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West Vancouver, British Columbia

Spotlight: Vancouver

Discover a city surrounded by epic beauty

Western Canada’s largest city might technically qualify as a major metropolitan area, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one. The downtown core is packed into a small geographic footprint, one that’s sequestered on a scenic peninsula, making the heart of the city not only highly walkable but also a visual treat to roam and explore on foot.

You’ll quickly find that multiple bodies of water help define the layout and diversity of greater Vancouver eclectic neighborhoods. Burrard Inlet separates the downtown peninsula from the North Shore, where you’ll find snow-capped mountains less than a 30-minute drive away. Coal Harbour is tucked between downtown and world-famous Stanley Park. False Creek separates the south side of downtown from a handful of trendy urban neighborhoods, including Granville Island, Kitsilano and West Point Grey. And English Bay offers some of the best beachfront in the city, opening out into the Straight of Georgia.

With the water theme set firmly in place, start your exploring with two of the city’s most cherished attractions—the seawall and Stanley Park. The latter buffers the tip of the downtown peninsula while the former lines the waterfront of not just Stanley Park but also much of the city itself. This is, in fact, the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world, spanning just over 17 miles. Roughly one-third of the seawall is located in Stanley Park, and this is easily the most popular stretch for tourists.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Superb Stanley

Stanley Park itself—often cited as one of the best city parks in the world—annually attracts more than 8 million visitors. At nearly 1,000 acres, the park offers visitors and locals alike an opportunity to escape the big city in the blink of an eye. Miles and miles of walking trails snake through the park’s core, while the Stanley Park Seawall follows the rocky peninsula shoreline, featuring incredible views of the North Shore, Lions Gate Bridge, Burrard Inlet, Spanish Banks and Kitsilano.

The park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, a must-visit for anyone traveling with children. The aquarium rescues, rehabilitates and houses more than 50,000 marine animals at a time, including sharks, eels, dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters and penguins. There’s also an on-site rainforest tucked deep inside the aquarium, where guests can walk through an open environment full of exotic birds and one very lazy resident sloth.

Science World, located a few blocks from the downtown core, is another must-visit for those with kids. Housed in an unmistakable giant silver sphere, the facility is packed with interactive displays and exhibits that teach kids (and their parents) about a variety of ever-changing science themes and topics. The on-site OMNIMAX Theatre is five stories high and features a rotating lineup of the latest educational IMAX films.

From here, head across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore, where the Capilano Suspension Bridge blends sightseeing, outdoor adventure and education. The main attraction is the 450-foot long suspension bridge, slung 230 feet above the Capilano River.

But the complex offers visitors more than a topsy-turvy walk across a bouncy sky-high rope bridge. Head for the Cliffwalk section of the park to navigate a series of bridges, stairs and lookouts that are anchored into the sides of granite cliffs. There’s also Treetops Adventure, which gives visitor’s a “squirrel’s eye view” of the rainforest from an observation deck atop a 1,300-year-old Douglas fir tree.

Of course, no trip to Vancouver would be complete without an exploration of some of its most renowned neighborhoods. Topping them all is Granville Island, a tiny spit of land found in the middle of False Creek (and directly under the Granville Street Bridge). This spot features boutiques, food market stalls, theaters and industrial design studios. If you’re on the downtown peninsula, the fastest (and most delightful) way to get to Granville Island is to hop on a water taxi, which skips across False Creek in minutes.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have a Gas

Gastown, located just east of the downtown core, near the shores of Burrard Inlet, is another must-visit. This is the oldest section of the city, boasting a cobblestone street and Victorian-era architecture alongside upscale shops and high-end art galleries. Gift shops abound here, as do sidewalk cafes and fashionable pubs.

For More Information

Vancouver Tourism

Destination British Columbia