I like Vancouver. Being one of the most livable cities in the world – It’s known for its fresh air, beautiful parks, friendly people, clean streets, and a safe environment. Some might think it lacks an iconic landmark or attraction that makes it on a traveler’s bucket list; Some even nicknamed the city “No Fun City” or “Nofuncouver”, because the locals like hanging out in their cliques and having house parties, and the city does not have a vibrant social scene or nightlife. However, I found the city’s charm draws me in and once you are there, you would agree. Here, I am offering a 4-day itinerary of exploring some popular sights and attractions for you to have a good taste and a glimpse of the Lotus Land. 🙂
Day 1: Capilano
Capilano Suspension Bridge is the world’s longest (140m) and highest (70m) pedestrian suspension bridge, crossing the Capilano River in the District of North Vancouver. Since 1889 visitors from every country on earth have come to Capilano Suspension Bridge to take in its swaying views and hang on to its steel cables. Celebrities, dignitaries, and icons have wobbled their way across its 140 meters. It has raised the heart rate of such notables as Bruce Springsteen, Margaret Thatcher, Walter Cronkite, Marilyn Monroe, and the King of Yugoslavia. The bridge is not a functioning passage, but a tourist attraction that offers stunning views of the Capilano Canyon.
Join a Guide Tour to explore the place. History tours start every hour, and Nature tours depart every hour on the half-hour from the deck on the rainforest side of the suspension bridge. The guided tour allows you to gain a deeper understanding of this temperature West Coast rainforest ecosystem. A temperate rainforest is an important place for diverse plants and animals, but also for people. The rainforest gives people clean air to breathe, space for recreation, and a place to renew their creative energy. Artists, writers, and musicians have drawn inspiration from the rainforest for thousands of years. Legends and myths of cultures around the world tell of spirits and supernatural beings that live deep in the forest.
Treetops Adventure begins at the Treehouse and continues on seven suspension bridges through magnificent old-growth Douglas-firs, followed by a tranquil walk along the edge of the rainforest with richly framed views of the Capilano River. While on Nature’s Edge boardwalk, see the remains of the 46-ton tree that fell onto the bridge during a spectacular winter storm in 2006. The tree snapped in half, but the bridge held firm.
Cliffwalk has suspended walkways along with sheer granite cliff faces that offer stunning canyon views on this heart-stopping cliff-side journey. The six steel pieces that make up the U-shaped Bridge were fabricated to fit together so precisely that the margin of error was less than four to five millimeters. The whole construction team worked, suspended on a rope, 91 meters above the Capilano River to install Cliffwalk along the granite cliffs. Lastly, the Canyon Lookout is located behind the Trading Post, offering views of the bridge, canyon, and Cliffwalk.
Day 2: Granville Island & Gastown
Granville Island was once the heart of Vancouver’s industrial harbor, a crowded mass of sawmills, factories, boast works, & more. By the mid-1970s, however, the industry was largely gone, and the island was in a dilapidated state. Though many were skeptical, plans for a public market, restaurants, & artists studios were drawn up, and a revitalized Granville Island opened its doors in 1979. Today, Granville Island is one of the cultural hubs of the city. The Public Market, Arts Club, Edible Canada, Maritime Market, Boatyard, Net Loft, Glass Blower, Breweries, Distillery, theatres, pond, and park. The island has a great number of places to explore!
It is the most adorable transportation that I have seen. The False Creek Ferries are “little blue ferries” that serve nine destinations year-round, with routes stretching from Granville Island to the West End, Kitsilano Beach, Yaletown, Fairview Slopes & the Olympic Village. The operations of False Creek Ferries started out small in 1982, but eventually gained traction for the idea of ferry service on the creek. At that time, False Creek was an industrial wasteland, where smoke billowed from factories, and tugboats piled the waters towing barges and log booms. As more people moved to the area, however, and Vancouver hosted EXPO-86, both the creek and its fledgling ferry service began to flourish. Today, False Creek has been transformed into an example of a good urban form, where people live, work, and play.
Now, the little blue ferries have become both a complement to transit in Vancouver and a great sightseeing experience as well; the ferries have become the city’s icon, instantly recognized by locals and visitors alike. A single trip costs ranging from #3.5 to $6, but for the locals, they enjoy a much bigger discount with a 1-month, 3-month, or a one-year pass.
Gastown has a lot of history because it is where the city of Vancouver started. Many offices and factories were built over a hundred years ago and stand to this day. The buildings showcase Edwardian Commercial architecture featuring irregular form, octagonal columns, parallelogram massing, stepped parapets, and decorative precast concrete sills. In 1960, citizens rallied and convinced provincial and federal governments to declare Gastown a historical site, protecting its buildings to this day, and into the future. Over the years the area has housed numerous businesses including the Purple Onion nightclub and Koolhaus Design warehouse. Today, the buildings in Gastown are refurbished and have become a trendy neighborhood with souvenir stores, restaurants, and clubs.
Gastown’s Steam Clock is probably the most well-known for being one of the most disappointing attractions in the world! However, the Steam Clock is actually quite impressive. This is the world’s first steam-powered clock created for the enjoyment of everyone. Live steam winds the weights and blows the whistles. Every 45 minutes one steel weight will travel by steam power to the top of the clock. The Gravity has driven a “falling ball” drive that was engineered by Douglas L. Smith. Each quarter-hour the clock will sound the Westminster chimes. The large whistle will sound once on the hour. The steam is supplied by the underground system of Central Heat Distributors Limited. The component parts cost $42,000 and the clock weighs over two tons.
If you have time to explore the rest of the city, hop on a Hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus and travel around the city. Places of interest include Vancouver Lookout, Vancouver Art Gallery, Sea to Sky Gondola, Flyover Canada, Vancouver Aquarium, Grouse Mountain, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Sea Vancouver Waterfront Sightseeing Adventure, to Museum of Vancouver!
Day 3: Stanley Park
The sprawling Stanley Park is one of the biggest urban parks in the world, and one of the best. The Seawall of Stanley Park is an icon. The waterfront offers walking and cycling lanes along the seaside. It is also a great way to view the dramatic Vancouver skyline. The seawall is currently under restoration. Starting in March 2018 the Vancouver Park Board began rehabilitating sections of the Stanley Park seawall. The project will include filling holes, replacing the stone, stabilizing foundations, and installing material to protect against water erosion between Brockton Point and Sunset Beach. The walking trail begins at the entrance from the Lost Lagoon and connects to a number of attractions in the park.
One of my most favorite attractions in Stanley Park is the Totem Poles. They are replicas on display but celebrates the rich and profound history and culture of the natives in Canada.
Thunderbird House Post
Carved House Posts are used in traditional First Nations cedar houses to support huge roof beams. The pole in Stanley Park is a replica of the house post carved by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Charlie James in the early 1900s. Tony Hunt carved this replica in 1987 to replace the older pole now in the Vancouver Museum. James experimented with colors and techniques creating a bold new style that has influenced generations of artists including his step-son Mungo Martin and grand-daughter Ellen Neel. A pole by Ellen Neelstands to the left.
Ga’akstalas, carved by Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick in 1991, is based on a design by Russell Smith. The pole depicts many important figures in Kwakwaka’wakw culture. Red Cedar-bark Man is an ancestor who survived the great flood and gave the people the first canoe. The hero Siwidi, shown riding a killer whale, was taken under the sea to the home of the SeaWorld’s chief and brought back the right to use all of the sea-kingdom masks. The giantess Dzunukwa sits at the base of the pole, symbolizing her central role in bringing magic and wealth to her people.
Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole
An older version of the pole was raised in the Haida village of Skidegate about 1870. It honors the Raven Chief of Skedans and depicts the chief’s hereditary crests. The two tiny figures in the bear’s ears are the chief’s daughter and son-in-law who erected the pole and gave a potlatch for the chief’s memorials. The rectangular board at the top of the original pole covered a cavity that held the chief’s remains. Haida artist Bill Reid with assistant Werner True carved this new pole in 1964. Don Yeomans recarved the top moon face in 1998.
Sky Chief Pole
Hesquiat artist Tim Paul and Ditidaht artist Art Thompson carved this pole in 1988 to represent important characters in Nuu-chah-nulth history.
Kwakwaka’wakw carver Ellen Neel and her uncle Mungo Martin were among the first artists to achieve wide recognition for their totem poles commissioned by museums, cities, and art collectors. Neel was also the first woman to become a Northwest Coast carver. This pole was completed in 1955 for Woodward’s Department Store. In memory of Neel’s pioneering role in reaching an international audience through her art, the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology has loaned this pole to Stanley Park.
Chief Wakas Pole
In Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonies, carved staffs called talking sticks are held by people making important speeches on behalf of a chief. This pole represents the talking stick and characters in an Owikeno story belonging to Chief Wakas. The original pole was raised in front of Chief Wakas’ house in Alert Bay in the 1890s. The raven’s beak opened to form a ceremonial entrance to the house, while the raven’s body was painted on the house front. Nimpkish artist Doug Cranmer, who has inherited Chief Wakas’ crests carved this new pole in 1987.
Oscar Maltipi Pole
First nations origin stories tell of the animals and supernatural beings who helped found family lineages. These stories are celebrated in songs, dances, and totem pole carvings. Kwakwaka’wakw artist Oscar Maltipi carved this pole in 1968. Originally from Turnour Island, Maltipi trained at the Royal B.C. Museum under artist and teacher Henry Hunt.
Beaver Crest Pole
Carved in 1987 by Nisga’a artist Norman tatt along with his son Isaac. Brother Robert, and nephew Ron Telek, this pole depicts how the Tait family’s Eagle clan adopted the beaver as their crest, and how the eagle and raven met and shared the sky.
Move on and explore the rest of the scenic and tourist spots include Vancouver Aquarium, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Prospect Point, Lion Gate Bridge, Siwash Rock, to Second Beach and Third Beach.
Day 4: Whistler and Vancouver Seaplane
Before heading to the North, we jumped on a seaplane and it is one of Canada’s most authentic west coast experiences! Experience Vancouver from above on an exhilarating tour. Take off in a seaplane from Coal Harbour and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city’s soaring skyscrapers, and beautiful North Shore mountains.
The tours show off the best of Vancouver. An incredible way to see where the city, the water, and the mountains meet. I recommend the Class Panorama (20-min flight) and it’s been the guest’s favorite. This quintessential Vancouver tour offers spectacular aerial views of the city’s busy downtown skyline and iconic landmarks including Stanley Park, English Bay, the Lions Gate Bridge, and the North Shore Mountains. The planes depart bustling Vancouver harbor and the aerial view of the entire area is truly one-of-a-kind. Don’t forget to make a reservation to secure your seats!
Whistler is the best Vancouver getaway. Located in the North of the city, whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. The resort village offers a wide range of shops, restaurants, sport and skiing facilities. If you are there at another time of the year, explore nature and walk the many hiking trails in the area.
A lesser-known walking trail is the Whistler Train Wreck. To get there, follow the trail at the side of Jane Lakes Road past the Sea to Sky Trail sign and into the forest. The majority of the trail to the Whistler Train Wreck site is easy, with a very short steep downhill near the suspension bridge but easy enough for all ages. The trail meanders along the gravel path through the lush forest.
At a junction, go right following the signs to the Train Wreck and passing the skis on the tree. This section of the trail has a lot of tree roots along the path, so be careful to watch your step. As the trail begins to slowly descend, the Cheakamus River comes into view between the trees. Continue down a short steep section before the trail veers right to the suspension bridge crossing the Cheakamus River.
Enjoy the view of the rushing water in the canyon below as you cross the bridge. The suspension bridge was built in the summer of 2016 in response to people hiking to the train wreck along active train tracks by illegally trespassing on the railroad’s property. The suspension bridge connects trails on the east and west side of the Cheakamus River. After crossing the suspension bridge, walk the short distance up the hill and you’re in the middle of the train wreck site, with box cars on both sides of you. Take your time walking around and checking out the wreck and the ramps that have been built for mountain bikers.
There are 2 additional box cars that many hikers miss that are a few minutes further south (downstream direction) from the group of boxcars. The entire Train Wreck site consists of 7 boxcars, all of which have been painted over the years and have become a popular tourist attraction.
After enjoying the area, cross back over the suspension bridge and go right, following the trail up the steep section and back to the junction. Go left at the junction and walk the short distance back to the road where you parked.