Even by North American standards, Vancouver is a young city. But what it lacks in history it compensates for in scenery. Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground: Its chic atmosphere, high-fashion boutiques and fondness for health-conscious eating have earned it the nickname "North Hollywood." Sitting about 1,300 miles north of its nickname namesake, Vancouver's breathtaking backdrop has been the setting for several popular television shows ... continue»
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The best times to visit Vancouver are from March to May and from September to November when the weather is mild and hotel rooms can be found at bargain rates. Summer is the most popular time thanks to the promise of warmer weather; however, if you're planning a trip then, make sure to reserve your hotel room at least two or three weeks in advance. If you're a winter sports fanatic, then don't let the biting temperatures deter you: This city makes a great home base for skiers and snowboarders looking to challenge the powder at Grouse Mountain or nearby Whistler.Best Times to Visit Vancouver»
Vancouver is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains. Downtown Vancouver is situated on a peninsula described by experts as a mitten-clad hand with downtown perched on the thumb. The peninsula is separated from the rest of the mainland by the Burrard Inlet to the north and the Frasier River to the south.
The main feature of downtown Vancouver is Stanley Park, which is located at the tip of the peninsula. The park is 1,000 acres in size, featuring numerous hiking and biking trails, and is home to the 11-kilometer Seawall Promenade and the Vancouver Aquarium. Downtown is also the city's largest shopping district. Robson Street in particular brims with shops and cafés, while its neighbor, Granville Street, features numerous independent boutiques. Granville Street is also known as "Theater Row" because of the dozens of concert, theater and movie venues that are located there.
Perched just northeast of Downtown, Gastown is another popular tourist neighborhood. With its cobblestone streets and Victorian architecture, Gastown has an Old World charm. Tourists are generally attracted to this neighborhood for its historic flavor and myriad of boutiques, restaurants and shops. Gastown is also home to the world's first steam-powered clock, which still chimes every 15 minutes.
Vancouver's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America, second only to San Francisco's. Located a few blocks east of Downtown Vancouver, Chinatown is home to numerous specialty shops and top-notch Chinese restaurants which attract millions of visitors each year. Chinatown is a bustling neighborhood at all hours of the day, and during the summer the action continues well into the night with the open-air Chinatown Night Market.
Formerly a collection of abandoned warehouses, Yaletown has made a dramatic comeback and is now one of Vancouver's trendiest neighborhoods. Yaletown boasts dozens of unique specialty shops and independently owned restaurants. Yaletown is also one of Vancouver's hottest nightlife spots, with lively bars like the Yaletown Brewing Co. attracting hundreds of night-owls.
Hop a ferry and spending a day on Granville Island, which sits just south of Downtown's thumb-like peninsula. Formerly an industrial site, Granville Island is now one of Vancouver's top attractions with live theater, pubs, artists' workshops and the Granville Public Market, home to stalls selling all sorts of fresh produce and tasty treats. Granville Island is also a popular spot for families with the Kids Only Market selling numerous unique toys and offering family-friendly entertainment. Granville Island plays host to several of the city's most popular events, including the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival and the annual Vancouver International Comedy Festival.
Reviewers also suggest spending a day in Kitsilano, which is known for its numerous outdoor activities, beaches and mountain views. Just south of Downtown across the English Bay, Kitsilano is where you'll find some of Vancouver's most popular beaches, including Vanier Park, which also play host to some of the city's favorite festivals, including the Vancouver International Children's Festival in May and summer's Bard of the Beach event, which features outdoor performances of Shakespeare's plays. Kitsilano is also a foodie's paradise, boasting dozens of one-of-a-kind eateries.
Follow Jericho Beach Park and the Spanish Banks west from Kitsilano and you'll find Point Grey, a primarily residential area featuring historic homes and impressive stretches of waterfront. This neighborhood's beaches -- including Wreck Beach, which is clothing optional -- provide many great spots for swimming and boating. Point Grey is a favorite tourist haunt. It's home to some of Vancouver's most popular attractions, including the Nitobe Memorial Gardens, the Museum of Anthropology and the Old Hastings Mill Store Museum, which is housed in Vancouver's oldest building and the site of its first store.
Vancouver's east side is made up of a conglomeration of ethnic neighborhoods which feature unconventional shopping, top-notch dining options and plenty of entertainment venues. Commercial Drive -- also known as Little Italy -- is famous for being Vancouver's artistic hub and is packed with art galleries, second-hand shops and plenty of Italian restaurants and cafés. Another well-known cultural pocket is Little India, located on Main Street below East 47th Street, which is filled with Indian restaurants. One of the more popular attractions in this area is the Punjabi Market, where vendors sell everything from Indian spices to jewelry and fabrics.
Sitting northwest of Downtown, this suburban section of the city attracts shopaholics with large commercial centers such as the Park Royal Centre, Vancouver's oldest shopping mall. West Vancouver's other main attraction is Lighthouse Park, an 80-acre forest where visitors can sit and watch seals lounging on the rocks near Howe Sound.
Located across the Burrard Inlet from Downtown Vancouver is North Vancouver, which acts as a gateway to some of the city's nearby natural attractions, including Lynn Canyon Park, Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Even if you are not interested in outdoor activities, experts say that North Vancouver is worth a visit. The area is filled with antiques shops, and the Lonsdale Quay Market -- which consists of three different levels -- is home to dozens of specialty shops, restaurants and fresh food vendors.
Vancouver is a safe city to visit; however, "crimes of opportunity," such as pickpocketing and stealing valuables from unlocked cars is common. Take extra precaution with your valuables when walking around.
Visitors should be aware that panhandling occurs regularly in touristy areas. Because of the city's mild climate and relaxed atmosphere, it's not uncommon to spot transients or even drug dealers after dark, particularly on the east side of Downtown.
The best ways to get around Vancouver are on foot and by public transportation. Many major attractions and popular neighborhoods are located within walking distance of one another in this condensed city. However, if you feel your feet growing weary, the Translink system -- which includes the SkyTrain, the SeaBus ferry and numerous bus routes -- is both manageable and affordable. You can also hitch a ride on the trolley to several of the city's best attractions. Getting into town from the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is also easy: an airport shuttle that will take you downtown for about $15 CAD (or $15 USD), or you can use the SkyTrain and Translink buses.Getting Around Vancouver»