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Taking to the waves and the wilds is an intrinsic part of Vancouver culture. A constellation of attractive beaches glitters downtown, as well as on the North Shore and in West Vancouver. The city that loves to bike, blade, swim, hike, kayak, and climb also loves its fine galleries and museums. An exceptionally family-friendly city, Vancouver also offers a slew of excellent activities for those with tots and/or teens in tow.

Things to do in Vancouver

Bayshore Bike Rentals

If you haven’t brought your inline skates or bike with you, head for the friendly Bayshore Bike Rentals at the Coal Harbour end of Denman Street and skate or ride down to the paved Seawall, which extends 13 miles from Coal Harbour, through Stanley Park and Yaletown, to Kitsilano and Jericho Beaches. If you’re new to inline skating, they also offer lessons.

745 Denman St., BC, 604-688-2453,
Tags: family | biking | budget | things to do | outdoors

Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel

Significant expectations were riding on the Shangri-La Vancouver when it opened in 2009: It’s the estimable hotel group’s first North American outpost. With its 2-to-1 staff-to-guest ration and serene vibe amid the city’s hum, the hotel and spa are by all counts a success. At the Chi Spa, enjoy personalized spa treatments such as massages, facials, and body wraps, all based on the ancient Chinese principles.

At Chi, consultants determine a spa-goer’s elements according to traditional Chinese medicine and plan appropriate therapies, such as a seaweed wrap or facial using pieces of jade. Best of all, each treatment room features a fireplace, private bath with shower, and lounging and changing areas – the largest tops out at 850 square feet. Between the size and the creature comforts, it’s a wonder no one tries to move in. 2010 Smart Luxury Award winner

1128 West Georgia St., BC, 604-695-2447,
Tags: spa | smart luxury winner | things to do

Deep Cove Kayak

At the easternmost fringe of North Vancouver, Deep Cove is a delightful village with a few restaurants and cafés. The u-shaped harbor offers sheltered waters where you can get your balance in a kayak before venturing out to the more popular, and often choppier, waters of Indian Arm.

4310 Gallant Ave., BC, 604-987-2202,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

This beautiful Chinese garden offers a restorative escape from Vancouver’s historic, if somewhat down-at-heel, Chinatown. Constructed without the use of power tools, the authentic gem is divided in two; one half offers free admission, while the other, quieter half, charges $10 and offers more opportunities for solo reflection. Both sides provide a pleasant spot to while away a sunny afternoon.

578 Carrall St., BC, 604-662-3207,
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | history | free | park


Lurking amid all the souvenir shacks, the area where Vancouver began also offers intriguing First Nations art, some fine galleries, and plenty of tempting wares.

Tags: shopping | things to do | souvenirs | gallery | designer

Granville Island

Vancouver’s most-visited spot is perfect for acquiring gourmet picnic ingredients at the island’s public indoor market, visiting the Kids Only Market, or catching an outdoor performance.

Accessible from Old Bridge St., BC, 604-666-5784,
Tags: family | things to do | culinary | market

Granville Street

Between Granville Bridge and the Coal Harbour waterfront, Granville Street shops totter from grunge and goth, to skater and outdoorsy, to fashionable denim destinations like Buffalo, DKNY, and Parasuco.

Granville Street, BC,
Tags: shopping | things to do | designer | clothing | accessories

Grouse Mountain

The pursuit of powder brings people to the Peak of Vancouver in the winter. In summer, resident grizzlies Grinder and Cooler come out of hibernation to entertain the masses.

6400 Nancy Greene Way, BC, 604-980-9311,
Tags: hiking | skiing | things to do | outdoors

Lynn Canyon

Just as dramatic as nearby Capilano Canyon, but without the hefty admission price, Lynn Canyon’s Suspension Bridge leads to forest trails and a rock-strewn beach.

Accessible from Peters Rd., BC, 604-981-3103,
Tags: beach | hiking | things to do | free

Main Street

Need a ’60s B-movie frock, a T-shirt commemorating the Russian Revolution, or a hipster satchel for your precious vinyl? Make Main Street’s spread-out shopping blocks your destination.

Main St. between 9th and 25th, BC,
Tags: shopping | things to do | clothing | accessories

Mount Seymour

Winter sports enthusiasts can ski, snowboard, toboggan, or hurtle down the slopes in a snow tube at Enquist Snow Tube Park at this mountain on the city’s fringe. Ideal for beginners, visitors to Seymour can also go on dogsled and snowshoe tours that run from December till May each year.

1700 Mount Seymour Rd., BC, 604-986-2261,
Tags: family | editor pick | skiing | things to do | outdoors

Museum of Anthropology

Tracing the history of B.C.’s First Nations peoples, the architecturally inspiring M.O.A. sits amid totems and forest at the brink of the university grounds on the Point Grey cliffs.

6393 North West Marine Dr., BC, 604-822-5087,
Tags: family | things to do | history | museum

Robson Street

Vancouver’s main shopping thoroughfare teems with Japanese tourists and brand names from Hilfiger to Zara. Nearby Alberni Street’s windows offer glamorous attire from Hermes, Betsey Johnson, and more.

Robson Street, BC,
Tags: shopping | things to do | designer | clothing | accessories

Rowand’s Reef Scuba Shop

You might only think of taking to the waves around Vancouver in a kayak or sailboat, but then you’d miss all the underwater action: Giant Pacific Octopus, crimson anemones, and Puget Sound King Crab await. Rowand’s Reef rents all the dive gear you need; they also offer lessons and guided dive tours of the Sunshine Coast and Barclay Sound.

1512 Duranleau St., BC, 604-669-3483,
Tags: things to do | outdoors | wildlife | adventure | diving

South Granville

AKA Granville Rise, this has been a prime shopping strip since the ’20s. The motto “ten blocks beyond ordinary” summarizes contemporary art galleries, French ceramics, designer linens, Kiehl’s skin-care products, must-have footwear and more.

Granville St. south from Broadway, BC,
Tags: shopping | editor pick | things to do | gallery | designer | clothing

Stanley Park

Adored by locals, Stanley Park covers 1,000 acres of Vancouver’s downtown peninsula. Trails, totem poles, pebbly beaches, an open-air pool, teahouses, and snack shacks account for its draw.

Accessible from Beach Ave. or Georgia St., BC, 604-257-8400
Tags: beach | family | editor pick | great value | landmark | things to do | swimming

TLH Heliskiing

TLH Heliskiing runs all types of heli-trips from the secluded Tyax Lodge on the shores of Tyaughton Lake. The company can pick up skiers via helicopter or bus from Vancouver or Whistler. In the remote South Chilcotin Mountains, TLH has mapped 300 runs over 830,000 acres - more terrain than all the ski resorts in Colorado combined. For the 2010 season, TLH is granting unlimited vertical footage, so skiers can take as many runs as they wish each day

Tyax Resort, BC, 800-667-4854,
Tags: skiing | things to do | outdoors | adventure

Vancouver Aquarium

A watery wonderland in Stanley Park; young and old delight in the antics of thousands of sea and river creatures, from beluga whales to Amazonian snakes.

Stanley Park, BC, 604-659-3474,
Tags: family | things to do | wildlife | aquarium

VanDusen Garden

Open since 1975, this 55-acre garden is home to over a quarter of a million plants that come from as far away as the tip of South Africa. The finely landscaped grounds include rock gardens and tranquil ponds. Guided walking tours of the garden and its myriad sculptures are available. Japanese tea ceremonies and painting classes take place under the trees. Don’t miss the garden shop and the highly esteemed Shaughnessy Restaurant, where entrée ingredients come from the garden itself. It’s also a fine place for afternoon tea.

5251 Oak St., BC, 604-878-9274,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | gardens

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