Travel idea: 6 reasons to visit Vancouver

By: Kat Tancock

Image courtesy Tourism Vancouver Author: Canadian Living Credits: Image courtesy Tourism Vancouver


Travel idea: 6 reasons to visit Vancouver

By: Kat Tancock
Vancouver has been named one of the best places in the world to live, and it should come as no surprise: with its idyllic setting, laid-back yet vibrant culture and benign climate, it's easy to see why residents are so proud of their city. But you don't have to migrate out West to experience beautiful B.C. – Vancouver is a worthy travel destination any time of year. Here are six reasons to visit Vancouver, B.C.

1. The natural beauty
It's not often you can recommend an urban environment for people who want to get back to nature, but Vancouver is truly the best of both worlds. You can spend the morning at the Vancouver Art Gallery or wandering the shops, then go hiking all afternoon, whether it's a short jaunt through Stanley Park or a longer hike along any of the trails surrounding the city, such as on Burnaby Mountain or on Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. Or for a lazier couple of hours in the summertime, relax and go for a swim at Kitsilano Beach.

2. Shop till you drop
Robson Street is the place to start, with a wide range of stores both local and international. For more offbeat choices, head to Commercial Drive, home of many hip boutiques featuring local designers. And if you're looking to splurge, don't miss the beautiful new Holt Renfrew department store, which opened in June 2007 and features designer goods for men, women and kids as well as a comprehensive beauty department and a full-service spa.

3. Whistler – just around the corner
Okay, it's a bit farther afield, but if you're into outdoor sports – or even if you just like to sit by the fire while others do outdoor sports – Whistler's the place to be. The skiing and snowboarding can't be beat (one of the reasons that Vancouver and Whistler are to be home to the 2010 Winter Olympics), and in the off-season, Whistler's offerings include mountain biking (the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is considered among the best in the world), hiking, golf and kayaking. And after all that exertion, when you need to relax, don't miss the spa at the Four Seasons Resort – try the 90-minute Sea to Sky Massage to get the kinks out.

Page 1 of 24. A paradise for foodies
Vancouver is the home of the 100-Mile Diet, and it's no wonder: locally grown, caught and produced foods abound, whether they're from the Lower Mainland proper, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, or the valleys of the B.C. Interior. A must for any food lover is a visit to Granville Island and its Public Market, home to a cornucopia of foods – cheeses, meats, produce, tea and breads among them – as well as to the retail store of Edible British Columbia, which showcases gourmet food products from across the province. (Edible B.C. also offers a number of food-related tours around Granville Island, Vancouver and elsewhere in B.C. – see for details.) (Click here to view a slideshow of Granville Island for foodies.)

And when it comes to restaurants, choices abound. For a fun night out, try Sanafir, where you can sample tapas and drinks inspired by Asia and the Middle East either at a table downstairs or upstairs on one of the four private beds. Or to extend the theme of local foods, head to Salt Tasting Room in Gastown, which specializes in artisanal cheeses, cured meats and fantastic wines. (For more restaurant ideas, read about the winners of Vancouver Magazine's Restaurant Awards.)

5. Countless ways to get fit
Vancouver's temperate climate means a plethora of outdoor activities any time of year (although in the wintertime, you may have to get a bit wet). You can try ocean kayaking in False Creek to get a view of the city from the water, or visit one of Vancouver's many, many yoga studios (it is the home of Lululemon, after all) to experience the West Coast lifestyle. If you're a runner or cyclist, a popular route is the 10-km seawall that circles Stanley Park (and yes, there are shortcuts to make it a shorter trip). Golfers won't want to miss the city's dozens of courses, from intimate and beginner-friendly to expert. And walkers won't even come close to running out of places to explore – if walking's your thing, make sure to pick up City Walks: Vancouver, a collection of 50 cards (more portable than a guide book) detailing walks around Vancouver and its suburbs.

6. Tons to do for kids
Kids won't have time to be bored in Vancouver. The transportation-obsessed will love the city's varied ways to get around: the Big Bus, a hop-on, hop-off tour of the city on a double-decker or open-top bus; the SkyTrain, Vancouver's above-ground rapid-transit system (just imagine their faces when you tell them there's no driver!); and the SeaBus, a 12-minute ferry trip from downtown to the North Shore. The Granville Island Kids Market will keep them occupied for hours with its play areas, games, entertainment, food and shops – just don't be surprised if they ask you to dig out your wallet for that special something they just have to have. And inquisitive minds will be enthralled at Science World, where they can learn about science through interactive exhibits and marvel at the shows at the Omnimax Theatre.

For more ideas on travelling Vancouver, visit the website of Tourism Vancouver, pick up Lonely Planet's Vancouver City Guide, or visit the home page of Vancouver Magazine.

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Travel idea: 6 reasons to visit Vancouver