Read about our first impressions from Vancouver in Vancouver: Travel Guide.
After more than 3 years and countless trips, we discovered Vancouver as a quite unique mix, such rare for metropolitans – a vibrant and dynamic city culture combined with an outdoor paradise. Mountains in the morning and beach time in the afternoon? You got it!
Did you know Vancouver is one of the greenest cities in the world? It also has the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path (28km long!).
This is part one of a two-part article of our most beloved places and things to do in Vancouver. In this part:
- Where and how to see the best of Vancouver in 2 hours
- Bridge over the 50-meter deep gorge and Canadians cliff diving
- Swimmer’s dream pool
- Downtown: how come so many skyscrapers look so empty
- Gastown: Victorian houses and high-pitched whistle
- Oasis of Ukrainian culture in Vancouver
- Bloedel Conservatory
- Stanley Park Railway
- Summertime experience
Vancouver Seawall: Stunning Place to Bike/Walk/Stroll for Hours along the Pacific Ocean
Vancouver Seawall is a stone wall that was constructed to prevent erosion of the Stanley Park and nearby area by the Pacific Ocean. The most precious thing about the Seawall – dedicated, clearly marked paths for walkers and for cyclists. The trails are mostly flat, easy to navigate, and accessible.
If you only have a few hours in Vancouver, then biking the Seawall is a great way to get a taste of the city, especially on a dry sunny day. You can add a stop at the rose garden, the beach, the heated oceanfront pool, a playground or the splash park to your trip along the Seawall.
Expect an exceptional scenery of the Downtown Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean, locals fishing, occasional cruise ships passing by, and a rich salty breeze.
In the gallery below, some of the attractions along the Vancouver Seawall:
- Brockton Point Lighthouse,
- Siwash Rock with a lone tree standing on top,
- Girl in a Wetsuit,
- S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead Replica,
- Fox’s Den Splash Park and
- Second Beach Swimming Pool:
Lynn Canyon Park: Easy Hiking, Swimming, and Enjoying Nature
Lynn Canyon Park is a 617-acre forest that includes a scenic suspension bridge, swaying above 164 feet above the canyon, hiking trails, swimming holes, and the ecology center.
The first time we visited Lynn Canyon was in winter. We decided to trade the pricy Capilano Suspension Bridge for Lynn Canyon bridge and have not regretted it.
During the summer months, you may observe fearless locals cliff jumping into the 90-foot pool.
In the gallery below: view from the Lynn Canyon Bridge at the gorge down below, swimming hole, and new trees growing atop the old ones – something unique to the Pacific Northwest forests.
The water in the swimming hole is so clear and so deep that it seems like the tiny fishes float there like in the air!
Other favorite and easy hikes with great scenery: Capilano Canyon, Quarry Rock.
Kitsilano Pool: One of the Most Scenic Outdoor Saltwater Pools
As avid swimmers and “bathers”, we are always curious about local pools during our trips. Kits Pool (as locals call it) became one of my favorites – I swam my first 1.5 km in one shot there. I think the pool lengths played a big role in this personal achievement – Kitsilano Pool happened to be the longest I’ve ever tried – 137 meters (150 yards). It is the longest North America’s pool, heated and oceanfront.
Another cool outdoor pool in Vancouver to try is the Second Beach Pool, overlooking the English Bay, city coastline, and mountains.
Surrounded by water, airy and bright, with slender glass-walled towers, Downtown Vancouver is hard to mistake with any other place.
When you walk the streets of Downtown Vancouver for the first time, you may wonder why some of the tall condo towers look empty. That’s because more than 10% of apartments are indeed vacant. They were bought as investments (predominantly by reach Asians) and nobody lives there.
On the streets of Downtown Vancouver:
Vancouver Harbour Seaplane Terminal: not as in Anchorage, Alaska, but as close as it could be:
Gastown Clock: Listen to It Steam and Whistle to Tell the Time
Gastown, now a National Historic Site, was the original city center. Today, it is adjacent to Downtown Vancouver and is a great place to spend an afternoon: wander through old streets lined with Victorian houses and listen to the steam-powered clock.
Gastown Clock was built in 1977 as a way to harness the steam in the heating system and to prevent homeless people from freezing on the streets during winter. Distinct by high-pitched whistle and steam, it is an amusement for both kids and adults.
Kozak Ukraїnian Eatery: Authentic Eastern European Cuisine in Downtown Vancouver
It must be hard to promote Ukrainian cuisine at such a heavily influenced Asian food scene as in Vancouver. Nevertheless, with hard work and dedication, “Kozak” made it. Recognizable and loved by locals, foodie hubs with real Ukrainian cuisine are now open at East Vancouver and New Westminster locations and serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and baked goods:
Ukrainian comfort food, healthy, and simple: nalysnyky, varenyky, borscht, cabbage rolls, and sourdough bread:
Try the “Hungry Tato Lunch Combo” or “Dark Chocolate Babka” – it’s the one I couldn’t resist.
Bloedel Conservatory is a lush tropical garden and aviary under a dome atop Queen Elizabeth Park. Quite and serene, its humid air filled with bird songs and chirps: more than 230 birds call Bloedel Conservatory home. It’s a great escape on a rainy day, both for kids and adults.
Locals also know it as an intimate wedding venue.
The conservatory is a nice place to warm up on a cold, rainy day.
Stanley Park Railway: Old Vancouver Tradition
Stanley Park is the biggest recreational spot year-round for Vancouver residents. Among all attractions in the park, the Miniature Railway (dates back to 1947) is known mostly by locals.
During our first winter trip to Vancouver, the “Bright Nights” at Stanley Park Railway was the biggest highlight for our kids (2 and 7 y.o. back then). Despite visiting it during the day and without a train ride :). It is one of the best places I have ever seen to take little kids to see Christmas character displays and illuminations.
Although the entire place felt a little bit worn, it was very cozy and cheerful, even during the day.
The miniature railway has different seasonal themes: Ghost Train, Easter Fair, Urban Forest, and Bright Nights. Admission is by donation, all proceeds go to the BC Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
White Pine Beach, Belcarra Regional Park
Who knew it can be hot in Canada, especially at the beginning of summer? During our visit in the middle of June (2019) temperatures were around 30C (86F).
Our friends from Vancouver took us to Sasamat Lake – one of the warmest in the Vancouver area. It is a great swimming lake in the middle of the forest with a fine sandy beach, usually busy on weekends. A good place to hang out and watch locals.
Belcarra Regional Park is a huge, 2,700-acre park. I like the area at Belcarra Pier a lot. Waters here are calm and clear, with occasional sailing boats passing by. It’s a nice place to go kayaking, crabbing or watch the sunset. The scenery is beautiful!
There lots of trails at Belcarra Regional Park. One of the easiest ones is around Sasamat Lake (1.5 miles) has a cool, long floating bridge at the south end of the lake:
The typical picture at Sasamat Lake: parents relaxing, kids playing, Canada geese gosling looking around to snatch some food:
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next part!