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Territory of Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal city located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Known as one of the top cities for education in the world, Vancouver is the perfect setting for your English program. The city is the most populous in Western Canada and third-largest in the country. Vancouver has a population of just over 2 million people in its metropolitan area. Over the last 30 years, immigration has dramatically increased, making the city more culturally diverse.
Unlike many parts of Canada, there is very little snow in the city of Vancouver. However, we do get snow up in our local mountains. During winter we usually have mild or rainy weather. Summer months are drier and sunnier with moderate temperatures. The daily maximum averages 22 °C in July and August, with highs reaching 30 °C.
Vancouver rarely has temperatures below freezing, but if you are joining our program in the winter, come prepared for cooler temperatures. On average, we only have 4.5 days a year with temperatures staying below freezing. If you are joining us in the summer, bring your bathing suit and sandals!
There are five public universities in the Greater Vancouver area, the largest being the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), with a combined enrollment of more than 80,000 undergraduates, graduates, and professional students in 2008. In 2006, UBC was ranked 27th best university in the world by Newsweek magazine, and SFU ranked as the best comprehensive university in Canada by Maclean’s University Rankings in 2009. The other public universities are Capilano University, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Vancouver has been ranked one of the most livable cities in the world for more than a decade. As of 2010, Vancouver has been ranked as having the 5th highest quality of living of any city on Earth. Forbes has also ranked Vancouver as the tenth cleanest city in the world.
Recreation & Sports
The warmer climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreation. The city has several large beaches, many adjacent to one another, extending from the shoreline of Stanley Park around False Creek to the south side of English Bay, from Kitsilano to the University Endowment Lands. The 18 kilometres (11 miles) of beaches include Second and Third Beaches in Stanley Park, English Bay (First Beach), Sunset Beach, Kitsilano Beach and Jericho Beach. The coastline provides for many types of water sport, and the city is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts.
Within a 20-to-30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver are the North Shore Mountains, with three ski areas: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the North Shore.
Vancouver is also the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada and the third largest in all of the country, with a population of 2.6 million. Located at the southwestern corner of the coastal province of British Columbia, it is well known for its majestic natural beauty, as it is nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is frequently ranked as one of the best cities to live in and is certainly a beautiful destination to visit.
Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, and the opportunities provided by its natural environment. Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean, and play a round of golf all in the same day. Surrounded by water on three sides and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great destination in itself, as well a great starting point for discovering the area’s many outdoor activities.
Vancouver is a major sea port on the Pacific Ocean and a base for many Alaska Cruise Ships in the summer. It has the same name as another city in the region, Vancouver, Washington (USA).
Vancouverites broadly split their city into three: the Westside, the Eastside (or East Van) and city centre. This split is simply geography: everything west of Ontario St. is the Westside, everything east is East Vancouver and everything north of False Creek is the city center. Each of these areas has their own attractions and neighborhoods which you should explore as many as you can, time permitting. The areas in the city of Vancouver are frequently confused with the separate cities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver. North Vancouver and West Vancouver are north of Burrard Inlet and are not part of the city of Vancouver itself.
This is the financial, shopping, and entertainment hub of the city. It has many of Vancouver’s most notable landmarks and is well connected to other parts of the city and the Lower Mainland. With its multitude of accommodation and dining options, it is the ideal, although perhaps pricey, place to base yourself for exploring the city.
Stanley Park and the West End
This is one of the most popular places to hang out in Vancouver. Stanley Park is home to many beaches along with lots of little shops and eateries.
Gastown-Chinatown is the original town site of Vancouver. Gastown is a mix of kitsch, heritage and urban chic. The Chinatown of Vancouver is one of the largest Chinatowns in North America.
This was a reclaimed industrial land that is now modern and is home to trendy neighborhoods with some fantastic views along False Creek. The district hosts Vancouver’s major spectator sports and is home to the Athlete’s Village from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Kitsilano & Granville Island
The very popular Kitsilano Beach is noted for its art studios, while the famous Granville Island Public Market has a fantastic urban style shopping – particularly 4th Avenue, 10th Avenue and Broadway where chain stores mix with unique independent shops.
The University of British Columbia campus has a number of attractions, including two sets of gardens and the acclaimed Museum of Anthropology. Nearby is Pacific Spirit Park, and further east in Point Grey, are two large beaches, Jericho and Spanish Banks. The UBC campus is also home to the popular clothing optional beach, Wreck Beach.
Mt Pleasant-South Main
Main Street is an up and coming artsy part of the city filled with unique shops. Nearby is Queen Elizabeth Park, which is the highest point in Vancouver and has some excellent free gardens.
Commercial Drive-Hastings Park
It’s a mostly residential area of the city. Commercial Drive is a trendy neighborhood containing many ethnic restaurants and unique boutiques.
Vancouver South is a mostly residential area that includes the Kerrisdale, Dunbar, Oakridge, Marpole and Shaughnessy neighborhoods.
If there was one word to describe Vancouver’s weather, it would be unpredictable. The weather can be completely different depending on what part of the region you are in. It can be pouring rain on the North Shore and sunny in White Rock.
If you are visiting the city between July and October, you will most likely have excellent weather. The rainy season often starts in the middle of October. Without warning, one day it will be nice and sunny and the next day rain will begin and continue, seemingly continuously until early March. If you are coming to the city for a ski holiday, the best time to visit is February; the region has a great record for excellent ski conditions during this month, once you get to altitudes above the constant rain.
European Canadians (Canada did not completely legally separate from the UK until 1982) make up almost half of Vancouver’s population. Yet despite that figure, Vancouver is considered the most ethnically and linguistically diverse city in Canada.
Before Europeans learned about Vancouver in 1791, the area had been home to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Archeological evidence suggests that their ancestors arrived in Vancouver approximately 8,000 years ago. Today, Vancouver has the largest Aboriginal population of any city in British Columbia, with about 2% of the city’s population identifying as being a member of an Aboriginal group.
It is Asians, however, that comprise the largest subset of Vancouver’s population. Just over 43% of metro Vancouver residents are either Asian, or have Asian heritage. That makes Vancouver home to the largest Asian diaspora outside of Asia. The city’s Asian population skyrocketed in the 1990’s when large numbers of people immigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong, prior to the country officially returning to Chinese sovereignty.
At first glance, the religious composition of Vancouver does not seem to reflect its ethnic diversity. A huge number, around 49%, claim no religious affiliation. Over 36% of Vancouverites identify as Christian, with the biggest subgroup belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. Buddhists make up nearly 6% and Sikhism (an independent religion founded on the principles of oneness and love) is currently the main religion on the rise.
Vancouver has two official languages, English and French. The majority of the population speaks English, either exclusively or in conjunction with another language. Owing to the city’s racial makeup however, travelers can expect to hear conversations in Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Punjabi, Tagalog and a variety of European languages.
Vancouverites, as they themselves admit, are a complex bunch. Amongst themselves and also with tourists, they are a genuinely friendly people. They’re happy to point a traveler in the right direction or recommend a good restaurant. New residents find them to be a bit cliquish, slow to accept newcomers. To paraphrase one journalist, “Vancouverites will happily direct you to a coffee house; just don’t ask them to join you for a cup.”
Vancouver International Airport (IATA: YVR). YVR is located immediately south of the city of Vancouver. It is the second busiest airport in Canada and serves as the hub for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the U.S., Asia and several to Europe. The majority of Canadian flights are with Star Alliance member Air Canada and WestJet. U.S. destinations are served by United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Alaska Airways, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific (JFK) and WestJet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, WestJet, Aeromexico, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Icelandair, Cathay Pacific, Air China, EVA Air, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Air New Zealand to name a few.
YVR’s three terminals are: Domestic for jet flights within Canada, International for flights outside of Canada and South, which is the base for prop, small jet, and seaplane service to ‘local’ communities in B.C. and Yukon. The domestic and international terminals are connected and you can easily walk back and forth between them. The South Terminal is not attached and requires separate transportation to get to it.
There are a number of ways to get into town from the airport. Prices and directions below are for getting into downtown Vancouver.
SkyTrain – The Canada Line provides the only direct rapid transit public service downtown, about 25 minutes of travel time. The fare from YVR to Vancouver is currently $9.00, which includes the two-zone base fare of $4.00 plus a $5 surcharge (the “YVR AddFare”) incurred on cash fare tickets purchased from vending machines at the airport. The $5 surcharge only applies on trips starting at the airport, not on trips going to the airport. It does not apply to prepaid tickets including DayPasses, FareSavers, FareCards and transit passes. You can no longer bypass the $5 surcharge by going to 7-Eleven or Pharmasave. That is now only for airport employees.
Taxi – Taxis line up just outside the baggage claim areas. A taxi ride into town will cost about $25-$30 and should take under half an hour. All taxis that serve the airport are required to accept credit cards.
Limousines – There are also comfortable sedan and limousine options for getting into town. Rides into the city center cost $40-$55 depending on where you are going and whether you are in a sedan or limo.
The main highway into Vancouver from the east is Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway). This road runs along the eastern edge of Vancouver, so if you want to get into the city, you will need to exit off it at Grandview Highway, 1st Avenue or Hastings Street.
Note: the Port Mann Bridge along the TCH, which crosses the Fraser River between Surrey and Coquitlam (heading west into Burnaby and Vancouver), is now a toll bridge. The toll is collected on non-resident vehicles by a camera system; you must go online within seven days to pay the toll or else be charged a service fee (that is almost equal to the cost of the toll itself) for receiving an invoice in the mail. The toll bridge can be bypassed with several alternate routes most notably the South Fraser Perimeter Road (Highway 17) in Surrey, but traffic can be heavy due to local residents using the route to avoid the toll, too, especially during the rush hours. An alternate for those who don’t mind the extra distance and who are coming to Vancouver from the east is to exit the TCH onto Highway 7 at Hope. It also leads to Vancouver without a toll bridge, but is a somewhat longer and a slower route. Alternately, take Highway 11 north from Abbotsford, which also links to the 7, but closer in to Vancouver. Note that there is a second toll bridge, the Golden Ears, which connects from Surrey/Langley to Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge; this bridge is more used by locals and is unlikely to be of interest to tourists. Nonetheless the routes used to bypass the Port Mann also apply.
Warning: Some rental car companies will add extra charges (sometimes substantial ones) to vehicles that cross the toll bridges; TReO, the agency that handles tolls for Port Mann and Golden Ears, advises renters to read their rental agreements carefully or ask the agent how tolls are handled. Do not attempt to evade the toll; some have attempted to do so by covering their license plates and by other methods; the penalty if caught may include not only fraud charges, but also the forfeiture of the vehicle to the province.
From the U.S./Canada border south of the city, Highway 99 links up with U.S. Interstate 5 and runs north to Vancouver. Note that the freeway ends after the Oak Street Bridge, turning into Oak Street heading north. Drivers with a downtown destination will need to get onto Granville Street (parallel to Oak St to the west), or Cambie Street (parallel to the east), in order to get on the Granville Street or Cambie Street bridges which cross False Creek into the downtown peninsula. Needless to say during the morning rush hour these routes become very busy.
If you are coming from the North Shore or other points further north, the only way into Vancouver is by bridge. Your options are the Lions Gate Bridge (Hwy 99) which brings you into Stanley Park and Vancouver’s West End or the Second Narrows Bridge/Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (Hwy 1) which brings you into the neighborhoods of East Van. If you continue along Hwy. 1 from the north, remember that the Port Mann toll bridge lies east of Coquitlam.
Vancouver’s traffic is considered notorious, especially during rush hour. If possible try to avoid driving downtown in the early morning and away from downtown in the late afternoon. In fact, there is a 24-hour radio station devoted entirely to traffic reports on 7:30 A.M. This station also provides reports on wait times for the Washington border crossings and also indicates remaining capacity for upcoming ferry crossings to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Vancouver is well connected by bus. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. The bus station is at the Pacific Central Station at 1150 Station St., across from the Telus Science Center dome (site of Expo 86), which is also the train station (a SkyTrain station is also nearby). Here is what’s available:
Greyhound (USA) connects Vancouver with U.S cities such Seattle, Bellingham, etc.
Greyhound Canada connects Vancouver with many Canadian cities, including Kelowna, Calgary, Whitehorse, Edmonton and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Malaspina Coach Lines goes up to the Sunshine Coast communities of Gibsons, Sechelt and Powell River.
Quick Coach connects Vancouver with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington.
BoltBus connects Vancouver with Seattle and Portland.
Pacific Coach Lines connects Vancouver with Victoria. Scheduled service follows the BC Ferry service from Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay). This is hourly in the summer months, and every two hours in the off-season.
Perimeter Transportation connects Vancouver with Whistler and Squamish.
Taking the train to Vancouver is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. Rail options include:
VIA Rail runs from Toronto to Vancouver with three weekly departures.
The Rocky Mountaineer operates routes between Vancouver and Banff, Calgary and Jasper three times a week from April to October. (Since 2005 they moved down the street (Terminal Ave) to their own station at 1755 Cotrell St).
Amtrak runs a service between Seattle and Vancouver called Amtrak Cascades. Trains depart Seattle daily at 7:40AM and 6:40PM, arriving in Vancouver at 11:35AM and 10:45PM respectively. The return trips leave Vancouver at 6:40AM and 5:45PM.
All trains arrive at Pacific Central Station, located at 1150 Station Street (east of downtown off Main St). From there, it is a short taxi ride into the central business area, or you can pick up the SkyTrain at the Main St/Science World station two blocks away.
If you have the time and money, traveling to Vancouver by train can be an excellent way to see the Canadian Rockies. This is discussed further at the Rocky Mountaineer.
There are two ferry terminals serviced by BC Ferries in the area, although neither is within the city of Vancouver itself.
The Tsawwassen terminal in Delta has routes to Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island and to the Southern Gulf Islands.
The Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver services Nanaimo, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast.
Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into town from them (and vice-versa). In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services provide a more convenient service than public transit. However, public buses to and from the ferry terminals are fairly inexpensive, easy and direct.
To reach the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, take Canada Line (Skytrain) from downtown Vancouver to Bridgeport Station. From Bridgeport Station, take the 620 bus which takes you directly to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. For Horseshoe Bay, take the 250 (local) or 257 (express) bus directly from downtown Vancouver.
By public transit
Vancouver’s public transit is run by the regional transportation authority, TransLink as an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain) and passenger ferry (SeaBus). The transit system connects Vancouver with its neighboring municipalities, stretching as far north as Lions Bay, south to the U.S. border and east to Langley and Maple Ridge. The bus stops about a mile from the border, then you must walk to it.
Adult fares for travel within the city of Vancouver cost $2.75. Travel from Vancouver to nearby places like North Vancouver, Burnaby, and Richmond costs from $4.00-$5.50 depending on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. Travel on Monday-Friday after 6:30pm and all day on weekends and holidays is always $2.75 regardless of the destination. The ticket you receive is valid for 1 hour and a half from the time of purchase and can be used to transfer to any bus, SkyTrain or the SeaBus during that time. TransLink’s website and customer information line (+1 604-953-3333) both offer complete trip planning. A regional system map is widely available at convenience stores and on TransLink’s website.
A more convenient option for the traveler may be the Daypass, which offers unlimited travel for a single day at the cost of $9.75. It covers all bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus routes but not the West Coast Express (a commuter train that runs from downtown Vancouver east to Mission). It is valid in all zones so that avoids having to worry about that and is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations.
Books of 10 prepaid tickets (FareSaver tickets) are available for $21.00 -$42.00 from many convenience stores. Concession fares are available for Vancouver grade-school students and BC seniors and cost between $1.75 to $3.50. If you’re a student or a senior, you must be carrying a TransLink GoCard or BC Gold CareCard to receive the reduced concession fare. Monthly passes are also available, which can cost $91 to $170. All these prices depend on how many zones are covered.
The bus service covers the widest area and travels along most major streets in the city. Passengers must either buy a ticket or present their ticket immediately upon entering a TransLink bus. Buses accept coins only and will not give change. Tickets can also be purchased from vending machines in SkyTrain stations that accept coins, bills, debit and credit cards. In addition, several bus rapid transit lines named B Lines crisscross the city.
SkyTrain is the mostly elevated rapid transit system that connects Vancouver’s downtown with some of its southern and eastern suburbs. The Expo line runs out through Burnaby and New Westminster to King George station in Surrey. The Millennium line follows the Expo line to New Westminster and then loops back through Burnaby and into Vancouver again ending at VCC/Clark. The new (2009) Canada Line connects downtown with Richmond and Vancouver Airport. Another line, the Evergreen Line will link to the neighboring cities of Coquitlam and Port Moody when it opens in 2016. As of late 2015 several other SkyTrain routes are in the planning stages.
Notable SkyTrain stations in Vancouver include:
Broadway/Commercial Drive – Accesses the restaurants of Commercial Dr in East Vancouver
Burrard and Granville – Most convenient for accessing the shopping areas in the central business district
Waterfront Station – Meeting point of the SkyTrain, SeaBus, numerous commuter and rapid bus routes and the commuter rail West Coast Express. It is also at the entrance to Gastown and is right next to the Canada Place Convention Centre/Cruise Ship Terminal facilities.
Metrotown – Although actually in neighboring Burnaby, this station is next to the region’s largest shopping mall.
The SeaBus is a passenger ferry that connects Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It generally runs every 15 minutes except in the evening and on Sundays. The exact schedule is available on TransLink’s website. From a tourist’s perspective, a ride on the SeaBus is worth it as it allows an excellent view of the Vancouver skyline and close-up views of the huge ocean-going tankers that are often parked in Burrard Inlet. It also offers a great view of the Canada Place facility which is the city’s cruise ship port of call. Lonsdale Quay is a boutique shopping centre featuring an international-themed food court, making it a worthwhile destination before starting the round trip (see North Vancouver’s article for other activities in the vicinity).
By ferry across False Creek
A quick trip across on a cute little-boat-that-could ferry can be the most fun, traffic-free, and convenient way to get between various points on False Creek:
Maritime Museum in Vanier Park on the south shore,
Aquatic Centre at Sunset Beach on the north shore,
Hornby St on the north shore,
Granville Island and its famous Public Market on the south shore,
Yaletown/Davie St. on the north shore,
Stamp’s Landing/Monk’s and Spyglass Place on the south shore,
Plaza of Nations and Edgewater Casino on the north shore, and
Science World, the geodesic dome at the east end of False Creek.
Service is offered by False Creek Ferries with little blue boats and by Aquabus with little rainbow boats. The two ferries run slightly different routes, and their docks on Granville Island are on either side of the Public Market. Current prices for adults start at $3.25 for short routes to $6.50 for long routes.
Vancouver’s road network is generally a grid system with a “Street” running north-south and an “Avenue” running east-west. Arterial roads follow the grid fairly well (although not perfectly), but side streets frequently disappear for blocks at a time and then reappear. Most of the “Avenues” are numbered and they always use East or West to designate whether it is on the East side or the West side of Ontario Street. Some of the major avenues use names rather than numbers (Broadway would be 9th Ave, King Edward Ave would be 25th Ave).
Downtown Vancouver has its own grid system and doesn’t follow the street/avenue format of the rest of the city. It is also surrounded by water on three sides, so most of the ways in and out require you to cross a bridge. This can cause traffic congestion, particularly at peak times (morning and evening commutes, sunny weekend afternoons, major sporting events), so factor that into any driving plans, or avoid if possible.
Parking downtown generally costs $1-2.50/hour or $12-$20/day. Commercial areas will typically have meter parking on the street, with meters accepting Canadian and American change only (American coins accepted at par value). Residential streets may allow free parking, but some will require a permit.
Easy Park- lots (look for an orange circle with a big “P”) rank as the most affordable of the parkades, but generally the cost of parking will not vary greatly among parkades within a certain area. Most will accept payment by credit card, as well as coins. Beware of scammers hanging around in some parkades, trying to sell parking tickets for less than their face value — typically, they have purchased the tickets with stolen credit cards. Also be careful parking overnight, as vehicle break-ins are not uncommon.
Free Parking- Many areas of the city have unlimited, free street parking where no permits are needed. One of the closest free, safe areas to park is on East Pender Street between Victoria and Salsbury (1800 block of East Pender Street). You will have the easiest time finding a spot if you come between 9am and 4pm. Once you’ve parked, walk one block up to Hastings Street at Victoria, cross the street, and take either bus (14 UBC or 16 Arbutus) back downtown. This bus stop is on the north-west corner, in front of the Chinese restaurant. The bus ride will only take 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, walk to Commercial and Hastings (two blocks) and take the 20 Victoria down Commercial Drive to Commercial Station or the 135 Burrard Station, an express bus going downtown.
The city of Vancouver is a very bicycle-friendly city. In addition to the extremely popular seawall bicycle routes along Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano, there are a whole network of bicycle routes that connect the whole city. The City of Vancouver provides a map of the bicycle routes that is available at most bike shops or online. For those who are less mobile, Vancouver also has pedicabs which offer tours of Stanley Park. Also, all buses have bicycle racks on the front to help riders get to less accessible parts. North American visitors will find that drivers in Vancouver are well accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.
Renting a scooter is a good compromise between a bike and a car. Scooters are not allowed on the famous bike path, but it is possible to travel in the inner roads, park and walk at all the attractions. Average cost is $80 for 24 hours + gas.
If you’re looking to learn a little about the people of the Northwest Coast and some of its history, one good spot is the impressive Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, which houses several thousand objects from BC’s First Nations. The museum is also home to significant collections of archaeological objects and ethnographic materials from other parts of the world. The Vancouver Art Gallery, located downtown combines local with international through a variety of exhibitions and a permanent collection that focuses on renowned British Columbia artist, Emily Carr. The Vancouver Public Library, located downtown at Homer and Robson Sts, is modeled after the Roman Coliseum, and houses the city’s largest library. Another downtown sight is the small Contemporary Art Gallery on Nelson Street, which features modern art. Also located nearby, on the east side of False Creek is the shiny geodesic dome of the Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World), which has a number of exhibits, shows and galleries aimed at making science fun for kids. Another great spot to check out is the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum located at Gate A of BC Place Stadium. The BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum preserves and honors BC’s Sport heritage by recognizing extraordinary achievement in sport through using their collection and stories to inspire all people to pursue their dreams. There are also some smaller sights in Kitsilano, including the Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.
The city has a wealth of parks and gardens scattered throughout. The most famous is Stanley Park at the tip of the downtown peninsula. Its miles of trails for walking and cycling, beaches, magnificent views and the attractions (including totem poles) within the park give it something for everyone. The most popular trail is the Seawall, a paved trail that runs around the perimeter of Stanley Park and now joins with the seawalls in Coal Harbor and Kitsilano, totaling 22 km. in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park. Other notable parks and gardens include VanDusen Botanical Garden in South Vancouver and Queen Elizabeth Park near South Main, the Nitobe Memorial Garden (commonly known as the Nitobe Japanese Garden) and UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown downtown.
If you’d rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamorous and lacking waves, there’s sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. The neighborhoods of Kitsilano and West Point Grey have a string of beaches, the most well known being Kitsilano Beach, Jericho and Spanish Banks. Kits Beach is the most popular and has beach volleyball; Spanish Banks is a bit quieter and popular with skim boarders. There are a few beaches on the south and west sides of downtown, with English Bay Beach (near Denman & Beach) being the largest and most popular. Finally, no discussion of Vancouver beaches would be complete without mention of Wreck Beach at the tip of Point Grey in UBC. It holds a place in the Vancouver identity and is the only city beach where you can bare it all on the rocks and sand.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a popular tourist spot located in North Vancouver. The bridge itself is impressive, and for many it is worth the price of admission (which is considerable). It is accessible by free shuttle from the city center. For a similar (but free) experience, head to Lynn Canyon (also in North Vancouver). To get there from Vancouver city center, walk to Waterfront station; take the seabus across to Lonsdale Quay. Make sure to stop at the Lonsdale Quay market (itself a tourist destination) to pick up some locally brewed beer and some items for a picnic. Here you can ask the shop people to give you directions to the best secret swimming spots in Lynn Canyon. Then take the #228 or #229 from the Lonsdale Quay bus loop. The bus driver or other passengers can tell you where to get off. The suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon is easily found from the cafe and visitor’s center. Also make sure you explore the trails, where in the summer you’ll see local youth jumping from bridges and rocks into the swimming holes. There are several good spots to go swimming in Lynn Canyon, but the water is cold, so go on a warm day.
For many, Vancouver is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. While there are no ski hills within the city itself, there are three “local” hills (Cypress, Grouse Mountain and Seymour) across the harbor on the North Shore. And of course, Vancouver is the gateway to Whistler, the biggest and one of the highest rated snow destinations in North America.
The biggest draw in town is hockey (the variety played on ice, not a field) and the local professional team is the Vancouver Canucks. The team plays at Rogers Arena in the City Centre and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer when they make the play-offs). Tickets are pricey and the concessions are even worse, but it’s a good game to watch live. The local junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, offer a cheaper but no less exciting experience. They play out of Pacific Coliseum in East Van.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the third team to bear the “Whitecaps” name, began their first season in Major League Soccer in March 2011, becoming the second MLS team in Canada. Because BC Place was closed for renovations following the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Lions played the 2010 season at Empire Field, a temporary stadium on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in East Van. The MLS Whitecaps are beginning their inaugural 2011 season at Empire Field as well. When BC Place reopens in late September 2011, both teams will move there. The Whitecaps initially planned to build a new stadium of their own near the waterfront, but local opposition has led the Whitecaps to make BC Place their long-term home.
Rugby is relatively popular in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Although most club games are not advertised or broadcast, and most clubs do not have spectator seating, games are usually open to the public. Consult the BC Rugby Union website for details (times, locations, etc.). Vancouver is also home to the Canadian leg of the World Sevens Series. It will host the event over 4 years, starting in the 2015-2016 season. It is held at BC Place Stadium, in downtown Vancouver, and tickets are variably priced.
The city’s Chinese heritage comes alive during Chinese New Year. Chinatown, in the east side of downtown, is awash in color and has many festivities, including a parade. June sees the annual Dragon Boat Festival on False Creek.
There is no shortage of festivals around the city, with many local ones particular to a neighborhood. The festival that draws the largest crowds is the HSBC Celebration of Light, a four night extravaganza of fireworks over English Bay in late July and early August. Countries compete with 20-30 min displays choreographed to music. The fireworks start at 10 PM and are best viewed from Sunset Beach in the West End or Kits Beach/Vanier Park in Kitsilano. It is strongly recommended to take public transit and to get there a few hours early as the crowds are huge. Roads in the vicinity of English Bay are typically closed from 6 PM onwards.
EAT! Vancouver – The Everything Food + Cooking Festival takes place every May. In 2010, the festival takes place May 28-30, at the new Vancouver Convention Centre – West. Celebrity chefs, popular local restaurants, wineries, food & beverage manufacturers, cookbook authors, retailers, artisans, & many others from the culinary world will come together for a 3 day public extravaganza at the Vancouver Convention Centre. EAT Vancouver encompasses unique food experiences, opportunities to learn behind-the-scenes culinary magic from professional chefs, dynamic entertainment through celebrity chef cooking demonstrations & intense culinary competitions, diverse food, beverage & cooking related exhibits; & of course fantastic shopping opportunities. www.eat-vancouver.com
Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival that runs in Sept-Oct;
Theatre Under The Stars runs annually through July and August at Stanley Park’s picturesque Malkin Bowl. Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) has been Vancouver’s most cherished summer musical theatre tradition since 1940.
The Fringe Festival that presents live theatre in a variety of styles and venues;
Khatsalano Music and Arts Festivals held every summer in Kitsilano. This FUN Festival is 10 blocks long and with 50 bands, this equals one gigantic street party! The festival includes local artists, great discounts from local shop owners, massage on the street, local shop services ranging from spa, coffee, clothing, sunglasses, wake boarding equipment, skate board shops merchandise, restaurant patio street parties, and of course beach accessories and beach fun celebrating the best beach neighborhood in Vancouver!
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival that runs May – September at Vanier Park in Kitsilano; and the three day Folk Fest on the beach in Kitsilano that features a large selection of current and upcoming folk, roots and world music acts.
Another notable event is Vancouver’s annual Vancouver Pride Parade, for 2011 held on the 31st of July, which attracts over 500,000 spectators.
Roberts Creek Arts Festival Held over the Victoria Day long weekend from 15th – 17th May 2013, consists of live music, arts and food from local and International talent in a variety of rainforest settings
The major school grade divisions are elementary (Grades K–7) and high school (Grades 8–12). Some districts and independent schools offer middle school and junior high school alternatives.
Public schools are coed, inclusive, and free to all BC residents, with most schools providing all text books and learning resources. Each city in the Greater Vancouver area has its own school district. Within these districts, catchment areas are identified for every school. The appropriate school district’s website will match your home address to your catchment.
A list of independent schools, including faith-based schools, is provided by the Federation of Independent School Associations.
Another useful website listing a number of private schools is provided by Our Kids and offers advice on selecting and applying to private schools.
Homeschooling and Distributed Learning Schools
If you or your child is interested in homeschooling, even temporarily, you can find a lot of information on the BC Ministry website and on its associated LearnNowBC and OpenSchoolBC sites.
Distributed Learning (DL) allows you to register with a ministry-approved school but oversee the learning at home with ministry funding.
Higher education in British Columbia is delivered by 25 publicly funded institutions that are composed of eleven universities, eleven colleges, and three institutes. This is in addition to three private universities, five private colleges, and six theological colleges. There are also an extensive number of private career institutes and colleges.
Prominent theatre companies in Vancouver include the Arts Club Theatre Company on Granville Island and Bard on the Beach. Smaller companies include Touchstone Theatre and Studio 58. The Cultch, The Firehall Arts Centre, United Players, and The Pacific and Metro Theatres, all run continuous theatre seasons. Theatre Under the Stars produces shows in the summer at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. Annual festivals that are held in Vancouver include the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in January and the Vancouver Fringe Festival in September.
The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company operated for fifty years, ending in March 2012.
The Scotiabank Dance Centre, a converted bank building on the corner of Davie and Granville, functions as a gathering place and performance venue for Vancouver-based dancers and choreographers. Dances for a Small Stage is a semi-annual dance festival.
The Vancouver International Film Festival, which runs for two weeks each September, shows over 350 films and is one of the larger film festivals in North America. The Vancouver International Film Centre venue, the Vancity Theatre, runs independent non-commercial films throughout the rest of the year, as do the Pacific Cinémathèque, and the Rio theatres.