I don't know about you, but I absolutely love gloomy weather- overcast, cloudy days are my absolute favorite. If you can relate to this, Vancouver will be your little piece of heaven as it's the third rainiest city in Canada. If dreary days aren't your cup of tea, don't let this scare you away. This city is stunning and brimming with things to do. From exploring Downtown Vancouver or trying poutine for the first time, to discovering trails in Lynn Canyon or cycling along the Stanley Park Seawall, you will immediately find yourself wanting to turn your vacation into a staycation! Needless to say, this city has it all. This past August, my family and I visited Vancouver for the first time. Although we were limited to a 4-day stay, we were able to visit multiple attractions while having some down time to unwind. Here is a weekend guide to hopefully inspire your next trip to Vancouver!
Where to stay in Vancouver
We chose to stay at an Airbnb in the East Side neighborhood of Vancouver. It was conveniently located 20 minutes from the airport, and 10-20 minutes from all of the attractions on our itinerary. We had a cozy guesthouse to ourselves, and it was the perfect size for our family of four. As I will continuously repeat, I highly recommend staying at an Airbnb. Vancouver has a ton of options, so you'll undoubtedly find a place you love! On the other hand, if you don't mind splurging, Downtown Vancouver has several boutique and luxury hotels, and you will literally be in the heart of it all.
Getting around in Vancouver
Vancouver is great for locals and tourists alike as the city is easily accessible. While Uber and Lyft do not operate in Vancouver, everything is either within walking distance or a short drive away. Many attractions are accessible by public transportation as well. My family rented a car with Avis Rent a Car at YVR Airport. A month prior to our trip, we placed a reservation through their online website. As a result, the entire process was quick, and we had our Jeep Compass within 10 minutes.
Things to do in Vancouver
1. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: This hidden oasis is located in the middle of Chinatown. It's divided between a public section and paid, private section. The public section features a main pagoda, whereas the private section contains a courtyard with a smaller pagoda. You can easily spend 30 minutes to an hour enjoying the ornate architecture and serene gardens. The private section includes tea for visitors as well, adding to the zen experience.
2. Vancouver Lookout: Looking for a spot to view (almost) all of Vancouver? This is it! The Vancouver Lookout is a 360-degree observatory deck that provides unobstructed and panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline. Additionally, the elevator ride to the top is an experience in itself as it is situated on the building's exterior- you can look out to the city as you ascend to the lookout.
3. Stanley Park: Stanley Park is essentially the Central Park of Vancouver, with its own natural beauty and little quirks, of course. It is versatile, and has something to offer for everyone. Want to hike through a forest, bike along a seawall, have a picnic in an urban oasis or enjoy views of Downtown Vancouver, English Bay, and surrounding mountains? You can enjoy all of these activities at Stanley Park- seriously. Also, don't forget to visit the Stanley Park Totem Poles!
4. Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge: Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is a great alternative to its neighbor if you don't want to pay an entrance fee. It's a short bridge, but the surrounding views are beautiful. As you walk along the bridge, you will be exposed to a large array of trees and stunning views of the river far beneath the bridge. There is also that amazing smell of fresh pine and woods (my favorite scent ever). I suggest coming here early, especially during summer days, if you want the perfect photo op.
5. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park had been on my bucket list for over a year. I'd always seen PNW photographers shooting at this location, and I finally had the opportunity to see it in person. The suspension bridge itself is long and situated high above the Capilano River. The park also includes various treetop walks and the Cliffwalk, which is a narrow platform which extends over a gorge. The views from the bridge and the lookout points were impressive- you can feel all of the nature surrounding you. Not to mention, they sell delicious hot chocolate that completely adds to the cozy atmosphere. The only (and inevitable) downside is the massive crowds of people. It's unavoidable unless you go early in the morning.
6. Granville Island Public Market: This is a neat indoor farmer's market that has several produce stalls, food court vendors, souvenir shops, and local craft goods. Granville Island Public Market is an experience in itself as it is bustling with tourists and locals, and frequently provides outdoor entertainment. This is a great spot to enjoy a meal whilst people-watching, or even look out at the harbor!
7. Queen Elizabeth Park: Personally, I preferred Queen Elizabeth Park over the VanDusen Botanical Garden. The flower gardens and open grass area at Queen Elizabeth Park were gorgeous. I was pleasantly surprised by how colorful and well-maintained the gardens were. There is also a lookout point that offers a great view of the city and the surrounding mountains on the North Shore.
8. Jam Cafe on Beatty: All I have to say is that they serve a delectable, carb-filled, breakfast-of-your-dreams dish called the Charlie Bowl- a bowl filled with crumbled biscuits, ham, bacon, hash browns, peas, sausage gravy, cheddar cheese, and two eggs. Yes, this exists.
9. Fritz European Fry House: Fritz is a tiny shop that sells delicious poutine at a low cost. Think ooey-gooey, warm gravy on top of crispy fries with cheese curds and meat toppings like bacon- so good!
1. Purchase tickets in advance through the Vancouver Attractions website to save time and money.
2. Take advantage of the free parks and gardens. Who doesn't love free attractions? As I mentioned previously, there are a number of free sights to visit in Vancouver.
3. Rent a bike. You'll discover that Vancouver is an active city, so join the locals and explore in a sustainable way!