Visiting Vancouver: 8 Things to see and do

Trying to find cheap flights and accommodation over Thanksgiving weekend in the US is akin to performing dentistry on a crocodile. Impossible without sedatives. Also the sedatives don’t increase your chances at all in this instance. Who brought up sedatives? This is ridiculous.

So I set the parameters a little wider and came up with Vancouver, Canada. It ticked all the boxes:

  • Outside of the US
  • Not a holiday weekend over there
  • Cheap flights (when booked a few months in advance)

We flew Alaska Airlines for part of the trip and I wish we’d booked the whole trip with them. Usually I don’t care much about the journey there (I can say that having spent a lot of time on Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe), and you get what you pay for usually. Having said that I found that Alaska went above and beyond for the price that I paid. The staff were lovely and helpful. FYI I’m not getting paid or any kickbacks for this, it’s just my opinion.

Stanley Park

Skip to the eeeeend! The last thing I did in Vancouver was visit Stanley Park. When I hear “park” I picture a little reserve with some swings and a seesaw for the kids, so I felt a little overwhelmed when I visited Stanley Park on the outskirts of the city.

Look out for the Trash Pandas

It’s 400 hectares with 27 kilometres of trails to wander, taking you through rainforests, giving you views of the water, beaches and mountains. I was there to run the Vancouver Historic Half 10km event. But I show up chronically early for everything so I got to have a nice warm up wander around and enjoy the place. Well worth the bus ride!

FlyOver Canada

While I steer clear of some of the pricier tourist attractions in favour of walking around and exploring, FlyOver Canada came very highly recommended by a lot of my friends and family. Basically it’s a ride of sorts, where your seat hangs suspended in mid-air in front of a 20-metre screen that guides you through a flying trip over some of Canada’s most spectacular natural wonders and pretty cities.

This photo was taken by Mr M. Check out his Flickr.
Our visit was Christmas-themed since it was just after Thanksgiving, and we got to fly in Santa’s sleigh, along with a few surprises along the way, which I won’t spoil for you.

Vancouver Public Library

If you’re a sucker for architecture, the Vancouver Public Library is a must. It’s part Colosseum, part modern building, complete with it’s own rooftop garden.

This photo was taken by Mr M. Check out his Flickr.

You could spend hours in there, or you can do a walk-around on your way somewhere else. Either way, it’s a gorgeous monument to literature.


Go for the name, stay for the food. And the Steam Clock. Gastown has a bunch of fantastic restaurants that Mr M and I were lucky enough to sample. The Flying Pig appealed to my love of gastropubs and while L’Abattoir was on the pricey side, it was the perfect atmosphere for a special dinner. It has great cocktails as well.

The Flying Pig had some tasty choices on the menu

The steam clock runs on a single steam engine and some electric motors, and it draws a significant crowd. Maybe it’s because it was featured on the cover of a Nickelback album? But I’d like to think that Nickelback doesn’t have that many fans. Both now and previously.

The clock was built in 1977 and was paid for (just a measly $58,000 Canadian) by local shop owners and donors. I’ve said that it’s popular, but it does have four faces, so you have lots of chances to take a shot in front of it or just as it puffs steam every hour.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Technically the Capilano Suspension Bridge is just outside of Vancouver but there are free buses to and from the bridge which is just a 15 minute ride away from the city. Also, I’ve written about it in detail here, but this is the general jist.

This photo was taken by Mr M. Check out his Flickr.
The bridge is situated inside a park of sorts, that recounts a lot of Native Canadian history and practices. It’s full of totem polls and is great for kids because they get to collect stamps along the way. Apart from the 140-metre long suspension bridge that swings 70-metres above the Capilano River, the park includes a Cliffwalk that follows the granite canyon walls and gives views of the sediment and the rainforest below.
Then there is the Treetops Adventure, where little suspension bridges link to crows nests dotted amongst the rainforest canopy.


This seems a little literary-heavy, but there was a great second hand book shop next to our hotel called McLeod’s Books that will take your breath away. If only because of the sheer number of tomes in this place on everything you could imagine.
Mr M and I spent at least an hour in there looking around, and I walked out with an old and well-loved copy of Louise May Alcott’s Little Women. And a renewed sense of what my house would look like if I became a hoarder. Check it out if you’re brave.

Day Trips

There was time for one day trip and that was always going to be to Whistler. A quintessential ski and snowboarding town, Whistler is gorgeous summer or winter. There are hikes during the summer where you really get to appreciate the beautiful landscape and, of course, skiing and the like during winter.

This photo was taken by Mr M. Check out his Flickr.
It can be a bit pricey to stay in the village so a day trip was perfect for us. Be sure to take a trip on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that runs passengers between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, giving spectacular views of glaciers and valleys on the way.

Chinese Gardens

There are two Chinese gardens in Vancouver and, conveniently, they sit right next door to each other. Named the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, one is free to the public to wander around in, while the paid park was built with materials imported from China. Go there. It’s pretty.

Those were my favourite spots, and I know there are many more, so tell me what you love to do in Vancovuer!

Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life | Vancouver | Vancouver vacation | Canada | Things to do in Canada | Things to do in Vancouver | Vancouver Holiday

58 thoughts on “Visiting Vancouver: 8 Things to see and do

  1. What an awesome round up! We went to many of the same places – I'm still waiting to press publish on my list of Vancouver things to do. How good is L'Abbatoir? I'm such a baby, I got the fright of my life at Fly Over Canada but it was a lot of fun. You packed such a lot in in just a weekend. We were there for almost a week and I felt that I still needed a bit more time! Such an ace place to visit.

  2. The suspension bridge – NO WAY! The book shops and library – YES WAY! Would love to go to Canada one day. It's always one day… Sigh. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. But you've probably had it written for ages! I procrastinated so much that I had to write it now or I'd start to forget everything.
    L'Abbatoir was so great. Total hipster central. Haha, I was warned before Fly Over Canada so I kind of knew what to expect.

  4. Nice alternative here for long weekend! Does Canada feel more 'aussie'? I flew to Hawaii and US mainland via Hawaiian airlines and whilst back then it was pretty basic, they had MEALS (snacks really) and were friendly and hospitable. American Airlines not at all when I had to fly within US and 3 times they took me aside to a check..because single female on one way ticket I was told by someone. Grrrr. This was 2006 God knows that they'd be like now after reading about Mem Fox! Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek 9/52. Next Week: Must Watch TV.

  5. Canada feels so much more Aussie Denyse. The temperature's in celcius, they measure things in centimetres, metres and kilometres. They have the same snack foods! But they also have raisin-flavoured Fanta. WTF?
    I think I flew to Arizona on American Airlines way back in 2006 and they were awful! Worst flight and service I've ever experienced. Gosh, I read that Mem Fox story yesterday, sounded like a terrible experience.

  6. I'm from Vancouver. It was interesting to see your take as a tourist in my hometown. Sometimes tourists know things about our city that we don't even know. I did the Fly Over Canada during Christmas time a few years ago and I though it was worth it. If you don't have enough time to make it to Whistler, Grouse Mountain is also great to visit. You can also do the Grouse Grind (mental hike up the mountain). Many locals do this hike BEFORE going to work. #citytripping

  7. I love, love Vancouver! I have been once but was enough to fell in love with the city. I know Canada is a bargain now and would love to go back. Next time, I want to visit Victoria and Whistler.

  8. So many great things to do in Vancouver! I've been to the city (a long time ago) and didn't do hardly any of these. Whistler is fab though, in any season. I'm sure I'll be back to the region one day. Thanks for linking #citytripping

  9. Love Vancouver! It's always a great feeling when going around the city. These are all great things to do. Will need to do the Fly Vancouver next time. We are actually going to Whistler in a few weeks for hopefully some spring skiing. And you're so right about Alaska Air.

  10. Great guide for Vancouver. I loved the steam clock too. I'd go back to this great city anytime. Loved it! #WeekendTravelInspiration

  11. Oh really? Well I guess that's kind of the way it goes though, you explore everywhere except your own country. Well that's the way it's been for me anyway….
    I'm going to say that it depends on the weather. If it's good weather a long weekend isn't long enough.

  12. I've heard such good things about Vancouver and actually read a book about this city with my kids in English class this year! It's been on my list for a while and these all look like great activities. And good for you for conquering a 10K! 😀

  13. Loved your post. I've always wanted to visit Vancouver. Loved the details of all you saw and ate. I'm heading to Montreal at the end of the month, but I'll certainly be making Vancouver my next destination when I head back.

  14. My friend and I took a last-minute jaunt into Vancouver whilst vacationing in Seattle, WA. It was so amazing and I wish we had more time to discover Vancouver. We managed to make it to Stanley Park, but I’d like to try some of these other places you’ve suggested. Thanks!

    1. Seattle and Vancouver are both fantastic destinations and I loved them both for different reasons. At least you have a bit of a list to go through the next time you visit Vancouver!

    1. We didn’t get a chance to do everything, but it’s such a gorgeous city! You’re so lucky to live there 😀

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