If you are visiting the Pacific Northwest of the United States, or commonly referred to as “PNW”, then a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia is a must. For the simple fact that Vancouver is only less than a 3-hour drive from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a country full of beautiful sights, fresh seafood, and Hollywood movie sets awaits any traveler.
Here are 5 reasons why you should plan on visiting Vancouver:
Upon arrival, take a deep breath and enjoy the clean, crisp, fresh air that Vancouver must offer due to the vast amount of forestry and fresh water. No matter where you look, you will have mountains or a body of water in sight, sometimes even both!
If you are not in the mood or do not have time to hike your way around Vancouver, there are tons of places with wide-open views of Vancouver’s finest wilderness. Simply driving along, the coastline or from your hotel to your next destination, you will want to pull over left and right for a photo op. The observable mountain range from Vancouver is the North Shore Mountains, which consist of several mountains. Grouse, Cypress, and Seymour mountains are the most visible from Vancouver and offer year-round activities from skiing to zip lining.
Looking to explore by foot? No matter your pace or skill level, there is a trail for you to truly indulge in and experience Vancouver’s wildlife. If you are up for a challenging hike with rewarding sights, Garibaldi Lake is located less than 2 hours north of Vancouver. The trail takes you through dense fir trees and a vivid display of flowers ending with some of the most amazing turquoise blue lake waters that Vancouver is known for. Keep in mind, this hike takes at least 5 hours to complete and requires hiking uphill with the chance of rain, snow, or ice, depending on the time of year.
There are also plenty of trails suitable for all ages and experiences. Another place to visit if you are looking for a casual trail with beautiful sights is Lynn Canyon Park, located less than a 30-minute drive northeast of the city. They have several trails and photo ops around every corner. You will still be able to see the vibrant array of colors and enjoy the outdoors while getting your daily steps in.
You will notice in Vancouver that there are all sorts of foreign influenced cuisine options so you can try something different every meal. From Japanese to Mexican, Italian to the local Canadian-born dishes, there will certainly be a place to satisfy your taste buds. Also, let’s not forget about the super fresh seafood that comes straight from the Pacific Northwest.
So where do you start? If you’re not from Canada or have never tried, I would highly recommend ordering poutine, which is a plate of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. You can find this dish in many places, some even having their own variation of the famous dish such as adding proteins and truffle. As good as it is, make sure you save room to experience the other dishes found in Vancouver.
Another must in Vancouver, even for the locals, is sushi. Having some of the freshest seafood and constant inspiration from Asian cuisine, whether you prefer the raw taste of sashimi or fancy overly packed rolls, you won’t have a problem fulfilling your sushi craving in Vancouver.
When you’ve had enough of the sea level experience in Vancouver, you are ready to take one of the many mountainside gondolas for even greater sights. Lated less than an hour drive north, Sea to Sky Gondola take you straight up the mountain and offers spectacular sights of all the mountains around. Once you reach the top after about a 10-minute gondola ride, you will have the opportunity to cross one of Vancouver’s popular suspension bridges built right on the mountain. There are also several viewing platforms for that perfect photo and hiking trails at the top. The admission price is around $35.00 USD per adult, but your admission allows you unlimited time on top of the mountain to take in the views, hike a trail or two, and grab a bite to eat at the summit’s restaurant.
If seeing Vancouver from a top down view isn’t for you, but you still want to experience the nerve racking thrill of crossing a suspension bridge, there are plenty of options. Besides the suspension bridge on top of the Sea to Sky Gondola ride, there is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has a fee, and the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, which is free of cost. Both bridges are located inside national parks, which also offer hiking and walking trails to indulge yourself in Vancouver’s wildlife.
Another popular place to visit is Stanley Park, which is located northwest of the city and almost surrounded by water. Here, you will find many attractions such as the Vancouver Aquarium, several walking and hiking trails, a water park, and even a beach. The most common trail is the Seawall, which borders Stanley Park and provides 14 miles of paths suitable for walking, running, or biking. There are also trails that pass-through Stanley Park’s forests, which can be significantly less crowded.
One of the little-known facts about Vancouver is that several parts of the beautiful country are used for filming mainstream movies and TV shows. Referred to as “Hollywood North” since Vancouver is directly north of Hollywood, California, and is an ideal set location offering a variety of scenery, Vancouver contains some of the largest production studios and stages in North America.
There are several places known for filming in Vancouver such as the Hotel Europe in the city of Gastown, the Riverview Hospital, and the Brittania Mine Museum. Some of the most known movie productions include: Godzilla, Fifty Shades of Grey, Deadpool, and some of the Twilight saga installments.
You might find yourself on a Hollywood movie set or even better, run into your favorite movie star grabbing a bite to eat downtown! Rumor has it, celebrities are consistently spotted all over town.
One of the most recognizable and appreciated things about Vancouver is the people, also commonly referred to as “Vancouverites”. English, being the primary language spoken also makes it easy to communicate and get around. Vancouverites are all extremely friendly and polite, welcoming people from all over the world to their beautiful land. From the customer service at your local restaurant to asking a stranger on the road for directions, everyone always seems willing to help and keep a smile on your face. Never once did I feel unsafe or unwelcomed during my visit there and I hope you are able to experience this sort of Canadian hospitality as well!
To sum things up, whether you are a foodie looking for the next unique meal, an adventurist looking for a challenging hike through the woods, or an amateur photo journalist trying to capture the perfect landscape shot of the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver is the place for you. I recommend doing adequate research when planning your trip to ensure you pack the right clothes (and gear) for the weather, and that you figure out what you would like to accomplish and see during your trip. I hope this provided some unknown insight and that you enjoy your time in Vancouver as much as I did!