley Park to mountain hikes up Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour, a hiking holiday in Vancouver offers a great variety of hikes for enthusiasts of all abilities.
Stanley Park is the first port of call for hikers. Although hiking in a park might seem tame, bear in mind that Stanley Park covers 1000 acres of wilderness and rainforest and also has a long seawall walk.
Another larger wooded park (in fact, it’s almost twice the size of Stanley Park) that’s great for hikers is Pacific Spirit Park out toward the University of British Columbia.
Other hikes within the downtown Vancouver area include the walk along English Bay, across the Burrard Street Bridge to Vanier Park. From the park you can hike along to Kitsilano Park and beach. If you’re looking for an even more heavy-duty hike on you holiday, continue past Kitsilano Beach and visit the string of beaches that stretch west toward the tip of Vancouver: Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach, Spanish Banks and Wreck Beach.
A hiking holiday in Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Coast Mountains, a short drive from the centre of town. Testing hikes, such as the ‘Grouse Grind’ a 1.5 to 2-hour hike up the slopes of Grouse Mountain, will have your muscles screaming for mercy. However you reach the mountain’s summit, once there you can walk the branching trails to your heart’s content. There are hundreds of kilometres of trails stretching over the Mount Seymour, Cypress Mountain and Grouse Mountain so from day hikes of varying levels to overnight backpacking trips, the choice is wide when taking a hiking holiday in Vancouver.
Cycling Activity Holiday in Vancouver
Taking a cycling holidays in Vancouver is a great way to get to grips with the city, not least because the enormous Stanley Park is well worth exploring and is ideal for biking. The climate is moderate in Vancouver, making it pleasant to cycle almost all year round (although note well that Vancouver is famous for its rain, so winter might not be the season of choice for the cyclist). Vancouver is cyclist-friendly, having created may bike paths and a network of routes. These are identified by green bicycle route signs placed at intervals. Roads are usually stencilled with identifiers as well. Outside of the city centre there are many trails and cycle pathways along the coast and in the Coast Mountains to explore with mountain bikes.
Hiring a bike is easy in Vancouver; there are a number of shops offering bike and rollerblade hire, such as Spokes Bicycle Rental in Stanley Park. To rent a bike you normally need a form of I.D. and a credit card or a cash deposit. Rental costs for bikes usually range from about $8 (4.80 euros) an hour $40 (24 euros) for a day.
Shopping Holiday in Vancouver
Vancouver is home to one of the most famous shopping cities in the world: Robson Street. No shopping holiday in Vancouver would be complete without a trip along its gleaming windows, which display some of the most prominent worldwide luxury brands such as Hermès, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Betsey Johnson, Chanel, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Lacoste, Coach, and Salvatore Ferragamo all vy for space here.
However, if your tastes are more modest, don’t despair: Vancouver’s wide range of bohemian and boutique shops will fit the pocket and style of even the most dedicated of holiday shoppers. If you’re looking to buy art whilst on holiday in Vancouver, then Granville Island and Gastown host a wide range of shops selling Inuit and First nation art and contemporary pieces by other Canadian artists.
Added to the variety of shopping outlets in Vancouver, visitors on a serious shopping mission will appreciate the compactness and the navigability of the city, allowing you to shop to your heart’s content without too much legwork.