Is Vancouver Worth Visiting? (By A Local)

Are you wondering is Vancouver worth visiting?

Born and raised in Vancouver, I can help you gain insight and information from a local’s perspective.

While Vancouver is absolutely worth visiting, there are many other reasons to visit one of Canada’s most stunningly beautiful cities.

I love living in Vancouver mostly because no matter where you go, you’ll always find something to do. The West Coast city also showcases stunning views from almost everywhere; Vancouver, Canada, is a place you won’t want to miss.

In this blog post, I’ll explain in more detail the reasons for visiting Vancouver, things to do and see, other general information, and local tips about the city.

Is Vancouver Worth Visiting

Waterfront with a seaplane docked on the bottom right of the photo. Trees from Stanley Park in the distance with many docked boats. City buildings on the left the sun starting to set behind them with the Seawall walkway below. Vancouver is one of the best cities to visit in Canada because of the scenery and diversity.

So, yes, you should absolutely visit Vancouver.

There are many reasons to visit Vancouver: outdoor activities, exploring the mountains, or hanging out by the ocean, to name a few.

The first of the many reasons to visit the city is that Vancouver is in a central location. You can drive for day trips to nature or take ferries to various island locations.

For example, you can drive towards the mountains and be in the forest, drive five hours to the Okanagan, where you’ll be in a desert and enjoy wine country, or hop on a ferry to the many surrounding islands.

Vancouver is also known for having a diverse culture, not only with its people but also with food. And if you love seafood, Vancouver is one of the top places in Canada to try seafood, especially salmon or sushi.

If you’re not into seafood, you can find various cuisines all over the city, from high-end to local pubs and everything in between.

Outdoor recreational activities are one of the primary reasons people from around the world visit Vancouver. Our mountains, Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour, are available in the winter for snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and tubing. During the summer, you can find people mountain biking or hiking.

The city sits on the traditional unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Inlet view of the water and Stanley Park in the distance. The city skyline is on the left hand side and the mountains of the North Shore is on the right. There is also the Chevron Gas Station that has been there for ages.

16 Things To Do And See In Vancouver

As I mentioned, I am a local to Vancouver, British Columbia and can tell you all the non touristy things to do in Vancouver, but these are the top things that, as a tourist, you need to check out and see.

Some of these locations are outside of Vancouver, but they’re worth checking out on their own as they’re easy to get to if you have a vehicle or by local transit.

1. Queen Elizabeth Park

Located on the highest point and heart of the city, Queen Elizabeth Park has panoramic views of Vancouver’s skyline, the North Shore Mountains, and beyond.

Snowcapped mountains in the distance with building and houses in the distance, trees and bushes sort of obstructs the below view. And it's a clear sunny cold looking day. Reasons to visit Vancouver is a long list for example visiting the heart of Vancouver, Queen Elizabeth Park.

The park’s well-maintained gardens are highlighted by showcasing diverse plant species and meticulously designed landscapes.

One of the park’s iconic attractions is the Bloedel Conservatory, a unique domed structure housing a tropical garden filled with exotic plants, colourful birds, and a Koi pond.

While visiting Queen Elizabeth Park, you can also enjoy recreational activities such as lawn bowling, picnicking, and strolling along the pathways that wind through the park. I personally love having picnics at “Queen E,” as we locals call it.

The stunning views at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park is one of the best Vancouver sunset spots. There is also a restaurant, Seasons In the Park, where you can sit outside or inside and enjoy the breathtaking view as you enjoy your meal.

2. Stanley Park

Vancouver’s most significant and beloved park is Stanley Park. The park is crisscrossed with a network of trails and pathways, making it perfect for walking, jogging, or biking.

The iconic Seawall, a scenic path encircles the park, offers stunning waterfront views and is a favourite spot for exercise.

Totem Poles, located at Brockton Point, showcases the region’s Indigenous cultures. The Vancouver Aquarium within Stanley Park provides an educational and entertaining experience, allowing you to learn about conservation efforts and marine life.

Prospect Point offers a panoramic view of the Lions Gate Bridge, North and West Vancouver. I love watching the sunset here during the summer months.

Ocean view with houses on the mountain to the right and was taken just after the sunset behind the mountains. The sky has a orange blue ombre and it's cloudy and dark over the mountain.  Prospect Point in Stanley Park is one of the best paces to enjoy the sunset in Vancouver.

There are also many other notable viewpoints, such as the Nine O’Clock Gun, which fires off every night at 9:00 PM, Siwash RockGirl in a Wet Suit, and more for you to discover.

3. Granville Island

Granville Island is a lively spot with art, food, and fun. Previously an industrial area, it became a creative hub. You can explore art galleries, craft studios, and the bustling Granville Island Public Market, full of fresh food, produce, poultry, meats, and more.

There’s also theatre, live performances, plus a Kid Market. Enjoy local craft beers at Granville Island Brewing and explore local small businesses for unique finds. Street performers and public art add to the vibrant atmosphere.

I like taking the False Creek Ferries. They’re a unique, short, fun way to transport you around False Creek. You can purchase tickets online or at the ferry docks.

Waterfront with an Aqua Bus parked at the small dock. The Granville Bridge underneath is on the right and buildings surround the background. Granville Island is one of the top tourist spots in Vancouver and worth visiting.

4. VanDusen Botanical Gardens

VanDusen Botanical Garden offers a diverse natural experience from the Rose Garden to the Hedge Maze. The garden also showcases a range of plant species native to the Pacific Northwest.

During winter, the Festival of Lights transforms VanDusen Gardens. Thousands of lights illuminate the garden, creating a captivating display after dark. The event turns the gardens into a festive wonderland, making it a unique and magical part of Vancouver’s winter season.

5. Exploring Downtown Vancouver

While planning on exploring Downtown Vancouver, be sure to explore the many neighbourhoods offering a mix of cultural attractions and stunning natural and urban surroundings. 

On Robson Street is where you’ll find retail stores and restaurants, and Granville Street for more of Vancouver’s nightlife, restaurants, and some retail stores. The Vancouver Art Gallery is also located along Robson Street.

You can also explore Gastown, as it’s one of Vancouver’s only locations with cobblestone and brick-mixed streets and sidewalks. This historic neighbourhood is famous for its iconic Gastown Steam Clock, unique boutiques, and art galleries.

A narrow triangular yelow building in the middle of the mixed cobblestone street with buildings one either side. And cars are waiting at the crosswalk while a person is crossing. Gastown is something that all tourist should experience once when visiting Vancouver.

Suppose you want a trendy neighbourhood with converted heritage warehouses, stylish restaurants, and upscale boutiques; Yaletown is the place. Stroll along the greenway at David Lam Park for beautiful waterfront views.

Outside of Yaletown is Science World. Growing up in Vancouver, Science World was almost every local child’s favourite field trip. Science World is an excellent interactive science museum with hands-on exhibits and fascinating displays on everything from outer space to biology, animals, insects, and everything in between.

Waterfront with boats ancored in randomw spots. A red base building with a silver dome known as Science World to the right on top of the water. BC Place Arena in the distance to the left with other buildings. Exploring Science World and walking along the Seawall is something everyone should do in Vancouver.

The Coal Harbour neighbourhood is located near the waterfront. It’s where you can start the walk of the Seawall and the Vancouver Convention Centre. There is also Canada Place, where you can take a virtual flight experience called FlyOver Canada and see the stunning Canada Place Sails that light up at night.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for FlyOver Canada

Situated in North Vancouver, Capilano is renowned for housing one of Vancouver’s top tourist destinations, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This expansive park features a remarkable 137-foot suspension bridge over a river.

Surround by green evergreen trees there is a suspension bridge in the middle with many people walking on it. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a must expereince when visiting Vancouver.

Treetop Adventure features suspension bridges among the trees, while the Cliffwalk is a thrilling walkway attached to a cliffside. The park also features educational trails, Indigenous totem poles, and interactive programs for kids. There are shops for popular souvenirs from Canada and dining options to enjoy.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

7. Lynn Canyon

Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver has grown to be a popular spot to visit. The smaller suspension bridge is a fantastic viewing spot for the waterfall to your left.

Many locals like to hike Lynn Canyon for the other trails connecting to our mountains’ routes. I have visited Lynn Canyon many times, and my favourite part is the 30-foot pool. It’s excellent to take a dip, especially in summer.

There’s also the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre. A small museum with information about the park, local wildlife, and plants. If you’re looking for a quick snack, there is the Lynn Canyon Cafe, too.

8. Explore Vancouver’s Mountains

The mountains of Vancouver are a worldwide landmark. However, there are many things to do in Vancouver in winter and summer on these three local mountains.

From looking at the mountains from left to right, Cypress Mountain is known for cross-country skiing. It’s an excellent location for beginners and children to learn how to cross-country ski (it was my favourite field trip in elementary school).

Grouse Mountain is the most popular mountain out of the three. During winter, you can find many people downhill skiing or snowboarding. You can see what we locals call “The Cut” on the front-right of the mountain, as you can see it from almost everywhere in Vancouver.

During the summer, you can do the Grouse Grind, which isn’t for the faintest of hearts. It’s a moderate to difficult-rated hike with incline stairs and a mixed trail up the mountain that people can complete within one to three hours, but you can do it at your own pace.

You can take the Grouse Red Skyride if you wish to not participate in hiking the Grouse Grind. You can also have to pay to ride it down if you complete the grind.

Lastly, Seymour Mountain. While you can ski and snowboard on Seymour, it’s more widely popular for snowshoeing and tubing. If you’re looking for activities that don’t include skiing and snowboarding, head up to Seymour for beautiful snowy trails.

9. White Rock

White Rock is a city near the Canada and United States border. It’s a laid-back small city with fantastic sea views, the famous White Rock, a big white-painted rock on the beach, and the White Rock Pier, one of the longest piers in Canada.

A must-try for a summer lunch is Moby Dick, famous for their fish and chips. It’s a popular spot with a casual vibe, especially in the summer when it gets busy. Despite the crowds, it’s the go-to place for tasty fish and chips by the sea.

"Moby Dick" a blue building fishing theme known for "Famous Fish & Chips Since 1975" there is also a grey whale with water out of the blowhole.

When you order from Moby Dick, on the menu, it will say one fish, two fish, three fish, etc. You’ll get an extra piece of fish with your order (one fish = two fish portions, two fish = three fish portions) even though it says one fish. I was confused when I ordered, too, so I had to ask the waitress.

10. Day Trip To Whistler

Is Whistler worth visiting? Yes, it is! One of the best things to do in Vancouver is take a day trip to Whistler, the world-renowned ski resort town that also hosted competitions during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The five Olypmic Rings statue on top of stone in Whistler Olympic Plaza. Whistler is an excellent day trip from Vancouver.

Whistler is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

During winter, it transforms into a world-class ski and snowboarding destination with ski slopes with pristine powder and top-notch facilities. The charming pedestrian village has cozy lodges, restaurants, and boutiques, creating a lively après-ski atmosphere.

Don’t worry there are other things to do in Whistler if you don’t ski too.

As the snow melts, Whistler transitions into a hub for mountain biking, hiking, and outdoor exploration. Its intricate network of trails offers stunning alpine views.

In addition, Whistler is also a cultural hub, hosting events, festivals, and art exhibitions year-round.

Not only is Whistler a stunning ski resort, but the journey to get to Whistler is exceptional. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler along Highway 99, better known to locals as the Sea to Sky Highway, is deemed one of the best scenic drives in Canada. And rightfully so, as you can see, parts of the Sunshine Coast, small islands, ocean, and mountainous views.

11. Day Trip To Squamish

A day trip to Squamish is easy to do from Vancouver. Squamish is known as an outdoorsy town with many outdoor activities. Hiking to rock climbing the Stawamus Chief, or “The Chief” as we locals call it, to the scenic Sea-to-Sky Gondola ride, the town offers a range of experiences for nature enthusiasts.

A massive rock picture taken from the car along the highway. The Stawamus Chief is a popular hiking and rock climbing spot.

And suppose you’re not into outdoor activities. In that case, the town provides casual strolls, local eats and coffee shops, and retail shopping opportunities.

12. Day Trip To Victoria

If you’re wondering if Victoria is worth visiting, even for a day, yes, it is! Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is a picturesque and charming destination that beckons visitors with its rich history, stunning gardens, and coastal beauty.

The world-famous Butchart Gardens is a tourist destination on the island worth visiting. The Inner Harbour area is a focal point, where you can stroll along the waterfront until you reach Fisherman’s Wharf where you’ll find colourful and unique boat homes.

Colourful unique floating homes on the waterfront on a beautiful sunny day. Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria is somewhere you can check out on a day trip from Vancouver.

Visit the Royal BC Museum and take in the impressive Parliament BuildingsWhale-watching excursions from Victoria’s harbours are also a popular summer activity. Overall, Victoria provides a serene and picturesque escape, combining the provincial capital’s elegance with the Pacific coast’s beauty.

Moreover, Victoria is a fantastic base for exploring the rest of the island on a Vancouver Island road trip. The city’s mild climate makes it an ideal summer destination. It’s perfect for walks, outdoor dining, and the many festivals and events.

13. Okanagan Valley

Visiting the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia during the summer — my favourite time to visit, or during winter is a fantastic escape into British Columbia’s wine country. This region is renowned for its vineyards and wineries, producing some of the country’s finest wines.

The Okanagan desert provides a warm, sunny climate that provides the perfect conditions for grape cultivation, and touring the vineyards offers a chance to savour world-class wines while enjoying stunning lake views.

Additionally, the Okanagan is a paradise for outdoor activities. The region boasts pristine lakes, including OkanaganSkaha, and Kalamalka, ideal for swimming, boating, paddleboarding, and fishing. Hiking and biking enthusiasts can explore scenic trails, including the historic Kettle Valley Rail Trail

14. Sunshine Coast

As you can see, Vancouver is a hub for exploring many islands and locations near the city. Another place to visit is the Sunshine Coast. A gem in British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast offers an escape from the busy city life.

Accessible by a scenic 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, this coastal paradise is characterized by its charming communities, pristine beaches, and lush landscapes.

An island in the distance on the ocean on a cloudy day.

The Sunshine Coast embodies a laid-back atmosphere, with many small towns. Gibsons is worth visiting as it’s known as the “gateway to the Sunshine Coast.” Or Sechelt, as the town offers charming waterfront views, art galleries, and local markets.

Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the coast’s hiking trails, kayak along its tranquil waters, and enjoy a range of water sports.

15. Provincial & Regional Parks

Vancouver is surrounded by many provincial and regional parks, from Pacific Spirit Regional Park near the University of British Columbia to the local mountains I mentioned previously, Cypress Provincial Park and Mount Seymour Provincial Park.

Further out from Vancouver, there is also Porteau Cove Provincial Park, Rolley Lake Provincial Park, EC Manning Provincial Park, Garibaldi Park, and many more.

You can discover stunning mountainous views, evergreen valleys, potential wildlife, and pristine freshwater lakes.

Top of a snowy mountain view of lush green mountain sides with some snow that keep going in the distance.

16. Gulf Islands

Off the coast of British Columbia, the Gulf Islands form a captivating archipelago known for their natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. The Gulf Islands are perfect for a romantic getaway for couples looking for relaxing and quiet surroundings.

You can reach them by ferry from the mainland, and each island has its unique vibe. Salt Spring Island is the largest, famous for its artisan communities and lively Saturday market. At the same time, Galiano is quieter, with a rugged coastline and lovely views.

Best Time To Visit Vancouver

If you want to avoid experiencing rain during your visit to Vancouver, the best time to visit Vancouver is May to September. However, the price will increase because it’s the high tourist season and during the summer.

If you don’t mind rain or cold, October to April will be more reasonable if you try to stay on a budget. To be honest, the rain isn’t that bad. Having proper rain gear will help you immensely.

From mid-November to February, Vancouver could experience snow in the Lower Mainland, so if you want to avoid snow, I suggest coming during the fall or summer. Unfortunately, these winter months are also the rainiest months of the year.

How Many Days Do You Need In Vancouver?

How many days you spend in Vancouver depends on your plan. For example, if you plan on only staying in the central downtown core, you’ll need about four or five days.

However, if you plan on doing things outside Downtown Vancouver, say travelling to Whistler or the Okanagan, I suggest seven days in Vancouver or two weeks.

Where To Stay In Vancouver

It can be overwhelming if you’re figuring out where to stay in Vancouver for the first time, as this city has multiple hotels, depending on where you want to visit.

The best location to stay in Vancouver is, of course, downtown. Downtown will have all the local tourist destinations within walking distance or by local transit.

💎 Best Luxury Hotel — Rosewood Hotel Georgia

✅ Excellent Location
✅ Highly Rated Customer Service

The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver is a luxurious and historic landmark, blending timeless elegance with modern sophistication. This iconic hotel offers impeccable service and upscale accommodations and is in a central location in Downtown Vancouver.

⚖️ Best Mid-Range Hotel — Hotel BLU

✅ Free WIFI
✅ Complimentary Bike Rentals

Hotel BLU in Vancouver is a chic and contemporary boutique hotel. The stylish design hotel, with modern amenities and a focus on sustainability, provides a comfortable stay for guests.

🎯 Best Budget-Friendly Hotel — Best Western Plus Sands

✅ Excellent Location
✅ 24-Hour Front Desk

The Best Western Plus Sands in Vancouver offers a comfortable and convenient stay in the city’s lively Davie Village neighbourhood. With its prime location near beaches, restaurants, and entertainment, guests can enjoy a well-rounded experience on a budget.

How To Get Around Vancouver

These are the two most convenient ways of getting around Vancouver.

Car

Renting a car can help you venture to areas outside the city. You can also sign up for an Evo, which is a car-sharing company in Vancouver. I have an Evo account, and it’s convenient if I decide to drive to get to a location quicker rather than walking or transit.

However, that being said, it’s easy to get around Vancouver without a car. Having a car will be inconvenient downtown, especially because parking in or around downtown is a nightmare. Or, if you would rather not drive, there are Ubers, Taxis, and Lyfts available throughout the Lower Mainland.

Local Transit

Local transit is another option if you’re looking for a way to get around Vancouver without a car. Purchasing a Compass Pass or Card will be your ticket to using local transit and getting around the city.

You can purchase a Compass Card at select London Drugs locations or the Waterfront Compass Customer Service Centre. However, as a note, there are different zones for travelling on the SkyTrain and Canada Line.

If you have a Compass Card, the amount will automatically be taken once you tap out. If you have a Compass Pass, you must purchase the correct pass for travelling into the zone.

You can also use the pass or card on the bus, but all buses are considered one zone.

💡 Note: Compass Cards will be easier to use if you plan to stay in Vancouver for an extensive amount of time because they’re reloadable cards. Passes will be better if you plan to stay for a short time.

Fun Fact About Vancouver

People worldwide solidified Vancouver’s popularity as a premier tourist destination through its role as the host city for Expo 86, officially named the “1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication.”

This world fair marked the second instance of a Canadian city hosting such an event (following Montreal in 1967). Expo 86 served as the final World’s Fair in North America.

With its success, Expo 86 counted a remarkable attendance of over 22 million visitors worldwide, surpassing the figures of previous fairs, such as Knoxville in 1982 and Louisiana in 1984.

This accomplishment elevated Vancouver’s status as a must-visit location within Canada, capturing the imagination of countless travellers and positioning the city as a premier destination on the international map.

Tips For First-Time Visitors

Here are some first-timer visiting tips so you can avoid common mistakes in Vancouver from a fellow local.

🚌 Utilizing Local Transit

Utilizing Vancouver’s local transit is a more affordable, convenient, and accessible way for tourists to navigate the city. The comprehensive network of the SkyTrain, Canada Line, and buses covers popular attractions, helping visitors avoid traffic, parking hassles, and the need for a rental car.

🍣 Experience The Diverse Food Scene

Vancouver’s food scene is essential for tourists, and I highly recommend you experience them. The city offers a wide range of international cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Persian, Vietnamese, and more.

The abundance of fresh, local ingredients, especially seafood, and innovative fusion creations further enrich the culinary experience.

Bring Rain Gear

Vancouver experiences rain throughout the year, with a particularly wet season during fall and winter. You’ll likely encounter rain during their visit, and having rain gear ensures they stay dry and comfortable while exploring.

You should bring appropriate rain gear to stay dry and comfortable. The top essential items to bring to Vancouver include a waterproof jacket, an umbrella, and waterproof footwear.

Is Vancouver Worth Visiting – FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about whether Vancouver is worth visiting.

Is Vancouver A Walkable City?

Yes, Vancouver is a walkable city. This city is smaller than it seems, and it’s close enough that local neighbourhoods are easy to walk to.

For example, you can walk from Downtown Vancouver to Waterfront in approximately 10 minutes.

Can You Explore Vancouver Without A Car?

Yes, Downtown Vancouver is much better to explore without a car — parking downtown can be a nightmare. However, as I mentioned, Vancouver is a walkable city, so you can only rent a car if you plan to explore further out of the city.

Is Vancouver Cheap To Visit?

Yes and no. Compared to New York, Vancouver is much cheaper to visit. But Vancouver can be expensive depending on what you’re doing, for example, multiple excursions, tours, and where you’re staying, etc.

Is Vancouver A Safe City?

If you’re wondering if is Vancouver safe, overall, there is no truly crime-free city. However, Vancouver is generally safe for tourists to visit. Would I say it’s the safest city in the world? No, but it’s considered safer than many other cities in the world.

Is Vancouver Or Toronto Better For Tourists?

I am biased to say that Vancouver is better than Toronto. However, if I am being unbiased when comparing Vancouver and Toronto, they have different environments and vibes.

For example, Toronto on the East Coast is the “New York of Canada,” so you can expect similarities to New York: tall city buildings, better nightlife, and a fast-paced environment.

On the other hand, Vancouver’s food, climate and beautiful mountain views make many people want to gravitate toward the West Coast.

Does Vancouver Have Nice Beaches?

All of the beaches in Vancouver have beautiful views of the mountain ranges. In addition, some of the beaches have a skyline view of Downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver has eight beaches you can visit, all great for watching the sunset or hanging out for the day, and they’re all on the West End. Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach are the closest to downtown.

Second Beach and Third Beach are located in Stanley Park along the Seawall; you can also visit these beaches by walking.

Kitsilano Beach is the next closest beach to downtown. However, it’s always one of the busiest beaches because it’s in Kitsilano’s neighbourhood, so there will be many locals at this beach.

Jericho, Locarno, and Spanish Banks Beach are the furthest from Downtown Vancouver. The beaches look connected as they look like one long beach. However, they’re broken up into three sections.

Jericho Beach is on the other side of the Jericho sailing centre to the Vancouver Yacht Club. Locarno and Spanish Banks are connected but separated by volleyball courts.

Locarno and Spanish Banks will be busy during the summer as they’re the most picked beaches that locals like to travel to and have the most parking.

Can you swim in Vancouver Beaches? I recommend not swimming in the ocean, but if you want to, have fun in the water. Second Beach and Kitsilano Beach (I believe Kits is a saltwater pool) have outdoor swimming pools if you want to swim outdoors by the beach.

Conclusion

As you can see, yes, you should visit Vancouver. The city deserves its reputation as a destination worth visiting. It’s a captivating city with many activities, like outdoor hiking, road trips, or ferry rides to explore outside the city. Vancouver has something to see and do for everyone.

Have a good day 🙂