Vancouver, Canada

Pacific Northwesterners love their coffee and Vancouver is not different. This world-class city is the perfect blend all by itself – a blend of urban life and nature. The city proper is home to approximately 662,000 residents while the metro area holds 2.5 million people which makes it similar to the size of the Portland, Oregon metro area. Vancouver is smaller than the metro areas of Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Seattle which all have close to 4 million residents in their metro areas. Vancouver, Canada is limited in size due to its location. Nestled at the foot of mountains and on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, there is limited space for the city to grow outwards. There is little urban sprawl, with most residents choosing to be upwardly mobile – as in building upwards rather than outwards. Tall apartment buildings make up the city skyline. Residents don’t feel hemmed in by their location, though. Within a half an hour they can be up on the slopes getting ready to ski down Grouse Mountain which boasts amazing views overlooking the city.  These nearby ski slopes are just one of the reasons Vancouver was home to the 2010 winter Olympics. The city still proudly displays their Olympic Torch downtown near what was the Olympic broadcast center.

vancouver BC lion's gate bridge
Vancouver BC's Lion's Gate Bridge. Photo by D. Woolcott

The city encircles a large bay, leaving one perfectly situated peninsula devoted to the extensive and well-loved Stanley Park. Designed with bicyclers, walkers, and runners in mind, the path along the water is reserved for those that want to enjoy the outdoors outside of their cars.  The nicely level path is paved and perfect for enjoying a stroll or a jog – where you will enjoy views of the city skyline, perhaps watch a cruise ship dock across the bay at Canada Place, enjoy one of the many seaplanes take off and land nearby, or cars traveling over the scenic Lions Gate bridge – designed by the same man who designed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – and all with the scenic snow-capped Grouse Mountain as a backdrop. If you want to see Vancouver in a nutshell, just sit in Stanley Park for a few minutes and you’ll see it all.

Comparing Stanley Park to the famous Central Park in New York City finds them fairly similar in many respects.  Size-wise, Stanley Park is larger – 1,000 sq miles to Central Park’s 843 sq miles. They are both close to the same age with Central Park slightly older by 31 years.  They both offer a variety of activities for visitors, but Central Park far exceeds the number of visitors. Approximately 25 million people visit Central Park every year, while you’re more likely to have room to roam with just 8 million visiting Stanley Park annually.

vancouver bc tulips stanley park by dawn woolcott
The Vancouver skyline from across the bay. Photo by Dawn Woolcott for USA River Cruises

Vancouver has a definite Northwest feel – and although similar to Seattle to the south, Seattle actually is the larger city. Don’t confuse Vancouver, B.C. with Vancouver, WA just 250 miles to the south. Both Vancouvers are named after the same man – George Vancouver, an officer of the British Navy who charted the Pacific Northwest coastline in the late 1700s. Vancouver, Washington was the first settlement to take the name, and where you’ll find Fort Vancouver set right on the banks of the Columbia River. Travelers are reminded to make sure they know which Vancouver they are researching – Vancouver Canada or Vancouver USA!

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find a more casual lifestyle, where the standard dress code is jeans or athletic wear and the accessory of choice is usually a cup of coffee or refillable bottle of water.

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find a more casual lifestyle, where the standard dress code is jeans or athletic wear and the accessory of choice is usually a cup of coffee or refillable bottle of water.

Vancouver, BC has its own unique vibe formed by its global influences. It is home to North America’s third largest Chinatown, created when many immigrants arrived to find their fortune during the gold rush in the late 1800s or to find work on the expanding railroad system. The diverse cultures that have formed the city are celebrated in a variety of annual cultural events that begin with a Chinese New Year parade in January, a Coastal Dance Festival in February celebrating the coastal indiginous peoples, a European Festival in May to honor the variety of European settlers and their differing cultures, a 14-block celebration in June for Italian Day with festivities to celebrate the large Italian population that arrived following WW2, a Dragonboat Festival in June, and in November you can find the Diwali, the most popular celebration event in East Indian culture.

If you can time your visit to attend one of these cultural festivals, or not, you’ll surely enjoy your visit to the city. For a unique look at the city, you won’t want to miss a visit to Granville Island – the artistic and creative hub of the city. This large area was once an industrial island – home to businesses creating the materials needed for the shipping, mining, and logging industries. Following WW2, these needs dried up and the area was abandoned for the most part for several decades. In the 1970s, a revitalization project was envisioned and the artists and restaurants moved in. The area has grown to become a mecca for visitors who enjoy wandering the artisan stores, find lunch in the extensive indoor market filled with bakeries, cheese shops, fresh produce, and ethnic cuisines. Located underneath the giant footings of a bridge, now brightly painted with native art designs, the area has retained its gritty, artistic feel and is somewhere you can wander for a full afternoon. Grab lunch and sit outside overlooking the bay while well-fed seagulls hover nearby greedily watch your every bite. As you enter, don’t miss the old cement factory, with large tanks now cheerfully painted, looking much like large Lego people. Granville Island is similar in feel to Seattle’s Pike Market, but in a more higgledy-piggledy fashion, and all painted in bright, happy colors.

china town in vancouver bc lamp post
The expansive Chinatown district has beautiful lamp posts
granville island painted cement industrial tanks
Granville Island cement factory combines its industrial past with its artistic present
native american totem pole in stanley park vancouver bc
Totem poles in Stanley Park

Vancouver, B.C. really is a perfect blend – a blend of cultures, a blend of old and new, and a blend of urban and nature. A trip here is highly recommended!


You can visit Vancouver, B.C. on one of these cruises:

Authentic Alaska: Vancouver to Sitka

Vancouver to Sitka

Book Now More Info

Alaskan Splendors Cruise

Vancouver to Anchorage

  • 11 Nights
  • Please call for information on future dates.
  • Star Breeze
Book Now More Info

Canada Coast to Coast

Vancouver to Halifax

  • 15 Nights
  • Please call for information on future dates.
  • From $8,176
Book Now More Info

First Passage to the West: Canadian Rockies Rail Vacation

Vancouver, BC to Calgary, AB

  • 6 Nights
  • Please call for information on future dates.
  • From $3,334
Book Now More Info

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