If the idea of a city-centric vacation brings to mind endless restaurants, museums and concrete, you need to head to Vancouver, British Columbia. Sure, this cosmopolitan metropolis serves up more than enough restaurants to dine out every day for the rest of your life and there’s plenty of top rate museums for rainy days, but the most inviting aspect of Vancouver is its easy access to outdoor fun without having to leave the city. From water sports to day hikes, a Vancouver weekend getaway is one to satisfy your nature-and adventure-loving personality.
The Perfect Vancouver Weekend Getaway
Called the most active city in Canada, Vancouver is a nature lovers paradise. Its the only city in North-America that ranked in Monocle’s 2018 Quality of Life Survey its no wonder tourists from around Canada—and indeed across the globe—flock to this modern metropolis flanked by mountains and the sea for a weekend away from it all.
We picked a few of the top activities in the city to help you plan your Vancouver weekend itinerary!
Must-Do Vancouver Weekend Activities: Outdoors
Vancouver is an modern oasis in the middle of a rain forest. As-such it offers up an endless supply of epic outdoor activities for your Vancouver weekend getaway! From getting high (mountain peaks people…) to playing seaside there’s something for everyone in Vancouver.
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle-boarding
While you won’t find any rapids in town, kayaking around False Creek or along English Bay is a sporty way to view the gleaming towers that give Vancouver its “City of Glass” nickname. If you’ve been itching to try paddle-boarding, the calm waters of False Creek are perfect to try a lesson or head out on a rental board. The area of Granville Island has several places where you can rent kayaks or boards by the hour or for the day. Many rental facilities also offer lessons and two-hour tours around the Stanley Park peninsula.
Cycling & Mountain Biking
There’s no better way to get around Vancouver than by bike. With the downtown area’s wealth of interconnected bike paths you can cruise over 15 miles almost traffic free (go early if you want to avoid the gaggle of tourists that flock to the Stanley Park path). Road riders will want take advantage of Vancouver’s moderate climbs and courteous drivers. To rough it up a bit, take your mountain bike to Burnaby Mountain Park just east of downtown for beginner and intermediate trails. If you want a challenge, take the bike-friendly city bus to Vancouver’s North Shore for world-class, steep & technical mountain bike trails.
Forgot to bring your bike? Several bike rental shops dot the city and can not only get you in the saddle, but will also provide helmets and maps of the most scenic cycling routes or technical & testing trails around the city.
A short bus ride delivers you to Grouse Mountain where a strenuous hike to the 3,600-foot summit helps burn off the calories you’ll consume at Vancouver’s multitude of eateries. Some masochistic locals actually race up what they call the “Grouse Grind” vying for the honor of fastest time! Simply making it to the top should be reward enough as far as I’m concerned!
For a slightly easier pace, visit Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver and hike along your choice of 12 well maintained trails – each is rated by difficulty. Lynn Canyon also features its own suspension bridge.
Speaking of suspension bridges, Capilano Park has the city’s most famous suspension bridge. You’ll have to pay a hefty fee to walk across but the view and experience are worth it. The Lynn Canyon bridge is smaller, but it’s free to stroll back and forth as many times as you wish and crowds are non-existent, choose wisely.
Running and Rollerblading
The same paths used for cycling around Stanley Park and the city are runner- and skater-friendly as well. In most areas, the pedestrian portion of the path is separated from the cycling portion preventing traffic snarls and crowded passes.
Vancouver has ten beaches that attract sun and fun seekers. Taking a dip at one of these beaches is mandatory for locals and visitors alike when the temperature climbs anywhere above 15°C. If you prefer doing your laps in a pool then head to one of Vancouver’s two salt water pools.
The pool in Kitsalano measures 137 meters long, while the one at Second Beach has 50-meter lap lanes. Both are easily accessed from downtown by bike, have plenty of room for splashing around and their beach-side locations allow spectacular views from the pool. In addition to the Kitsalano and Second Beach pools, the Vancouver Parks Board runs a dozen other indoor and outdoor pools across the city.
Kite or Wind Surfing
If you love windsurfing or kite surfing, head to any beach (except the mouth of False Creek) with your own board and take advantage of the incoming breezes. Some beaches have specific rules about where you can launch and all require boards to stay 300 feet from designated swimming areas, so be mindful of any signs for restricted sections. If you need a rental board or forgot your wet suit, a few rental facilities can be found beachfront only steps from the water.
Read Also: Life’s a Beach in Tofino, British Columbia
Search out the Food Trucks:
Vancouver has a great international food scene and nowhere is that more apparent than in the food trucks you’ll find roaming town! “Street Food Vancouver” is an App available on google play and the IOS app store which gives the up-to-date locations of all the city’s famous food trucks. Want middle eastern? No Problem. Asian? Got lots of that! Whatever you’re craving it’s likely Vancouver has a delicious food truck to quash your hunger! Search them out on your Vancouver weekend getaway and thank me later!
Must-Do Vancouver Weekend Activities: Indoors
We all know the pacific north-west has a reputation for its unpredictable weather. So, if your Vancouver weekend getaway ends up getting rained out, never fear! There’s plenty to see and do in Vancouver while staying out of the weather!
Search out the Coffee Scene
Vancouver, like Seattle to the south is known for its coffee culture. Don’t bother with the big-box-stores-of-coffee, instead search out Vancouver’s artisan roasteries and coffee shops that serve up some of the best brew around. Now I’m no coffee snob, but I do love a really fresh cup of joe at a small shop. There’s no better way to get the feel for a city in my mind. Around every corner you’ll find a great little shop to satisfy your caffeine cravings, something you’ll need to make room for on your Vancouver weekend itinerary!
Brain Up @ Science World
A fun-for-the-whole-family kind of attraction Science World lets the kids (big and small) experiment with the forces of nature. From gravity to electricity and everything in between you can experiment to your hearts content in a safe atmosphere. Learn all about the forces that act upon our every day lifes. In a city where the weather is anything but predictable Science world offers the perfect retreat for a rainy day during your Vancouver weekend getaway.
After you’ve learned something new stop into the huge geodesic dome at the top of science world to experience a film on the worlds largest Omnimax domed screen. At over 5 storeys high and 27 meters in diameter, the theater boasts a sensational wrap-around projection and sound system that puts you right in the middle of the action!
Explore The Markets
Affordable shopping isn’t the first thing that comes to mind in Canada’s most expensive city but, for great local fare at decent prices check out the Granville Island Market. Here you’ll find everything from local art to artisan cheese. Grab a bite to eat at any of the great restaurants (dont miss the doughnut stand!) and eat it along the waterfront before you find yourself a souvenir to take home.
Next to the public market you’ll find the hit local Granville Island Brewery and its many award winning beers. Stop in for a tasting & tour or stick around for lunch!
On summer weekends, head to Richmond via the Skytrain to take part in the Richmond Night Market. The largest Asian night market in North America you’ll have a great time getting lost. Eat delicious street food, drink boba, and buy anything you could dream of!
Vancouver’s largest tropical botanical garden is found under the acrylic domed roof of the Bloedel Conservatory. When the weather really takes a turn in Vancouver Locals and tourists alike flock to the hot & humid jungles within it’s walls. More than 120 free-flying exotic birds, 500 exotic plants and flowers thrive within its temperature-controlled environment.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Budget: For budget minded travelers looking for somewhere to stay in Vancouver we love to recommend the Hosteling International’s downtown Vancouver hostel. Only a few minutes walk to the beach, Stanley park or many of Vancouver’s other attractions the hostel is perfectly located for your weekend getaway and its reasonably priced to boot! – From $38CAD/night (dorm)
Mid-Range: Vancouver’s stock of great hotels makes it difficult to pick just one to recommend. I love to stay at the Blue Horizon Hotel in Vancouver’s west end. Updated rooms and great service make this space a standout in my mind. – From $169CAD/night
High-End: One of my favorite hotels in Vancouver is the Sheraton Wall Center. Impressive views over the city from its upper floors and impeccable service will delight even the most demanding customer. – From $430CAD/night
The Take Away
Offering unprecedented access to the great outdoors for a major metropolitan center it’s no wonder why Vancouver is a hit among locals and visitors alike. So what are you waiting for? Vancouver is a lively city with loads to do for a weekend getaway whether you enjoy refined city life, adventure in the outdoors or even a mix of both.
Comment below with your favorite spots and activities in the city, we’d love to know what we missed out on for next time!