Vancouver Guide, British Columbia, Canada
Kitsilano beach in English Bay, one of the best of a dozen beaches in and around Vancouver. Photo by Rwerner.
Lion’s Gate Bridge into Vancouver at sunset. Photo by Tom Richards.
Vancouver is one of the best cities in Canada for arts, culture and waterside lifestyles, a peaceful relaxed place in a dramatic location at the junction of the Rocky Mountains, the Fraser River and the Pacific Ocean, spoilt only by the mostly dull architecture and frequent rain.
Winters are invariably wet in the city but nearby mountain snowfall is excellent and summers are warm with plenty of sports facilities, recreational areas and beaches available along the 16, 000 miles of British Columbia’s coastline. BC is English-speaking, a big plus for visiting Americans and Brits.
One of Canada’s best cities for arts, culture and outdoor lifestyles, Vancouver is a relaxed place in a dramatic location and constantly ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, especially if you are not allergic to rain.
In winter there is pretty good downhill and cross-country skiing around the peaks of Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour, just over half an hour away while the world-class activities resort of Whistler- Blackcomb is an easy 115km/2 hours drive north.
Halfway between Whistler and Vancouver the town of Squamish is a brilliant destination for mountain climbing and mountain biking on rainforest trails.
Downtown Vancouver, a surprisingly overbuilt and unappealing collection of high-rise buildings considering the eco-friendly, arty-farty, new-age-stoner, totally-chilled ambience that the local people exude (well, the Anglo-Saxon types, the Chinese are less relaxed). Photo by MagnusL3D.
Vancouver has a lively and creative ambience with plenty of sensational eating and drinking establishments, particularly in ex-Victorian Gastown and ex-industrial Granville Island. Granville is the place for an art attack, stroll around quaint shops, colourful market stalls, watch some street entertainment and eat fine street food.
Vancouver’s number one tourist night destination, Gastown, in winter, i. e. it’s typically pouring with rain while Grouse Mountain looming just 30 minutes away is as white as a sheet. Photo by Zzzenia.
Vancouver and nearby Vancouver Island (which includes British Columbia’s capital, Victoria) is one of Canada’s warmest and wettest urban zones in wintertime but coolest and driest in summertime.
Best season is July-September for summer activities, especially hiking and biking with much less rain and more sunshine than other months. Average high temperatures in Vancouver are about 22C (72F) and night lows of 13C (55F) at this time.
Winter season is best February-April for less rain but still great access to snowy landscapes and increasing sunshine. Average highs at this time range from 8C (46F) to 13C (55F) and lows from 2C (36F) to 6C (43F).
Squamish, Sea to Sky Gondola
A 60km drive north from downtown Vancouver en route for Whistler, the eight-seater Sea to Sky pods hurtle visitors 1, 920m past a 700m-high granite dome called Stawamus Chief, up Mount Habrich for a taste of some of British Columbia’s best panoramas. At the top there’s not only a useful lodge with all the facilities you would expect but also a scary 110m wood-and-cable suspension bridge provides easy access to the some new trails such as an easy 400m loop through high forest punctuated with information on local bird life and plants, while another 1. 6km route takes you deeper into the forest to a narrow viewing platform that angles from the cliff.
The dramatically mountainous area around the town of Squamish has attracted rock climbers and back country hikers for many years but it was only in 2014 that the new ski lift style ride was installed to help less hardy travellers to enter the heart of the wilderness. Time to get high!
Celebration of Light
Late July- early August is an explosive time in Vancouver as the four day Celebration of Light hits the English Bay part of town at 10pm. This wild pyro-musical fireworks competition is watched by up to half a million people each night. Best viewing points are English Bay, Kitsilano, Vanier Park and Jericho Beach.
Best sunset spot: from English Bay beach near Denman and Davie streets.
Vancouver Distances to west Canada destinations and USA.
Main Festivals in British Columbia
Mid April, World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Whistler, big snow and mad music combined!
June, Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Late July- early August, Vancouver’s four day Celebration of Light
July/August, Vancouver International Comedy Festival.
August, Victoria Fringe Festival, wacky theatre of all kinds.
End of August, Tofino Lantern Festival, Vancouver Island.
November, Whistler Winterstart Festival, carnival and events galore.