Photo: Tourism Vancouver / Albert Normandin
Travel + Leisure rated Vancouver, British Columbia one of the “Best Cities in North America,” and for good reason. It’s an incredible melting pot of Asian, European and Native (First Nation) cultures, all of which are evident in the city’s modern and historic building, shops and restaurants. Moreover, this coastal metropolis offers a stunning setting, where the sea meets the mountains.
Ski vacationers en route to Whistler Blackcomb fly into Vancouver International Airport, which is just 30 minutes from the downtown area. Instead of hopping in a shuttle and high tailing to or from this world-class ski resort, set aside a day or two to explore this stunning city. To help you make the most out of this Canadian gem, we’ve comprised a two-day itinerary.
Where to stay in Vancouver
For a high-touch experience, ultimate convenience to the downtown hubbub and attractions, as well as stunning views of the Vancouver Bay waterfront, stay at either the Fairmont Waterfront or Fairmont Pacific Rim. Both offer the world-class, signature Fairmont services and amenities that travelers know and love.
Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast at the Fairmont. Don’t miss the Waterfront’s ARC breakfast, which features everything from fresh fruit and hand-crafted smoothies to gourmet pumpkin spice pancakes and crab and avocado benedict.
Take in the fresh, briny morning air as you walk along the pier to Canada Place. This historic community gathering place features the tourist Welcome Centre and meeting spot for many walking tours, a beautiful waterfront concert venue, the Sails of Light, which are illuminated at night to reflect the seasons or special events or celebrations and the popular attraction, FlyOver Canada.
FlyOver Canada is an incredible flying ride, which will delight the young and young at heart with simulations and visuals to make you truly feel like you’re flying! Note: those who are motion sensitive or have a fear of heights may want to skip this experience.
Next, hop on the Vancouver Trolley—which can literally transport you to just about any major city attraction—to Stanley Park. You can either stay on the trolley and enjoy the sights from the car or hop out at different stops and explore on foot and then hop back on at your leisure. Stanley Park is a 400-hectare natural Pacific Northwest coastal rain forest situated in the heart of the Vancouver metro area and featuring immense trees, miles of beaches and trails, wildlife, totem polls and even restaurants.
When you’re ready for lunch, hop back on the Vancouver Trolley with Granville Island in your sights. Enjoy lunch at the Public Market, a bustling heated, indoor market offering everything from artisan breads and cheeses and cured meats to local produce and seafood, fresh-cut flowers and world-famous teas, as well as arts and crafts. If you’re looking for a guided experience book a spot on the Granville Island Market Tour with Vancouver Foodie Tours. Continue your tour with Vancouver Trolley through other unique neighborhoods including Chinatown and Gastown.
If you have time to stop over in Chinatown, be sure to check out the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which is the first Ming Dynasty Scholars Garden built outside of China.
By now it’s time for dinner and you’re conveniently situated in or very near Gastown, which is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood and is a highly coveted foodie destination. Top-rated Gastown restaurants include The Flying Pig (American-Canadian, 102 Water St.), Miku (Japanese, 70-200 Granville St.), L’Abattoir Restaurant (French-Canadian, 217 Carrall St.), Nuba (Lebanese, 207 West Hastings St.) and Rodney’s Oyster House (Canadian-Seafood, 52 Powell St.)
After breakfast, head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park on their free shuttle, which stops at Canada Place and other locations in downtown Vancouver. The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a 30-year-old park that mixes nature, thrilling views and history. The suspension bridge crosses over a granite-lined river to the Treetop Adventure experience, which features seven suspended footbridge offering bird- and critter-eye views of the rain forest. Another top Capilano attraction includes the Cliffwalk, a series of bridges, stairs and platforms along a granite precipice.
For those with aversions to heights, there are also historical and retail attractions, including guided nature walks, First Nations’ relics and totems photos and an outpost with interesting Canadian goods. If you’re in Vancouver during the Holidays, be sure to make time to experience the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, as it’s aglow in Christmas Lights. It’s a spectacular scene!
Before you hop in your shuttle to Whistler Blackcomb or back to the airport for your departure home, explore Yaletown, which was once the terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Lined with historic red-brick warehouses that now house restaurants and shops, this charming neighborhood is the perfect place to enjoy lunch or some last-minute retail therapy.
Yaletown Homer Street. | Photo: Tourism Vancouver/ Nelson Mouellic
Tack on a Vancouver stay to your Whistler Blackcomb ski vacation. Our 70+ Mountain Travel Experts are standing by for your call at 800-610-8911.
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Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.