Sightseeing in the Fast Lane
Seasoned travellers often balk at the thought of jumping on a sightseeing bus, but in Vancouver, it's one of the best ways to get oriented, particularly if you don't have a car. It's easier than public transportation, and all you need to do is look at a route map and head to the nearest stop.
These tours are also geared toward tourists, which means they are ultimately the most convenient options for…well, tourists (although veteran travellers often hate to admit it, they are visitors, too, and sometimes it's just silly not to get information the easy way). After a day on one of Vancouver's hop-on, hop-off buses, you'll have a better understanding of the city's layout -- an invaluable piece of information if you're spending a few days here.
Both The Vancouver Trolley Company and Big Bus, Ltd. hit the biggest attractions in downtown Vancouver, as well as a number of hotels. There are quite a few stops -- too many to see all in one day -- but they both stop at the major attractions listed below. The difference between the two tour companies: Vancouver Trolley Company features two downtown tours, while Big Bus offers commentary in six different languages. In any case, these are the must-sees and the best ways to spend your time.
Stanley ParkIf you were only to make one stop in Vancouver, this would probably be the one. It's an understatement to say that Stanley Park is beautiful. 1,000 acres and only blocks from downtown Vancouver, it's a place to get outside and really soak up Vancouver's blessed setting: mountains as a backdrop, vast stretches of water, trees that seem to shoot up into the sky and just keep on going.
Stanley Park also features the Vancouver Aquarium
, home to famous sea otters and beluga whales. There are few other places in the world where you can get so up close and personal with these creatures. See Milo, one of the ultra-cute sea otters at the aquarium, frolic in his exhibit.
At one time, Granville Island's
official name was Industrial Island. But today, things couldn't be more different. Activity is centred around the Granville Island Public Market, with its bevy of merchants selling seafood, fresh produce, cheese and breads. It's probably one of the best spots in the city for lunch. Grab a seat by the water and watch the little Aquabus
and False Creek Ferries
shuttle visitors across False Creek.
English Bay Beach
A beach right in downtown? You bet. Another one of Vancouver's gem is English Bay Beach, located right at the Stanley Park Seawall. In the summer, you'll see Vancouverites and visitors laying out and catching some sun. With its proximity to restaurants and shops at the Beach Avenue and Denman Street junction, it's all you need in one stop: good food, beautiful sights and beach atmosphere. Want more reasons? Check out the insidevancouver.ca post, "Top 5 Reasons to Love English Bay Beach
Vancouver Art Gallery
Certainly one of the city's most prominent destinations, the city's premier art museum
is a popular stop for downtown bus tours. The museum houses a vast collection of work from painter Emily Carr, British Columbia's beloved artist who turned her Victorian society upside down when she ran off into nature to pursue art. In addition to viewing world-class art from rotating exhibits, stop by the Gallery Café, which boasts one of the best lattes in the city.
Vancouver certainly has an international atmosphere, and much of it is due to Robson Street
, one of the city's most vibrant neighbourhoods. Boutique shops and Japanese sushi joints co-exist, and the street has a modern European vibe to it, making it one of the best places to watch the fashionable, young and trendy.
If Robson Street is a testament to Vancouver's modernity, Gastown
pays tribute to the city's history. This is the birthplace of Vancouver, and its historic cobblestone streets and Victorian buildings make it an ideal place to take an after-dinner stroll. If you don't have a lot on your agenda and just want to hang out with friends, Gastown is a cool place to do it.
Highlights of a Chinatown
visit include the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
, the Sam Kee Building (world's narrowest commercial building) and the Chinese Cultural Centre, but walk around to get a feel for the atmosphere. If you're in the mood for a snack, stop into one of the Chinese bakeries to get traditional pork buns and sticky rice.
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