A first timer in Vancouver? Visited before but looking for something new to do? Or perhaps you even live in Vancity but want to get all those boxes ticked? I’m often asked by visitors or friends for the best things to do in the city. In this article, I’ve pulled together my top list of what to do in Vancouver from a local’s perspective. Some of them are seasonal, but they should help to inspire you on how to pack a week or a weekend in the city with fun things to do. If you’re looking for things to do beyond the city, check out my list of the best trips to take from Vancouver.
What to do in Vancouver in the summer
Cycle around Stanley Park
Vancouver’s ultimate must-do. Even after the amount of times I’ve done it, it really doesn’t ever get old. The one-way circuit takes around two hours with breaks to stop off. It’s hard not to when there are so many beautiful views en route. There are dozens of places to rent bikes near Stanley Park (check out Spokes on Denman Street), or rollerblades if you prefer. I highly recommend stopping for a beer with a view at Prospect Point, which overlooks the iconic Lionsgate Bridge.
Strip off at Wreck Beach
Just a 15 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, you’ll find North America’s largest clothing optional beach. It’s also incredibly beautiful, wrapping itself around the wealthy Point Grey headland with views across to the city and mountains. In fact, it’s one of those beaches where you can get a tan while looking out towards the snow on the mountains. Pack a picnic and a few beers in a cool box and settle in for the day. You’ll burn off those calories on the numerous steps on the way back up to the parking lot. Check out my guide to the best beaches in Vancouver.
Watch the sunset at one of Vancouver’s beaches
Catching a sunset on the beach is another top item on the list of what to do in Vancouver. Whether it’s Wreck Beach, Second, Third, Sunset or English Bay, they’re pretty impressive. One of my favourite things to do is grab some sushi and sit on a log on the beach while watching the sun go down. You may even catch a drum circle in the summer months celebrating the sunset with music and dancing. Grab a sundowner and join in.
Take on the Grouse Grind
The Grouse Grind is a tough but compulsory Vancouver activity. Epitomizing the city’s passion for fitness, it’s a 2.9km hiking trail up one of the city’s North Shore mountains. Sounds lovely, right? Except it’s made up of 2,830 steps. It’s literally nicknamed ‘Nature’s Stairmaster’. The silver lining is the sense of achievement at the top, and the pouting and cold drink waiting for you at the top of the mountain. Oh, and those fabulous views. If you’re super into your fitness, join some Vancouverites who take the trail multiple times in a day. Do note the Grouse Grind is only open over the summer months as it gets pretty icy in the winter.
Catch a movie in Stanley Park
Through July and August, the Evo Summer Cinema hits Stanley Park. Where better than to catch an al fresco movie? Last year, the Lion King, Spice World, and sing-along Grease were but a few to be featured. Take along a picnic blanket and your friends and settle in. Rest assured you can grab popcorn, drinks, and other snacks at the outdoor cinema.
Eat your way around Richmond Night Market
Attracting over a million visitors each year, the Richmond Night Market is nothing to be scoffed at. In Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhood of Richmond over weekends between May and October, you’ll find hundreds of stalls selling cool merchandise and delicious food. The Night Market has grown so big, it’s now even North America’s largest night market. There’s plenty of entertainment for all ages and tasty morsels for everyone to enjoy. Each year has a unique theme, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s also easy to reach thanks to Vancouver’s Skytrain, so hop off at Bridgeport station.
Hit up a patio with a view
Heading to a patio is probably most Vancouverites’ favourite summer activity. (Second to running around the seawall, of course). You know the sun’s out when the patios are packed, the beer’s pouring, and the appies are being served in the masses. In my opinion, the city’s best patio is Mahony & Sons at Stamps Landing. It’s the other side of False Creek so there’s usually less of a crowd, it’s on the water, and the view is incomparable. Other favourites to check out include downtown’s Black+Blue, The Keg in Yaletown, and The Local in Kitsilano.
What to do in Vancouver in the winter
Go ice skating in Robson Square
If you’re wondering what to do in Vancouver on a budget, this is key because ice skating in Robson Square is free. How Canadian is that? If you don’t have your own skates, you can hire them for around $5. So bust some moves on the ice, or simply cling to the side like myself.
Ski, snowboard or snowshoe
One of Vancouver’s key USPs is its proximity to its glorious mountains. Over on the North Shore, you’ll find Mount Seymour, Cypress, and Grouse. They’re all pretty easy to reach within around a thirty minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Up one of these peaks, you can easily ski, snowboard, or take a snowshoe trail. Rental equipment is also available, as well as facilities for refuelling and hot drinks. You’ll also enjoy the most amazing views across Vancouver and beyond.
See the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
Between November and January each year, enjoy the festive season at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Already a sight in itself as a bridge suspended 70 metres above the river below, it’s even more magical in the winter. The bridge and treetop walk are doused in festive lights to make it a cosy experience to get you in the mood for the holidays.
Watch the Vancouver Canucks play ice hockey
In winter, make this top of your what to do in Vancouver list. The hockey season runs from October to April, so grab your tickets for the Rogers Arena downtown. There are around two games per week, and they’re so much fun to go and see. Cheer on the Canucks, grab a hotdog, and enjoy the interval entertainment. Of course, the merch is a compulsory souvenir.
What to do in Vancouver all year round
Get the best city views from Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park sometimes gets a little forgotten about as it’s on the periphery of Vancouver. That’s not to say it should be missed! You can simply hop on the Skytrain’s Canada Line and get out at King Edward station. From here, the park is a short walk away. As well as the beautiful flowers and plants of the Bloedel Conservatory, the park has incredible views. At 152 metres above sea level, it’s the highest point of Vancouver so as you can imagine, the views of the city and mountains are quite spectacular.
Take a trip to Granville Island
A favourite with both locals and tourists alike, Granville Island is famous for its Public Market, adorable boutique shops, theatres, and restaurants. The market is the main attraction, with a plethora of stalls of fresh produce, from fresh soups to seafood to pickles. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs, and try new foods. If that doesn’t fill you up, grab traditional fish and chips or check out a restaurant, and get tickets to a show.
Catch a drag show on Davie Street
Vancouver is not a city to shy away from its LGBTQ community, and I love that it’s so inclusive, be it culture, race, or sexuality. This also makes it one of the most fun places. If you’re not in town for August’s annual Pride Festival, head to Davie Street. For something very often celebrated and super fun, check out one of the street’s drag shows. The costumes and make up are often amazing, and it’s a hilarious way to spend an evening.
Check out the craft breweries
Vancouver has an excellent reputation for its craft beer, and rightly so. From large to small breweries, well-known to obscure, there’s most definitely several options for each and every one of us. I highly recommend heading to East Vancouver and the Main Street area where they’re in pretty high concentration. Craft Beer Vancouver has a handy map to help you out. From here, you can hop between breweries trying new varieties of beer and learning about the brewing process. A few of my favourites include Brassneck Brewery and also Faculty Brewing.
What are your recommendations on what to do in Vancouver? Let me know any additions I should add to this list.