Vancouver's Bucket List: Top Things to See and Do

Vancouver’s Bucket List: Top 20 Things To See and Do

So you’re looking for an information on Vancouver and maybe even planning a trip there soon?  That is awesome, because Vancouver is undoubtedly one of the coolest cities on Earth!

Since Vancouver is not a small city – there are a ton of attractions, landmarks, and even day trips that you can go on from this beautiful megapolis.  We included some of the best and most popular ones below – to save you time in your search, and provide you with a quick guide to the sights and the things that you can do in the city.

Vancouver Lookout

Vancouver Lookout – the iconic landmark of the city.

1. See the city from above – go up the Vancouver Lookout.

Offering some of the best 360-degree views of the town from a height of 168 meters, Vancouver Lookout is easily recognized by its circular observation deck – visible from almost any point in the city, and beyond.  In addition to providing us with spectacular views, it is known as the most iconic building in Vancouver, often pictured on the cover of books, magazines and postcards about the ‘Terminal City’.

  • Location: 555 West Hastings Street at Harbour Center
  • Hours: (Winter) October – May: 9:00am-9:00pm; (Summer) May – September: 8:30am-10:30pm
  • Ticket Price: $16,25
  • Official website: http://www.vancouverlookout.com
  • Time required: 1 hour or less

2. Explore Stanley Park.

Stanley Park is known as one of the best parks in the World, and you definitely want to spend some hours exploring it.  So what can you find there in addition to some scenic views of the downtown Vancouver, and the beautiful nature filling up its quarters?  An aquarium, a horse-drawn carriage or a train ride, several beaches and gorgeous lookout points, as well as cool sculptures and monuments, such as the Totem Poles (our next sight!).  P.S. It’s also a great option for those looking to experience Vancouver on a budget!

3. Take a picture with the Totem Poles.

Besides the iconic Vancouver Lookout building, another landmark that is often associated with the image of this town – is the Totem Poles, the great symbol of the First Nations.  Due to its immense popularity it is one of the most visited sights in the Stanley Park, and you might find yourself competing for a photo op spot with an ever increasing number of tourists.  Therefore you might consider visiting this sight early in the morning to avoid the huge crowds.

P.S. You can also find a small number of different Totem Poles versions at other locations, including the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (sight #19), and the Butchart Gardens (sight #17), all located at a distance from the city.

  • Location: Stanley Park (close to the Brockton Point)
  • Time required: 1 hour or less

Totem Poles, Stanley Park4. Ride in a seaplane.

One of the coolest things that you can do in Vancouver (and quite affordable at that) – is to fly in a seaplane over the town!  You will take off and land on water in the Vancouver Harbour, and the flight will take you all over the city, showcasing its major landmarks.  The most affordable option is a 10-minute flight ranging from $60-$85 per person (depending on the seasonal discounts).  There are a number of small companies providing the service – two of the bigger ones are mentioned below.  Just don’t forget your camera, and be ready for an experience of a lifetime!

Seaplane Ride, Vancouver - Global Storybook

5. Visit a museum.

There is no better way to learn more about a particular city than by visiting one of its major museums – and Vancouver is no exception.  The top three museums that you can visit in this rainy city are: the Museum of Vancouver (dedicated to the city, featuring numerous exhibitions about Vancouver), the Museum of Anthropology (dedicated primarily to the history and the art of the First Nations) and the ‘Disney-like’ Science World (dedicated to science, as the name implies).

  • Museum of Vancouver: http://www.museumofvancouver.ca (location: Vanier Park in Kitsilano: 1100 Chestnut Street; hours: Sunday-Wednesday 10-5pm, Thursday 10-8pm;  Friday-Saturday 10-9pm; ticket price: $15)
  • Museum of Anthropology: http://moa.ubc.ca (location: 6393 NW Marine Dr; hours: 10-5pm; Thursdays 10-9pm; closed on Mondays October 15-May 15; ticket price: $18)
  • Science World: https://www.scienceworld.ca (location: 1455 Quebec St, hours: Tuesday-Friday 10-5pm; weekends 10-6pm, closed on Mondays and holidays; ticket price: $23,25)
Science World at TELUS World of Science Museum

Science World at TELUS World of Science Museum

6. Flyover Canada.

This fun activity is equally enjoyed by the kids and adults alike.  Once you step into an animated theater, and find your assigned seat – you are then taken on an exhilarating 3-D journey all across the beautiful country of Canada.  Flying through its numerous mountains, canyons, and lakes, from Toronto to Niagara Falls, from Vancouver to Alberta, through the Northern Lights – you will be anything but bored.

  • Location: 999 Canada Place
  • Hours: 9:30am-9pm, open daily
  • Ticket Price: $21,95
  • Official website: https://www.flyovercanada.com
  • Time required: 1 hour
Flyover Canada

Photo Credit: Vancouvertours.com

7. Explore some famous landmarks: Steam Clock + Gassy Statue. 

Every city has its famous landmarks and there a number of them in Vancouver.  The Steam Clock, a clock that’s operating on a steam engine, and the Gassy Statue, inaugurated after John Deighton, the first settler of Vancouver – perhaps are the two most famous.  Luckily, they are located in a very close proximity to each other and therefore you can check them off easily, one after another.

  • The Steam Clock: location: 305 Water Street
  • Gassy Statue: location: 1 Water Street
  • Time required: 1 hour or less

8. Go to the market on the Granville Island.

The public market located on the Granville Island is open 7 days a week, from 9-7pm and it’s a great place to do some shopping and to have some lunch in.  This market is very well-known and beloved by the locals for its fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables and fish.  Try to get here at least before 4pm to enjoy some of the best choices, since they do tend to sell out by the end of the day.

  • Location: Granville island
  • Time required: 2-3 hours

9. Wander through the colorful streets of Chinatown.

Every major city has its little Chinatown, but the city of Vancouver has the largest one in Canada.  Filled with vibrant and colorful streets, neon signs, awesome shops and tasty Chinese restaurants, this special area must be seen.  One of its most famous attractions is the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden (578 Carrall Street; open daily 10-4:30pm, price $12), where for a fee you get to step into a gorgeous oriental garden, that’s fit for a King and Queen.

  • Time required: 1-2 hours 

10. Take in the views of the Lion’s Gate Bridge.

The Lion’s Gate Bridge is one of the most famous attractions in Vancouver.  Named after a mountain with two “lion-shaped peaks”, this awesome suspension bridge is best seen from the Stanley Park, our sight #2.

P.S. And don’t miss a drive through this awesome landmark, just not in a rush hour!

  • Time required: 1 hour or less

11. Admire the architecture – Flatiron Building.

Vancouver has a number of fun nicknames attached to its name, with one of them being – The City of Glass.  Just like Toronto, the city is full of modern high-rises piercing the sky with an ultra-chic, glassy facade.  But besides those modern giants, you can discover some real gems just by walking around some of its older, historic neighborhoods.  One example of its finest buildings is the Flatiron Building located right across from The Gassy Statue (our sight #7).

  • Location: 43 Powell Street
  • Time required: 1-2 hours (combined with sight #7)
Flatiron Building, Vancouver - Global Storybook

Flatiron Building, Vancouver

12. Go sunbathing, a la Vancouver style. 

Who knew (well besides the locals) that this rainy, cold, and moody city has a number of great… beaches?  Yep, that’s right.  And if you come here in a warmer season (Summer will do) you can even strip down to your swimsuit, while catching a few rays.  English Bay Beach (aka the First Beach), The Second and the Third Beach (located in the Stanley Park) are some of the most famous local beaches, that are within the city limits.

  • Time required: from 1 hour to all day

13. Catch a ferry.

One of the best ways to see Vancouver is from its beautiful water side.  There are a number of options that you can choose from – starting with an inexpensive local ferry, and finishing with a luxury dinner cruise.  There are two main bays where you can catch one – from either the False Creek, or from the Vancouver Harbour, located on the opposite sides of the city.  

The ticket prices and the departure times are listed next to each ferry stop.  As to the dinner and/or regular sightseeing cruises, some local tour companies are provided below:

  • Time required: 1-3 hours

14. Explore the city at night.

It is simply impossible to get a full experience of a city without exploring it a bit at night.  And Vancouver can be especially charming and glorious once the darkness falls and the million lights go up.  There are a number of things you can do in the evening – like strolling through the main streets of downtown, going bar hopping in Yaletown, going on a dinner cruise, or just hanging out by the waterfront taking in the magnificent views of the harbour.

  • Time required: 1-2 hours

Vancouver at night

15. View Vancouver from the highest point – Queen Elizabeth Park.

One of the coolest viewpoints in Vancouver is located in a small park a bit off from the city center.  Named after Queen Elizabeth, this beautiful, public park is a host to a number of fun sights, including the Bloedel Conservatory with its amazing Dancing Water fountain, two gorgeous Rose and Quarry Gardens, some interesting monuments (such as the one pictured below) and of course – the breathtaking, panoramic view over the city of Vancouver.

How to get there: take the Canada line Sky Train to the King Edward station, then walk a few short blocks.  Please note the park is located on top of a hill, therefore light to moderate physical activity is required to get there (unless you drive, of course).

  • Time required: 1-2 hours
Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, Canada

‘Photo Session’, a sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

16. Hop on a trolley. 

As we mentioned above, Vancouver is not a small city – and the Stanley Park alone can take 2-3 hours to cross on foot.  If you are exploring the city for the very first time – you probably would want to see everything that this city has to offer, and spend as much time there as possible.  One of the best ways to do that is by taking the hop on, hop off trolley or bus that will deliver you to any point within the city for a one-time ticket price (valid for 24 or 48 hours, depending on your choice).

There are currently only two companies in Vancouver offering these services:

Vancouver hop on, hop offGet out of the city on a day tour:

17. Explore Victoria and the Butchart Gardens.

Victoria – a beautiful, charming, and scenic town, which is the capital of British Columbia, is located on a large island, called Vancouver (not to be confused with our city by the same name).  To get to Victoria from the city of Vancouver is not that difficult, as there are a number of options – you can join a tour, rent a car and drive there (through a ferry), or you can also take a ferry directly to Victoria.  You can also fly there by a seaplane but that’s the priciest option.

Another famous attraction located on the Vancouver Island (not far from Victoria) is the World-renowned Butchart Gardens.  You can combine these two attractions on your day tour, as you surely don’t want to miss either one.

📸 For more pictures of this gorgeous botanical garden, check out this post: The Enchanting Butchart Gardens.

18. Feel like an Olympian – go to Whistler.

Just a quick 2 hour ride by a bus or a car, and you arrive to the magical Olympic village, located in a small but awesome city of Whistler.  In addition to taking your photo with the Olympic rings, and exploring this picturesque town, you can get on several scenic gondolas (‘Whistler Village Gondola‘, the famous ‘Peak 2 Peak‘, or a number of smaller ones) to the top of the mountains that surround the ‘village’.  Each mountain’s peak has a lodge (with a cafe and a bathroom) where you can stop for some rest and eat a lunch, as there are a number of fun activities that you can do on site.

So what are some of the activities that you can do in Whistler?  You can go hiking, zip lining, bungee jumping, mountain biking in Spring, Fall and Summer, or skiing and snowboarding in the Winter time.  You can also take a helicopter ride (by the Rendezvous Lodge) and explore the sights from above.

As you can see – you can easily spend an entire day here (or two).

19. Define the gravity – walk in the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

And the number one attraction outside of Vancouver goes to… yep, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park!  This awesome adventure park is located on a quick 20-30 minute drive from Vancouver, and is open daily from 9-5pm.

So what’s so awesome about it?  Well, it has a few really cool activities that you can do up there: walk on the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge (hanging 70 meters high and 137 meters long above the ground), go on a Cliffwalk or a treetops adventure.  A treetops adventure?  Yep, exactly like on the pictures shown below.

P.S. Don’t forget to grab a small map at the entrance, which you can use to collect the stamps spread out across the park.  Once you collect all 6 of them – you can exchange them for a fun “I made it!” certificate by the exit of the park.

  • Location: 3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver
  • Hours: 9-5pm (subject to seasonal changes)
  • Ticket price: $39,95
  • Official website: https://www.capbridge.com
  • Time required: 3-4 hours
  • How to get there: take a free shuttle bus from downtown Vancouver (click here for more info)

20. Visit the Grouse Mountain.

Another fun trip that you can take outside of Vancouver, located on a short 30-minute drive, is the beautiful Grouse Mountain (aka “the Peak of Vancouver”).  Once you arrive to the foot of this mountain, you can take a gondola up to the very top (you can also hike it, depending on your physical strength and desire, but the hike will take up to 2-3 hours).

On top of the Grouse Mountain you will have a chance to come face to face with two adorable, adopted grizzly bears, called Grinder and Coola.  And just like in Whistler – you can hike, do zip lining, or even paragliding, skiing or snowboarding, take a chairlift to go up even higher, eat lunch or a dinner in one of the restaurants, or… go on a helicopter ride.  You can easily spend an entire day here, making some unforgettable memories.

  • Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
  • Hours: open daily, 9am-10pm
  • Ticket price: various prices depending on the activities, starting with $43,95
  • Official website: https://www.grousemountain.com
  • Time required: from 3 hours – up to all day
  • How to get there: free shuttle is offered throughout the Summer (from May-October 10), for more info click here

Final note: all admission prices are valid for the year of 2016.

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