The Outdoors, Dining and Shopping Add Up to Summer Fun in B.C.’s Liveliest City
When you spin the dial of where to go this summer to have fun in the sun, don’t discount fun in the city: Vancouver, B.C., to be specific. Not only is this shimmering metropolis filled with entertaining attractions—from Granville Islandto the VanDusen Botanical Garden, from Stanley Park to the Vancouver Aquarium—the City of Glass is framed by nature, with forests awaiting discovery, mountains to be hiked, scenic beaches awaiting picnics and Salish Sea waters ready for exploration on a hot summer’s day. Read on for 8 fresh ways to experience Vancouver this summer.
Surrounded by towering mountains, rivers and bays, Vancouver is a natural for adventure seekers. But you don’t have to be a risk-taker to enjoy this city’s adrenaline-inducing activities. New this summer on Grouse Mountain (above), only 5 miles from Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain Scenic Mountain Biking furnishes electric bikes for exploring lookouts and sky-high viewpoints on comfortably approachable trails. Grouse Mountain Ziplines features five lines, with each progressively longer—and zippier. And the thrills of crossing the venerable Capilano Suspension Bridge, 230 feet above the Capilano River, are magnified by the adjacent Cliffwalk, which ups the fear factor with a 700-foot-long, cliff-hugging walkway suspended over thin air (both of these attractions are only 3 miles north of Stanley Park).
New Dining and Entertainment
The Douglas, a boutique hotel in the sparkling new Parq Vancouver entertainment complex next to the BC Place Stadium, has a contemporary Northwest ambiance; the front desk, made of a massive Douglas fir log, is a showstopper, as its D/6 Bar & Lounge (above). While this hotel alone would ordinarily be a star attraction, it’s just one of the enticements at this massive new complex, which also includes JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and downtown’s only casino, plus five restaurants and three bars and lounges (try bright-and-cheerful Honey Salt for fresh local seafood and inventive salads and veggies, and 1886 for Chinese fine dining). Topping off the abundance of features here is a 30,000-square-foot rooftop park filled with native trees.
Summer and ice cream go hand in hand. Earnest Ice Cream, at four locations, churned up the city’s frozen desserts world when it opened in 2012 with small-batch, seasonal ice cream; try their whiskey hazelnut, matcha green tea or salted caramel flavors. Kitsilano boasts two new parlors: Rain or Shine uses seasonal, organic ingredients to craft its fresh delights, including honey lavender and blueberry balsamic flavors. And La Glace scoops ultra-rich French-style ice cream (with extra egg yolks and cream) and offers parfaits and pastries, including macarons, in a très élégant ice cream parlor. The ever-changing flavors here might include saffron nougatine (saffron-infused honey cream, orange blossom and toasted pistachios) or rosemary brûlée (caramel and rosemary cream with bittersweet buttered caramel).
Beaches Near Me
Vancouver’s sparkling bays and waterways are rimmed with sand beaches perfect for a picnic, sunbathing…or even a dip. English Bay Beach (above) sports golden sand and the perfect western aspect for sunbathing; just south, Sunset Beach offers yet more room to stretch out. In Stanley Park, Second Beach draws families to its immense, mostly shallow pool, and forest-embraced Third Beach is ideal for meditative pursuits, such as swimming in the sea and sunset-viewing. In Kits, Kitsilano Beach boasts gorgeous across-the-water views of the city, a heated, saltwater pool (Canada’s longest, at 450 feet) and an accessible playground.
Top City Walks
Vancouver is a stroller’s paradise, with waterways threaded with walking paths, and seascapes and mountain views from numerous vantage points. The 6-mile-long Stanley Park Seawall is the gold standard of Vancouver places to enjoy a walk (or bike ride—check out Spokes Bicycle Rentals). Start at the east side of Stanley Park Drive, by Coal Harbour, and look for the Brockton Point totem poles (above), the legend-bound Skalsh (Siwash) Rock, and numerous monuments, including the whimsical Girl in Wetsuit life-size bronze sculpture, on the north side. False Creek—really more of a bay—is lined with a scenic strolling path. Check out the extraordinary fountain at George Wainborn Park, or visit Habitat Island, a sweet, unexpected urban oasis. Whenever you feel like it, you can hop aboard a tiny pedestrian False Creek Ferry at any of a number of docks, to continue on to Granville Island or other spots around the basin.
Explore the Waterways
On a hot summer’s day, nothing beats getting out on the water in a boat. Since Vancouver is nearly surrounded by water, watersports are a natural fit. Among the best options are Vancouver Water Adventures, with scenic boat tours ranging from a zodiac excursion to Granite Falls to kayaking and Jet Ski tours, and Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres, which offers kayak tours and rentals at several locations.
Head for the Hills
Summer in Vancouver is all about the outdoors, and it’s easy to fit in a hike and an evening out on the town. For sky-high views, check out Thunderbird Ridge, an easy 3.7-mile hike from the gondola that carries you to the top of Grouse Mountain, with mountain and lake views, and Vancouver far below. Lighthouse Park (above), in West Vancouver, features trails threading through a cool forest of immense old-growth Western red cedar and Douglas fir trees, descending to granite outcroppings with broad views of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver; a short walk east of the lighthouse is a beach that’s perfect for picnicking. For more area hikes, visit vancouvertrails.com.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
With a favorable exchange rate, the question to ask isn’t whether to take time out from sunny activities to go shopping, it’s why wouldn’t you. Granville Island is tops for locally made art and handicrafts; South Granville shines with contemporary furnishings and home decor shops among its mix of designer clothing storefronts and galleries; and historic Gastown (above) is known for its independent fashion shops. But the hottest up-and-coming neighborhood is Main Street, a mecca for hipsters and cost-conscious fashion seekers, with a plethora of consignment shops and independent boutiques (mostly between 20th and 24th). Check out Smoking Lily for handcrafted garments with spunky prints (look for the narwhals); Front and Company consignment shop for a large, well-curated collection of designer brands; and Exposure Clothing for fashion-forward clothing at affordable prices. When you need a break, drop by Liberty Bakery, where buttery, Nordic-inspired cakes and cookies star in a delightful, whitewashed setting.
–Written by Leslie Forsberg
Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.
Call or visit your nearest AAA store for maps, guides and other travel-planning resources, including assistance from one of our expert Member Travel Counselors.