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10 New Ways to Love Vancouver This Summer

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Summertime in Vancouver is known to deliver, thanks to sun-filled beaches, pretty parks, and patios as far as the eye can see. But what if you ventured beyond the tried and true? Here are 10 experiences sure to make you love Vancouver in a whole new way.

The following story was written for the unique circumstances of 2021. Please contact each business directly for the current opening times, advanced booking process, and COVID safety protocol.

Stanley Park | Heath Moffatt

1. Deepen your appreciation of Stanley Park

We all know and love Stanley Park, but few of us know its history. Though Stanley Park was founded in 1888, the Skwxu7mesh Uxwumixw (Coast Salish peoples) have connections to this land that spans thousands of years. Expand your understanding of local ecology and Indigenous culture with a Talking Trees Tour of Stanley Park, a two-hour walking tour with Indigenous-owned Talaysay Tours. You’ll come away with a new perspective of both Stanley Park and the temperate rainforest.

To cover more ground, rent an e-bike from Cycle City Tours and join their three-hour Stanley Park Tour where frequent stops for storytelling are combined with trail riding and seawall cruising. Or be a part of a 133-year-old Vancouver tradition with a Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tour. You’ll learn Vancouver history and see the park’s most-popular landmarks on this 45-minute narrated journey.

Vancouver | Tourism Vancouver/Harbour Air

2. Take in a bird's-eye view of the city

Vancouver’s scenery shines bright in summer, especially when taken in from above. Board the elevator up to the Vancouver Lookout in the heart of city for 360-degree views; your ticket also allows you back later that evening to take in the sunset from the top of this landmark building. On the North Shore, take the Skyride up to Grouse Mountain for a panoramic view of the Lower Mainland with the perks of mountain air. Or treat yourself to a flightseeing tour with Harbour Air or SKY Helicopters for unforgettable sights of the local landscape.

Stand-up paddleboarding in Vancouver | @jujumil

3. Find solitude on the water

Go beyond the seawall this year and find new ways to enjoy Vancouver’s calm ocean waters. Kayaking and stand up paddleboarding allow you to experience that magical Vancouver summer energy with the freedom to go at your own pace.

Vancouver Water Adventures can help you experience Vancouver’s waterfront in a whole new way, such as their evening kayak tour from Granville Island or their SUP rentals from Kits Beach or English Bay.

The Polygon Gallery | VancityWild

4. Immerse yourself in art

Don’t miss the many thought-provoking art shows taking place this summer only.

Step into a Van Gogh painting at Imagine Van Gogh, an internationally-touring multimedia experience at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Or discover a new contemporary favourite, like Beijing-based artist Sun Xun, whose highly imaginative video installation, “Mythological Time,” shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery until September 6.

Connect with Indigenous culture at the Bill Reid Gallery, whose current exhibit “Hands of Knowledge” features six Indigenous women artists who celebrate traditional knowledge through contemporary works.

Foray into the modern Japanese psyche at the Museum of Anthropology where “A Future for Memory” examines the physical and psychological landscapes in Japan a decade after its 2011 earthquake. Or discover how costume and masquerade can reveal, rather than conceal, identity at “Interior Infinite,” an international multimedia exhibit at the Polygon Gallery.

Imagine Van Gogh | @esh_kay via Instagram
Bill Reid Gallery | Hubert Kang
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden| Tanya Goehring

5. Engage your senses in a garden

Visit the oldest botanical garden in the province at the UBC Botanical Garden, and explore the rainforest along their Greenheart TreeWalk, a series of treetop bridges that lead you through the canopy of fragrant cedars and fir. Then enjoy peaceful Nitobe Memorial Garden down the road, a traditional Japanese tea-stroll garden, considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.

Take a short walk through the humid jungle at Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park, home to 120 colourful free-flying birds. Then head to nearby VanDusen Botanical Garden for its many themed gardens. Enjoy the textures, colours, and fragrances of the trees, shrubs, and flowers; botanists and gardeners will love that every plant is labelled. And don’t leave without doing the hedge maze!

In Chinatown, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a beloved oasis and is one of the first Ming Dynasty-style garden-homes to have been built outside of China. (Don’t mistake the smaller, free-of-charge park next door for the official attraction.) Paid admission to this non-profit organization lets you fully experience the garden-home, museum exhibits, and the meticulousness that this garden is famous for, including the guided tours, which are highly recommended.

Museum of Vancouver and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre | Tanya Goehring

6. Nourish your brain with science

Take a journey north at Science World this summer. Arctic Voices, an interactive exhibit, examines the Arctic’s changing landscape and shares the stories of its people, ecology, and wildlife.

Explore the wonders of the universe at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, where Earth science, space science, and astronomy are the stars of the show. Then come back to Earth at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum to embrace natural history. Feel humbled by the blue whale skeleton and be awed by the 500 natural history exhibits showcasing the world’s fossils, birds, mammals, and more.

Science World | @matthewmct via Instagram
Beaty Biodiversity Museum | @sasha_primak via Instagram
Granville Island and Lee's Donuts | Hubert Kang

7. Have a culinary escapade at Granville Island

Honey dip donuts from Lee’s Donuts. House-made charcuterie from Oyama Sausage Co. Montreal-style bagels from Siegel’s Bagels. These are just some of the many treats that await at Granville Island Public Market, a must for any food lover.

Collect your picnic bounty at Granville Island and make a day of it by renting bikes and cycling around the False Creek seawall to get there. Or hop on the adorable False Creek Ferries or Aquabus for a quick boat ride across from downtown.

Take your time selecting your treats, whether it’s farmhouse cheeses from Benton Brothers, candied salmon from Longliner Seafoods, or fresh fruit and vegetables from one of the many vendors. Don’t forget the array of grab-and-go options too, like the Chau Veggie Express for vegetarian Vietnamese, Kaiserick Deli for German cuisine, or A La Mode for homemade sweet and savoury pies. Or simply order food to go from one of Granville Island’s many restaurants.

Continue your journey a short walk or bike ride away to nearby Kits Beach and enjoy the ultimate Vancouver summer picnic.

Sturgeon Fishing with Great River Fishing Adventures | Indigenous Tourism BC/Alicia Haque

8. Be a marine biologist for the day

Catch and release a living dinosaur—the white sturgeon—on the Fraser with Great River Fishing Adventures. Get up close with these fascinating giants, experience the Mighty Fraser from a whole new perspective, and help collect data for the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society at the same time.

Cruise at high speeds along Howe Sound on a Sewell’s Marina Sea Safari to take in the history and ecology of this scenic fjord. Departing from Horseshoe Bay, this two-hour tour explores the cliffs of Anvil Island, takes in the seals at Pam Rocks, and more.

See resident and transient orcas in their natural habitat without having to leave the Lower Mainland. With departures from downtown and Steveston, Vancouver’s professionals respectfully follow the strict whale-watching regulations to ensure the safety of both passengers and wildlife. Listen to whale song on the hydrophone, learn about their unique behaviours, and, if you’re lucky, you may also see humpbacks migrating through this summer!

Sea Safari with Sewell's Marina | Tourism Vancouver/Sewell's Marina/J.Haydahl
Whale watching from Vancouver | Tourism Vancouver/Prince of Whales Whale Watching
Davie Village | Tourism Vancouver/Michael Song

9. Dive Deeper into Vancouver History

Vancouver may be a young city, but its history is rich and complex.

Celebrate the unsung heroes who helped change the social fabric of Vancouver on The Really Gay History Tour. Hear stories of love, defiance, and bravery while strolling Vancouver’s historic gay community of Davie Village in the West End.

Gain new cultural and culinary appreciation for Chinatown, one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, on A Wok Around Chinatown. Tour specialty shops and historic landmarks, and feast on a dim sum lunch.

Learn stories of Vancouver’s unsolved mysteries and true crime at the Vancouver Police Museum, situated in a former morgue. Or take in The Forbidden Vancouver Tour to explore the seedy underbelly of Gastown’s past.

And no historical exploration of BC’s largest city is complete without a visit to the Museum of Vancouver. Its thoughtful exhibits explore Vancouver’s evolving urban landscape, from Indigenous culture and immigration to the natural environment. A visit here will deepen your appreciation for aspects of the city you may have otherwise taken for granted.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park | Tourism Vancouver/Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

10. Find adventure on Vancouver's North Shore

Get your adrenaline going on the Mountain Coaster at Cypress Mountain which is scheduled to open this summer. This 1.70-km gravity thrill ride drops 279 vertical metres and travels at speeds of up to 40 km an hour through the alpine forest.

Try a new activity at Grouse Mountain, like their Mountain Ropes Adventure, where adventurists can navigate a series of four aerial ropes courses with varying degrees of difficulty.

Or revisit your old favourites on the North Shore, like Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, home to the photogenic Cliffwalk, the Ewok Village-like Treetops Adventure, and the iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge itself. BC residents receive a complimentary annual pass when purchasing a regular-priced ticket.

Whatever you choose, be sure to take advantage of the excellent room rates available now at many hotels, and enjoy the diversity of restaurants that are eager to welcome you back. After all, summer’s the best time for a Vancouver getaway, for these reasons and more.

Header image: Spanish Banks | Tourism Vancouver/Hubert Kang

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