The Insider's Guide to Experiencing Vancouver like a Local
Food & Wine
Year after year, Vancouver is consistently rated one the world's most livable cities, What truly sets Vancouver apart, making it an exceptional destination for both residents and visitors, is how it showcases its' stunning natural beauty amongst it's modern urban environment. Situated amid the mountains to the north and surrounded by the encompassing ocean, rivers and lakes, Vancouver never fails to offer a captivating view. Vancouver and the surrounding area is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise; there are countless ways to enjoy all there is to offer all within close proximity to the city center. Taking advantage of all the outdoor activities is a must when visiting Vancouver, particularly during its summer season when the weather is at its finest. As a resident of this vibrant city, I am uniquely positioned to offer insider insights that go beyond the usual tourist trail, helping you discover hidden gems that will make you feel like a local.
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Where to stay in Vancouver
Fairmont Pacific Rim
The Fairmont Pacific Rim is designed to exceed the highest standards and services, offering all-around luxury in downtown Vancouver accommodations.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront
Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront is a waterfront hotel in Vancouver, Canada, boasting stunning harbor views, comfortable accommodations, and convenient access to the city's vibrant downtown and attractions.
Four Seasons Resort Whistler
High-end mountain resort featuring luxury suites and an in-house ski concierge.
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Things to do in Vancouver
Ride around the city on bicycle
The perfect way to explore Vancouver. Navigate through a network of excellent bike paths that connect Coal Harbour to Stanley Park, wind around False Creek covering Olympic Village, Granville Island, Kitsilano, Jericho Beach and even stretch all the way to the University of British Columbia (UBC). Cycling provides an immersive and enjoyable way to take it all in. There are many cycle shops to rent a suitable bike and if you're feeling particularly lazy, try getting an e-bike.
Riding around the seawall in Stanley Park offers a great way to enjoy some fresh air with some beautiful views. There are an impressive lot of trees and greenery to be seen throughout the park. If you are feeling like a meal the Teahouse is a very popular spot offering a chance to enjoy a bite before continuing on to Third Beach. This is one of the local's favorite spots to relax and enjoy the sun and offers the best sand on any beach in the city. Too hot? Try taking a plunge in the water. It's not the warmest water but feels refreshing after a hot day in the sun. If you happen to be there in the evening, enjoy the rhythms of the drum circle before watching the stunning sunset over the water. Good times.
Don't miss the opportunity to stop at the vibrant Granville Island Market. Here, you can immerse yourself in a bustling hub of local culture and creativity. Explore the market's vendors offering an array of handcrafted goods, artisanal products and local delicacies. Stop for a drink or meal at the Dockside Restaurant at the Granville Island Hotel and enjoy an outdoor drink while taking in the view of the city across False Creek.
While on Granville Island, do some people watching and listen to the musicians. Their musical talents contribute to the lively atmosphere, creating an enjoyable experience. Pause for a moment to soak in the panoramic views that this charming spot offers – from the sparkling waters of False Creek to the city's skyline
Discover the North Shore
While the well-loved attractions like the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Lynn Canyon hold their charm, there's more to explore on the North Shore. For those with an adventurous spirit, consider hiking up Grouse Mountain or Cypress Mountain. If you do the Grouse grind, time yourself like a local to measure your fitness. You can always take the Gondola down. Hiking is one of the most popular activities for locals and you can be rewarded for the effort with panoramic views of the city that's truly worth it.
If an evening dinner with a view is your thing, consider The Observatory restaurant on Grouse, which allows you to take the Gondola for free with a reservation.
While at the top, consider checking out the grizzly bear enclosure to learn about the resident grizzly. Alternatively for mountain bike enthusiasts, consider renting a downhill mountain bike. The city busses are even set up with bike racks on the front to take you to the trails at Mt. Fromme.
To unwind, spend a leisurely afternoon in Deep Cove a quiet inlet known for its tranquility. You might opt for a calm paddleboarding session on the serene waters, surrounded by the area's natural beauty. Honey Doughnuts & Goodies are always a popular choice for a sweet fix. For something more substantial, enjoy a nice meal at the Arm's Reach Bistro.
Visit the Lonsdale Quay Market. It's a vibrant marketplace with local vendors offering fresh produce, handcrafted items and a variety of foods. The shipyard night market offers fantastic views of the city and a chance to try the many food trucks with a bustling atmosphere. Have a drink on the patio at Joey Shipyards and take in the city skyline from across the water. Afterward, enjoy a peaceful ride back downtown on the SeaBus.
Connect with nature
Consider taking a relaxing stroll that combines two unique experiences. Start by visiting a cannabis shop if that's your thing then immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Endowment Lands. For a more free-spirited adventure, visit the Coca Leaf Cafe and check out all the products on display that are typically more associated with Shamans in South America and really show Vancouverites' love of pushing boundaries. The Pacific Spirit National Park offers a serene setting for a peaceful walk, allowing you to appreciate the lush greenery that graces the city. Following your nature-filled walk, venture to Wreck Beach, a destination that showcases a distinctive, free-spirited facet of the city. While some visitors choose to embrace the beach's clothing-optional policy, it's worth noting that many opt to keep their attire on. This beach provides an opportunity to experience an alternative side of Vancouver, attracting a diverse crowd that appreciates its liberating atmosphere. If that's not quite your thing, try windsurfing, paddle boarding or Dinghy Sailing at Jericho beach. The stretch of beach offers some of the best views of the city and is never too packed to find a spot for yourself. While there, watch the hundreds of rabbits that suddenly moved into the neighborhood recently.
No visit to Vancouver is truly complete without venturing beyond its borders to the captivating neighboring destinations of Whistler, Victoria and Tofino. Each destination holds its own allure, offering unique experiences that complement the urban charm of Vancouver.
A Trip to Whistler
Exploring the area's beauty is a must-do, and Whistler offers a captivating experience. For those seeking adventure, consider a motorcycle rental for a scenic ride along the Sea to Sky Highway, en route to Whistler. Take breaks along the way to appreciate the natural wonders like Shannon Falls and the impressive rock face near Squamish.
Once in Whistler, you have the freedom to design your day according to your preferences. Take a ride on the Peak to Peak Gondola for breathtaking vistas, wander through the charming streets of the village, unwind by the shores of Alta Lake and have a barbecue, or indulge in a pampering session at the Scandinave Spa. A Downhill mountain bike course is open on the resort during the summer. From the chairlift it is usually possible to see black bears wandering about. Whistler is a gorgeous environment that should not be missed.
A Trip to Victoria:
Optimize your travel with a sea plane expedition from Coal Harbour to Victoria, granting efficient access and an aerial spectacle of the coastal panoramas. Upon your arrival, stroll along the scenic Inner Harbour promenade, where the iconic Parliament Buildings and the Royal BC Museum. Delve into local culture by visiting artisanal markets and indulging in culinary delights at waterfront eateries. Elevate your experience through the timeless tradition of high tea at the impressive Fairmont empress.
Victoria is not only a city of historical resonance but also a haven for nature enthusiasts. Discover the lush landscapes of Butchart Gardens, where meticulously designed gardens burst with vibrant flora. For a taste of the island's wild side, venture to areas like Beacon Hill Park or Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park, where serene trails lead to stunning vistas.
A Trip to Tofino
Escape the hustle and bustle of Vancouver and venture into the Tofino's untamed coastline. Let the rugged charm of the coast captivate you and immerse yourself in its wild beauty. See something truly unique on a whale watching expedition. Try surfing one of the many beaches along the coast between Tofino and Uclulet. After a day's adventure, unwind and enjoy a meal in one of the several great restaurants serving local cuisine and craft beers.
Places to eat & drink in Vancouver
Bluewater Cafe: Indulge in ocean-fresh catches and innovative seafood dishes, offering a true taste of the Pacific Northwest.
Arms Reach Bistro: A Deep Cove gem serving up comfort with a touch of sophistication, showcasing local flavors in a cozy ambiance.
Bearfoot Bistro Whistler: Whistler's culinary treasure, known for luxury dining and imaginative cocktails that ignite the senses.
Dockside at Granville Island Hotel: Waterfront dining at its finest, where gourmet creations meet breathtaking Granville Island views.
The Observatory at Grouse Mountain: Elevate your dining experience atop Grouse Mountain, savoring fine cuisine amid awe-inspiring mountain panoramas.
Lunch Lady or Anh and Chi: Taste authentic Vietnamese cuisine at Lunch Lady or savor modern Vietnamese fusion at Anh and Chi, each with a unique twist.
Suika: Unwind in casual elegance at Suika, indulging in izakaya-style delights that celebrate Japanese flavors.
Miku: Immerse yourself in Aburi-style sushi at Miku, where tradition meets innovation in every palate-pleasing bite.
Joe Fortes: A seafood haven with timeless charm, Joe Fortes treats you to fresh catches and prime cuts in an inviting atmosphere.
Nightingale: Contemporary and chic, Nightingale offers a global journey of flavors, blending creativity and sophistication.
Impostori: Savor Italian authenticity at Impostori, where hearty dishes celebrate the heart and soul of Italy's culinary heritage.
Oca Pastificio: Handcrafted pasta delights await at Oca Pastificio, inviting you to revel in the art of pasta-making.
Suyo Peruvian: Embark on a culinary voyage to Peru at Suyo, where Peruvian traditions shine through vibrant flavors.
Zarak: Discover Afghan cuisine at Zarak, a hidden treasure offering aromatic dishes and cultural richness.
Ophelia: Experience global cuisines in an enchanting setting at Ophelia, where each dish is a journey of taste and imagination.
Kissa Tanto: Immerse yourself in a blend of Japanese and Italian flavors at Kissa Tanto, where creativity takes center stage.
Quan Ju De: Indulge in Peking duck and authentic Chinese cuisine at Quan Ju De, a culinary journey that bridges cultures.
Ramen Santouka: Dive into a bowl of comforting ramen at Ramen Santouka, savoring Japanese comfort in every spoonful.
Reflections Terrace (Rosewood Hotel Georgia): Elevate your senses at Reflections Terrace, an oasis atop Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Bask in the open-air ambiance while sipping crafted cocktails under the starlit sky.
05 Rare Tea Bar: A haven for tea enthusiasts and those seeking non-alcoholic delights, 05 Rare Tea Bar offers an artful fusion of tea and spirits. Discover a range of tantalizing tea-based concoctions and kombucha creations that will enchant your taste buds.
Provence Marinaside: Savor the pleasures of wine by the water at Provence Marinaside. With an extensive wine list, this waterfront haven offers the perfect backdrop for sipping and savoring.
Keefer Bar: Step into the mysterious world of Keefer Bar, where expert mixologists craft elixirs inspired by Chinese medicine. Enjoy signature concoctions in an intimate and alluring setting.
Guilt and Co: Let the rhythm guide you to Guilt and Co, a live music venue where craft cocktails and soulful tunes blend seamlessly. A hidden gem to unwind with friends.
Joey Shipyards: Experience vibrant vibes and waterfront views at Joey Shipyards. Enjoy refreshing cocktails while soaking in the dynamic atmosphere of this lively hotspot.
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This guide is a part of our ongoing series on travel to Vancouver.