Consistently ranked as one of the world's most livable cities, Vancouver is also a desirable tourist destination. Summer is an ideal time to visit, as temperatures are mild and skies are often clear. If you're unfamiliar with the city, a good place to start is Vancouver Lookout, which offers a 360° view of the area. Another great way to get your bearings is aboard a boat. Harbour Cruises (501 Denman St.) offers a variety of tours aboard many different types of vessels. We took a one-hour ride on a charming boat powered by paddlewheel. Although Port Vancouver is Canada's largest and busiest port, the tours are idyllic and offer breathtaking views of the Vancouver area.
A few miles from the heart of downtown Vancouver is Granville Island, a bohemian town located beneath the looming Granville St. Bridge. Take a stroll down the side streets of Granville, and you'll find many specialty shops selling handmade wares. We visited The Liberty Distillery and were treated to an informative tour of their facilities and a sampling of their craft spirits. Liberty's distillers select local, organic grains and their famous "Truth Vodka" and "Endeavor Gin" are smooth enough to sip straight.
Similar in spirit to Granville Island is Gastown, the oldest part of Vancouver, so named after the loquacious owner of the first saloon: "Gassy Jack." In Gastown, you can tour cobblestone streets and check out some of the city's casual, but chic, restaurants. Those who like to walk or bike can cruise the waterfront path at Coal Harbor. Continue along the water and you'll find yourself in the world-famous Stanley Park, which is one of the largest urban parks in North America and home to a stunning totem pole display (Brockton Point).
In addition to the impressive displays of indigenous art and artifacts that can be found in the city, there is the worldly Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby Street), which features the works of many renowned artists. The Gallery's collection is extensive, encompassing over 10,000 works, only 3 percent of which will be on display at any given time. We were lucky enough to see a Picasso exhibit, which featured original paintings by the artist and offered interesting background context on the women (all six of them) who were his muses. Visitors to Vancouver may also want to check out the Museum of Anthropology, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, or the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.
There are many options for lodging in the city; however, those on a budget might consider staying outside the city and driving or taking a cab downtown, which will definitely save you some money. Overall, Vancouver is a great place to visit -- it's clean, green, and culturally diverse -- What more can one ask for in a city?
Cyclists in Stanley Park, photo by Visit Vancouver
Group Cycling on the Seawall, photo by Visit Vancouver
Kelsey Maki is an English instructor at Brookdale Community College. She earned her BA in American Literature from The University of California—Santa Cruz and her MA in English from Rutgers University. She has published articles on travel and teaching.