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Things to do in and around Vancouver

  • Submitted by: David Dalton
  • Submission Date: 11th Feb 2005

Long Day or Weekend Trips

go to Whistler, a local ski resort town 3 hours away. On the way there or back, stop off at an oceanside park (Lighthouse?) for a great view of Howe sound. Also go hiking at Garibaldi park and Panorama ridge, or Black Tusk (slightly harder). You can also get helicopter (or even heli-ski) tours from Whistler or Vancouver.
take a ferry ride on a nice day to the Sunshine coast, one of the Gulf Islands, or even Vancouver Island. You can also get a cruise ship ferry from/to Seattle to/from the island, and this might be very scenic. There are also boat cruises of varying lengths, including one to the Queen Charlottes, another to Alaska, and many smaller ones. There is also a combination train/boat tour up the coast on the Royal Hudson/Queen Victoria --- you go by boat one way and train the other way. See the Vancouver Island/Victoria section at the end of the file for more detail on ferries.
Go to the Okanagan Valley, especially during the Penticton Peach festival or Kelowna regatta, and sample the local fruit and wine and the best weather in Canada.
Drive to Harrison Hot Springs.
Drive to Manning park, especially during cross-country ski season.
Go to Golden Ears Provincial Park.
Many regional parks, such as Belcarra, Minnekhada, are also recommended.
visit Victoria and Vancouver Island, especially Long Beach Go whale watching (this might take longer), near Tofino and Uluwet? There may be excursions from Vancouver as well. This is seasonal. Hiking the West Coast Trail is also recommended (I haven't done it). While in Victoria, have tea at the Empress hotel, check out Harpo's for live music. The Royal Theatre is supposed to be nice, too. See the Vancouver Island/Victoria section at the end of this file for more detail on drives, walks, ferries, etc.

Shorter Trips and Sights

Many of these are suitable for walking or walk/bus combination.
Visit Stanley park, walk, jog or cycle (rentable) around the seawall, and visit the Vancouver Aquarium and one of several fine restaurants in the park. There is a petting zoo and artists have work on display, and do sketches on demand. Short bus trips (10 minutes) take you from downtown core to Stanley Park--buses also go around the park in summertime, with frequent trips, pickup and dropoff at many points so you can walk and ride. Also spend some time at Second Beach.
Go to Grouse Mountain, hike up (difficult) or ride the Skyride for a good view. On the way there or the way back stop at the Capilano suspension bridge. Also, visit Cypress bowl. Lynn Canyon also has a suspension bridge. The Capilano salmon hatchery is near the Capilano suspension bridge and has tours. If you want to turn this into a longer day trip, go north and visit the shores of the Campbell river (good for fishing). Of course, in season you can also do some skiing on Grouse.
Visit the University of British Columbia (4,10,41,25,some 9 buses):
walk some of the surrounding trails,
visit the main botanical gardens and nearby Asian garden. (On the last day of classes, usually the first Friday in April, there is a noon-8 benefit concert in the nearby football stadium with some top-notch Canadian bands. The AMS BBQ, with good local bands, may also be held in the stadium on the first Friday of classes in September. Lollapalooza and the Canada Day Party are often held there too, during the summer (mid-June? and July 1). I think gardens are free on Wednesdays, but maybe not during the tourist season. Free for (UBC?) students.
see the UBC art gallery in the basement of Main library, and an occasional exhibit in the AMS art gallery on the main floor of the SUB building (near bus loop)
stop at the Nitobe Japanese garden for a moment of contemplation. Also see the nearby Asian centre. [The gardens were just renovated and re-opened Apr93 they may be free on Wednesdays. Free for UBC students.]
definitely visit the world class Museum of Anthropology and go behind it for the view. Bill and Boris were here.
drop into the grad centre for refreshments (and usually live music Fridays around 8:00 p.m.). During the spring and summer, service is Koerner's Pub/Patio, open M-F from noon to midnight. This is directly across the road from the Museum of Anthropology, and can be accessed either by walking through the trees or going around the building to the main entrance. During the regular term there should be full service in Thea's. The view is nicer from Thea's (2nd floor) or the Penthouse balcony (third floor) but it gets too hot in the summer. No minors. Near the grad centre, just past the Faculty Club, there is a nice view point, and a beautiful Rose Garden. [However, this has just been uprooted to prepare for installing an underground parking garage. The garden will then be replanted on top.]
on a nice summer day, go to the nearby clothing-optional Wreck beach if you like. Casual environment, vendors selling food, drinks, t-shirts, haircuts, massages, drugs, etc. All types. There is a busy main area, but there are more secluded areas. This has been a nude beach for about 20 years. [The old path through the Place Vanier residences has been blocked off by a fence, so people going to the beach from the bus loop will have to take a more indirect route, to the left or right (near the grad centre) of the residences.]
Also check the Music building for occasional lunchtime or evening recitals, or the Freddy Wood theatre for occasional theatre runs. There are also live rock bands outside SUB most good weather lunchtimes, and live rock bands Thursday night in the Pit Pub in the basement of the SUB. The Gallery Lounge on the main floor of the SUB also has live music Wed.--Sat.
There are free campus tours, starting in the Student Union Building, during the summer, but they probably don't hit all the places I mentioned. The SUB also has several eating and two drinking establishments and a movie theatre.
Visit Queen Elizabeth park, Van Dusen Gardens and the Bloedel conservatory. Minter Gardens and Fantasy Gardens may also be of interest to some. Queen's Park (Burnaby) is also nice. Simon Fraser University (Burnaby mountain) has interesting architecture. Queen Elizabeth park has a good restaurant Seasons in the Park (ask Bill Clinton or Boris Yeltsin--they liked it, [but they brought in the chef from Bishop's]) and possibly the best night-time view of Vancouver from Vancouver-- no need to go up any mountains, just the top of the park.
Visit the main Vancouver Art Gallery, downtown, and a host of smaller art galleries downtown, on Granville Island and South Granville. These are listed in the final issue of the month of the Georgia Straight, since the first Thursday of each month there is a showcase (but many of the shows continue for a while). The other (weekly) Georgia Straight issues have a smaller listing. There is also a new craft gallery attached to the Cathedral Place building, downtown.
Visit Granville Island, sample food from the public market, check the Arts Club Theatres and Waterfront theatre, numerous art galleries, and lots of touristy shops and restaurants. Also tour the Granville Island brewery and get some free samples. The Arts Club Backstage Lounge has a good beer selection, food, and some really good bands on weekend nights, plus a patio for the daytime.
Visit Gastown (near downtown) and check out many touristy shops, several bars and restaurants, and several art galleries. See the famous steam clock. Also, Harbour Centre (nearby, at the SFU downtown campus) has a tower with an observation deck. (But someone recommends going to the restaurant for a coffee instead.)
Visit the Vancouver Museum and Vancouver Maritime Museum and Heritage Harbour, and the nearby Kits beach. For sunsets go to Sunset beach in English bay (downtown) or Wreck beach (at UBC). Vanier Park (at the Museums) hosts kite-flying festivals and a children's festival, and sometimes there is live music there or at Jericho. It is also a good vantage point to view the fireworks festival. The planetarium, which has educational and laser rock shows, is in the same building as the main museum. The Planetarium-Museum also has a good gift shop and is a 10 minute bus ride from downtown. Vanier Park is a great walking park on the water with kite flying, boats, views of the downtown area, etc.
Visit the second largest Chinatown in North America. It is close to Gastown. Check out the restaurants, Chinese bakeries, exotic food stores, and colourful streets. However, it is not far from a seedy area (along Hastings, near and east of Main) that should probably be avoided after dark. The On-On Tea Garden is very good, fast, and reasonably priced. For very good fish and chips, go to the Only, nearby on Hastings, west of Main (closes at 7 p.m.). It also has lots of more expensive seafood, including good oysters. Chinatown has a huge selection of chinese goods, and feels like a small piece of Hong Hong. There are also smaller chinese malls in the suburbs, including the Aberdeen mall in Richmond. There are many chinese movie theatres, herbal shops, and traditional medicine practitioners. On a hot sunny day, take a book to the Dr. SunYatSen gardens in the Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown. They also have Tai Chi classes, I think.
Go to Richmond (near the airport) and visit Steveston, eat fish and chips, and walk or cycle along the Richmond dike (I haven't done this). Also do some beachcombing along the White Rock beach.
Visit Science World in the geodesic dome near downtown.
For architecture (Vancouver doesn't have much since it is new), see Hotel Vancouver, Cathedral Place, Science World, SFU campus, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the Vancouver Planetarium, the Expo site re-development, the UBC Asian centre, the Hong Kong bank building lobby, Chinatown, the Chinese Cultural centre, the world's narrowest office building, an earthquake resistant building on a pedestal, another suspended from a cable. The Vancouver courthouse/art gallery (downtown, near Robson Square) may also be of interest.
Walk down Robson Street between Granville and Bute any night around 9:00 pm. The place and time to see and be seen, especially for young teens (including gangs), the fashion conscious, flashy sports cars (don't drive, it's a gridlock), boom boxes, buskers. OK if you like that scene.
Other nature stuff: hiking (there is a book called `101 hikes in the Lower Mainland'), diving, windsurfing, ocean kayaking, whale watching, rock climbing, cycling, kite flying in Vanier Park, downhill skiing at Whistler, Blackcomb, Grouse, Seymour, cross-country skiing at Cypress bowl or Manning Park, telemark skiing on backcountry trails,...
Kid's parks, etc: Playland has rides, near the PNE, for much of the summer. There is a Flintstone Bedrock City, a Game Farm, lots of waterslides, and plenty of children's attractions at some of the above-mentioned parks (Stanley, Queen's, Fantasy, etc.).


(some mentioned already:
south/west side beaches, listed E-->W
Kits Beach --- young neon crowd, beach volleyball, muscle, bodies. I don't think you can walk on the beach from Kits to Jericho, but have to leave the beach and go back on the road
Jericho Beach --- sailing, wind-surfing, family crowds
Locarno Beach --- family/residential beach. Steep hill.
Spanish Banks East/West --- mix of family crowd and younger set The tide goes out REALLY far here, can walk halfway across, or so it seems, at lowest tide. Or maybe Locarno.
Tower Beach --- secluded beach between Spanish and Wreck, rocky, has some fishers hauling in nets.
Wreck Beach --- nude beach at UBC campus. To the left of the main trail is the commercial, busy area. To the right are some more secluded areas.
Downtown/Spanish Banks beaches

Sunset Beach/English Bay. great view.
Second Beach. Stanley Park. also others.
Walk down Commercial Street in the afternoon starting at 1st avenue and heading North. Continue to the waterfront and watch grain being loaded on ships, fish packing , etc., if you like that.
The world trade centre, Pacific Place, Canada Place. The Canadian Pavillion during Expo 86, this area is still worth a visit and hosts many conventions, special events including Canada Day (July 1) celebrations.
Take Sky Train, Sea Bus, between Lonsdale Quay and New Westminster Quay. (Also see the Transit section for more detail).

Entertainment and Food:

Dance, theatre, movies etc.: check up-to-date listings in the Georgia Straight, which comes out every Thursday, is free, and can be found at many bars, record stores, 7-Elevens and Macs (24-hour food stores), drugstores, etc; or check the Thursday Vancouver Sun (Friday for movie reviews). The Sun has movie listings daily. The Hollywood, Starlight, Park, Paradise, Pacific Cinematheque, Varsity, UBC SUB films have the cheapest and/or best fare. Tickets for most major events can be charged by phone at (604) 280-4444. The film festival is in the early Fall at many of the above venues. Also see my festival list below. There are Omnimax theatres at Canada Place and at Science World.
Music: again, check the Georgia Straight, which is by far the best entertainment guide, for up-to-date listings, but here are some venues. Again, major concerts can be charged by phone at (604) 280-4444, but this will cost you a service charge, so it is often cheaper to get tickets at local record stores or at the door. [The Discorder monthly has more alternative band info. Terminal City, bi-weekly, is intermediate in tone, has more on the local and Washington state scene than the Straight, but is relatively new. The Thursday Vanouver Sun also has some space-limited info.]
classical and opera --- see what's on at the Orpheum, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, Vancouver East Cultural Centre, or UBC Music Department recital hall.
folk music --- the Vancouver Folk Festival is in late July. In the meantime, see what's playing at the W.I.S.E. Hall, 1882 Adanac, which puts on Rogue Folk Club events, plus Acoustic Connection events and monthly country dances and Irish ceilis. Call 736-3022 or 254-5858 for listings. Also, the Railway, ANZA club, Vancouver East Cultural centre and UBC grad centre often have concerts. For Irish music, go to the Blarneystone, the Unicorn, or the W.I.S.E. (Also, Luka Bloom plays the Commodore on Apr. 1.) [The Carribean Cafe in New Westminster has some Newfoundland Nights]
jazz --- the jazz festival is in mid-July. The best venues in the meantime are the Glass Slipper, Cafe Django, Alma Street Cafe, Cafe Bergman, Carnegie's, and sometimes the Commodore. [Also, the Hot Jazz Club?, may be members only.] The best part of the jazz festival is the free outdoor concerts in the Plaza of Nations, in Gastown, and on Granville Island. [New: Glass Slipper is moved to a former church with great acoustics, call for the new address (not in 1993 phone book). Hollywood North has some jazz.]
blues --- check out the Yale, especially the Sat. afternoon and Sunday night jams. However, this, and the Hotel California, are in a seedy area of town, at least after dark. Other blues bars include: Maximum Blues Pub, Hogan's Alley, Jake O'Grady's, the Fairview, Holywood North, the Lamplighter and sometimes the Arts Club Backstage lounge or the Commodore. Also the Rattlesnake Grill for acoustic dinner blues and the W.I.S.E. lounge, 1882 Adanac, west entrance, Sunday jam 4--8 for acoustic.
rock --- local and touring acts: Railway Club (intimate), Commodore (biggest in town, best dance floor), Town Pump, 86 Street. With the right band, the Commodore is my favourite, else the Railway Club is the best place, except it sometimes gets too smokey. To get into the Railway Club, just say you are a guest, meeting a member, and give my name if necessary. Else, just say you are a tourist in town for a few days, or tip, and they should let you in. Major touring acts play the PNE Coliseum, BC Place Stadium, or the Orpheum. [Update: 86 Street is now (Mar93) at least temporarily an all-ages gig. Other new clubs include the Hungry Eye, Cruel Elephant, Lunatic Fringe, Vogue, etc.]
Latin American --- check out La Quena, and the Latin Connection, and other places on Commercial Street, which also has lots of very good Italian restaurants and coffee bars and Latin American restaurants.
reggae --- Wed. nights at Graceland
metal --- Rock Cellar,...
Alternative, punk, house, hiphop, rave --- Cruel Elephant (live bands, some normal), Luv-a-Fair, Warehouse, Graceland, Twilight Zone.
Dance bars frequented by young UBC students --- UBC Pit pub, the Roxy, Notorious, Kits Pub, the Side Door... [Update: Pit has live music Thursday nights]
Upscale dress code dance bars --- Richards on Richards, the Big Bam Boo, the Big Easy, Soft Rock Cafe, Shenanigans, Pelican Bay...
Pubs with good beer --- Culpepper's, Cheshire Cheese, UBC Grad Centre (has patio, in summer open M--F 1 p.m.--12, possibly more, phone 822-8954), Railway Club (more in rear bar), W.I.S.E. club, the King's Head, Blarneystone, the Jolly Taxpayer, Unicorn, Fringe, Fog and Suds (trendy), Jeremiah's, Jolly Taxpayer.
Pubs with good view: I think on top of the Pan Pacific there is a good one, and also in another hotel, on Denman.
comedy clubs --- Yuk Yuk's
piano bars --- O'Ryan's (Gastown), O'Doul's, others in hotels.
My favourites --- Railway, W.I.S.E., Yale, Commodore, UBC grad centre, Town Pump, Blarneystone, Jolly Taxpayer. The UBC grad centre pub has a nice patio and is near the Museum of Anthropology and Wreck Beach.
after hours --- The World. cab should know. near Seymour and Pacific. All-ages. Railway Club doorman or cabs may know other places or raves. [Also new place: 303 W. Hastings.] For regular bars, the W.I.S.E. members lounge, Railway and Fairview will serve you right up until 2 and don't kick you out until around 2:30.
cafe/bar/gaming places. The Soho Cafe and Automotive are new upscale pool halls, one with good coffees, the other with a license and occasional live bands. Bar None is a extremely popular new game bar, with a few pool tables, different game boards and tables, etc.
(I did get carried away with the pub listings, but that's because I appreciate live music and good beer, when I'm away from the office. I haven't been to any of the many strip clubs, gay bars and tough joints, so I won't recommend any --- although I hear that the Balmoral is the toughest place in town, if you want to get some souvenir scars. :-) But I hear it has good darts.) Addedum: regarding strip clubs, someone recommends the Cecil and the Flash One on Granville St, near the Yale, but there are lots more.

Neighbourhood pubs are open until midnight weeknights and Sunday, 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Many nightclubs close 1 a.m. weeknights and 2 a.m. (1:30 for the Yale) on weekends, midnight on Sundays. The Railway is open until 2 a.m. Mon.--Sat. There are probably some (often illegal) after hours clubs (these change all the time), cab drivers or fellow nightclubbers would probably know of some.

You can purchase alcohol only at BC Liquor stores, wine stores beer and wine stores attached to pubs and through off-sales from a bar. All sales must be completed by 11 p.m. The liquor stores are closed on Sundays, the others are usually open. Cab drivers might know of bootleggers.


Chinese --- go to Chinatown, the On On, New Diamond, Pink Pearl, Won Ton House, Uncle Willy's, the Dynasty... A lot of the bigger places have dim sum on Sundays. Also, just walk through Chinatown and sample the wares, especially at the bakeries (Chinese filled buns) and the Won Ton House (pan-fried Chinese dumplings). There are also three Chinese restaurants at the Village near UBC. Lots of really good Hong Kong chefs around town.
Mexican --- Topanga, on 4th, or a place on Commercial (Mayan), or Pepita's downtown or Las Margaritas or Primo's on 12th, [or the Mayan (Yucatan) Tito Pepe's on Commercial, near WISE.]
Thai --- Thai House downtown, Montri's, Salathai on Cambie?, Malinee Try the Pnomh Penh for Cambodian.
Vietnamese --- Saigon on Broadway (best) or 4th, Green Valley?
Greek: Sympatico, Vassili's, Maria's, Romeo's, Alexi's, Orestes, Athenes, Xen's..., all in the Kitsilano area. Candia near UBC. Estia, near Granville Island, has a buffet.
Italian --- Villa Lupo?, Il Giardino, Zeppo's, Umberto's (several), Settebello (good pizza), some cheaper places along Commercial, Piccolo Mondo on Burrard.

vegetarian --- La Quena, Circling Dawn, Sweet Cherubim, Vegetarian Buddhist restaurant, the Naam (24 hour), Woodlands (buffet)
seafood --- the Only (downscale), the Cannery, Joe Fortes, Salmon House on the Hill, Kettle of Fish, Bud's Halibut and Chips, places in Stanley Park.
pizza --- some very good pizza by the slice places along Robson, Davie. Sympatico also makes good pizza. So does Settebello. Alexi's makes good deep dish pizza. Also Flying Wedge, Candia, Golden Boy's, UBC Pizza, Sasamat.
24 hour --- the Naam (veg), Benny's Bagels, the Bread Garden, the Vineyard (Greek), probably some Bino's and some downtown places too.
Indian --- there's a good place next to the XXX-theatre at Main and 7th Also a place (Natraj?) near 41st and Main (or Cambie?) has a good buffet. Also Heaven on Earth on 4th.
Japanese --- Tojo's is supposed to be the best, but is expensive. Raku, near UBC, is a very good new Japanese/Canadian cross.
Lebanese --- one of the Little Dar Lebanons, Elissar, or Cafe Beirut?
African --- there is a great Ethiopian place, Nyala, next to Black Swan Records and near Topanga. Also Kilimanjaro in Gastown.
Swiss ---the William Tell and the Cafe Grunhaus (both expensive) Also the Frog and Peach, near UBC (fairly expensive)
French --- Le Crocodile, Le Gavroche, Cote D'azur, Le Railcar (expensive), Chez Thierry, Bishop's, etc. [Bishop's has the rep]
British --- Culpepper's, King's Head, The Diner, Cheshire Cheese...
Latin American --- La Quena, Latin Quarter, and Brazilian and Mayan restaurants may be found on Commercial Drive between Broadway and Adanac. There is a great little Mexican chicken place, but it closes early.
Portuguese --- Chamine on Commercial, Fado on Broadway
Spanish --- La Bodega, other tapas places.
breakfast --- Sophie's Cosmic Cafe, Thorntree Cafe, Red Pepper, the Naam.
local favourites --- the Raintree (westcoast), Raku (Japanese/American).
view restaurants --- English Bay Cafe, Raintree, Seasons in the Park, Salmon House on the Hill, Grouse Mountain Grouse Nest?, Harbour Centre, many hotels (one on Denman, also Pan Pacific), etc.

Sports venues

BC place --- football, in season (fall) PNE Coliseum --- NHL hockey, playoffs starting soon (May) Nat Bailey Stadium --- professional baseball (AAA), not major league, outdoors. this is great for early evening or 'businessman's lunch' games. It has been rated as one of the top outdoor baseball diamonds in AAA ball.
Softball City, Surrey --- local softball leagues Swanguard Stadium ---- professional soccer rugby is often played on the UBC fields.

Tickets for most major entertainment and sporting events can be obtained by phoning (604) 280-4444.


UBC Bookstore --- biggest but much of this is textbooks Duthie's books downtown and on 10th
Duthie's professional bookstore (on 7th?) White Dwarf (science fiction)
Michael Thompson (good for out of print) Banyen Books (new age)
Book Warehouse (discount) on Broadway, Fourth, and Robson. Pink Peppercorn (cookbooks only)
Travel Bug (travel books)

Record Stores

cheapest: A&B Sound on Seymour Street, closely followed by SAM next door.
best local and alternative selection: Track (local, alternative), Highlife (local, reggae, Latin), Zulu (alternative, local, Canadian), Black Swan (folk, celtic, jazz), Festival Records (at VFMF office) (folk, international)

classical: Magic Flute, Sikora's

music stores: Rufus Guitar, Ward Music, Tom Lee Music Hall, ...

Places to Stay

A guidebook might be useful here, since I've never needed to use these and can't really strongly recommend any.
For places with more character, check the rates at the Wedgewood Hotel, the Granville Island Hotel and possibly the Sylvia Hotel. The Hotel Meridien has a good chocolate buffet, but may be expensive. The Hotel Vancouver is an old building with interesting architecture and is centrally located, but is probably expensive. The Ramada Inn on Broadway is probably reasonably priced, and has a good pub/blues bar on the ground floor. There are also some Holiday Inns and Best Westerns.
Downtown places such as the Hotel Granville, Sandman Inn, and the Blue Horizon Hotel (has a nightclub called Shenanigans) may be reasonable. The youth hostel, UBC conference housing (cheaper for students) and the YM/WCA are probably the cheapest. Of those, the UBC option may be the best, but the youth hostel would be cheaper and is close to a good beach. There are lots of cheap hotels on Granville and East Hastings, but many of them are a bit seedy. The Yale hotel has a blues bar on the ground floor, the Cecil has a strip club, and the Austin has a strip club and a sports bar. Many of the seedier hotels are frequented by prostitutes, are mainly rooming houses for welfare recipients, and (e.g. the Balmoral) have a tough clientele. However, some are probably ok. There are probably a few bed-and-breakfast places, but I don't have a list in front of me. The Yellow Pages might list some. There are plenty of very expensive hotels. The Pan Pacific probably has the best view and is located at Canada Place (now the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.)


Currently $1.50 for one zone during rush hour, or all zones otherwise. Includes electric and diesel buses, elevated rapid transit (Skytrain) to some of the suburbs, and the Seabus to North Vancouver (worth it for the view). Bus maps, schedules and information can be obtained from a kiosk at Georgia (or Robson?) and Granville, from public libraries, and Ticketmaster outlets (one in Eaton's). Bus tickets can also be obtained from most 7-11's, Safeways and some Macs. Day passes ($4.50) and monthly passes ($54) are also available. Some of the buses run from 5:30 or 6 a.m. until 3 or 3:30 a.m., but it is usually wise to check the schedule or phone BC Transit first. Skytrain shuts down around 1 a.m
From Marg Meikle: 'One thing I would add is that the Vancouver Trolley Co. or whatever that trolley bus is called--is good value. It's $15.00 for a day and you can get off and on as many times as you want--and it goes to all the regular tourist sposts except UBC. If you live here, they let you do it for $10.00 which beats parking if you are trying to schlepp people around and actually stop in a bunch of places. And B.C. Transit has as good deal on day passes too. The people at tourism b.c. on Melville St. are really helpful. (I've lived here all my life and still marvel at the stuff I don't know.)'


Seabus (BC Transit) to North Vancouver
BC Ferries, to the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island, from Horseshoe Bay, reachable by bus. Royal Sealink a Vancouver harbour to Victoria direct, rapid private service that just started. Royal Hudson train/steamboat round trip, with meals. (to Squamish?) This is probably worth it.

Seasonal Events

Winter Roots Music Festival (folk,roots) mid to late February
Festival du bois (French culture) Feb. or March, Mallairdeville
NHL playoffs (hockey) mid-April to June
Vancouver Children's Festival April or May
Mayworks early May
Music West conference/festival early May
Victoria Day Monday before or on May 24
Vancouver Writer's Festival fall?
Canada Day July 1
Sea Festival (family oriented) late June or early July
Vancouver Int'l Dragon Boat Festival early July?
Vancouver Folk Music Festival mid-July, Jericho Park, near youth hostel
Celtica Festival was held in 1990, but not since.
Vancouver Jazz Festival early July (weekend nearest July 1)
BC Day Aug. 1
Mission Folk Festival late July or early August
Stein Valley (Voices of the Wilderness) or Seabird Island festival: late July?
PNE Exhibition and Fair mid-August to Labour Day
Fringe Festival (small theatre groups) early to mid-September
Dancing on the Edge (dance) early September
(a poetry reading series often happens around the same time)
Vancouver Film Festival late-Sept. to mid-October
skating at Robson Square begins in late fall
skiing (downhill and cross country) late fall to late spring
First Night New Year's Eve outdoor festival
Chinese New Year February (moves, lunar)

I've probably missed a few --- there seems to be a festival of some kind almost every week. Also, the dates are from memory. In nearby Seattle there are a few major festivals, including Bumbershoot and Folklife, that are worth the three hour drive. In Penticton there is a Peach festival and in Kelowna there is a regatta in late summer. Both of these towns are in the Okanagan Valley, several hours drive away, on the way to Calgary.

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I like neighbourhood shopping areas best:
Chinatown --- you can get some good bargains
West 10th Ave. --- between Discovery and Blanca, lots of small shops
West Broadway --- between MacDonald and Alma, produce stores, shops
also near Burrard there is a First Nations Craft store.
West 4th Avenue --- between Burrard and Balsalm, near Macdonald and near
Alma, lots of small shops. There is a nice handicapped crafts store near
the Russian centre.
Not far from Vanier Park, Museum/Planetarium, Kits Beach.
Browse the eclectic line of shops--kitchen gadgets, coffee
shops, pizzerias, clothing, bedding, etc. This was one of
the 60's hot spots--Canada's best answer to San Francisco's
North Beach area, and it still retains a [small] bit of that
'slightly off-centre' feeling. Buses (7 and 4) right down 4th
and back to the city centre.
UBC --- souvenirs at the Museum of Anthropology shop, SUB Thunderbird
Shop, or UBC Bookstore.
Granville Island --- the public market is good for food and food
related souvenirs. Otherwise, lots of tourist related shops.
Gastown --- lots of tourist (expensive) shops.
Robsonstrasse (along Robson) used to be European flavoured but
is now a cruising street, with lots of expensive fashion stores,
restaurants, and the like.
Granville Street has some small shops, which get seedy near the bridge.
There are some funky clothing/footwear/book stores there
Visit the Granville Square at the north end of Granville
street at lunchtime on a sunny day and mingle with a lively
bunch of workers ogling each other and the scenery. Some good
fast food lunches available from the storefronts there. Easy
walk from there to Gastown for the obligatory high-priced souvenirs.
Hastings has some shops from Granville to near Main, including
some pawnshops and discount department stores such as Fedco/Fields
and Army and Navy. It gets seedier the further east you go,
but could be a stop on the downtown--gastown--chinatown circuit.
The landmark head Woodward's, with the rooftop W, has been closed.
Commercial Drive/St may have some interesting Latin American and
Italian shops, as would the East Indian area around Main and 41st.
Anne Garber has published a book(s) on shopping in the area.
Major malls include: Pacific Centre (downtown), with the smaller
Vancouver Centre and Harbour Centre nearby, Metrotown (Burnaby,
at a Skytrain station), Lonsdale (North Van), Oakridge,
Richmond Centre, Brentwood, Guildford, Coquitlam centres, etc.,
but I again recommend browsing in neighbourhoods instead.


Here is an expanded version from the long day/weekend trips section:
visit Victoria and Vancouver Island, especially Long Beach and its nearby clearcuts (including the 'black hole'). Go whale watching (this might take longer), near Tofino and Uluwet? There may be excursions from Vancouver as well. This is seasonal. Hiking the West Coast Trail is also recommended (I haven't done it). While in Victoria, have tea at the Empress hotel, check out Harpo's for live music. The Royal Theatre is supposed to be nice, too.
Here is more detail:
museums: wax, provincial, Royal BC and heritage museums
amusement parks: miniature world, heritage village, an underwater park, a seaworld, a breakwater/scuba diving facility. There is a tourist info centre in the inner harbour.
etc: horse carriages, tours of the legislature, other touristy stuff
Butchart Gardens. Come before sunset and stay after dark. They are lit up at night, and there are fireworks in the summer.
go up north to Nanaimo, check out the museums and displays there and the parks and shorelines and boat tours along the way.
restaurants: Pagliacci's (Italian) on Broad St. (downtown). San Remo (Greco-Roman) near Quadra and Hillside. Rebecca's (seafood), Wharf St. Camille's (romantic) in Bastion Square, downtown Chandler's (seafood). Milestones, Wharf St., near info-centre. (All of these were others' romantic picks, not mine.)
walks/hikes/drives around Victoria:
Drive to the top of Mt. Doug park and enjoy the 360 degree view. The top of Mt. Tolmie also has a good view of the city.
The newly-opened Butterfly World on W. Saanich Rd is beautiful, especially if you've got an hour or two to kill on a rainy afternoon. You walk among the butterflies; they may even decide to land on you.
The town of Chemainus has about 20 murals on the outside of their buildings. It's about an hour's drive from Victoria. Lots of small shops. Great for picture-taking. Enjoy the view from the Malahat on the drive up. For casual walks around Victoria, you can do any of:
Beacon Hill Park
walk from West Bay marina in Esquimalt all the way to downtown, stop at the ice cream place on Government St, and walk back or continue on past the Inner Harbour, Fisherman's Wharf, and all the way to Clover Point and back to Esquimalt. If you do this whole walk, you'll be tired!
Or, take a shorter route: after Fisherman's Wharf head south to the breakwater, look at the Olympic Mountains in Washington State, & return to Fisherman's Wharf, buy the take-out fish & chips (YUM!), and take the tiny harbour ferry back to Esquimalt. Avoid the neighbourhood pubs like Spinnaker's in Esquimalt; we locals don't want outsiders to monopolize our favourite places. :-)
scenic driving routes from the ferry terminal to Victoria:
Drive out the Juan de Fuca coast past Sooke to Jordan River and beyond. The road ends at Port Renfrew, where there's Botanical Beach Provincial Park. Takes about 2 hours to get there from Victoria. Beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Some sweeping clearcuts on the way, too. If you can find it, go down to Sombrio Beach, about 2/3 of the way to Port Renfrew. (No overnight camping at Botanical Beach.) There's also Mt. Work Regional Park, on the Saanich Peninsula near Brentwood Bay. Climb up the hill, or go down to McKenzie Bight on Saanich Inlet. Both really nice hikes.
Take a left off the Pat Bay Hwy. at the Petrocan just before Elk Lake, so you go down through Cordova Bay and Mt. Douglas Park. This will get you onto Shelbourne St.
On the drive in from the ferry, you can detour to Island View Beach. Hang a left on Island View Road. There's a traffic light at the intersection and some kind of big red barn on your left. Also, just off the highway is Beaver/Elk Lake. Stop for a picnic if it's a nice day. You can also walk completely around the two lakes (they're joined so most people actually consider it one lake). The walk is about 8km.
You can also turn right off the Pat Bay Hwy. at McTavish and then left on East Sanich Rd. It isn't as fast as it is along the Pat Bay, but it is much nicer. East Sanich Rd. will eventually merge with the Pat Bay again before Sayward (the Petrocan mentioned above) so you can follow that route as well.
Nanaimo, not far from Victoria, hosts an annual bathtub race and Marine Festival. Here is a description for 1993: The Bathtub race is on July 27th. The annual Naniamo Marine Festival is from july 17-July 25. On the 17th: Bathtub parade, 18th: Chub silly boat race. For more info (or future year dates) call 604-754-8474. You can watch the race from Nanaimo, no tickets are sold. Parking is limited. Its worth seeing. Also you can take a small ferry to Newcastle Island for a picnic. We take our boat up to Nanaimo to watch it.

Detailed Ferry/Plane Information:

Detailed Ferry/Plane Information:


There is a passenger-only boat (no cars) between Seattle WA and Victoria BC, called the Victoria Clipper. It is a jet catamaran and makes the trip in about 2.5 hours. Service is once a day in winter, with up to four trips per day in summer. Reservations are recommended; phone 206-448-5000 in Seattle, 604-382-8100 in Victoria, or 800-888-2535 (US and Canada, I believe). The adult summer fare (until October 3, 1993) is $52 US one way; round trip is $85 US, or $69 US with a restricted 14-day advance booking fare. Check in early if you want a chance at a window seat. (1993 info)

A car ferry is operated between Port Angeles WA and Victoria BC by Black Ball Ferry. This too runs daily in winter, and up to four times a day in summer; the trip takes 1.5 hours. Phone 206-622-2222 in Bellevue WA, or 604-386-2202 in Victoria. (This info from 1992.)

A car ferry is operated from Anacortes WA via the San Juan Islands to Sidney BC by the state of Washington. Phone 206-464-6400 in Seattle, or 800-542-7052 from elsewhere in Washington, or 604-381-1551 or 604-656-1531 in Victoria and/or Sidney. (This info partly from 1991-92.)

FROM Canada:

The province of BC operates car ferries from the mainland to Vancouver Island on 5 routes. From south to north:

Tsawassen to Swartz Bay (trip time 1 hour 35 minutes)
Tsawassen to Nanaimo (trip time 2 hours)
Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo (trip time 1 hour 35 minutes)
Powell River to Little River (trip time 1 hour 15 minutes)
Prince Rupert to Port Hardy (trip time 15 hours (in 1991))

Tsawassen and Horseshoe Bay are south and north of Vancouver respectively, not far outside the metropolitan area. Powell River cannot be reached by road; from Vancouver you take a (scenic) ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale on the 'Sunshine Coast', then a 90-minute drive, then another (scenic) ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay. Prince Rupert can be reached by road only from the east.

Swartz Bay is near Sidney, about 20 miles north of Victoria on the Saanich Peninsula. Nanaimo is about 70 miles northwest of Victoria, and Little River is near Comox, a further 80 miles on. Port Hardy is near the northern tip of the island.

Each of the first four routes listed costs $21.50 for a car and $6.00 for each adult (including the driver of a car), one way. The same fare applies to the shorter Sunshine Coast ferries, but is charged in only one direction. All these routes generally tend to run every hour or two, except for the Powell River route which runs 4 times a day.

In 1991, the Prince Rupert to Port Hardy route cost $142 for a car and driver, or $68 for a passenger alone. This included sleeping accommodation although the trip is not overnight. The route operated every 2 days in the summer and twice a week in the winter. Reservations required; phone 604-386-3431 in Victoria.

For 24-hour recorded schedule information, phone 604-685-1021 in Vancouver, 604-656-0757 in Victoria, 604-753-6626 in Nanaimo.

Airplane Access, as of May 1993

Another way to get to Vancouver Island is by the Air BC seaplane, which runs from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. Air BC is an affiliate of Air Canada, so any travel agent or Air Canada office should be able to make reservations; I have the phone numbers 604-688-5515 for Vancouver and 604-360-9074 for Victoria.

Until September 30, 1993, they are offering a $99 return fare, with a maximum 7-day stay; to use this fare you must use flights between 9 am and 2:30 pm.

There are also flights from Vancouver airport to Victoria airport, with several airlines, and there are probably direct links to Victoria from Seattle and/or Bellingham, for U.S. travellers