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Be a Tourist in Your Own Town:
Must-Experience Vancouver Attractions

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False Creek passenger ferry passes houseboats along False Creek.

Not long ago, when COVID-19 was just another unfamiliar acronym, Vancouver welcomed more than 11 million overnight visitors. But, even though we love showing off our beautiful city—brimming with nature, and culture, and food, and fun—we tend to avoid the very places that helped make Vancouver famous around the world (think: crowds).

Well, not this year.

In 2021, with borders and bubbles tight, the city isn’t seeing the same influx of visitors. Which means: locals can finally indulge their inner tourist and explore their own beloved backyard—safely and sensibly—and feel like a VIP as we fall in love with Vancouver all over again.

Whether you’re looking for family fun or date-worthy diversions, there’s an activity with your name on it. There’s never been a better time. All attractions are observing strict health and safety protocols such as timed entries, physical distancing, mandatory masks, and cashless transactions; see their individual websites for details.

Here are some top picks to get you started, and check out Tourism Vancouver, Stay Vancouver, and Vancouver Attractions for great deals on things to do and places to stay.

Note: This story (originally published in July, 2020) was updated specifically for the unique travel circumstances of 2021. Information is accurate at the time of publication; we recommend you contact businesses directly to confirm availability and familiarize yourself with their COVID policies.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park | @ursanurag, Instagram

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Capilano Suspension Bridge: The Lower Mainland’s oldest attraction (1889), this famous crossing spans 137 metres, towering high above a rocky canyon floor. Anyone who’s been there (including Mick Jagger and Marilyn Monroe) knows what a genuine thrill it is to make the long, rolling lurch across the Capilano River. From June 9 to September 7 you won’t want to miss Raptors Ridge, where dedicated handlers offer educational demonstrations to visitors with hawks, owls, and falcons. Remember to book your time in advance to secure a spot.

Grouse Mountain, The Peak of Vancouver

Grouse Mountain, The Peak of Vancouver: There’s a reason—many good reasons in fact—that tourists flock to this mountain. The gondola ride is dramatic, rising 1,100 metres in eight minutes and offering stunning panoramic views of Vancouver and beyond. Reserve your Skyride time in advance and make sure you buy enough parking at the bottom because there’s a lot happening up top besides the jaw-dropping scenery: a bear sanctuary, ranger talks, mountaintop hiking (with physical distancing protocols in place), a Kids Tree Canopy Adventure, dining patios, and zipline adventures, to name a few favourites.

Science World

Science World: This iconic attraction is filled with exhibits on the wonders of science and nature that inspire learning for all ages. Don’t miss the Arctic Voices,  an immersive experience about the people, ecology, and wildlife of the Arctic. Walk-up tickets are subject to availability and it is highly recommended that you book your visit in advance.

Museum of Anthropology at UBC | @dorrington

Museum of Anthropology at UBC

Museum of Anthropology at UBC (MOA): With its soaring architecture, spectacular sea-to-sky views, and stunning Northwest Coast First Nations art collection, MOA teaches visitors about how Indigenous communities have shaped the culture and the region. Though you’ll need to book an arrival time, you can stay as long as you like so don’t rush your visit—the impressive collections of global art and artifacts at this acclaimed museum deserve your time.

Granville Island

Granville Island: This culinary, artistic, and cultural hub is home to more than 300 businesses. The Public Market offers a rich variety of take-out options for a picnic at the waterfront, or everything you need to make an impressive dinner at home. The local artists galleries and retail shops here make Granville Island a unique and much-loved destination.

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art: This small downtown space—named for the creator of the famous Jade Canoe sculpture at YVR and the new artwork on Canada’s $2 coin—is the only public gallery dedicated to contemporary Indigenous art of the Northwest Coast. Until September 6, 2021 visitors can see To Speak With a Golden Voice, an exhibition about Bill Reid’s extraordinary life and legacy, curated by Gwaai Edenshaw, considered to be Reid’s last apprentice. This is a perfect complement to the better-known Museum of Anthropology (above). Thursday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., July 16 to September 6, gallery access is reserved for the elderly and vulnerable, and first responders.

Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC | @post_photography

Queen Elizabeth Park and Bloedel Conservatory

Queen Elizabeth Park and Bloedel Conservatory: Vancouver’s “horticultural jewel” is home to the exotic Bloedel Conservatory—quite literally the high point of Vancouver. Offering spectacular views of the city and the North Shore Mountains, this lush hilltop park is the perfect setting for romantic picnics and late-night stargazing. Book your entry in advance.

VanDusen Botanical Garden | Tourism Vancouver/VanDusen Gardens

VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Botanical Garden: This tranquil, 22-hectare urban oasis is home to more than 7,500 plant species and varieties. Take in vibrant colours and fragrant smells, and consider taking advantage of sprawling lawn space to enjoy an al fresco picnic. You must purchase a ticket online before visiting the garden.

Harbour Air Flightseeing Tour

Harbour Air flightseeing tour: Treat yourself to a thrilling change of perspective while staying safe and close to home. The excitement of taking off from and landing on the water adds to the fun. Tours range from 10-minute flights to daytrip adventure packages, all departing daily from their downtown Vancouver location.

Whale watching with Wild Whales Vancouver

Ocean Exploration

Being right on the water not only adds to Vancouver’s beauty, it also provides a multitude of experiences. Explore the harbour on a paddlewheel or zodiac. Cast a line and try to catch your own dinner with the help of a fishing charter, or experience the thrill of seeing orcas, humpback whales and all kinds of marine life on a whale watching tour. Want to rent your own boat? Try Sewell’s Marina in Horseshoe Bay.

MENTIONED IN THIS STORY

Attractions, Museums & Heritage Sites, Accessibility

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, allow 2 - 3 hours for your visit to Vancouver's iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge, hanging 450 feet...

Phone: (604) 985-7474

View Listing

Wildlife Tours, Skiing & Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Sightseeing, Adrenalin, Accessibility

Grouse Mountain

Just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain attracts locals and tourists alike. During the summer, guests enjoy hiking, Zip Line...

Phone: (604) 980-9311

View Listing

Attractions, Accessibility

Science World

Science World ignites the imagination with hands-on interactive exhibits, jaw-dropping live science shows, and the giant-screen OMNIMAX...

Phone: (604) 443-7548

View Listing

Bird Watching, Attractions

VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Garden is open under new operation procedures to best ensure public safety. Tickets are only available online at www.vandusengarden.ca so...

Phone: (604) 257-8335

View Listing

Museums & Heritage Sites, Accessibility

Museum of Anthropology

Explore traditional and contemporary art from Northwest Coast First Nations and other cultures across the world. See magnificent Indigenous...

Phone: (604) 827-5932

View Listing

Shopping, Farms & Markets, Art Galleries, Accessibility

Granville Island

Former industrial site has been transformed into an artsy, posh neighborhood with quaint shops, cafes and bookstores.

Phone: (604) 666-5784

View Listing

Indigenous Culture, Art Galleries

Bill Reid Gallery

The Bill Reid Gallery is the only public Gallery in Canada dedicated to contemporary Indigenous Northwest Coast Art and honours Bill Reid by...

Phone: (604) 682-3455

View Listing

Attractions, Museums & Heritage Sites, Accessibility

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, allow 2 - 3 hours for your visit to Vancouver's iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge, hanging 450 feet...

Phone: (604) 985-7474

View Listing

Wildlife Tours, Skiing & Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Sightseeing, Adrenalin, Accessibility

Grouse Mountain

Just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain attracts locals and tourists alike. During the summer, guests enjoy hiking, Zip Line...

Phone: (604) 980-9311

View Listing

Attractions, Accessibility

Science World

Science World ignites the imagination with hands-on interactive exhibits, jaw-dropping live science shows, and the giant-screen OMNIMAX...

Phone: (604) 443-7548

View Listing

Bird Watching, Attractions

VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Garden is open under new operation procedures to best ensure public safety. Tickets are only available online at www.vandusengarden.ca so...

Phone: (604) 257-8335

View Listing

Museums & Heritage Sites, Accessibility

Museum of Anthropology

Explore traditional and contemporary art from Northwest Coast First Nations and other cultures across the world. See magnificent Indigenous...

Phone: (604) 827-5932

View Listing

Shopping, Farms & Markets, Art Galleries, Accessibility

Granville Island

Former industrial site has been transformed into an artsy, posh neighborhood with quaint shops, cafes and bookstores.

Phone: (604) 666-5784

View Listing

Indigenous Culture, Art Galleries

Bill Reid Gallery

The Bill Reid Gallery is the only public Gallery in Canada dedicated to contemporary Indigenous Northwest Coast Art and honours Bill Reid by...

Phone: (604) 682-3455

View Listing

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