Vancouver is sublimely located on Canada's west coast, with on one side the snowy peaks of the Coastal Mountains and on the other side the Strait of Georgia. Together with that other Canadian city of Toronto, Vancouver is always listed in the Top 10 of best livable cities in the world. This is a city for people who like to combine a cosmopolitan lifestyle with leisure activities in nature. There is no better place to do so than in Vancouver which is surrounded by an overwhelming landscape.
Did we say surroundings? Nature penetrates into the city itself! There are green areas all around Vancouver, but Stanley Park (located on a peninsula) is the absolute highlight. A path of almost nine kilometers long runs along the water where you will always see people cycling, walking, jogging, skating or skateboarding. From this Sea Wall you have fantastic and varying views of Vancouver's skyline. Straight through the park there are another thirty kilometers of walking tracks. This already indicates the magnitude of the park. Don't forget to have a look at the old Indian totem poles! To the east of the park you will find the Vancouver Aquarium with over 20,000 marine mammals and reptiles, including whales, dolphins, turtles and giant snakes. Malkin Bowl is an open-air theater where every summer musicals are performed with the slogan Theatre Under the Stars. And to the south side of Stanley Park you also have fantastic beaches.
There is another open-air theater in the attractive Vanier Park with beautiful views of the English Bay. In summer months the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival takes place here. Plays by Shakespeare are performed on two stages. The large stage can accommodate 500 spectators and the small stage 240 spectators.
Just like many other large cities, Vancouver has experienced a period of decline, which reached rock bottom in the 1970s. At the time, the old neighborhood of Gastown was a dilapidated and impoverished area. That downward spiral was halted by people who saw how beautiful the area could be if they would roll up their sleeves. And so it happened. Nowadays Gastown is one of the most attractive neighborhoods: Cobblestoned streets, antique streetlights restored to its former glory and refurbished houses have been turned into bars, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.
Vancouver has a number of other interesting museums: The Museum of Anthropology that contains an extensive collection of Indian art, the technology museum Science World including an Omnimax movie theater, the Museum of Vancouver, the largest civic museum in Canada, and both modern and classical art in the Vancouver Art Gallery.
A lot has changed in the last few years, but Vancouver is still not considered a city with a great nightlife. Many bars close their doors at midnight, although some stay open longer during the weekend. Quiet pubs and cafés can be found in the area Yaletown; more trendy places are concentrated around Granville Street.
In and around Vancouver
If you take Highway 99 in your rental car from Vancouver to Whistler you're up for an unforgettable experience. There is a good reason why this road is called the Sea to Sky Highway. Amazing views, at for example Rainbow Park (beautiful views over Alta Lake), Shanon Falls and the Tantalus Lookout. Past Whistler you can continue your journey a bit further to Pemberton for more breathtaking views. Are you afraid you can't keep your eyes on the road with so much to see? In that case take the train to Whistler, the Mountaineer. Not cheap, but more than worth every (Canadian) dollar!
At the beginning of your trip to Whistler – but still in North Vancouver – there's another spectacular attraction: Capilano Suspension Bridge. You walk seventy meters above the Capilano River and the views ... well what can we say, tremendous again!
Do the kids want to see something other than overwhelming nature? Take them to Watermania, a large waterpark in Richmond, south of Vancouver, for the day. And if you are not too keen on water slides, wave pools or high diving platforms, there is also a 'normal' Olympic-size swimming pool.
Vancouver offers a large variety of accommodations, but it's not easy to find a cheap hotel in the city center. Most hotels are concentrated downtown, especially along Robson Street, and along the waterfront. Cheaper hotels and B&Bs can be found mainly in the suburbs. If you have your own transportation you may consider one of the campsites in the city's surrounding area. Just before the Lions Gate Bridge to downtown Vancouver there is a large parking facility for motor homes.
Parking in Vancouver is easy. There are hundreds of larger and smaller parking garages. Most of them are operated by Impark or Easypark. In downtown Vancouver you have to pay for street parking from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Parking time is often also limited to two or three hours. In some streets parking is prohibited during rush hour, even when there are parking meters!
Vancouver Airport is located thirteen kilometers south of the city center. By rental car, the terminal can be easily reached via the Arthur Laing Bridge and subsequently Highway 99 South. The exit to the airport is clearly signposted.