You’ll find a variety of things to do in Vancouver, British Columbia that embrace the uniqueness of this most liveable global city. Close to snowcapped mountains and an ocean teeming with wildlife, Vancouver leaves you breathless with its majestic natural beauty.
Natural attractions abound, both on-shore and beneath the waves. Green urban parks are complemented by rugged snowcapped mountains, all within easy reach of Canada Place Cruise Terminal in downtown.
This modern high-rise city overlooks the sheltered waters of the harbor offering a host of unforgettable water-based things to do in Vancouver BC. From boating, fishing, hiking and snowsports to world class shopping, fine seafood dining and unique attractions, you’ll find plenty of things to do Vancouver that will make your visit truly memorable. And that’s before you even set sail on your Alaska cruise!
Check out these top things to do in Vancouver before or after your cruise – some of them are free!
Things to Do around Canada Place Cruise Terminal
If you only have a short time to explore Vancouver before or after your cruise, there are plenty of things to do just a short stroll from Canada Place Terminal. Leave your luggage at the cruise port baggage storage desk (short-term only) and enjoy seeing the sights!
1. Vancouver Lookout
Just 400 metres from Canada Place Cruise Terminal is the towering Vancouver Lookout attraction. Offering 360 degree views from the enclosed observation platform, it’s a fantastic way to get an overview of all that Vancouver has to offer.
Standing over 168 metres high (553 feet), The Lookout includes a ride in a glass elevator which takes 40 seconds to reach the viewing area. The gallery has powerful binoculars for viewing some of the sights in detail.
Best of all, your admission lasts all day. You can visit in the morning and then return after dark to see the city magically transformed with thousands of colorful lights.
2. Hire a Bicycle
Cycling along the waterfront is a wonderful way to breathe the fresh sea air and admire the architecture, artworks and boat traffic. Operating from Coal Harbour Quay, Urban Waves Bike Rentals offers a fun way to explore Stanley Park and the waterfront on two wheels.
Vancouver City Tours
3. City Secrets Vancouver Walking Tour
Discover a side of Vancouver you would never expect as part of this 2-hour guided walking tour. Your guide will take you down little-known alleyways to discover city landmarks as part of this fun and fact-packed tour of the city. It’s a truly fascinating tour for anyone who loves local history and colorful tales.
Learn about Vancouver’s Prohibition-era past as you stroll along. Visit many interesting places on a tour that takes your from Cathedral Square to historic Gastown. Learn about the villains and mobsters that once did business in this city – who would have thought it?
4. Lost Souls Tours in Gastown
One of the more unusual things to do in Vancouver is join a tour of the city’s darker side on the Lost Souls of Gastown Tour. A combination of walking tour, history facts and theater dramatics takes you back in time as you learn about the Great Fire, smallpox outbreaks and an unsolved murder mystery.
Starting after dark at 8pm, this fun tour lasts 90 minutes and is led by a professional actor dressed in character. It’s a unique way to learn about Vancouver’s less well-known history.
5. Seaplane Tours above Vancouver
One of the best ways to see the city of Vancouver and the stunning coastal scenery nearby is aboard a Vancouver Panorama Seaplane Tour. For around CA $150 you get an amazing 45-minute experience departing from Vancouver Coal Harbour and taking in the city, North Shore, and mountain ski resort of Whistler before heading back over the islands and landing back in the harbor with a splash!
6. Vancouver Craft Brewery and Food Tour
Vancouver is famous for its award-winning beers, Pacific salmon and seafood. How better to sample a selection of the best food and drink venues than on a Food and Brewery Tour? The 4-hour guided tour includes walking around the breweries, a selection of beer samples, a full meal, souvenir beer glass and transport along with a local guide.
This tour takes you “behind the scenes” at 3 separate craft breweries in Vancouver as you learn about the history and business of craft beer making. Ask questions and appreciate the final product with a sample beer flight of your choice. The final stop includes a full meal (and a pint of course) making this a fun and informative tour for those who enjoy craft ales and hearty food.
7. Vancouver City Delights
The best way to see all the attractions in Vancouver and the North Shore is an a 7-hour minibus tour. Your informative local guide will provide you with plenty of local stories about Vancouver’s history and highlights.
The trip includes views from Vancouver Lookout, Stanley Park, Granville Island and historic Gastown. It also includes time at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and a Salmon Hatchery. It’s Vancouver in a nutshell!
8. Stanley Park Bicycle Tour
Visiting Stanley Park is one of the must-see things to do in Vancouver, BC. The easiest way to explore the 100-acre area of rainforest is on a leisurely 3-hour bicycle tour. It explores the sights and sounds of this green preserve at a relaxed pace with a helpful local guide.
Enjoy ocean views, Beaver Lake and the Lost Lagoon and spot wildlife as you head along the forest trails and waterfront paths. The tour includes a suitable bicycle and safety helmet along with sunscreen and rain ponchos if necessary.
Free Things to Do in Vancouver BC
9. Free Shuttle Bus Ride
Take the free shuttle from various locations in downtown Vancouver, including Canada Place, to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The park attractions have an admission charge, but the scenic bus ride is free to enjoy! There’s an extra free perk for BC residents; when you purchase a regular ticket, you get a free annual pass to revisit throughout the year.
10. Admire Public Artworks
Vancouver Waterfront has several eye-catching sculptures that enhance a stroll from Canada Place. Check out the giant blue “The Drop” at Bon Voyage Plaza with its cruise ship backdrop. Further along is the “Digital Orca” in black and white blocks. There are dozens more sculptures scattered throughout the city making a cultural art walk an interesting thing to do in Vancouver during your visit.
11. Totem Pole Collection
Vancouver Convention Centre adjoins Canada Place Cruise Terminal and it has a collection of authentic carved totem poles inside. Entrance is free, so pop in and check out these Canadian cultural exhibits.
12. Stroll Around Harbour Green Park
Stretch your legs and enjoy the superb waterfront views from Harbour Green Park. The Seawall Water Walk has great views of seaplanes taking off and landing as well as ferries, cruise ships and other boat traffic.
13. Visit a Salmon Hatchery
The Capilano Salmon Hatchery in North Vancouver is a fascinating place to learn more about salmon. Chinook salmon are raised on-site and then returned to the river as a means of preserving salmon stocks. The attraction is free to visit and includes seeing steelhead trout and coho juveniles as well as chinook salmon.
14. Watch a Movie Being Made
One of the most fun things to do in Vancouver BC is watch a movie being made. Known as “The Hollywood of the North”. the city always has a movie or two in process. You can check the current movie sets on the Creative BC website. You can even be part of an audience for a documentary or other TV show.
Alternatively, just wander around the city and you’ll get that sense of déjà vu. Movies filmed in Vancouver include Fifty Shades of Grey, Star Trek, Godzilla, Superman, I Robot and Mission Impossible 4.
15. Visit a Night Market
From May 25th (Victoria Day) through September, summer night markets are a top attraction in Richmond which is about 15km (10 miles) south of the waterfront. The market has around 300 vendors cooking up delectable food along with live entertainment. It’s a fun night out.
16. Enjoy the View
Queen Elizabeth Park is the highest point in Vancouver at 125 metres elevation. It is a great place to visit for fantastic views of the city, the coastline, islands and North Shore Mountains. It includes a conservatory, quarry garden, arboretum, dancing fountains and has tennis courts, pitch and putt and other sports amenities.
17. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
One of Vancouver’s most famous landmarks is the historic Capilano Suspension Bridge. This 140-metre-long pedestrian bridge across the Capilano River is not for the vertiginously challenged. It crosses the steep-sided gorge 70 metres above the roaring white waters and the attraction is one of Vancouver’s top things to do.
The park includes a Treetops Adventure, a total of 7 suspended footbridges and a Cliffwalk that hugs the edge of a granite precipice. There’s also a Visitor Centre, several restaurants, totem poles, birds of prey and nature tours. Go independently or take an all-inclusive 5-hour tour with your own transport and tour guide.
18. Grouse Mountain
One of the most sought-after things to do in Vancouver is visit Grouse Mountain, which is Vancouver’s #1 most visited natural attraction. Located just 15 minutes from downtown, you can expect outstanding views from the Skyride gondola as part of your full-day Grouse Mountain Tour at this snowcapped mountain peak.
Dress up warm for this tour which includes admission and a full range of things to do at Vancouver’s famous peak. Lumberjack shows, ranger talks, seeing orphaned grizzly bears, guided eco tours and disc golf are complemented by shopping and dining with extraordinary mountain views. Add-on experiences include ziplining, helicopter tours, skating, snowshoeing and the Light Walk.
19. Scenic Coach Trip to Whistler
If you want to relax and see the passing scenery of beautiful British Columbia, book a trip by bus to Squamish and Whistler. The return trip takes around 5 hours and is excellent value at less than US$23 per person total. Spacious seats, on-board washrooms and Wi-Fi make this one of the most relaxing things to do in Vancouver before or after your cruise.
20. Take a Hike
Lynn Canyon has its own delightful scenery with waterfalls, hiking trails and a free 50-metre high suspension bridge over the river. In summer there’s a swimming hole for cooling off. Leave time to visit the cafe and ecology center during your visit.
21. Head to the Beach
One of the most popular things to do in Vancouver in summer is head for the beaches. The unimaginatively named Second Beach and Third Beach are in Stanley Park. Second Beach has a heated freshwater pool in summer and a Variety Kids Water Park with jets and canons for wet and wild fun.
22. Butchart Gardens
A visit to Victoria and Butchart Gardens is possible with a fabulous all-day tour. It includes a 90-minute cruise through the Gulf Island to Vancouver Island, a city tour with your guide, scenic transfers by road to the spectacular Butchart Gardens and a return ferry trip from Tsawwassen terminal.
Visiting these world-famous gardens and the attractive architecture in Victoria are one of the most thrilling things to do in Vancouver, if you can possibly find the time to do it.
23. Vancouver Aquarium without the Wait!
Vancouver Aquarium is a top Vancouver attraction for all ages. Close to the cruise terminal at Canada Place, you can spend all day as there is so much to see in Canada’s largest aquarium.
Exhibits, informative animal shows, and huge tanks include 60,000 creatures from penguins to sea otters. If you don’t have time to waste waiting in line, opt for a Skip-the-Lines ticket available online, and get priority admission.
24. Visit a Farm!
Just 10 minutes from downtown, Maplewood Farm offers fun things to do in Vancouver for families.You can easily fill 2-3 hours admiring 200 farm animals including horses, birds, goats, chickens and petting animals. See sheep shearing and milking demonstrations at this educational attraction on Vancouver’s North Shore.
Water-based Things to Do in Vancouver
25. Jetskiing in Vancouver Harbour
Imagine the thrill of driving your own jetski on calm waters as part of an early morning Jetski Tour. The exhilaration of the bouncy ride coupled with beautiful coastal scenery make this one of the most exciting things to do in Vancouver for adventure sports lovers.
See Bowen Island, Anvil and Gambier Islands and a seal colony on your morning ride that lasts about 3 hours. The tour includes wet suits, life jackets, fuel, permit and a safety briefing which covers some interesting information about the history of the city and the sights you will see.
26. Coal Harbour Boat Rentals
Just three minutes’ walk from Canada Place Cruise Terminal, boat rentals are a fun thing to do in Vancouver Harbour. Rent a Bayliner motor boat by the hour and head up the quieter waters of Indian Arm with mountain scenery on both sides. Look out for waterfalls, eagles, seals and other wildlife. You can even moor at Deep Cove and have lunch at Arm’s Reach Bistro.
27. Hop aboard the Aquabus
See the city from the water with a ticket aboard the Aquabus ferry which hops around False Creek. There are stops at Hornby Street, Granville Island, David Lam Park, Stamps Landing, Spyglass Place, Yaletown, Plaza of Nations and The Village.
Purchase tickets online ahead of time and make the most of this fun way to get around Vancouver. Hop off and on or stay aboard for the round trip, which takes about 30 minutes.
Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver
28. Visit Granville Island
Every year Granville Island attracts over 10 million visitors. This 37-acre island on the edge of downtown Vancouver has been re-generated as a shopping and entertainment area. You’ll find a huge public market with over 50 stalls selling all types of food, seafood, confectionery and international specialties.
The Food Court is excellent. The island also has many arts and crafts shops, art galleries, a theater, brewery and restaurants. It’s free to visit, but you may be tempted to buy!
29. Watch an NHL Match
Attending a Canucks ice hockey match is one of the most authentic Canadian things to do in Vancouver. They play at the Rogers Arena in downtown. Check out the Canucks website for match details and get tickets to see this popular ice hockey team in action.
30. FlyOver Canada
See Canada from the air at FlyOver Canada, which is actually within the iconic Canada Place complex. It offers a flight simulation with all the senses of wind, smells and mist. Soar above the scenery in this 8-minute virtual escape which shows you the highlights of Canada – perfect for international visitors.
31. Get a Vancouver Passport!
With so many things to do around Vancouver, you might want to book a few nights in a hotel in the city. The best way to enjoy seeing all these amazing attractions is with a Vancouver Attraction Passport. It lasts for 90 days (for both before and after your cruise perhaps!) and covers 2 adults and 2 children.
The passport offers discounts to museums, restaurants, day trips, bike rentals, theaters and over 50 Vancouver attractions. It includes a 144-page guidebook which makes a great souvenir of your Vancouver visit.
Things to Do in Vancouver BC FAQ
Vancouver BC is known for its stunning waterfront and surrounding snow-capped mountain scenery. It is frequently listed by Forbes as one of the “Most Beautiful Cities in the World” and is ranked #3 on The Economist’s Top Global Cities for Liveability. Other things that Vancouver is known for include Stanley Park, local salmon and seafood, and outdoor recreational activities.
Canada Place Cruise Terminal is in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Just steps from the terminal you will find hotels, a conference center, shops, restaurants, sculptures and city attractions.
The nearest attraction to the Vancouver cruise terminal is FlyOver Canada, which is actually within the iconic Canada Place complex.
It offers a flight simulation which shows you the highlights of Canada – perfect for international visitors. The Convention Center is right next to the cruise terminal and often hosts exhibitions, fairs and events. In the Main Plaza is a Welcome Desk operated by Westcoast Sightseeing.
They offer a full range of hop-off tours to local attractions including Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Just a 3 minute walk from Vancouver cruise terminal is Harbour Green Park along with The Drop and the Digital Orca sculptures.
Vancouver BC ranks as a very safe city for visitors. Some minor crimes are reported in Vancouver but serious crimes are extremely rare, especially for tourists.
The Rapid Transit, buses and taxis are all rated as low risk. Muggings and kidnappings are almost unheard of and terrorism is unlikely, although it can never be ruled out. The risk of scams is low although there is a small risk of pickpockets on crowded streets and along the waterfront.
Overall, by taking sensible precautions with valuables, every visitor will find Vancouver BC a very safe and beautiful city to visit.
The best time to visit Vancouver, BC weather-wise is in summer when you can enjoy the attractions and beautiful scenery in warm, sunny weather. Spring and fall are good times to visit as the city attractions are less crowded than in summer.
The rainiest months are April, September and October. The down season is from November to mid-March when days are cold and short. However, winter is much warmer in Vancouver than the rest of Canada and it is close to the ski slopes around Whistler for those who want a mild winter escape in Vancouver.