Places to see and things to do in Vancouver during the Forum
Check out this curated list of places to see during the day, tours to quench your curiosity, evening entertainment suggestions and restaurants to satisfy your hunger while you enjoy your stay in Vancouver. (Costs are averaged, click COST for more details when applicable)
Do you have any free-time during the day?
Sites within the downtown core of Vancouver…
The Seawall COST: FREE
The Seawall is a scenic 22 km path that lines Vancouver’s waterfront. Perfect for a walk, jog, cycle or blade, it is the most popular recreational spot in the city. The Seawall is divided into two clearly marked sections – one for walkers and joggers (closest to the water), and one for cyclists and inline skaters (inside path).
Open daily – Map
(Local bike and inline skate rentals)
Stanley Park COST: FREE
One of the jewels in the crown of Vancouver’s landscape is Stanley Park. It sits as an oasis next to one of the densest neighbourhoods in North America. You can take a guided tour at an additional cost (see tours below) or walk, bike or rollerblade the paths on a self guided tour using the map below. Be sure to visit the different attractions including the beautiful gardens, sculptures and First Nations totem poles. A miniature train tour is also available on weekends from 11am – 4pm at a cost.
Open daily – Map
Nestled next to Stanley Park, a visit to the newly expanded Aquarium is not only an opportunity to learn more about the aquatic environment and the underwater fauna that surrounds the city, but also an award winning green building. The Aquarium’s Aquaquest building is the first LEED Gold certified aquarium anywhere, and uses the ISO 14001 environmental management system certification to guide their conservation efforts. The Aquarium also uses some of the sea water pumped in to the facility for a heat exchange system for cooling the building among many other initiatives. They are also ambassadors for conservation running transformative outreach efforts such as the Ocean Wise seafood program that educates and empowers consumers to seek sustainable seafood in restaurants and retail fish vendors. The aquarium really does have something of interest for everyone.
845 Avison Way
Open 10 am to 5 p.m weekdays, 9:30am to 6pm weekends
There are many reasons to get lost on the three floors of gallery space in what used to be the old law courts and part of architect Arthur Erickson’s City Square development that spans two city blocks. In May you’ll be lucky enough to see the exposition Material Future: The Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery of the development process for the architectural firm Hertzog and de Meuron have used in projects over the last fifteen years and charts that history and the trajectory of the Gallery’s future growth, and it is a fitting prelude to the unveiling of the conceptual design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building in spring 2015. If you are lucky maybe the new design will be unveiled before the weekend of May 16th.
750 Hornby Street
Open daily 10am to 5pm
Tuesday evenings 5 to 9pm (by donation)
Vancouver Convention Centre COST: FREE (To visit)
The Vancouver Convention Centre is the flagship of meetings and conventions industry in Vancouver. There are remnants of the 2010 Olympic Games, art installations and guided tours offered to the public. The west building is certified to LEED Platinum and has a 6 acre living roof. One of the best points of view of the roof is from a small public platform on the roof of the Cactus Club Café just west of Jack Poole Plaza (wheelchair accessible) where you will have a 360 panoramic view of the convention centre, the city, Stanley Park and the north shore mountains. The team running the convention centre building is not resting on their laurels and are pushing to improve continuously having recently obtained the level one APEX/ASTM certification in both the Venue and Food and Beverage Standards. This certification is awarded to venues that achieve high standards in environmentally sustainable meetings, trade shows and conferences. Some highlights from the operation of the centre is 62% energy savings from the use of a sea water heat exchange system, 45 cubic metres of water reclaimed from an on-site black water treatment plant and over 50% waste diversion rate.
Vancouver Convention Centre West – 1055 Canada Pl
Vancouver Convention Centre East – 999 Canada Pl
SKWACHÀYS LODGE: HOTEL & GALLERY COST: FREE (To View)
Interested in learning more about the First Nations community in downtown Vancouver? Named by the Chief of the Squamish Nation after the territory it resides on, this hotel and lodge is the only building in the area with a traditional rooftop long house meeting room, a sweat lodge and smudge room used for spiritual cleansing. On the first floor, the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery is a community owned initiative dedicated to sharing the artistic and cultural work of the urban Aboriginal community. The Skwachàys Lodge combined with the street level Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery use a Social Enterprise model to fund supportive aboriginal housing.
29 West Pender St.
Gallery Open Mon – Fri: 10:00am to 4:00pm, Sat/Sun: 11:00am to 5:00pm
Sites a short distance out of the downtown Vancouver core…
Housed in a magnificent Arthur Erikson signature building, inspired by the post-and-beam architecture of northern Northwest Coast First Nations people overlooking the Strait of Georgia. Here you can connect with an impressive first nations collection that spans from large totem poles all the way down to tiny artifacts and jewelry. You will also discover that over 40% of the collection is from Asia including ceramics, Chinese calligraphy and Japanese prints.
6393 NW Marine Drive
Open daily from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday until 9pm
A “hidden gem” in the crown of Vancouver where visitors are invited to stroll down the paths for a fragrant and quiet visit away from the city bustle. Visitors can expect a learning experience rich with interesting plants and informative signs. Here you will be able to visit sites like the Nitobe Memorial Garden, a traditional Japanese tea and stroll garden, and the Greenheart canopy walkway which is 310m long and hangs from huge Douglas firs, Red cedars and Grand firs. Many trees are over 100 years old reaching a height of nearly 20m above the forest floor. It is a unique way to experience the magnificence of a temperate rainforest.
6804 SW Marine Drive
Open daily 9:30am to 5pm
The gardens span 22 hectares and the landscaping includes large monolithic rocks dredged up from False Creek to allow for navigation. The LEED Platinum Visitor Centre & Discovery Hall was completed in 2011 and is currently completing the certification process for the Living Buildings certification. 100 percent of the building’s water use comes from captured precipitation or reused water that is purified without chemicals. All energy is supplied onsite by renewable sources. The building shaped like an orchid when viewed from above, its organic lines borrowing architectural elements from the plants that populate the garden and echo the way nature and conservation have been considered.
5251 Oak Street
Open daily 9am to 8pm (Special events may vary)
Built within Queen Elizabeth park in 1966 on the highest point in the city, you have the opportunity to get a beautiful view of downtown Vancouver and step into an environment quite unlike anything else. The conservatory is unique in that it contains three distinct climactic zones under one roof: tropical, sub-tropical and desert. The Conservatory is home to over 500 plant varieties and 100 species of birds. The triodetic dome was recently renovated in 2014 and would certainly have made Buckminster Fuller proud. The large and complex project replaced all 1,400 acrylic panels of the conservatory’s iconic domed roof over a period of seven months.
4600 Cambie St
Open 9:00am – 8:00pm, Monday to Friday, 10:00am – 8:00pm, Saturday and Sunday
GROUSE GRIND HIKE COST: FREE
This popular 2.9-km (1.8-mile) trail to the top of Grouse Mountain is commonly referred to by locals as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” Every year, more than 110,000 hikers take on the challenge of this rugged terrain and steep climb. By the time you reach the Grouse Mountain lodge at the top, you will have ascended 853 metres (2,800 feet) – one-and-a-half times the height of Toronto’s CN Tower! Average completion time is usually 1.5 hours, with the fastest recorded time at just over 26 minutes. The best part: once you reach the top, you can enjoy a much-deserved beer, take in the stunning views, then take the tram back down for just $10. There are also plenty of other activities you can enjoy while you are atop Grouse Mountain, including a tour of their wind turbines (see tours below)
Open 9am to 10pm
Are you feeling curious?
Green Infrastructure Tours
SELF-GUIDED GREEN BUILDINGS COST: FREE
One ongoing activity is Vancouver’s own Green Building Audio Tours. This is a self-guided tour map to discovering over 40 LEED certified green buildings in the city. This project is run in partnership with the Open Green Building Society, which is a not for profit dedicated to developing tools to share information about green building. This is a wonderful way to use your mobile device in a way that allows you to peel back the veneer of the buildings envelope and learn what makes these buildings green and how they improve the occupant experience.
WIND TURBINE COST: $20 Adult (Depending on access)
The Eye of the Wind, standing 20-stories tall atop Grouse Mountain, is the world’s first and only elevator-accessible wind turbine that allows you to stand in a clear glass viewPOD, three metres from the massive, rotating blades. Stand in awe of 360-degree views as you come face to face with the future of responsible energy. The wind turbine has the capacity to power up to 25 per cent of the resorts energy needs.
Green Methods of Sightseeing and Tours
Vancouver has an extensive public transit system including Skytrains, buses and ferries. For fare rates or trip planning information visit Translink. To speak to someone directly, call 604.953.3333 between 6:30 am to 11:30 pm 7 days a week, and a translink employee will be happy to help.
BICYCLE COST: $59 – 90 (Depending on tour, includes bike rental)
If you are interested in a fun and low impact way to see Stanley Park, then consider hopping on a bicycle with Cycle City Tours. Discover some unique pathways and learn about the biodiversity of the temperate rainforest in their Grand Tour, which is more than just another ride in the park. You will ride away with a deeper understanding of Vancouver’s urban story, food and green treasures… The tour lasts 5 hours at a relaxed pace which anyone with moderate fitness should find easy and includes two hours of riding and a 45 minute lunch break in Granville Island’s public market. You can book the tour directly on their website.
If you are getting a little thirsty after the forum, you could also consider their craft beer tour for a beautiful ride through some of Vancouver’s most historic and interesting neighbourhoods.
All rides start from the Cycle City Tours shop at 1344 Burrard St.
HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE COST: $35 Adult
Step aboard an old-fashioned horse-drawn vehicle offered by Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours and meander for an hour in comfort through the natural beauty of Stanley Park, Vancouver’s thousand acre wonderland. A professional guide fully narrates the tour which highlights Deadman’s Island, Vancouver’s Harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, a Coastal Red Cedar Forest, and includes stops at the Totem Poles, the Girl in a Wetsuit Statue, the S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead, and the Rose Garden.
All rides start from the horse-drawn tour kiosk at the Coal Harbour parking lot beside the information booth, just off the Georgia Street entrance to Stanley Park. No reservation required.
735 Stanley Park Drive
Open April 1 – June 30: 9:40 am (1st departure) to 5 pm (last departure
KAYAK OR PADDLE BOARD COST: $65 (Tour)
See Vancouver by sea, by renting or taking a tour in your own kayak or paddleboard: With a safety talk and orientation with Ecomarine’s certified guides, you’ll launch from a dock in Granville Island into the quiet protected waters of False Creek. This calm waterway is full of interesting commerce, floating homes, marinas, birds and unique art. With lots of stops to recount Vancouver’s heritage, our guides take you for a relaxing kayak experience.
1668 Duranleau St
Reservations required and can be done in person, online or by phone: 604.689.7575
AQUABUS COST: $12/day Adult
The bobbing rainbow coloured Aquabusses in False Creek are an iconic image of Vancouver. Providing foot passenger ferry service to Granville Island, downtown, Yaletown and around False Creek. The Aquabus is a fun way to visit many of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and attractions. No reservations required.
Open daily 7:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Locations found all around Vancouver.
BUS COST: $42-219 Adult
If you are looking for guided bus tours, WESTCOAST Sightseeing tour services stop at most hotels in the downtown core and offers a hop on-off service. They also have a variety of bundled packages including a tour of Stanley Park with tickets to the Vancouver Aquarium, a tour of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park to name a few. Travel could span over land, sea and air.
Looking for evening entertainment?
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Pops series features a completely different side of the VSO – and this orchestra can swing! You can catch the end of this series finishing off with a loving homage to two legends: the extraordinary Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
- Friday, May 15, 2015 – Saturday, May 16, 2015
- Venue: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
- Time: 8:00PM
Merging 605 Collective’s high-powered physicality and Theatre Replacement’s unique theatre-making methodologies, this mash-up changes the relationship between audience and dancer, resulting in a compelling, immediate, and unexpected performance.
- Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – Saturday, May 16, 2015
- Venue: The Cultch (Vancouver East Cultural Centre)
Experience Vancouver’s dirty history In 1917, Prohibition hit Vancouver harder than a slug of bathtub gin, knocking the city to its knees. Saloon doors swung closed for good, forcing law-abiding citizens into an underground world of bootlegged spirits and illicit activity. These ain’t the kinda stories you’ll hear on tour buses, nor the kind you’ll read in guide books.
- Saturday, May 16th, 2015
- Venue: Forbidden Vancouver
- Time: 7:00PM
- Location: departs from Cathedral Square, Opposite Holy Rosary Cathedral
Swapna-Maya draws inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem ‘ Dream within a dream” and questions the true nature of Reality. Using film, AV imagery and spoken word, the production will feature four choreographies in Bharatanatyam that question the very nature of existence. A Bharatanatyam presentation, with a four piece live musical ensemble.
- Saturday, May 16, 2015 – Saturday, May 16, 2015
- Venue: Scotiabank Dance Centre
- Time: 7:30pm
Are you feeling hungry?
Check out the Off the Eaten Track presents Main Street Hidden Gems Culinary Tour which takes place on every Thursday and Friday from 5pm to 8pm. Buy your tickets online and meet in the Waterfront Station to start your adventure. Main Street may be one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city but it is home to some of the youngest and hippest locals. Packed full of designer boutiques, funky thrift shops, and quirky restaurants, Vancouverites know that Main is the street to find the city’s best culinary hidden gems. Let them show you five of the very best spots we guarantee you wouldn’t find on your own!
VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN OPTIONS
Vancouver is home to a plethora of cultures, with authentic cuisine on almost every corner. Being a vegan or vegetarian in this city is easy with options ranging from high-end places like Graze, Heirloom or Acorn, to delicious and hearty meals open 24hrs at The Naam. Here is a fairly inclusive list and blog of different options found around Vancouver.