Short trip to Vancouver, B.C.? Don’t stress about what to see on your trip. Follow this guide for two great days of sightseeing, shopping and more in the Garden City.
Spend your first morning getting a feel for the city, the province and your place in history by visiting the UBC Museum of Anthropology, which offers nearly 600,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects from all over the planet. About 6,000 of these objects represent the cultures of the First Nations people in British Columbia including art and totem poles. From hunting tools to headdresses, the museum offers a fascinating look at life in Vancouver before it was the city of Vancouver. Guided tours are available, but you can always go exploring on your own.
After a morning rich with culture, get some fresh air while you head over to Granville Island on one of the ferries from Thurlow Street. Granville Island is one of the city’s best shopping districts, and it’s a great place to eat too. Don’t forget to bring your camera as well as your appetite, because the view of the mountains and harbor is almost as good as what’s for lunch. Depending on your tastes and how hungry you are, you can choose from lunching at a brewery, in the market or from one of the many restaurants. Granville has plenty of shops to browse during an after-meal stroll, and if you happen to come in September, you’ll find the island in full swing of the Fringe Festival.
Gastown, one of the oldest parts of the city, is a great place to visit at dusk and after the sun goes down. Cobblestone streets, quaint gaslights, and lots of art galleries and restaurants make this a nice area to spend a few hours around dinnertime.
And, if it’s a Friday night in the summertime, keep walking — you’ll do well to check out the nearby Chinatown Night Market for shopping and snacks.
Depending on your budget, you may have chosen to stay outside the city center to save some money — or maybe hotel deals will surprise you in the off-peak seasons. Wherever you stay, though, check to see if it’s within walking or cycling distance of your main points of interest so you don’t spend a lot of time looking for driving directions for your rental or chasing taxis.
Enjoy the crisp air and natural beauty at Stanley Park, America’s largest urban park. It’s what’s left of the rainforest that stood on this coast line before the city developed, and it has 1,000 acres of trees and other flora to soothe and refresh tourists tired from the excursions from the day before. Many tourists opt to rent bicycles to fully explore the park; there are a few places to rent on Denman Street. It’s highly recommended to bring your camera when you follow the Seawall Path — if it’s clear you can see all the way over to Victoria on Vancouver Island. If the weather’s not right for cycling, get away from the rain by going under the sea at the Vancouver Aquarium, also in Stanley Park. The aquarium has native Pacific coast animals such as beluga whales and sea otters that you might not see at other oceanariums.
Celebrate Vancouver’s diversity by visiting Chinatown. Vancouver has one of the largest Chinese immigrant communities in Canada, with ethnic Chinese making up about 30 percent of the voters in the Greater Vancouver Electoral District A in 2006. Although it’s called Chinatown, there are plenty of other Asian influences as well. Take a stroll here through the open markets and peek into a tea shop or two. Or, if the throngs of tourists in Chinatown seem a bit too much for you, you’ll find other good Asian lunches at the Yaohan Centre, on Three Road.
Round up your two days in Vancouver with some fine dining on the West Side. If you’ve still got light and good weather before the meal, walk along the beaches first and say farewell to the Garden City.
Totem Pole Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Writer and artist Frances Yee has lived in Vancouver for 20 years. She is a big fan of parks, art galleries, beer and dim sum — all of which are exceptional in Vancouver.