Metro Vancouver is a coastal metropolis in the Canadian province of British Columbia, situated between mountains and the sea. It is known for having the mildest climate in Canada, and extensive forests and parks provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, bicycling, inline skating, snowboarding, skiing, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking, golfing, camping, and much more.
Popular summer daytime destinations include Stanley Park, English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, Granville Island, and Deep Cove. In the winter, it takes less than one hour by transit to go skiing or snowboarding at three different mountains from downtown Vancouver. Vancouver and nearby Whistler city became the world's stage when they hosted the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Vancouver is very bicycle friendly, with dedicated bike lanes in its downtown core and a 22 km seawall that is incredibly popular during the summer. The seawall has separated paths: one for walking or jogging and the other for inline skating or bicycling.
Fresh produce is abundant and inexpensive in Vancouver, and many seasonal fruits and vegetables are grown and sold locally throughout the year. Organic foods are also very popular and readily available.
Public Transportation: provided by TransLink
Vancouver has one of the most convenient transit systems in Canada with extensive and frequent daytime service. Service is available until around 1am on most routes, and late night service on the most popular routes from downtown runs until 3am. Vancouver also has 3 SkyTrain lines, which is the name given to its mostly elevated metro system. All lines connect in Vancouver's downtown. The Expo Line runs from Vancouver to the suburb of Surrey, the Millenium Line is a loop line in the suburb cities of Burnaby and New Westminster, and the Canada Line provides service from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver's airport (YVR) and the suburb of Richmond. A water ferry, named SeaBus, provides service at 10-15 minute daytime intervals between downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver. All buses use GPS with displays inside the bus showing the name of the next stop and a voice that announces it. Transit is fully wheelchair accessible and bicycles may be used on all modes of transit.
Vancouver's transit service is divided into 3 zones across the entire metropolis. A ticket is valid for 90 minutes of travel with unlimited transfers on any mode of transport (bus, SkyTrain, or SeaBus). The ticket costs $2.50-$4.50 (depending on how many zones are being travelled) and can be purchased with cash on a bus or at a ticket vending machine in a transit station. Exact change is required when paying on a bus. One can save about 15% per ticket by purchasing a book of 10 tickets, known as FareSavers. Many convenience stores, pharmacies, and grocery stores sell FareSaver books. After 6:30pm and all day on weekends, a one zone fare can be used to travel across all zones.
If you plan to travel more than 20 round trips in a month, it is more cost effective to purchase a monthly pass (known as a FareCard) at a cost of $81-$120 per month, depending on how many zones of travel are required. Two people can ride together on one monthly pass on Sundays.
There is a $5 surcharge added to SkyTrain trips from Vancouver's YVR airport. However, this fee is only charged if the ticket is purchased in a ticket vending machine at the station. If you hold a FareSaver ticket, the fee is waived. To avoid this fee, purchase a book of 10 FareSavers from the pharmacy at the airport. Travel to downtown Vancouver requires a 2 zone fare.
Most English (ESL) schools are located in downtown Vancouver, a peninsula consisting of office towers, shopping, Stanley Park, and many apartments. Downtown Vancouver is at the centre of 3 metro lines and dozens of bus routes, making it very easy to get around.
A large population of international students choose to live downtown within a 15 minute walk of their schools. Students from Saudi Arabia, Korea, Japan, and Brazil can commonly be seen walking around downtown's Robson Street shopping district.
Most bars and nightclubs are located in downtown Vancouver's Granville Entertainment District, and are open until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights. Japanese and Korean restaurants are plentiful and the food is tasty and cheap. The drinking age is 19.
Late night bus service from downtown is available until 3am on some of the most popular routes.
Tourism and Shopping
A popular mall shopping destination is at Metrotown Station on the Expo and Millenium SkyTrain lines, boasting 450 stores and located in the neighbouring city of Burnaby. Upscale fashion stores are located on Robson Street, near Burrard Station on the Expo Line and City Centre Station on the Canada Line.
Outdoor and bicycle gear can be found in shops clustered on Broadway east of Cambie. The closest SkyTrain station is Broadway-City Hall on Canada Line. A number of snowboard and ski shops are located in Kitsilano's West 4th Avenue. This area is accessible by bus on the #4 UBC, #7 Dunbar, #44 UBC, and #84 UBC lines. Many small clothing shops are also located on West 4th Avenue.
For trendy and boutique shops, head to Main Street between Broadway and 16th Avenue on the #3, #9, or #99 bus. Many of the clothing shops on Main Street feature unique locally-made clothing. Some high quality vegetarian and other small restaurants and lounges are also located near the intersection of Broadway and Main.
Commercial Drive is a popular neighbourhood that has avoided the gentrification occurring in many other parts of Vancouver. One can find low-priced grocery stores, independent restaurants, and vintage clothing stores. Take the Expo Line to Commercial-Broadway Station and walk north along Commercial Drive for about 10 blocks to see everything.
High quality and low priced ethnic food (mostly Chinese) can be found in the restaurants surrounding Richmond-Brighouse Station on SkyTrain's Canada Line. Japanese sushi restaurants are ubiquitous in Vancouver and very easy to find. Ask anyone and he or she is likely to have a favourite sushi restaurant.
Driving south 2 hours, one can cross the Canada-USA border and shop in the American city of Bellingham. Bellis Fair is a popular shopping centre with some sought-after shops and brands that are not available in Canada.
Metro Vancouver is a diverse and multicultural region. Chinatown is located next to downtown Vancouver, and Koreatown is located in the nearby city of Coquitlam at Lougheed Station on the Millenium SkyTrain Line. Little India is located on Main Street in the south side of Vancouver city on the #3 bus route. A large Italian population can be found in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood and Greek population in the Kitsilano neighbourhood on Broadway.
Vancouver is a progressive city considered to be gay-friendly and is home to the largest gay population in western Canada, located primarily in its West End and Commercial Drive neighbourhoods. Every year, they host the very popular Pride Parade.
Places to Visit and Things to Do
Because of Vancouver's proximity to the ocean, it offers many beaches to relax on during the summer. English Bay Beach is very popular among ESL students and young professionals living downtown. Kitsilano Beach is where people go to see and be seen. Jericho Beach is a family area and where friends and families go to have a barbeque on the beach or play volleyball in the sand. Stanley Park offers a 10 km seawall for bicycling, inline skating, and walking.
Ambleside Park is a popular place to go in the warmer months of the year. It offers a fantastic view of the Lions Gate Bridge and a boardwalk along the water. Crabbing is also popular. Walk to the end of the boardwalk and you'll find a globe sitting in a film of water that you can spin. The #250 Horseshoe Bay bus from downtown Vancouver passes through Ambleside Park. Lighthouse Park and Whytecliff Park are also on the #250 bus route and are great destinations to visit on summer evenings to watch ferries sail past in the water or the sun set over the horizon. Bring a flashlight in case it gets dark. Some areas of these parks are not lit at night.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is very popular for tourists, but is expensive (admission is about $35 including tax). 2-for-1 admission coupons exist, reducing the price by 50% when two people go. They are often sold for about $2 on a popular online classified site.
For a free alternative, the nearby Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge offers much the same scenery and views. On warm sunny days, bring your swimsuit and swim in a natural pool of fresh water after hiking about 20 minutes from the bridge. The #229 Phibbs Exchange bus from the Lonsdale Quay SeaBus terminal stops at the entrance to the park.
Deep Cove is a popular place to go canoeing and kayaking. In this area, there is a small but very popular cafe that makes fresh delicious doughnuts daily and is worth sampling. For a spectacular view of the inlet, try hiking to Quarry Rock from Deep Cove. Quarry Rock is a large rock extending straight up about 100m from the inlet. The hike is 4 km and takes about 1 hour. Schedule 3-4 hours for the round trip. You can lose track of time sitting at the top of the rock and watching the scenery below. From downtown Vancouver, take the #211 Seymour or #290 Deep Cove bus (about 45-60 minutes). From other locations, take a bus from your area to Phibbs Exchange and transfer to the #212 Deep Cove.
Granville Island is located in the heart of Vancouver and holds festivals and performances many times throughout the year. Arts and crafts shops abound, and Granville Island is an extremely popular destination for festivities and musical performances each year on July 1 (Canada's national holiday). To get to Granville Island, take the #50 Waterfront from Olympic Village SkyTrain Station or #50 False Creek South from downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver's famous Playland amusement park opens its gates during the summer. Playland is one of the rare amusement parks to feature a wooden roller coaster, which is more than 50 years old. This breathtaking coaster reaches a maximum speed of 75 km/h and drops 20m from its highest point. Also attached to Playland is an exhibition fair named PNE that opens for about 2 weeks every August.
Three nearby mountains offer activites both in the summer and winter. In the winter, they are popular destinations for a day of skiing or snowboarding, and in the summer, people enjoy hiking and sightseeing. All offer spectacular views of the city. Grouse Mountain may be reached by the #232, #236, and #247 bus routes. Cypress and Seymour Mountains run private shuttle buses during the winter from the Lonsdale Quay SeaBus terminal. Further away, Whistler Mountain is a world-famous ski resort and is about a 2-3 hour drive from Vancouver.
The nearest major U.S. city is Seattle, about a 3-4 hour drive from Vancouver. Inter-city shuttle buses travel between Vancouver and Seattle about 5 times per day and take about 5 hours for a one-way trip.