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 "Hollywood North." Sitting nearly 1,300 miles north of its nickname namesake, Vancouver and its breathtaking backdrop has been the setting for a bevy of popular television shows and major motion pictures, so don't be surprised if you recognize landmarks from your favorite scenes or stumble upon a production in progress.
But this mitten-shaped city on Canada's western edge draws in more than pop culture junkies. Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting and skiing will beckon to your adventurous side. Looking for a little rest and relaxation? Try lounging along the 11 miles of beaches or in one of the numerous parks. During the cold weather, you can duck inside one of the top-notch museums or swing your kids by one of the family-friendly attractions, like Granville Island or the Capilano Suspension Bridge. When you add excellent shopping, dining and nightlife scenes to the mix, you'll see why many praise Vancouver as a go-to getaway for the multifaceted traveler.
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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.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Vancouver boasts a diverse multicultural identity thanks to the many different groups that call the city home. Though English and French are the two official languages, you'll also likely hear Chinese, Punjabi, German, Italian, French, Tagalog (Filipino) and Spanish.
Perhaps the biggest difference American travelers will encounter is the use of the Canadian dollar and the international metric system. One U.S. dollar is equal to about CA$1.30, but since the exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check it before your trip. You can avoid confusion by familiarizing yourself with Canadian currency. Coins are in denominations of $2, $1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10 and $0.05. Canadian dollar coins are called "loonies;" two dollar coins are called "toonies." Paper bills are in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5. You can dodge high exchange fees by withdrawing Canadian money directly from an ATM in Vancouver. Along with differences in currency, you'll also encounter some disparities in how temperatures, distance and weights are measured (in metric units); distance is measured in kilometers – pay close attention to this if you've decided to rent a car.
Aside from these fundamental differences, Americans should feel right at home in Vancouver, especially hockey fans. True to its Canadian stereotype, Vancouver is a hockey-obsessed city, and autumn marks the beginning of the season. The Vancouver Canucks are the city's hometown team; games are held downtown in Rogers Arena.
Thanks to its seat along the Pacific Coast, Vancouver boasts its fair share of delectable seafood. You'll find casual fish and chips at any one of the city's markets like Granville Island (the first stop for any foodie), but if you're craving something a little more formal, head to Yaletown. This area of Vancouver is home to Blue Water Cafe and Rodney's Oyster House, just two of the city's favorite seafood restaurants. YEW Seafood + Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver also receives praise for its menu, which features regional specialties, like Qualicum Bay scallops and Sidney Island venison. If you venture beyond Vancouver to Richmond, British Columbia (about 8 miles south of the city center), you'll also find plenty of fresh catches in Steveston Village, where wild-caught salmon, halibut, crab, salmon, tuna and mussels are served fresh from the docks.
When you're ready to sample cuisine from other parts of the globe, you'll see that Vancouver has you covered there, too. About 2 miles north of the city center is where you'll find Vancouver's Chinatown – North America's third largest by population after San Francisco and New York. Cravings for Indian fare can be sated in Punjabi Market – an Indo-Canadian neighborhood in South Vancouver.
Aside from providing the city fresh regional ingredients, Vancouver's coastal location also provides a picturesque backdrop for many of the top restaurants. For dinner with a view, try the Teahouse Restaurant (in Stanley Park), Lift Bar Grill View or Bridges Restaurant (on Granville Island), to name only a few.
Vancouver is a safe city to visit, however "crimes of opportunity," such as pickpocketing and stealing valuables from unlocked cars, are 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, by bike and via 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. Getting into town from the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is also easy: you can use the Canada Line rail system or you can hop in a cab. Taxis fares from the airport to downtown Vancouver cost roughly CA$28 to CA$36 (about $22 to $28). The airport is located about 6 miles southwest of the city center. If you've chosen to fly into the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA), you'll find plenty of car rental companies there, too. You can also take a shuttle from Sea-Tac to several locations in Vancouver: Round-trip tickets cost $99 each.See details for Getting Around
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A passport is required for citizens of the United States to travel to Canada, and to re-enter the country. If you are planning to drive, you must produce a passport, passport card or NEXUS card that allows expedited border crossings for both private and commercial travelers through Canadian and U.S. border controls. For more information, visit the U.S. State Department website .
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