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AAA Traveler Worldwise | International
7 Must-See Sights in Vancouver

BRITISH COLUMBIA’S MOST POPULOUS CITY OFFERS A PLETHORA OF SIGHTSEEING AND ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS

Pacific Northwest scenery, quaint seaside neighborhoods, cosmopolitan culture and a European vibe set the tone in Vancouver, British Columbia. The city’s nature-centric attractions, diverse restaurants and artsy communities can easily keep you exploring for several days, making it an ideal pre- or post-excursion for an Alaska cruise or a rail journey on the Rocky Mountaineer.

These top attractions are just some of the reasons why Vancouver is consistently ranked among the world’s most beautiful and livable cities.

Stanley Park in VancouverStanley Park; Photo courtesy of Destination Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic

1. STANLEY PARK
Central Park is to New York City what Stanley Park is to Vancouver, only the latter is larger and covered with Talking Totems and cedar and Douglas fir trees. Located on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations, the 1,000-acre attraction is an oasis in the heart of downtown Vancouver where locals and visitors hike, run, bike or simply hang out on its 6.6-mile seawall trail. You can also take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the rainforest, beaches and gardens scattered around the waterfront park.

To learn about the historical significance of the region, take a guided walking tour with an indigenous guide who identifies sacred flora found at the park and tells fascinating stories of their link to food, medicine, art and technology in native culture. You’ll gain strength by resting against the sacred red cedar tree, aka the tree of life, according to indigenous beliefs.

Granville Island Public MarketGranville Island Public Market; Photo by Heidi/stock.adobe.com

2. GRANVILLE ISLAND PUBLIC MARKET
From downtown, hop on a passenger ferry across False Creek to Granville Island, a cultural gathering spot bustling from dawn to dusk. The public market attracts top chefs, restaurateurs and home cooks, who shop directly from gourmet food producers and purveyors from around British Columbia. Browse through 300 stores selling fresh produce, specialty jams, chocolates, cheeses, wine and coffee, as well as art, jewelry, home accessories and more.

For lunch, choose from among some 40 restaurants and pubs in and around the market. Indulge in a basket of fish-and-chips from Celine’s, a pint of beer from Granville Island Brewing Company and a famous honey-glazed chocolate cake donut from Lee’s Donuts. Outside the market, take a seat at a bench overlooking the water, where you can people-watch and listen to the buskers.

Capilano Suspension Bridge ParkCapilano Suspension Bridge Park; Photo by Larry Gibson/stock.adobe.com

3. CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE PARK
Open since 1883, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park with its series of bridges, viewing platforms and suspended walkways is a fun way to see the area’s rainforest and canyons. The full experience will get your heart pumping as you walk 450 feet across and 230 feet above fern- and fir-filled canyons and the Capilano River. You’ll feel like a bird floating above the forest canopy. In addition to the bridge, the park features First Nations cultural displays, birds of prey demonstrations, and informative guides who talk about preservation and conservation.

VanDusen Botanical GardenVanDusen Botanical Garden; Photo by Snehit Photo/stock.adobe.com

4. VANDUSEN BOTANICAL GARDEN
Learn about native British Columbia flora at this 55-acre public garden filled with 3,000 cedars and more than 7,500 plant species. Start at the stunning visitor center, where the earth-toned wooden roof mimics an orchid from the air. Then, step outside to see stone sculptures, an Elizabethan hedge maze, a serene Japanese garden, a picturesque lake and carved story poles. The outdoor oasis is open year-round, and you’ll find vibrant blooms in every season, from pink and white cherry blossoms in spring to aromatic roses in summer to fiery-gold Ginkgo trees in fall. Have a picnic with freshly made sandwiches or locally inspired entrées from The Garden Café in the visitor center, or linger on for an elegant dinner at Shaughnessy Restaurant at the Garden Pavilion.

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese GardenDr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden; Photo courtesy of Destination BC/Tanya Goehring

5. CHINATOWN
Vancouver’s most iconic neighborhood, Chinatown—a National Historic Site of Canada—is a must-visit for its variety of architectural styles, dialects and eateries. Highlights include the first Chinese garden built outside Asia and the new Chinese Canadian Museum.

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is named in honor of Sun Yat-sen, considered the father of modern China. Many of the plants were imported from Suzhou, China, and the garden design is based on feng shui and Taoist philosophies of harmony and balance. Walk down winding paths across an intricate bridge to a pagoda, watch the koi swimming in the lily-filled pond, and find perspective in the 150-year-old miniature trees. You can even book a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and join one of the special events, such as a Tai Chi class or a dumpling-making workshop.

The Chinese Canadian Museum, opened this past July, is located in the Wing Sang Building, Chinatown’s oldest structure, originally built in 1889. Here, you can learn about Canada’s Chinese immigrants, beginning with the migrant workers of the 19th century who built the Canadian Pacific Railway. Take a guided tour or browse through thousands of preserved documents, photographs and art on your own.

Museum of North VancouverMuseum of North Vancouver; Photo by Brett Hitchins/Museum of North Vancouver

6. MUSEUM OF NORTH VANCOUVER
At the Museum of North Vancouver (MONOVA) at the Lonsdale Shipyards, you’ll discover the history of this suburb nestled across the Burrard Inlet from downtown, on traditional Coast Salish territory. Included in the exhibits are more than 9,000 artifacts from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations that tell stories of the communities that make this city so diverse. Check out the powerful cedar carving Two Sisters by Squamish carver Wade Baker, based on the legend of how the twin peaks overlooking Vancouver came to be.

Science World in VancouverScience World; Photo courtesy of Destination Vancouver/Vision Event Photography Inc.

7. SCIENCE WORLD
It’s hard to miss the massive geodesic dome glimmering on the Vancouver skyline. If curiosity draws you into Science World, you may be able to watch a sustainability-themed science show, meet a scientist, or ignite your wonder for science and nature. Travelers with a sense of discovery will love the interactive exhibits with baffling illusions, puzzle tables, and problem-solving and tinkering spaces at this nonprofit science, technology, engineering, art and math attraction. The adjacent Creekside Park amps up the fun with a zip line, a giant tube slide, a climbing tower and picnic areas. Many of the park’s features are accessible to children with mobility challenges.

Vancouver’s public transportation system makes it easy to reach most attractions by bus. With its temperate weather, clean air and festive atmosphere, this big city with a green heart delivers a great mix of cultural education, outdoor pursuits and culinary delights to explore at your own pace.

Vietnamese street food at Do ChayVietnamese street food at Do Chay; Photo by Sucheta Rawal

VANCOUVER ON A PLATE
Vancouver’s diversity lends itself to globally inspired cuisines at various price points offered at venues ranging from food trucks and markets to trendy bistros and Michelin-reviewed restaurants. Take your palate on a culinary journey at Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro, the city’s only indigenous restaurant, which uses ingredients sourced from native producers. Savor locally foraged ingredients and Scandinavian-inspired cooking in a plant-filled solarium at Published on Main, or indulge in an elegant Chinese tasting menu at the Michelin-starred Quanjude.

With three locations across Canada, Okeya Kyujiro offers a memorable Japanese omakase experience. If you are looking for an exclusive plant-based restaurant, Do Chay highlights a modern take on classic street foods from Vietnam paired with creative cocktails. Exceptional cocktails and small plates have earned accolades for Suyo Modern Peruvian. Bar Susu has a great collection of sustainable wines and innovative seasonal fare. For late-night eats during the summer months, check out Richmond Night Market, the largest night market in North America.