Of all the Pacific Northwest’s gems, Vancouver is perhaps the most cosmopolitan, with its gleaming glass skyscrapers, international cuisine, and thriving cultural attractions. Of course, it’s no slouch in the natural beauty department, either, thanks to an ocean-and-mountain backdrop that makes every angle photogenic. Whether you’ve been 100 times or have never made the three-hour journey to British Columbia’s biggest city, there’s something for you this summer, from the tried-and-true activities to the newest offerings.
Classic: Billed as Vancouver’s original dinner cruise, the Sunset Dinner Cruise from Harbour Cruises & Events takes a 2.5-hour spin past the downtown skyline, Stanley Park, the cruise ship terminal and more. While you watch the sun dip below the horizon, enjoy live music and a buffet with selections including maple-glazed salmon, slow-roasted sirloin, chickpea salad, roasted potatoes and blueberry cheesecake.
Contemporary: Take a day trip with Pacific Ferries on the new Howe Sound Day Excursion and Sightseeing Cruise, which runs seven days a week this summer. Your adventure begins at 9 a.m. at Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver. From there, you’ll float under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and along the West Vancouver shoreline to the first stop: Gibsons, the marine gateway to the Sunshine Coast. While you’re here, don’t miss grabbing a scoop of house-made gelato at Mike’s Place. Next up is Bowen Island, known for its art galleries and small shops (and more good ice cream!), which you can browse for an hour before returning back to Vancouver in the afternoon.
GO FOR A PADDLE
Classic: Kayaking is a longtime pastime in Vancity, and one of the most popular places to get in the water is False Creek, an inlet between downtown and the rest of the city. Take the Granville Island Kayak Tour from Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres to get a guided look at the sights, or just rent your own kayak or paddleboard and explore on your own—keep an eye out for wildlife like graceful herons, playful seals and soaring eagles.
Contemporary: Deep Cove Kayak’s new Friday Night Lights tour takes you through the tranquil waters of the beautiful Indian Arm for a 2.5-hour paddle. Along the way, you’ll learn about the history of the Arm, the presence of the First Nations, the wildlife in the area, and the significance of the geography. If you’re really lucky, you may see the bioluminescence that appears some nights, but either way, the absence of daytime crowds provides for a peaceful experience.
Classic: Since the 1980s, the Cascade Bicycle Club has hosted the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver & Party (better known as the RSVP). Over 175-plus miles, riders cruise past some of the area’s most beautiful scenery, taking in the towering Cascade mountains, the Salish Sea, and the farmland of Skagit Valley. Plus, crossing an international border in a dedicated bike lane is an experience worth having at least once. This year’s ride is from Aug. 18–19, and the finish-line festival has moved outdoors, to David Lam Park, where live music, food trucks, and a beer garden will be waiting.
Contemporary: Vancouver will host two new cycling events this year, starting with Our City Ride on Aug. 19. The 15-kilometer pedal through downtown, the West End and Stanley Park will take in some of the city’s most quintessential sights before ending at David Lam Park in Yaletown (where RSVP riders will be celebrating as well). On Sept. 16, Bike the Night will kick off its inaugural event with a nocturnal ride over the Burrard Bridge. To help you glow, there will be free bike decorating at the start line.
UP IN THE AIR
Classic: See Vancouver from an entirely different perspective on the Vancouver Classic Panorama Tour, the most popular offered by Harbour Air Seaplanes. Leave from Coal Harbour and get a complete view of the city skyline, parks and beaches from above during the 20-minute flight. It begins and ends with a splash, landing in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre, and is a must-try for anyone who’s never experienced the thrill of seaplane flight.
Contemporary: To say the scenery is epic on the new Waterfalls & Canyons Tour from Sky Helicopters doesn’t quite do it justice. It all begins with a luxury shuttle service from your downtown Vancouver hotel to Sky Helicopters’ base an hour away in Pitt Meadows. You’ll take flight for 30 minutes, buzzing over the British Columbian wilderness before landing on an exclusive mountainside helipad for an hour. Hike uphill to the base of a waterfall, then continue to the Canyon Lookout platform and eat your gourmet picnic lunch with a side of breathtaking views. On the 30-minute flight back, you’ll pass Mount Robbie Reid and the twin Golden Ears peaks.