What’s the best time to visit Vancouver?

Hayley Bosch

As one of the most mild cities in Canada, Vancouver is amazing year round. With snowcapped mountains in the distance and the Strait of George at its feet, Hollywood North — the city is just behind Los Angeles and New York City in the film industry — is bursting at the seams with activities no matter what month you visit. Considering it’s latitude and connection to the Pacific Ocean, the water is absolutely frigid just about all the time, but that’s not to say it’s not gorgeous to admire from the seashore where, in the summer, the sun doesn’t set until about 9 p.m.

We love a good spring trip to Vancouver because the city really does have the best of both worlds. With the moderate climate in the bustling city and some of the best skiing known to mankind just a short drive away, the world is your oyster — well at least Vancouver and its outskirts. As you stroll through the blooming gardens of Stanley Park during a beautiful spring day, you’ll be more than comfortable with the days staying between 50 and 65 degrees, though March can be quite rainy. And if you venture up to Whistler Mountain (just an hour and a half north of the city), you’ll be more than pleased as you ski the slopes with the warm spring sun shining down on you making the 30-degree day much nicer.

Though spring in Vancouver is absolutely picturesque, the autumn months have plenty to offer as the waters are brimming with migrating whales. Whether you’re adventurous enough to embark on a kayak tour of the City of Glass or set out on a boat to search for whales, the city is filled with activities in the fall. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the weather tends to be similar to that of the springtime.

Sure, Vancouver is one of the warmest Canadian cities; but it has also been described as a city with the best climate and worst weather. Much like its southern neighbor, Seattle, the fall in Vancouver can be sunny and beautifully warm one week and the next, show off its dull and grey side. That being said, the winter tends to be pretty rainy. While it does snow a bit, it doesn’t stick around too long. If you’re looking for a snowy winter wonderland, head up to the mountains where the base depth is at least two feet and the average snowfall is more than 400 inches.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best things to do in Vancouver’s Gastown?

    With its cobblestone streets and brick warehouse-style buildings, Gastown has a totally different vibe than adjacent Vancouver districts where shiny glass skyscrapers dominate the cityscape. Settled in the 1860s, Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, and one of the best ways to explore this area is simply to walk around.

    These days, Gastown is home to many of the city’s high-tech and design businesses, as well as its most exciting restaurants and best cocktail bars. Plan to dine at contemporary eateries like L’Abbatoir or Boneta, and have a drink at the Pourhouse or out on the always-crowded patio at Chill Winston. Many independent boutiques have also set up shop in Gastown’s historic buildings, so schedule time to wander and browse.

    Take break from your explorations with a donut at Cartem’s Donuterie (look for fun flavors like salted caramel or Canadian whiskey and bacon) or stop in for coffee at one of Gastown’s numerous java joints. Also check out the event schedule at SFU Woodwards, Simon Fraser University’s contemporary art and culture center, which hosts lectures, films, and avant garde theater productions.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is the best way to get to Cypress Mountain from Vancouver?

    Cypress Mountain, a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and hiking, is located on the North Shore, about 17 miles, or 28 kilometers, from downtown Vancouver. The easiest way to get to the mountain is by car. Cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge, then follow Taylor Way to Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. Take Exit #8 off Highway 1 and then climb up the Cypress Mountain Road for another nine miles (15 kilometers).

    In the winter, you can also take the Cypress Mountain Express Bus, which picks up passengers in Richmond, Kitsilano, the West End, Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, and West Vancouver’s Park Royal Mall. Service is most frequent from Lonsdale Quay, so depending on your departure time, it may be quickest to hop on the SeaBus from downtown’s Waterfront station to Lonsdale Quay and then catch the Cypress bus there.

    There’s no public transportation directly to Cypress Mountain.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best local dishes in Vancouver?

    As you’d expect in a waterfront city, many of Vancouver’s best local dishes involve seafood, especially salmon, halibut, and Dungeness crab caught in the waters off the British Columbia coast. Some menus even feature other sea life, like salty sea asparagus or locally-harvested seaweed.

    Vancouver kitchens use all sorts of local produce, from greens, potatoes, and mushrooms to a summer bounty of fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. The city’s restaurants frequently draw inspiration from its location on the Pacific Rim, creating dishes pairing local ingredients with Asian flavors. And most of the Vancouver’s best eateries offer a selection of local wines, from BC’s Okanagan region, from Vancouver Island, and from the Fraser Valley just outside Vancouver.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best food gifts to buy in Vancouver?

    Head for Granville Island if you’re looking to bring home tastes of Vancouver. Several vendors in the Granville Island Public Market sell West Coast smoked salmon, packed for travel, as well as “salmon candy,” a slightly sweet cured fish that makes a great snack – and yes, you may find you’ll devour it like candy. Opposite the Public Market, Edible Canada sells a variety of local food products, from jams to chocolates to Vancouver Island salt. Head down the island’s Railspur Alley to the Artisan Sake Maker, where a bottle of this locally-produced Japanese-style rice wine would make another unique gift.

    If you need a food gift that travels well, stop into Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks, just off Granville Island, to pick up a cookbook by one of Vancouver’s top chefs.

    Or if your shopping time is limited, order a gift basket from the Gourmet Warehouse. Their “Local Culinary Heroes” box includes an assortment of BC-made treats.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best Chinese restaurants in Vancouver?

    For high-end Cantonese cuisine, top choices include Kirin and Sun Sui Wah, which both have locations in Vancouver and in suburban Richmond. Both are known for their daily dim sum as well as their traditional Hong-Kong style plates, especially fresh-from-the-tanks seafood.

    Another good pick for Cantonese fare is Sea Harbour Seafood, located in Richmond opposite the River Rock Casino. At both dim sum and in the evening, the menu includes a mix of traditional dishes and more innovative creations.

    If you like Shanghai-style cuisine, try Richmond’s popular Shanghai River restaurant (7831 Westminster Highway), where you can watch the chefs in the bustling open kitchen prepare long handmade noodles and steamer after steamer of fresh dumplings.

    Craving the heat of Sichuan cuisine? Richmond’s modest New Spicy Chili Restaurant (4200 No. 3 Road) serves classics like mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, and “water-boiled” fish, cooked in a pot of fiery chili oil.

    Need more choices for Vancouver Chinese dining? Check out our article, Where to Get Vancouver’s Best Chinese Food.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best restaurants for a business lunch in Vancouver?

    If you need a quiet but stylish spot for a business lunch, my top picks would be the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star West or the soon-to-be-rated Hawksworth. Both offer creative contemporary menus, comfortably spaced tables, and excellent service. West is in the South Granville neighborhood, while Hawksworth is downtown at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

    For a more classic ambiance, book one of the white-clothed tables at the French Le Crocodile downtown, where the polished service has that Gallic je ne sais quois. Another fine choice for a business tête-à-tête is Bacchus Restaurant at the boutique Wedgewood Hotel, which serves West Coast fare with modern French accents.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best Indian restaurants in Vancouver?

    You’ll find Vancouver’s most innovative Indian fare at Vij's, a perpetually packed dining room in the South Granville neighborhood. They won’t take reservations (no matter how famous you are), so plan to join the line-up and cool your heels at the bar. The creative Indian dishes, from the signature lamb “popsicles” to locally-inspired fare such as BC spot prawns “masala” paired with wheat berry pilaf, make it worth the wait.

    Owners Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala also run Rangoli, a more casual Indian eatery next door to their flagship dining room. While the ambiance isn’t quite as charming, the food is equally good, and you usually don’t have to endure a lengthy wait for a table.

    For more traditional Indian cuisine, a good choice is Maurya, on Broadway just west of Granville Street. Their popular lunch buffet is fine, but I’d recommend visiting in the evening when you can order dishes like chaat tikki (potato cakes served with chick peas and several chutneys) or chicken curry with kalonji (nigella) seeds from their extensive a la carte menu.

    Many Vancouver Indian restaurants specialize in northern Indian fare. One notable exception is Chutney Villa, in the Main Street neighborhood, which serves dishes from Kerala and other parts of south India. Try the dosas, the manga thenga sundal, which pairs green mango, coconut, and chick peas, or the unusual (for Vancouver) kothu rotti, in which chopped parata (bread) is stir-fried with onions, chilies, and your choice of meat or veggies.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best sushi restaurants in Vancouver?

    The long-established favorite for Vancouver’s best sushi is Tojo’s, where devotees sit at the sushi bar, order omakase (chef’s choice), and put themselves in chef Hidekazu Tojo’s uber-capable hands. The fish is among the freshest around, and Tojo’s creations are always interesting. Expect to pay top dollar for this top-quality product; the sake selection is first-rate, too.

    You don’t have to lay out big bucks, though, for great sushi in Vancouver. The city has lots of local, neighborhood eateries purveying fine Japanese fare. My picks are Tsuki Sushi Bar, a relative newcomer on the edge of Gastown; Shiro, an unassuming spot in a Cambie Street strip mall; and Ajisai Sushi Bar, another tiny dining room, this one set back from W. 42nd Avenue in residential Kerrisdale.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best restaurants in Vancouver’s Chinatown?

    Vancouver’s Chinatown is a neighborhood in transition, where contemporary Chinese restaurants, as well as an eclectic array of non-Asian options, are joining the traditional Cantonese eateries.

    A good choice for classic Cantonese dim sum is the modest Jade Dynasty Restaurant (137 E Pender St.), where popular dishes include niangao (chewy rice noodles that the English menu calls “stir fry rice dough with XO sauce”) and the stuffed eggplant with shrimp paste. Another long-standing Chinatown favorite is Phnom Penh (244 E Georgia St.), which serves Cambodian and Vietnamese fare.

    For contemporary Chinese-inspired cuisine, the go-to joint is the cool Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, which pairs innovative cocktails with small plates designed to share. With dishes like wok-charred octopus, served on a salad of watercress, daikon, apple, and pickled Sichuan peppercorns; pork jowl with a chili bean-plum glaze; and “kick ass” fried rice, you’ll know Bao Bei is not your grandmother’s Chinese restaurant.

    Another modern Chinatown eatery is The Union, where the friendly staff serve up fun pan-Asian eats like peanut noodles, Thai green papaya salad, and Vietnamese “cha ca” fish (cod served with fresh greens and rice vermicelli in a turmeric-ginger-coconut broth).

    You’ll even find some of Vancouver’s best pizza in Chinatown – at the tiny Pizzeria Farina. Go early in the evening, since they close their doors as soon as the dough runs out.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What stores are on Robson Street in Vancouver?

    Many North American chain outlets have branches along Robson Street, Vancouver’s main downtown shopping street. You’ll find clothing stores like the Gap, Roots, Banana Republic, Zara, American Eagle, Lululemon, and many other brands, and there’s a cluster of shoe stores as well. The largest concentration of shops is in the three-block stretch between Burrard and Jervis Streets.

    For higher-end labels, duck around the corner to Burrard and Alberni Streets, where you’ll find Brooks Brothers, Tiffany & Co., Hermes, Coach, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton. If you’re looking for bargains on designer apparel, head for Winners, a large discount department store at the corner of Robson and Granville Streets.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best places to see a play in Vancouver?

    Vancouver’s top professional theatre company is the Arts Club, which performs on three stages around town. Their mainstage – and more mainstream – shows play at the Stanley Industrial Theatre on South Granville Street, while their more contemporary productions entertain audiences at the Granville Island Stage and the Revue Stage, both on Granville Island.

    You’ll find contemporary plays and other events at other Granville Island theatres, too, notably the black-box Performance Works and the larger Waterfront Theatre.

    For avant garde theatre, head to the city’s East Side, where the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, known locally as “The Cultch,” plays host to an eclectic variety of local and international plays and other theatrical events, as well as dance and musical performances. You never know quite what you’ll find on the two stages at the Cultch, but it will always be interesting.