Vancouver, Canada’s 3rd largest city and nestled by nature; its surrounded by mountains, framed by the ocean, home to forests, juxtaposed against tall skyscrapers. For visitors, you can experience lots of outdoor activities, cultural activities, and a vibrant food and craft beer scene. It truly is the best city to experience all Canada has to offer, in our humble opinion since we call this city home.

In this post, we share tips and information to help you plan a long weekend trip to Vancouver and experience things as locals do.

When to Visit:

You can visit year-round but we recommend May – October for the best weather unless you are coming here to ski. Check out Travel in British Columbia during COVID-19 for more information.

Getting Around:

Between transit, biking, Uber-Lyft-taxis, driving, scooter rentals, and walking, it is very easy to get around Vancouver with some planning.

Our favorite way to get around Vancouver is by walking; it is so easy and enjoyable to get around and we highly recommend planning to walk a lot, so pack some comfortable shoes! For more information about how to get around, check out our Planning: 10 Tips for Visiting Vancouver post, or leave a comment or send us an email to ask for advice.

Mobi Bike Share and the Sky Train by Commercial Drive
Mobi Bike Share and the Sky Train by Commercial Drive

Where to Stay:

If you are staying in Vancouver for a weekend trip, we recommend staying somewhere convenient like the downtown core. If you are renting a car, please note most hotels downtown charge about $40 per night for parking.

Downtown Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver

If you find a really good hotel deal, you can consider staying in Richmond and taking the Skytrain to downtown; a day pass costs $10.50 and it takes about 30-40 minutes of travel time each way. An Uber costs about $25 each way and takes about 30 minutes. If you are renting a car, most hotels do charge for parking in Richmond, about $20-$30 per night.

At the peak of summer travel in 2019, the going rate for most hotels was $300 for 3 star hotels, $400+ for 4 star hotels, and $500+ for 5 star hotels. Airbnbs varied too but a place to yourself was $200+. If you have points, you might want to consider using them towards hotel stays:

  • If you have Marriott Rewards points, we recommend the JW Marriott Parq located downtown by the Cambie Bridge. The rooms are super nice, the hotel has great amenities (gym, hot tub, spa), good in hotel dining options, and a convenient location.
  • If you have Hilton Honors points, we recommend the Hilton Downtown Vancouver (formerly the Westin Grand) by Robson Street. The rooms are comfortable, the hotel has great amenities (gym, outdoor pool, steam room, sauna), and the location is very convenient.
  • If you have World of Hyatt points, we recommend the Hyatt Regency Vancouver.  The rooms are comfortable, the hotel has some amenities (gym and outdoor pool), and the location is very convenient.
  • If you have Best Western Rewards points, we recommend the Best Western Plus Uptown Hotel. The rooms are basic but comfortable, the hotel has some amenities (gym and outdoor courtyard) and the location is convenient (not downtown but in quieter Mount Pleasant). 

Things to Do:

There are lots of things to do in Vancouver and we will share some itineraries based on how we’ve sent some really fun days here!

Will run/bike for brunch and beer – Downtown and the North Shore:

  • Start off the day by grabbing a coffee and some sustenance somewhere; we recommend local coffee chain JJ Bean for coffee and one of their breakfast wraps and/or a salted caramel crackle cookie.
  • Make quick stops at:
    • The Digital Orca by the Vancouver Convention Centre. The Digital Orca is a public installation by local artist Douglas Coupland of a pixel orca set against the backdrop of the mountains, ocean and Stanley Park.
    • The Marine Building to see the unique lobby in one of Vancouver’s historical buildings.
  • Next, make your way to Stanley Park to either walk, run, or cycle (you can rent a bike) the 10 km ocean-side path through a West Coast rainforest. You’ll get great views of Coal Harbour, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, trees, sea life, all while getting a great workout.
  • Head back to your hotel to freshen up before heading out for brunch to one of the many spots downtown. We recommend Café Medina for Mediterranean inspired options. Or you can head straight to the North Shore by taking the Sea Bus from Waterfront Station or driving across.
  • If you like craft beer, we recommend spending the afternoon checking out the breweries/winery on the North Shore (recommend you take the Sea Bus then to avoid driving). Our favorites are: House of Funk, North Point, Beere, Black Kettle (they have chicken wings), Cerveceria Astilleros (they have tacos), Green Leaf, and Garden of Granite Winery. If you’re hungry, some of the breweries offer food and there are restaurants in the Shipyards area as well as at Lonsdale Market: The Soup Meister, Bowen Island Pizza, and Farina a Legna are a few options.
  • If you are not too tired from the morning’s jaunt, we recommend a few other trails to experience West Coast rainforest, like the Cleveland Dam Trail or even Lynn Valley Canyon. The Capilano Suspension Bride is also a popular tourist attraction. You could also go to Deep Cove and rent a kayak (much quieter than False Creek) if you want to spend time on the water.
  • By this point, you are probably tired and we recommend heading back downtown. If you are still hungry and thirsty, a few casual options with good food and drinks are Mumbai Local, Tacofino, Nuba , DD Mau Chinatown and The Magnet. Or a takeout pizza from Straight Outta Brooklyn is never a bad idea.

Urban Hike with food, beer, cocktails, and shopping – Granville Island/False Creek and Mount Pleasant:

  • Take a walk to Granville Island or walk to an Aqua Bus Ferry stop to take a short boat ride to Granville Island. You can grab coffee and a bite to eat from one of the many vendors here, as well as buy produce, cured meats, cheese, and artisanal local products. Yes, this is also where you come to wait in line for the famous Lee’s Donuts as seen in “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner” with David Chang and Seth Rogen.  Our favorites on Granville Island are: JJ Bean for coffee, Terra Breads for breads and other baked goods, Benton Brothers Cheese for cheese, Oyama Sausage Co for cured meats, Sen Pad Thai for Thai food, Popina Cantina for tacos, and we highly recommend the sake tasting at Artisan Sake Maker (locally made sake).
  • After you have enjoyed Granville Island Public Market, head east on the Seawall down False Creek towards Olympic Village and Mount Pleasant. You will walk for about 40 minutes before reaching Mount Pleasant. We recommend spending time checking out the murals painted as part of Vancouver Mural Festival. As you check out the murals, we also recommend visiting the breweries, restaurants, cafes and shops around too. Here are some of our favorites:

Other Ideas:

Depending on how much time you have, you may want to consider the following activities:

  • University of British Columbia Campus Museums: After visiting Granville Island, if you don’t feel like heading to Mount Pleasant, take the bus or get a ride to UBC Point Grey Campus to visit their museums/gardens: there is a botanical garden with a tree top canopy walk and the Museum of Anthropology which has a focus on First Nations people and special exhibits. Plan for about 4-6 hours.
  • Yeast Van Breweries: If you are not already beered out, it is worth a visit to the Yeast Van Breweries. Our favorites are:  Strange Fellows is our favorite for their beer and snacks, Andina because they have delicious ceviches too, Container for their beers and they often have food trucks, Luppolo for their beer and pizza, and Parallel 49 for their patio. Plan for a few hours but depends on how many breweries you visit. We like to arrive for opening on nice sunny days as everything gets very busy.
  • Four Winds Brewing for Beer and Tacos: Four Winds is located about 40 minutes away in Delta but it is worth the drive to enjoy their tacos and beer…it really is our favorite place! If you are heading this way, make a stop in Steveston to check out the quaint fishing village. You can also head to Iona Jetty Park to walk/run the jetty for a workout while you watch airplanes land at YVR Airport. Plan for 2.5- 5 hours depending on stops you add.
  • Take a drive out to Chilliwack to visit Lindeman Lake: If you want to visit one of those aqua glacier lakes, Lindeman Lake is one of the easiest ones to access if you don’t want to complete a long and very difficult hike. We recommend stopping at Farmhouse Brewing for pizza and beer on their outdoor patio with a nice view of the mountains. Plan for a day trip.
  • Visit Whistler for the day or overnight: Whistler is about a 2 hour drive from Vancouver and it is nice to spend a day exploring the village and surroundings. Adventure seekers will also find activities year-round: skiing, mountain biking, hiking, etc. The Scandinave Spa is a must-do for those who enjoy hydrotherapy: with hot and cold baths and massages, it’s a relaxing place to rejuvenate after a hike. Plan for a day trip or overnight.

This is more or less a list of our favorite things to do in the Vancouver area! Have a look at our post for more information as this post was not done in itinerary format but also has useful information to visit Vancouver.

Is there anything else you want to know about Vancouver?

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