With so much to see in Vancouver and the surrounding areas, it can be an inviting challenge to decide where to start. Listed here are several local attractions close to the conference venue that you might find most interesting on your trip.
Downtown Vancouver lies on a peninsula in the Strait of Georgia, bounded to the south by the delta of the Fraser River and to the north by Burrard Inlet, a deep fiord reaching far inland. Also to the north, gleam the often snow-covered ranges of the Coast Mountains. Downtown is easily explored on foot. The scenic city was showcased to the world when it hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, in conjunction with nearby Whistler, and Expo86, the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication.
1. Stanley Park
One of Canada’s largest parks, Stanley Park (http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx) is a lush peninsula park of huge trees adjacent to Downtown Vancouver. A paved seawall path encircles the green space. Most visitors take the time to explore it on foot, bicycle or rollerblades. Inland, the park offers many things to do, and visitors can spend a full day exploring attractions ranging from the totem poles at Brockton Point to west coast sea life at the Vancouver Aquarium (http://www.vanaqua.org/). Spectacular views are a standard throughout the park, particularly at Prospect Point (http://prospectpoint.com/).
2. Granville Island
Located only minutes from Downtown Vancouver, Granville Island (http://granvilleisland.com/) is a thriving center of activity with retailers in converted warehouses alongside houseboats, theaters, galleries and restaurants. The Granville Island Public Market is one of the most popular attractions selling fruit and vegetables, seafood, and a great variety of other specialties as well as ready-to-eat items. A foodie paradise, Granville island features more than 70 eateries, Canada’s first microbrewery and even an artisan boutique sake winery. Not truly an island, this arts hub is linked to residential areas by one road and footbridges to the south, and to the Downtown peninsula (across False Creek) by a very small pedestrian ferry.
3. Robson Street
Robson Street (http://www.robsonstreet.ca/discover-robson/) is best known for shopping, but it’s also the setting for many inventive Vancouver happenings. The city’s premier arts institution, the Vancouver Art Gallery (https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/) houses an excellent collection of paintings by B.C. artist Emily Carr (1871-1945), as well as visiting international exhibits. The gallery faces Robson Square, an interesting public space designed by Arthur Erickson, which includes a winter ice-skating rink and law courts.
The oldest part of the city, Gastown (http://www.gastown.org/) is an area of restaurants, galleries, and shops set in carefully restored Victorian buildings. Heritage structures, cobblestone streets, and iron lampposts give the district its distinctive atmosphere. Gastown came into existence in 1867 when John Deighton arrived on the scene. Deighton had a habit of launching into lengthy stories and soon acquired the nickname “Gassy Jack.” As a result, the vicinity became known as “Gassy’s Town” or “Gastown.” A statue of the proprietor watches over the neighborhood in Maple Tree Square. Tourists stop for photos with Gassy Jack, and also love to visit the nearby Steam Clock, which puffs steam-powered chimes every 15 minutes. Because of its many heritage and historic building, Gastown was designated a National Historic site in 2009.
Hidden behind the ornate Millennium Gate marks the entrance to the unique Chinatown area of the city (http://www.vancouver-chinatown.com/). This neighborhood features modern buildings amid many older ones dating from Victorian times. Signs at shops and restaurants are often written in Chinese characters, particularly along East Pender, Keefer, and Main streets – the main shopping areas. Local attractions include the pretty walled Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (http://vancouverchinesegarden.com/). This 15th Century Chinese Garden is listed by National Geographic as the World’s Top city Garden, modeled after a traditional garden from the Ming Dynasty. Also worth seeing is the Sam Kee Building. At barely two meters wide, it claims to be the narrowest office building in the world.
6. Canada Place
Located close to the port of Vancouver harbour front, Canada Place (http://www.canadaplace.ca/) is an iconic national landmark welcoming local residents, visitors and cruise ships to the West Coast. The unusual roof creates the impression of a huge sailing vessel. This architecturally remarkable structure is part cruise ship terminal, part convention center and hotel, and part hub for sightseeing bus tours. At the end of the pier, there are fantastic panoramic views. The nearby Olympic Torch (officially called the Olympic Cauldron, (http://www.vancouverconventioncentre.com/about-us/our-story/olympic-legacy) is a beautiful reminder of Vancouver hosting the 2010 winter games. Also nearby, Waterfront Station is a major transit hub with ferries departing for the public market at Lonsdale Quay (http://www.lonsdalequay.com/) in North Vancouver. Take the SeaBus to visit the Quay.
7. English Bay
Oceanfront English Bay (http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/english-bay-beach.aspx) centers on one of the city’s loveliest and busiest beaches. Part of the West End neighborhood, English Bay offers shopping and high-end restaurants, but is also a popular outdoor area where people come to walk, bike, rollerblade, or hang out with the public art installations. Located right off of Davie Street and Denman Street, the beach is easily accessible. The Seawall (http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/seawall.aspx) runs along the English Bay area, making it’s way over into Stanley Park.
8. Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art
Located in the heart of downtown and nearby Canada Line SkyTrain, this public gallery (www.billreidgallery.ca/) is easily accessible and home to unique Contemporary Aboriginal Art of the Northwest Coast. Named after the acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid (1920 – 1998), the Gallery display’s Simon Fraser University’s Bill Reid Collection alongside special exhibitions of contemporary Northwest Coast Art. Highlights include stunning gold and silver jewelry, monumental sculptures and a towering totem pole by James Hart of Haida Gwaii. The Gallery Shop is a great place for Northwest Coast gifts, including hand-crafted jewelry and uniquely designed accessories.
Getting out of the City Center:
9. Capilano Suspension Bridge
Vancouver’s first tourist attraction opened in 1889 and has been thrilling visitors with its swaying bridge over a plummeting canyon ever since. The footbridge (https://www.capbridge.com/) spans a 70-meter deep river canyon leading to an activity park filled with forest trails and a treetop walk through old-growth giants. There’s also a collection of totem poles, a series of connecting bridges called TreeTops Adventures and a transparent suspended platform known as the Cliffwalk. Convenient shuttles run from downtown Vancouver.
10. Grouse Mountain
11. Whistler Mountain