Vancouver is a picturesque cosmopolitan city framed by snow-capped mountains, forest and pristine coastline. One of Canada’s warmest cities in Winter, its climate and seaside location attracts both local and international visitors year-round. It consistently ranks in the top 3 for most livable cities in the world.
As someone who has spent the past few years living and working in Vancouver, I’d like to share some secrets to seeing Vancouver like the locals do. Instead of traveling within guidebook restraints, there are 5 unique ways that local Vancouverites interact with their surroundings;
1. Soar Above The Clouds, See The Mountain Peaks.
Vancouverites are active, healthy and generally eco-friendly citizens. It’s a common sight to see singles, couples and families on a weekend stroll through the mountains. The most popular peak of Vancouver, Grouse Mountain, soars 1231 metres above the city and can be accessed via gondola skyride or a strenuous climb up “Mother Nature’s StairMaster”, the Grouse Grind. The view is definitely worth it.
Dee Recommends: Watch the sunset over the city with a cocktail in hand at Altitudes Bistro or enjoy a fine dining experience in the Observatory on the mountain top at Grouse Mountain.
If you have more time..
Check out this great summary of 10 Amazing Day Hikes Near Vancouver.
Ryan Steller at St. Mark’s Summit after first snow in Winter 2013-14
2. Walk Through The Wilderness & Old Growth Forests
The vegetation in Greater Vancouver was originally temperate rainforest. Pre-colonialism, the rainforest dominated most of the Vancouver area as we know it today. It’s no wonder then, that the First Nation and Aboriginal people of British Columbia are very culturally and spiritually connected to it. If you want to take a glimpse into the past and see the Old Growth forests of Vancouver, you absolutely need to visit Vancouver Island. A simple ferry from the mainland, the island boasts some of the oldest forests on BC’s Southern Coast.
Dee Recommends: I highly recommend strolling through Cathedral Grove (giant Douglas fir trees, some over 800 years old!!) and taking a dip in Cameron Lake.
- Stanley Park (Seawall or simply meander through its various tracks)
- Cathedral Grove, Macmillan Provincial Park
If you have more time..
- Avatar Grove
- Hot Springs Cove
- Lynn Headwaters Regional Park
- Lighthouse Park
- Deep Cove Lookout & Quarry Rock
- Lynn Canyon Park (home of Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge, free alternative to Capilano)
- Capilano Suspension Bridge
Forest fairies (aka my friends & I) in the Old Growth forest of Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park
3. Laze On The Sand, Watch The Sunset By The Bay
When it comes to Vancouver beaches, there is truly something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a nudist escapade or a romantic hideaway, there is a place for you! Below is a list of Vancouver’s beach hot spots and what they’re most famously known for.
Dee Recommends: I highly recommend having cocktails at Cactus Club Cafe on English Bay beach. Right beside Stanley Park, the views are phenomenal and the cafe is literally on the sand. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset, no matter what the season.
- English Bay beach
If you have more time..
- Wreck Beach (Clothing Optional beach, a.k.a get your gear off!!)
- Spanish Banks beach (Off-leash dog park, family time)
- Ambleside Park beach (Off-leash dog park, romantic hideaway)
- Kitsilano beach (Vancouver’s version of Venice beach, people-watching spot)
Danielle lazing on the beach, Spanish Banks beach in Summer 2014
4. Taste The Local Flavors
Craft beer is an emerging scene, with micro breweries popping up all over Vancouver. Part of Vancouver’s charm is finding your own favorite bar or brewery, so roam the streets and grab a pint!
Dee recommends: A local favorite of mine is Craft Beer Market, a casual restaurant with 140 beers on tap.
Trying some Grapefruit Ale by Whistler Brewing Company, Whistler Mountain
Have you ever tried Sashimi so fresh that it melts in your mouth? Vancouver’s sushi is world-renowned. Some of Japan’s top chefs have now made this beautiful city their home. You cannot leave Vancouver without trying it. That would be blasphemy!
Dee recommends: Tanpopo Japanese Restaurant on Denman Street for All-You-Can-Eat Sushi and the whole ‘sit on the floor’ experience!
5. Learn The History, Experience The Culture
When traveling to a new country, I find it important to acknowledge the traditional custodians of those lands. By that, I do not mean the organized group or country which colonized it, but rather those that came before.
The First Nation and Aboriginal Peoples of British Columbia have lived and occupied this land, with their own established cultures, territories and laws, for over 10,000 years.
Their view on our “oneness with nature” is profoundly beautiful. I encourage you to explore Vancouver through the eyes of its traditional owners and to support their communities by taking an Aboriginal-run tour.
Also, don’t miss their cuisine. Bannock, fry bread and Indian tacos are a must-try! The most popular Native restaurant in Vancouver, Salmon and Bannock, book out months in advance so reserve a table if you plan to visit.
Burning Sage and Sweetgrass; materials traditionally used in a brushing ceremony for cleansing
How have you explored Vancouver? Is there a place or activity that wasn’t mentioned? Tell Us in the comments below.
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