It's a daunting task to sum up the 360-degree beauty of Vancouver. To convey the snowy mountains, lush forests, and packed beaches. But wherever you travel in the city, the allure of Vancouver surrounds you.
Shop for spices in Main Street's Punjabi Market, discover First Nations art at the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus, or order a whole duck at a Chinatown restaurant. Festivals capitalize on the city's celebratory flair with a colorful spring Cherry Blossom Festival, massive Gay Pride Parade, and dazzling Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.
I've narrowed a Vancouver vacation down to 10 top experiences that make the city what it is. The focus is on the cultural richness and outdoor activities that define Vancouver and British Columbia.
Favorite Vancouver Vacation Experiences
1. Take in the views from a North Shore ski hill on a clear day. Three ski resorts -- Grouse Mountain, Seymour Mountain, and Cypress Mountain -- lie within 30 minutes of downtown. Other places that have fantastic views of the Vancouver skyline include the top of Little Mountain in Queen Elizabeth Park, the Lions Gate Bridge over Burrard Inlet, and the Vancouver Lookout, which is a 360-degree viewing area at the top of the downtown Harbour Centre tower.
2. Sip green tea in Chinatown. Then head to the stunningly serene Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, walk through the historic streets, or shop at the busy Chinatown night market on Keefer Street.
3. Shop for a picnic at the Granville Island Public Market, then head to Stanley Park or Queen Elizabeth Park to spread out a picnic blanket. The Lonsdale Quay Market is another great spot to stock up on gifts and picnic foods, plus it is close to mountain hiking trails like the Baden Powell Trail, the trails and suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon, and the hikes and fish hatchery at Capilano River.
4. Relax on a beach and still be in the city. From the famed Kitsilano Beach to breezy Third Beach and quiet Jericho Beach, visitors can enjoy a beach vacation while staying close to downtown hotels, attractions, and restaurants. Most Vancouver beaches are run by the city, although a citizen group oversees renowned nude beach, Wreck Beach. For wild beaches where you can see a storm roll in, you'll have to head over to Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino on Vancouver Island.
5. Rent a bicycle to venture along the seawalls in Stanley Park, False Creek, or the North Shore's Ambleside. The Stanley Park Seawall in particular has many historical, natural, and quirky sights to take in.
6. Visit a museum or gallery -- a perfect rainy day activity. Try the newer Beaty Museum at the University of British Columbia, the Museum of Vancouver in Kitsilano, or the downtown Vancouver Art Gallery. Or one of Vancouver's other top museums.
7. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the countless restaurants, cafés, and pubs around the city. Think sushi, street-side food trucks, and 100-mile menus. Be sure to try Pacific coast seafood specialties like salmon, halibut, and spot prawns.
8. Hike forest trails or cross a suspension bridge in Lighthouse Park, Lynn Canyon, and Mount Seymour Provincial Park.
9. Take a day trip to ski, paddle, raft, or hike in Whistler. Other popular areas for a day or weekend trip are Victoria on Vancouver Island, Harrison Hot Springs, and Squamish along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
10. Explore British Columbia. It's a big province, filled with mountains, ocean shores, ranch lands, and rivers. Be it a ferry trip to Vancouver Island, a winery tour through the Okanagan, or driving the Alaska Highway in the North, you'll discover plenty when you venture outside Vancouver.