The Best Things to do in Vancouver, Canada

The 15 Best Things to do in Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is the largest city in Western Canada, nestled on the stunning Pacific Coast. This modern metropolis is filled with personality, consisting of a large and historic downtown core surrounded by several sprawling suburbs, each with its own flavor. 

One of Canada’s most diverse cities, visitors will be treated to a cultural feast on every corner, from the public art installations that dot the map to the vast number of cuisines on offer, and the myriad events the city celebrates, encompassing traditions from Eid to the Mid-Autumn Festival to the first blooms of the cherry blossom season.

Vancouver is incredibly traversable via public transportation, and its SkyTrain will give you great views of the city. There’s no shortage of green space, with the stunning grounds of Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park integrated with the hustle and bustle of downtown. You’ll also find stunning hikes just outside city limits.

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Vancouver for you. Stick to these fun and unique Vancouver bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this one-of-a-kind Canadian city!

The 15 Best Things to do in Vancouver, Canada

1. Bike through Stanley Park

Unique Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Stanley Park

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s crown jewel, spanning a massive seawall, vibrant gardens, and a walking path all along Vancouver’s scenic waterfront. If you’re looking for outdoorsy things to do in Vancouver, the seawall stretches out over 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of walking and biking paths. 

You’ll circle the entire perimeter of the park, which boasts beautiful mountain views along the north shore, along with hidden beach coves. It’s super simple to rent a bicycle right at the entrance to Stanley Park. You can pick from standard cruisers, but there are other fun options like tandem bikes and electric bikes, too!

A trip around the park will take one or two hours, so plan accordingly. We recommend leaving plenty of time to stop, take photos, picnic in a quiet cove, or just lay in the grass while you listen to the ocean. You can even make a pit stop at English Bay Beach.

In the summers, the park is packed, so plan to come in the morning or later in the evening if you want the path to yourself. Even as it gets cooler in fall and spring, the park is just as beautiful – just pack a pair of gloves.


2. Eat Dim Sum at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

Fun Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

This gorgeous banquet hall has been a Vancouver institution for many years. Dynasty Seafood Restaurant was recently recommended in the Michelin Guide for Vancouver and has been winning awards for years.

Vancouver just happens to be one of the best cities in the world to eat Cantonese food (outside of Hong Kong), and Dynasty is a star in that crowded category. This is true upscale dining, where classic dishes are elevated by spot-on preparation, thoughtful plating, and ultra-fresh ingredients.

Vancouver, Canada Bucket List: Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

You have two options – classic a la carte dining with family-style shared dishes or dim sum, available during lunch. Dim sum is always served piping hot, and you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

For a special dinner, we recommend ordering from the live seafood menu – combine the city’s best Cantonese cooking with Canada’s best seafood, and you’ll have a meal to remember. The Peking duck is also to die for, as are the stuffed crab claws.


3. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery

What to do in Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery is one of Canada’s foremost art institutions and the largest in Western Canada. Founded in 1931, the gallery houses over 12,000 pieces in its diverse collection and offers one of the best things to do in Vancouver for art enthusiasts.

The Indigenous art collection is a standout, celebrating the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Canada’s First Nations. This exhibit offers a unique opportunity to connect with the history, traditions, and contemporary expressions of the Indigenous artists of Western Canada and beyond.

Must do things in Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Art Gallery

Emily Carr dedicated 157 pieces of her work to the province in her will, all of which are now housed in the Vancouver Art Gallery. Carr, one of Canada’s most celebrated artists, captured the beauty of the Pacific Northwest in her distinctive style, and her works on display provide a glimpse into her artistic journey and profound connection to nature.

Temporary exhibitions feature artists from all over the globe. Guided tours are also available and led by professionally trained guides. We also love that there are convenient lockers to store your belongings while you traverse the gallery space. Arts and culture lovers will also want to check out the Museum of Vancouver to round out the trip.


4. Tour the BC Backcountry in a Helicopter

Vancouver, Canada Things to do: Helicopter

There are plenty of ways to explore BC, but flying through the air is one of the coolest things to do in Vancouver. It’s hard to grasp the scale of the province’s natural beauty unless you’re able to see it from above – it’s estimated that almost 96% of the province remains undeveloped.

That means that on your tour, you’ll see glacier-capped mountain ranges, unending swaths of forested wilderness, untouched lakes and rivers, the sparkling Pacific Ocean, and the islands just off the coast.

Best Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Helicopter

If you’re only visiting Vancouver, the BC backcountry tour is your best bet. Clocking in at about an hour, depending on which tour you book, you can even get a convenient shuttle pickup from your downtown hotel if you book with a popular provider like SKY Helicopters.

Other helicopter tours leave from Whistler, which is a very popular hiking and skiing destination year-round.


5. Explore English Bay Beach

Best Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: English Bay Beach

English Bay Beach is not only one of the most popular Vancouver attractions, but it’s its most popular city beach – and for good reason! It’s located right on the edge of downtown and bordered by the landmark Stanley Park Seawall. This beach serves everything you’d want from a seaside excursion coupled with the benefits of city dining and activities just a few blocks down.

We love that the beach offers propane barbecues so you can have the summer cookout of your dreams. If you’re feeling more adventurous, kayak rentals are readily available. You won’t even need to get bogged down bringing your own gear because you can get beach umbrellas and chairs on-site!

Cool Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: English Bay Beach

English Bay Beach is popular for good reason, and we recommend it for its central location and proximity to other Vancouver landmarks. It’s easy to fold into a day exploring downtown, and it’s surrounded by some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and lounges.

Other beaches are usually best accessed via car, and you might check out Sandy Cove Park or Avis Hopkins Beach if you’re looking for more privacy than English Bay can offer.


6. Try Sushi Omakase at Octopus’ Garden

Fun Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Octopus’ Garden

Vancouver’s fresh seafood is underrated, so don’t sleep on it. There are dozens of fantastic sushi restaurants in the city, but none quite as delightful as Octopus’ Garden.

If the name alone doesn’t get you, there’s more – owned by the same chef since 1993, it’s gotten better year after year, and it’s a proper local establishment oozing with hole-in-the-wall charm for a fine dining palate. You’ll be able to try sea urchin flown in from Hokkaido, lobster from Mie Prefecture, sturgeon caviar from New Brunswick, and even authentic Wagyu steak.

Unique Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Octopus’ Garden

The chef’s menu is absolutely worth the splurge, and this is one place where snagging a counter seat is a treat. You can watch Chef Sada and his team prep everything with deft precision, and the chef himself is a riot!

We think the photos speak for themselves. Try to book a table in advance, as the restaurant’s opening days change month by month, and seating is limited.


7. Visit the Vancouver Aquarium

Must do things in Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest and oldest and one of the top Vancouver attractions. First opening in 1956, the aquarium has since become a mainstay for visitors, and it’s one of those must-do things in Vancouver if you’re a fan of underwater creatures.

The aquarium’s largest draws are the many seals, sea lions, and sea otters that call it home. Being a mixed land and sea aquarium, you’ll also find reptiles, snakes, and birds that call estuary habitats home – keep an eye out for the anacondas and crocodiles! We also love the interactive experiences the aquarium showcases, like a 4D shark film, touch pools, and hands-on ocean labs specifically designed for kids.

Plan to go ahead of time and definitely book your tickets in advance. Mornings are the least busy time to go. You’ll need around 3 hours to comfortably see everything in this aquarium, and there are special feeding and training events every day at set times, which you won’t want to miss. If you enjoy the aquarium, you also won’t want to miss Science World!


8. Picnic in Queen Elizabeth Park

Vancouver, Canada Things to do: Queen Elizabeth Park

If Stanley Park showcases Vancouver’s waterfront, Queen Elizabeth Park captures the wonders of its mountains. This 52-hectare park is located at the highest point in Vancouver, making for excellent views.

Located in the heart of Vancouver, it’s a quick drive from downtown. You might end up spending the entire day at the park visiting beautifully curated gardens, the arboretum (and its cherry blossom trees!), the art market, and the Bloedel Conservatory.

There’s beauty to be seen everywhere, so pack your camera along with a few snacks. There are even tables and BBQ pits in a designated picnic area. For the more athletically inclined, you might enjoy a bit of lawn bowling, a game of tennis on the public courts, and even roller hockey in the summer.

The Bloedel Conservatory is a lush, domed tropical garden located on the park grounds, and it’s one of the best Vancouver attractions if you’re in the area.


9. Spend the Day on Granville Island

Vancouver, Canada Bucket List: Granville Island

Granville Island is a little peninsula tucked into False Creek, right in the center of Vancouver’s bustling downtown. It’s one of the most popular spots in the city for family outings, dates, and plain old exploring.

Granville Island is known for its public market, where you’ll be able to find handmade goods, local produce, and gourmet treats. If you’re specifically looking for boutique items, check out Net Loft, where you’re sure to find unique artwork and goods to bring home. We also have to mention the waterpark on Granville Island, which offers one of the best Vancouver activities for kids and adults who just want to have fun.

The island is one of the busiest places in Vancouver and hosts events almost daily in the summer months. You might catch an open-air art installation, dragon boat races, or a concert on the Granville Island Stage.

Check in advance to see if anything catches your eye, and be prepared to spend most of your day on the island – there’s just so much to do!


10. Relax in the Miraj Hammam Spa

Must do things in Vancouver, Canada: Miraj Hamman Spa

The beautiful Miraj Hammam Spa offers traditional Middle Eastern spa therapies in an incredible and transporting space in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown.

Step inside, and you might forget you’re in the city at all. Every inch of this spa has been designed to recall an old-world oasis. Traditional Moroccan architecture, heavy draperies, warm lighting, and substantial stonework give the space a feeling of grandeur.

You’ll be treated to Middle Eastern methods of steam and body exfoliation before your massage or facial that will leave your body feeling cleansed and relaxed. The spa uses natural black Moroccan soaps that clarify and calm the skin. If you want to try something new, consider the Body Rhassoul Mask, a full-body exfoliation routine followed by a rich clay treatment.

After your treatment, you’ll be able to settle into the Sultana Lounge and enjoy a special snack of tea and biscuits. Appointments are all private, so you’ll have the entire space to yourself.


11. Stroll Through the VanDusen Botanical Garden

Vancouver, Canada Things to do: VanDusen Botanical Garden

The lush 55-acre VanDusen Botanical Garden is a truly magical backdrop for an afternoon in Vancouver. Home to over 7,500 plant species, you might not see all of it in just one visit.

Duck into the Elizabethan Maze and reenact the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur made out of trees specially raised for the job. A visit to the stone garden, being composed primarily of volcanic rock in the image of small islands, is one of the most unique things to do in Vancouver. See if you can find all the sculptures on display throughout the gardens!

What to do in Vancouver, Canada: VanDusen Botanical Garden

Home gardeners and plant lovers will appreciate the garden store and seed shop, and you can even enjoy a proper afternoon tea at the garden cafe or a fine meal at the Shaughnessy Restaurant. If you’re in Vancouver during the winter, the VanDusen Botanical Gardens will be lit up with Christmas lights amidst a backdrop of muted, delicate winter flowers.

Check the bloom calendar before your visit so you know what to look out for before you arrive. The gardens are large enough that crowds shouldn’t be a problem outside of seasonal events, but you may have a short wait on especially busy days.


12. Hike Eagle Bluff

Cool Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Eagle Bluff

We would be remiss not to mention some of the beautiful natural Vancouver attractions. While Whistler is renowned for its trails, there are spots closer to the city that are just as stunning.

Eagle Bluff is one such trail, with a smattering of beautiful viewpoints, enough elevation to be challenging, and multiple alpine lakes that you very well may want to take a dip in during the warmer months. Only a half-hour drive out of Vancouver, Eagle Bluff is perfect for a morning hike. Clocking it at four hours, reserve a fair amount of time for this stunning trail.

Best Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Eagle Bluff

A visit to Lighthouse Park is one of the best things to do in Vancouver if you’re looking for a hike with views just as beautiful but without the steep incline. A little more than 30 minutes out, in West Vancouver, it’s not too far for a great year-round hike.

Poke around to find hidden beach coves, ancient trees, and viewpoints overlooking the sea and surrounding woodlands. We recommend visiting in the late afternoon because the sunsets here are stunning!


13. Eat Well in Gastown

Unique Things to do in Vancouver, Canada: Gastown

Gastown has everything a foodie could want: fantastic coffee shops, decadent bakeries, gourmet sandwiches, happy hour lounges, and restaurants that range from hip to classic to luxurious – without feeling overdone.

Start the day right with a tiramisu croissant and artisanal coffee at Nemesis, the hippest spot in (Gas)town. Craving some sweets? Head to purebread, a family-owned Vancouverite institution serving up pure decadence. We love a good vacation brunch, so be sure to head to Fork and Friends if you relate.

Casual fine dining is the name of the game in Gastown, and nowhere does it better than The Mackenzie Room, where you can get a little bit of everything on the menu with the “I Want It All” option – it’s locally-sourced goodness!

For drinks, before or after dinner, we’ve got too many good places. Happy hour is done right at Alibi Room, while the Revel Room offers live music and cocktails in a New Orleans-style club. The best all-rounder cocktail bar would be Clough Club, with its vintage vibes and unique concoctions.


14. Shop Luxury on Robson and Alberni

Must do things in Vancouver, Canada: Robson

On these two streets in the busiest part of downtown Vancouver, you’ll find the best luxury shopping the city has to offer. Robson Street itself is well-trafficked, being adjacent to Stanley Park and the BC Place Stadium on either end. Meanwhile, you’ll find the neighboring Alberni Street and connecting Burrard Street to complete the trifecta of a downtown shopping district.

Robson Street will take you right past the massive Vancouver Public Library, one of the top Vancouver attractions in its own right. You’ll also find flagship stores for brands like Aritzia, Muji, and Steve Madden, among many others. Stop for a quick bite in one of many izakayas or bistros along the way before you head to Alberni Street, Vancouver’s true “Luxury Row.”

This is where you’ll find high-end designer goods, ranging from Tiffany to Hermes and everything in between. There’s no better place to shop luxury than Alberni Street.

Altogether, these three streets comprise an 8-block shopping district in the heart of downtown, steps away from historic Gastown and Stanley Park.


15. Take a Day Trip to Victoria

Vancouver, Canada Things to do: Victoria

In the spring and summer, you’ll find that Victoria on Vancouver Island is a major destination. Also known as the Garden City, this beautiful locale is filled to the brim with stunning floral displays and historic architecture. The island is about 90 minutes from Vancouver via ferry, but budget up to four hours each way into your travel plans.

Once you land on the island, you might start the day with afternoon tea at the Butchart Gardens. After that, rent a bicycle and explore the flower-lined streets of downtown Victoria, where you can snap photos of the city’s charming heritage buildings around Cordova Bay. 

In the winter months, Victoria is well known as being a prime golfing destination. Head over to the scenic green at Cedar Hill Gold Course if tee time is more your thing than tea time.

You’ll also want to stroll through the massive BC Parliament buildings before having dinner at one of the many renowned restaurants in Victoria’s Inner Harbour before you hop back onto the ferry. 

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Vancouver. What’s your favorite thing to do in Vancouver?


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Author

  • Valerie Wheatley

    Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag.

    Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her!

    These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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