Vancouver is the largest city in Western Canada, located at the southwestern corner of the coastal province of British Columbia. It is well known for its scenery, nestled as it is between mountains and ocean. It often makes lists of “best cities to live in” and is certainly a beautiful destination to visit.
For simplicity the Vancouver area is separated into a number of districts. Most of the attractions associated with Vancouver are in these districts. These don’t correspond to the legal divisions of the city, but instead a convenient way of sub-dividing Vancouver for travellers.
- City Center — The Downtown peninsula of Vancouver includes the West End, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and Stanley Park.
- Kitsilano Area — The young urban neighbourhood in Vancouver.
- Vancouver South — A mostly residential area of Vancouver includes the neighbourhoods of Kerrisdale, Oakridge and Marpole.
- UBC — University of British Columbia and the surrounding area.
- East Van — The more working class area of Vancouver.
- The Lower Mainland is the common name for Greater Vancouver, which the includes larger more suburban districts:
- North Shore — The area north of the Burrard Inlet includes the municipalities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver.
- Burnaby – A separate municipality which is primarily a suburb of Vancouver. Has a number of parks.
- Richmond – Richmond has been experiencing growth and change with remarkable speed, transforming from a rural, local community to an international city with a balance of urban, sub-urban family, and rural areas.
By North American standards, Vancouver has quite a decent public transit system. It is run by a regional transportation authority called TransLink and connects the various municipalities in the greater Vancouver area. Transportation is provided by bus, train (called the “skytrain”, because it runs on elevated rails) and even by boats (called “seabus”, for obvious reasons). Tickets cost depending on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. Buses only accept exact change, but at skytrain stations, tickets are sold at vending machines that give change. As of late the machines now accept debit cards. Books of 10 prepaid tickets are available at a discount from many convenience stores.
Weather in Vancouver
The Vancouver area has a number of municipalities or neighbourhoods that use the “North” and “West as part of their names. The following is a summary:
- The west side of Vancouver is the portion of Municipality of Vancouver west of 1 block west of Main Street. Generally not including the Downtown Core. This includes the areas we are calling Kitsilano area and Vancouver South.
- The West End, the western portion of the downtown peninsula.
- West Vancouver, the western half of the North Shore
- North Vancouver, the eastern half of the North Shore (which is split into the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver.)
Yes, even locals who have lived here for many years find the distinctions confusing. To make it even worse many of these areas use the same numbered streets/avenues:
In the City of Vancouver the East-West streets are numbered Avenues. They always use East or West to designate whether it is on the East side or the West side (with Ontario Street as the dividing line). Some of the major streets use names rather than numbers (Broadway would be 9th Avenue, King Edward Avenue would be 25th Avenue).
In West Vancouver some of the North-South streets are numbered streets.
In North Vancouver some of the East-West streets are numbered streets.
- Stanley Park in City Center is one of the big draws in Vancouver includes the Vancouver Aquarium .
- The Vancouver aquarium is famous for its Beluga whales. Watch out for the Splash Zone at the Vancouver Aquarium
- The Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain are on the North Shore .
- University of British Columbia. This Campus has streets lined with trees and stretching over an area encompassing a small city, the UBC campus offers much to see and much to do. You can attend free lectures, visit the Museum of Anthropology, relax at Wreck Beach, or see a show at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts. The UBC Libraries form the second largest library collection in all of Canada (second only to University of Toronto). A must for cash-strapped visitors: UBC often hosts free events, such as seminars, theatrical performances or student concerts.
Seawall . Whether you like to ride a bicycle, rollerblade or just walk there are miles and miles of seawall. Starting with Canada Place downtown, to Stanley Park, around Stanley Park, along False Creek, to Science World, then to Granville Island, Vanier Park and Kits Beach in Kitsilano.
Beaches . Much of the coastline here is rocky; the beaches do not rank amongst the most spectacular in the world. The most famous beach is the clothing optional Wreck Beach in the UBC Area and Kits Beach in Kitsilano . There are also beaches on the North Shore .
Skiing the Vancouver area is world-famous for its ski hills, and Whistler Mountain is ranked amongst best ski resorts in the world. There are also a few local ski hills on the North Shore .
Vancouver Art Gallery in the City Center .
Vancouver Trolley Company is a nice way to explore Vancouver. As any Vancouverite will tell you, parking in Vancouver can be a nightmare, so exploring the city on a narrated tour bus ride is a worthy alternative. This is a “hop-on, hop-off” type of tour with stops in numerous places around town and the drivers narrate the history and peculiarities of the city along the way. You are limited to one time around the loop.
Festival of Lights. Fireworks festival consists of a fireworks competition that includes 4 nights of fireworks in late July, early August. Hundreds of thousands of people attend this event every year. Warning: you should commute to this event on public transportation. This is best viewed from either English Bay or the Kits Beach area in Kitsilano .
Vancouver Film Festival happens every year in late September and early October. Good selection of films, but often hard to get tickets and don’t expect any of the big celebrities to make a showing.
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All pictures by the author
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