O Canada, we can't get enough of you. Our quiet, peace-loving next-door neighbor (or neighbour), has so much to offer (and we don't just mean Ryan Reynolds and Justin Trudeau).
Nicknamed Hollywood North for the absurd number of TV shows and movies filmed here (Deadpool, iRobot, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Vancouver is like San Francisco's hip Canadian sis. Seriously, once you're there, you'll feel totally at home thanks to artisanal eats, ample green spaces, and wild nature just a short drive away.
Before you go, Seth Rogen fans would do well to tag along with the hometown hero for a (stoned) tour of his favorite mom-and-pop eateries and cultural landmarks on episode one of chef David Chang's Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Netflix).
How to Get to + Around Vancouver
BY LAND OR BY AIR
Drive up the PCH and Highway 1 or take an easy, two-and-a-half hour flight (United and Air Canada offer flights around $300) to Vancouver's famously welcoming international airport (we're talking forest-green carpeted walkways and gushing water displays).
SKYTRAIN + BUS
SkyTrain's Canada Line takes you straight through residential neighborhoods and right into the heart of Downtown Vancouver, so don't be surprised if this driverless version of BART is your primary mode of transportation throughout your trip. The fare ($3.10 for one zone, $4.45 for two, and $6.05 for three) includes as many trips as you want to any stop within a 90-minute window and includes Vancouver's extensive bus system too.
In 2020, Vancouver became the first location in British Columbia to offer ride hailing services Lyft and Uber. If you want to drive yourself, the carsharing service Evo ($100 CAD per day or $17 per hour) has a fleet of Toyota Priuses that come equipped with bike and ski racks and with mud/snow tires making them good for year-round adventures. To use the cars with a non-Canadian driver’s license, you’ll need to provide your driving record for two years.
If you're driving up, definitely think about bringing your bike. Vancouver is the home of bike lanes gone wild, so you'll see bright green strips for cyclists everywhere. The beautiful Seawall and Coal Harbor area has plenty of bike rental shops, such as Spokes Bike Rentals and Bikes on Robson.
Affectionately dubbed 'water taxis,' these adorable floating tubs will take you across the shimmering False Creek to various points between Downtown and central Vancouver. Check out the maps of False Creek Ferries or Aquabus (they might be competitors, but they'll happily let you know both of their schedules when you're waiting at their shared docks).
The Best Restaurants in Vancouver
(Courtesy of AnnaLena)
The Michelin guide launched in Vancouver in 2022 which makes right now an especially bright time for eating in the city. Among the starred offering is AnnaLena, where chef Mike Robbins offers a two-hour tasting menu of contemporary dishes made with local ingredients. // In Chinatown, Kissa Tanto melds the seemingly disparate flavors of Japan and Italy into elegant creations in a come-as-you-are setting. // At Masayoshi, grab a seat at the counter for the best view of the sushi chef crafting your omakase. // Honored by the Michelin guide for exceptional cocktails, Botanist, inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim, serves show-stopping drinks highlighting such unique flavors like sage, cherrywood smoked tea, and cedar.
DIM SUM + SUSHI
With its welcoming views on immigration and a prime location for fresh seafood, it's no surprise that Vancouver has the best Cantonese, Shanghainese and Japanese food markets you'll ever see. Many spots such as Kirin Seafood Restaurant and Golden Ocean Seafood Restaurant give dim sum the white-tablecloth treatment. If xiao long bao is your thing, Suhang Restaurant is one of the stops on the Dumpling Trail in Richmond, across the Fraser River. // If you want to pair quality sushi with a craft beer, visit Electric Bicycle Brewing in Mount Pleasant. Above their tasting room is Sushi Radio—the Lemon Box oshi with avocado, salmon, scallop, and lemon is a fan favorite.
INDIGENOUS DISHES + LOCAL SEAFOOD
Curious about Canadian cuisine? The menu at Salmon n’ Bannock, Vancouver’s only Indigenous-owned and -operated restaurant, features a variety of salmon dishes and wild game—the pemmican mousse with smoked bison and sage-infused blueberries is particularly tasty. In 2022, the restaurant opened its second location in the Vancouver airport. // The Canadian to U.S. dollar conversion means you can pull out your wallet sans guilt knowing that the seafood restaurants Blue Water Cafe and Miku are worth every penny. Spot the OceanWise symbol on all these restaurants' menus (and many more across Vancouver) to ensure that your delicious fish dish is also a sustainable choice.
ICE CREAM + GELATO
Local and sustainable Earnest Ice Cream's flavors are made in house and change throughout the day. // Rain or Shine Ice Cream serves scoops made from natural, local, and organic ingredients. // Award-winning Bella Gelateria is well worth the wait in line for its gelato; the Coal Harbor location is a perfect place to enjoy a cone on the waterfront. // If you're the indecisive type, try out all of La Casa Gelato's 238 flavors (including blue cheese)—just step through the bright pink doors.
Fun Things to Do in Vancouver
You have to do the Seawall. Whether by bike or on foot, this scenic path winds around downtown's waterfront area, sandy beaches, and Stanley Park—one of the largest urban parks in North America (yes, it's bigger than Central Park). // From there, make your way over to a water taxi stop at one of the beaches or in Yaletown, and cross the gorgeous False Creek to Granville Island, the former industrial area turned artisan hub of Vancouver. Here, the indoor Public Market is a must-see; Vancouver's version of SF's Ferry Building brims with local eats, including Seth Rogan's favorite donuts at Lee's. The island is also home to a waterpark that's free for kids, an artisan district, and shops. // VanDusen Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to explore (you'll love the hedge labyrinth) and to enjoy a picnic in summer. // Head across the landmark Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver and visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park where you can test your bravery crossing the 460-foot-long bridge that hangs 230 feet above the Capilano River surrounded by temperate rainforest. // Across the Fraser River, the Asian-style Richmond Night Market draws more than a million visitors each year for delicious street food, retail vendors, carnival rides, and performances. It’s open on weekends May through October.
Get all your global name brands at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, a huge outdoor shopping strip, or opt for the iconic Canadian brand Roots (the country's lumberjack look is not just a stereotype). If you walk through the more hipster neighborhoods in Vancouver (check out: Mt. Pleasant/South Main and West End) and start wondering where Vancouverites get their fashion game on, you'll have to explore the city's huge consignment store scene. With boutique-like charm and quality filtering, Front & Company, Mine & Yours, and Hunter & Hare are just a few to start with for some impeccable finds.
Day Trips From Vancouver
Though there are plenty of beaches and gorgeous urban parks (see Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park) to hike through right in the city, the best part about Vancouver is that you can drive 30 minutes to an hour from the urban center into the wild.
SEA TO SKY GONDOLA, SQUAMISH
Cruise up the scenic highway route or grab the daily shuttle to the Sea to Sky Gondola, which shimmies up 6,300 feet to offer panoramic views of the valley, the bright blue water of Howe Sound, and the majestic Stawamus Chief cliff face which is one of North America's largest granite monoliths (you can hike it if you're up for it). At the summit, the experience continues with forested trails, a 328-feet suspension bridge, and a view-hugging restaurant at the lodge.
Continuing up the Sea to Sky Highway will land you in Whistler, famously known for hosting a large part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and an absolute paradise for skiers and snowboarders. The mountain range isn't any less gorgeous in the summer with hiking trails, lakes, and even bear-viewing opportunities. Relax at the adorable and lively Whistler Village, enjoy fine dining by Iron Chef Canada winner Alex Chen at the newly opened Wild Blue restaurant and bar, or soak in an outdoor bath surrounded by rustic scenery at Scandinave Spa.
A comfortable 90-minute ferry ride (from $49) to Vancouver Island will whisk you away to Victoria, the province's capital. With quaintness akin to a quiet British town, Victoria is the place to go for high tea at the century-old Empress Hotel or for selfies in front of the Parliament Building. Butchart Gardens is recognized as one of the most fabulous gardens in the world and definitely makes it onto any Victoria must-visit list, especially since you can partake in afternoon tea here, too.