Text and photos by Aruna Chandaraju
Between my highly subjective list of in-and-around-Vancouver must-dos and the ones that every brochure and tourist-guide recommends, I had a tough choice. Not all of them matched. The solution, I realised, was to combine the best of both. Now, take your pick!
1. Stanley Park
Sprawling over 1,000 acres, it is not only the lungs of the city but also a National Historic Site of Canada. It’s the city’s favourite park –– drive through it in your car, do a bicycle ride, or take the old-style horse-drawn carriage. Stroll along its seawall –– Vancouverites love this activity, gaze at the stunning totem poles (a favourite photo-op for visitors), take a ride in the Stanley Park miniature train and see all the landmarks.
2. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Stretching 450 ft in length, and placed 230 ft above the Capilano river, this swaying bridge is a must-do even if you are wobbling at every step and clutching at the railings every now and then! Remember to pause — as steady as you can manage to stand — and take in the lush rainforest carpet of ferns and fir. If you want more, try Treetops Adventure and the Cliffwalk feature, a series of suspended walkways.
3. Granville Island
Plenty for everyone, which is why it’s a regular haunt for Vancouverites. The sprawling public market is overflowing with breads, fresh produce, seafood, and everything else. The arts and crafts centre is a unique initiative wherein local artists are given space but only if the art is produced onsite — so it’s a great place for handcrafted products. From elegant silk-wear, funky accessories and wall-art, to a designer broom store (yes, really!) this section is a must-do for art lovers.
4. The Orpheum
A designated National Historic Site of Canada, it is a large and well-known music and theatre venue with superb architecture and impressive, opulent interiors.
5. Flyover Canada
A recently opened virtual flight ride. Seated on a chair which projects forward, you “soar” from coast to coast of Canada at a super-fast speed taking in the variety of landscape Canada offers. You might find yourself lifting your legs to avoid “colliding” into mountain-peaks, treetops, and skyscrapers. Or, try “Flightseeing”. These are longer, and real, rides and on floatplanes which offer stunning aerial views of Vancouver.
6. Grouse Mountain
It might seem incredible but there is a piece of pristine wilderness just next to the large, bustling and skyscraper-dotted metropolis that Vancouver is. Not surprising, therefore, that it counts as one of the city’s most-visited attractions. The Grouse Mountain Skyride which is North America’s largest aerial-tramway system takes you over the alpine terrain to a point 3,700 ft above sea-level, also offering great views of the city along the way. If you are feeling fit, attempt Mother Nature’s Stairmaster — the Grouse Grind which is a 2.9 km trail up the face of the mountain to its top.
The city offers a wide array of museums for the visitor to choose from. The University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology (especially for its fabulous First Nations art), Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, Museum of Vancouver, Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Galleries, Vancouver Art Gallery, Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, and Vancouver Maritime Museum.
8. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
The first authentic Chinese classical garden outside China — aesthetic and peaceful.
The city offers a staggering variety of options in cuisine, from virtually every corner of the world. And at prices to suit every pocket — from fine-dining restaurants to street-food available from the over 50 food trucks across the city which can be located conveniently with an app downloaded on your mobile-phone.
Bring home Canada’s world-renowned products — maple syrup, First Nations art and crafts, ice wine, cherries and berries or products using them as a base, cider, chocolates, and locally made goods from the Farmers’ Market.