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Vancouver is an outdoor-oriented city, and (as long as you dress for the weather), you can be active year-round. The city’s outdoor showplace is Stanley Park, on the tip of the downtown peninsula, which rivals New York’s Central Park in size. You can follow the waterfront seawall path all around Stanley Park, on both sides of the downtown, and out to the Kitsilano neighborhood on the city’s West Side. The seawall also takes you to many of the city’s beaches – and yes, Vancouver is a beach town; English Bay Beach, Kitsilano Beach, and Spanish Banks Beach are favorites. In winter, you can ski, snowboard, or snowshoe on three local mountains less than an hour’s drive from downtown: Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and the smaller but family-friendly Mount Seymour.
Experience Asian Food and Culture
As a gateway to the Pacific Rim, Vancouver is a vibrant multicultural metropolis with a significant Asian population. In Vancouver proper, more than 25 percent of the population speaks Chinese as their first language; in the nearby suburb of Richmond, often considered the region’s “new Chinatown,” more than 65 percent of the population is of Asian descent. For an introduction to Vancouver’s Asian culture, tour the serene Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, take a food tour of Chinatown with Edible Canada, or sample one of the hundreds of Chinese restaurants in Richmond, a quick ride on the Canada Line from downtown.
Explore Beyond Downtown
While Vancouver’s downtown is undeniably beautiful – surrounded by water with mountains beyond – take some time to explore city neighborhoods beyond downtown. The most accessible is Kitsilano, with cute shops along West Fourth Avenue and a great people-watching beach. On funky Main Street, the blocks from 20th to 30th Avenues are lined with independent boutiques. And on the East Side, stop into one of the laid-back cafés or Italian delis along Commercial Drive.
Vancouver's mix of cosmopolitan shopping and dining, along with its lush landscape, means there are things to see and do for every type of traveler. Carve out a good chunk of time for a daytime visit to Stanley Park – one of North America’s largest urban parks. With over 1,000 acres to explore, do bike or walk (there are several cut-off points if you don’t have time for the entire 22 kilometers), visit the nine First Nations totem poles at Brockton Point and take a photo of the Hollow Tree (estimated to be 700-800 years old).
Neighborhoods that should be marked a Vancouver travel itinerary include the cobblestone streets of historic Gastown (home of the beloved steam clock, Gassy Jack), which is bustling with interior design shops and independent boutiques during the day, and hip restaurants and watering holes at night. Vancouver’s Chinatown is the second largest in North America (topped only by San Francisco) – skip brunch for steaming cards of fresh dim sum dumplings, followed by a walk through the serene Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, an authentic replica of a 15th Century Ming Dynasty garden.
Come nightfall, do make reservations at one of Vancouver’s fine dining establishments – often at the top of world’s best restaurant lists. The brightest gems on the dining scene include Hawksworth, Blue Water Café and Market by Jean Georges.
But don’t leave Vancouver without exercising your wallet. Robson Street is the city’s busiest shopping district, with big name favorites lined up for easy access. And just a few blocks over, Alberni Street, aptly nicknamed Affluent Alley, boasts the most luxurious designer stores including Hermes, Tiffany & Co., Burberry and more.