No matter the season, a trip to Vancouver is always a good time. This west coast Canadian city is sandwiched between the water and the mountains, meaning nature-lovers and those that delight in outdoor explorations are never lacking in things to do in both the sun and snow. But this city is no one-trick pony; there are an abundance of indoor things to do and see too. Happily, that creates no definitive answer to the question of ‘when is the best time to go to Vancouver’, because this laid-back city has something for everybody, any time of year.
Things To Do In Vancouver In Summer
Go Kayaking in Deep Cove
Summer is super short in Vancouver, so the locals are always sure to make the most of it. Outdoor activities reign supreme in these warmer months, and one of the most popular ways to enjoy the Vancouver summer weather is with a trip to Deep Cove. Located on the north shore on the banks of the Indian Arm, this tiny town is one of the safest and most picturesque places in Canada to kayak in the ocean. Paddle through the clear waters of this stunning fjord and keep an eye out for seals and other curious wildlife. Afterwards, be sure to pop by Honey Doughnuts for a sweet treat, and if you have the time, hike up Quarry Rock for a gorgeous view across the water.
Tour the Port Moody Ale Trail
If you’ve had your fill of nature (impossible), another popular Vancouver pastime is brewery hopping. Vancouver is full of independent craft breweries, but the so-called Brewers Row in Port Moody is the only place where you can find five excellent options within a three-block stretch of the same street. You have Yellow Dog Brewing (the original of the pack), Parkside Brewery, Twin Sails Brewing, Moody Ales and The Bakery Brewing; all offering their own experimental brews. Port Moody is easily accessible by train from Vancouver City, so it’s all too easy to spend a day sampling tasting paddles in atmospheric surrounds.
Hike in Lynn Canyon
If you’re looking for free things to do in Vancouver in summer, Lynn Canyon is for you. Nestled within the Lynn Valley, also on the north shore, Lynn Canyon is brimming with plenty of hiking trails, popular swimming holes, pretty waterfalls and a spectacular suspension bridge (which is free to visit, unlike the city’s more touristy Capilano Suspension Bridge). You can easily spend hours upon hours wandering through this temperate forest, but if your legs are craving a little more altitude, the north shore also offers numerous beautiful hikes up Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain.
Visit the Islands
For those looking to escape the city for a day, one of the best things to do in Vancouver in the summer is visit one of the many islands in the Strait of Georgia. Of course, there are many things to do on Vancouver Island (surfing in Tofino, soaking in springs at Hot Springs Cove, and yet more breweries in Victoria), but so many of the smaller islands are well worth your while. Salt Spring Island offers a wonderful Saturday market, Bowen Island has some great mountain biking trails, and Galiano Island promises numerous hiking and kayaking opportunities. You could also take the ferry up to the Sunshine Coast for a weekend spent visiting gorgeous townships and stunning beaches.
Things To Do In Vancouver In Autumn
Drive the Sea to Sky Highway
If you thought summer was short, autumn (or fall, as it’s called in this part of the world) is even shorter. Temperatures drop quite quickly as summer begins to transition into winter, and one of the best things to do in Vancouver in the autumn is to make your way up the Sea to Sky Highway. While you can do this any time of year (although in winter you’ll be required by law to have snow tires), there’s something extra special about navigating this scenic route along Howe Sound and into the Coast Mountains while the leaves are changing colour. Visit thundering waterfalls, hike the ever-popular Chief, take the Sea to Sky Gondola up to the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge for panoramic views, and stop by the mountain town of Squamish for lunch.
Cycle the Seawall
Cycling the seawall around Stanley Park is another thing you can do any time of year, but the autumn colours just add that little bit extra. This 8.8-kilometre paved pathway provides excellent views over Howe Sound as it winds past numerous landmarks and under the Lions Gate Bridge. The path continues beyond the park to Kitsilano Beach and the Spanish Banks. While you’re here, consider delving into Stanley Park itself, where you can visit an old growth forest, a beautiful rose garden and ancient Aboriginal village sites.
Cheers in Gastown
Vancouver is full of unique neighbourhoods, but one of the most vibrant and trendy spots is the downtown pocket of Gastown. Here you’ll find cobblestone streets, quaint art galleries, numerous fine restaurants and the famous Gastown Steam Clock. Spend an afternoon exploring the area, then pop into a cocktail bar for a fancy refreshment and a good dose of people-watching.
Things To Do In Vancouver In Winter
Go Skiing in Whistler
One of the best day trips from Vancouver in winter is up to Whistler. This world-class ski resort and host of the 2010 Winter Olympics is a mecca for avid skiers and snowboarders, as the dual mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb offer endless on- and off-piste action. Even if you’re not into snow sports, the Whistler Village (not to mention the nearby Scandinave Spas) is well worth a visit. Alternatively, if you’re keen to hit the slopes but don’t want to drive the two hours to Whistler, Vancouver’s north shore also offers three snow-capped ski hills, as well as an excellent tubing park.
Visit the Museum of Anthropology
If the cold starts getting the best of you in winter, be sure to thaw out in the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Located on the traditional territory of the Musqueam people, MOA features an enthralling and educational collection of indigenous art, artefacts and ethnographic objects, with massive totem poles, masks and ceramics also shedding some light on the history of Canada’s indigenous peoples.
Catch a Canucks Game
Hockey is like a religion in Canada, and all Vancouverites worship the Canucks. The season runs from October to April, making a trip to Rogers Stadium one of the best winter activities in Vancouver. Even if you don’t know the rules, the atmosphere at a Canucks home game is always electric – especially when they’re up against west coast rivals, the Calgary Flames.
See the Christmas Lights in Van Dusen Botanical Gardens
Winter means Christmas in Vancouver. As such, one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter is to take in the various Christmas light displays, with a particularly magical spectacle happening at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. A stroll through these 22 acres of lush greenery is one of the most relaxing things to do in Vancouver any day of the week, but during the month of December, the gardens are lit up with festive lights. Vendors selling mulled wine are on hand to complete the experience.
What To Do In Vancouver In Spring
Hike the Grouse Grind
Celebrate the end of winter by tackling Vancouver’s most popular hike. The Grouse Grind begins at the foot of Grouse Mountain, and winds 2.9 kilometres through alpine scenery for an elevation gain of 850 metres. This is no walk in the park, but you’ll be rewarded at the top with sweeping views of the city. Grouse Mountain also offers various other attractions, such as the free birds of prey show, and is home to orphaned grizzly bears Grinder and Coola. Once you’re ready to head back down, give your legs a break and jump on board the scenic Grouse Gondola instead.
Gallivant Around Granville Island
One of the best things to do in Vancouver in spring — or any time of the year, really — is to wander around Granville Island. Located within the Vancouver core, Granville Island features a massive food market popular with locals and tourists alike, as well as plenty of restaurants and art galleries, with buskers also setting the mood with their melodies. For the complete experience, be sure to catch the Aquabus over from False Creek.
Have time in Vancouver, no matter which season you travel, with the range of itineraries from Webjet Exclusives’ collection of Canada tours. These trips also see you move through other amazing parts of the Great White North, and may include experiences on Rocky Mountaineer, explorations of Eastern Canada, and even a cruise of the Inside Passage in Alaska. Find out more about what you can see on Rocky Mountaineer, or uncover some of the best outdoor things to see in Canada.