Hottest attractions in Vancouver, Canada right now.
Museum of Vancouver
The MOV has hugely improved in recent years, with cool temporary exhibitions and evening events aimed at culturally minded adults. It hasn’t changed everything, though. There are still superbly evocative displays on local 1950s pop culture and 1960s hippie counterculture – a reminder that ‘Kits’ was once the grass-smoking center of Vancouver’s flower-power movement – plus a shimmering gallery of vintage neon signs from around the city.
There’s plenty of hands-on stuff for history-minded kids here, including weekend scavenger hunts and fun workshops. The museum is hoping to relocate to a downtown site in future years, so check the website for progress reports.
This rustic area near Stanley Park’s entrance was originally part of Coal Harbour. But after a causeway was built in 1916, the new body of water was renamed, transforming itself into a freshwater lake a few years later. Today it’s a nature sanctuary – keep your eyes peeled for beady-eyed blue herons – and its perimeter pathway is a favored stroll for nature-huggers.
The excellent Stanley Park Nature House provides exhibits and illumination on the park’s wildlife, history and ecology. Ask about its fascinating park walks, covering everything from bird-watching strolls to artsy ambles around the park.
Second Beach & Third Beach
Second Beach is a family-friendly area on Stanley Park’s western side, with a grassy playground, an ice-cream-serving concession and the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt course. In summer, there are free outdoor movie screenings – see www.freshaircinema.ca for listings – but its main attraction is the seasonal outdoor swimming pool. Alternatively, head to Third Beach for one of Vancouver’s best sunset-watching spots.
A lovely sandy expanse with plenty of large logs to sit against, this is a favorite summer evening destination for many locals. The sky often comes alive with pyrotechnic color as they munch on the contents of their picnic baskets.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
The city’s favorite green-thumbed tranquility break, this 22-hectare, 255,000-plant idyll is a web of paths weaving through many small, specialized gardens: the Rhododendron Walk blazes with color in spring, while the Korean Pavilion is a focal point for a fascinating Asian collection. Save time to get lost in the maze and look out for the herons and turtles that call the ponds here home. Check the online calendar for tours and events.
Pick up a free self-guided tour brochure from the front desk; there’s a different theme each month. VanDusen is also one of Vancouver’s top Christmastime destinations, complete with thousands of twinkling fairy lights illuminating the dormant plant life.
Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden & Park
A tranquil break from bustling Chinatown, this intimate ‘garden of ease’ reflects Taoist principles of balance and harmony. Entry includes a 45-minute guided tour, in which you’ll learn about the symbolism behind the placement of the gnarled pine trees, winding covered pathways and ancient limestone formations. Look out for the lazy turtles bobbing in the jade-colored water.
The adjacent Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park isn’t quite as elaborate as its sister, but this free-entry spot is also a pleasant oasis with whispering grasses, a large fishpond and a small pagoda. Check the website for summertime Friday-evening concerts in the main Garden.
West 4th Avenue
This strollable smorgasbord of stores and restaurants may have your credit cards whimpering for mercy after a couple of hours. Since Kits is now a bit of a middle-class utopia, shops that once sold cheap groceries are now more likely to be hawking designer yoga gear, hundred-dollar hiking socks and exotic (and unfamiliar) fruits from around the world.
There are also some excellent bookstores and coffeehouses here, as well as the menagerie of well-maintained wooden heritage homes along almost every side street. The neighborhood is definitely worth a lazy afternoon of anyone’s time – and you’re never far from the beach if you need to cool off.
Vancouver’s most romantic old-school tower block, and also its best art deco building, the elegant 22-story Marine Building is a tribute to the city’s maritime past. Check out the elaborate exterior of seahorses, lobsters and streamlined ships, then nip into the lobby where it’s like a walk-through artwork. Stained-glass panels and a polished floor inlaid with signs of the zodiac await.
You should also peruse the inlaid wood interiors of the brass-doored elevators. The Marine Building was the tallest building in the British Empire when completed in 1930 and it’s said to have bankrupted its original owners. It now houses offices.
Hope you enjoy your time in Vancouver!
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