Host city of 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, vibrant Vancouver is one of the world’s premiere and most beautiful city destinations. It is a hip, modern and friendly coastal metropolis surrounded by spectacular wild scenery with an ocean foreground and a stunning backdrop of snowcapped mountains. Renowned for its unique blend of urban, outdoor and wildlife adventures, Vancouver is a lifestyle city unlike any in the world!
In the winter, a 2-night Vancouver stop-over stay is the perfect complement to a Whistler holiday. Thanks to Vancouver’s mild climate, the city is easy to explore in the winter time. Spend some time soaking in the sights and ambiance of this charming city with its curious mix of one-of-a-kind attractions, eclectic neighbourhoods, tempting shopping, lively nightlife, epic culinary scene and fun outdoor activities. See why Vancouver is easy to visit and hard to leave!
Two days and nights is nowhere near enough time to experience this amazing city, but below is an itinerary example to make the most of your time, post resort and before you fly home.
Day 1 – Discover the Heart of the City
Once you disembark your early morning transfer from Whistler and drop off the luggage at your downtown Vancouver hotel, then head out to discover the city center. Start your visit by checking out the city’s top can’t-miss neighbourhoods and sights, most of which are in the downtown. As the center is compact, you can easily explore on foot and aboard a hop-on-hop-off Vancouver Trolley or Big Bus tour. Or, for guided sightseeing, options include Landsea Tours or West Coast Sightseeing.
Your first stop should be Vancouver’s best landmark, Stanley Park, crowned as one of the top ten greatest public spaces in the world. Home to towering ancient cedars, wildlife, totem (story) poles, and the famous seawall, Stanley Park is a must-see for visitors and locals alike! Visit the popular Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest, with over 70,000 different species, including beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, and much more. Plus, immerse yourself in the new 4-D theatre, with extra and thrilling sensory effects.
From Stanley Park, pass through the West End and along the ever-popular English Bay Beach, with its sandy stretches and palm tree lined waterfront promenade.
Continue to Granville Island, once voted the Best North American Neighbourhood. Colourful Granville Island is the culinary and artistic heart of Vancouver, and is a treat for the senses. Browse through the sprawling Public Market, overflowing with fresh produce, baked goods, and other culinary treasures. Or, take in the many artisan studios/galleries. This is one of the most popular places in Vancouver to hang out with the locals and grab lunch!
From Granville Island, catch one the cute mini-ferries (a quintessential Vancouver experience!) – Aquabus or the False Creek Ferries – crossing through scenic False Creek towards the chic warehouse district of Yaletown. Historically a fashion district, Yaletown has enjoyed a renaissance with old warehouses converted into designer boutiques, unique galleries, ultra-hip clothing stores and a wide array of cool restaurants, bars and lounges. This is the place for the unique, sleek and modern.
Continue to exotic Chinatown, the second largest in North America. Browse through authentic shops, savour delicious dim sum, and explore Chinatown’s hidden gem, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Blending rock, water, plants and architecture into a serene landscape, it is the only Ming Dynasty-era garden outside of China.
Nearby and next up is the birthplace of Vancouver, historic Gastown. This district’s cobblestone streets are lined with Victorian buildings that today house everything from souvenir shops and First Nations galleries to stylish clothing boutiques and gastro-pubs. It’s also home to the famous Steam Clock, which as you may have guessed is a clock powered by steam, and the Vancouver Lookout for sweeping views of the city!
After dark, Vancouver comes alive with a variety of entertainment options —whether you’re in the mood for sipping drinks in a swanky lounge, dancing the night away, taking in a live music, watching a Canucks game at GM Place or on a big screen.
Start the night by savouring West Coast Flavours. Voted by Food & Wine magazine as one of the “Top 10 best restaurant cities in the world”, Vancouver is famed for its West Coast Fusion cuisine, combing fresh organic ingredients, seafood, multi-cultural influences and award-winning BC wines. We suggest that you head back to Yaletown with its plethora of sophisticated dining and lounging options, or to Gastown with its trendy pubs, tapas spots, microbrewery and cocktail bars serving some of the most creative drinks in the country. And, there’s even a whiskey bar in Gastown!
Then, complete the evening at one of the many trendy dance clubs in Vancouver’s Entertainment district, Granville Street!
Day 2 – Shopping Galore and More to Explore
Time is short, so there’s no sleeping in as there’s shopping to be done and more to explore! Grab a cappuccino and breakfast at one of the many cafes. Once the caffeine has kicked in, head out to Robson Street.
No visit to Vancouver would be complete without a stop in the city’s leading shopping and strolling thoroughfare – Robson Street. It’s a place that offers everything from big-name stores to funky independent boutiques and is for the serious shoppers! Nearby Pacific Centre shopping mall is also another shopping hot spot. Want more? Then head to Canada’s second largest shopping mall – Metropolis at Metrotown with 450 shops and just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver on the Skytrain.
After taking stock of your purchases and a quick lunch, get organized to head over the North Shore Mountains for some outdoor fun! Catch the free shuttle to the one-of-a-kind Capilano Suspension Bridge, a mere 10-15 minutes from the downtown. Cross the breathtakingly pedestrian bridge suspended 230 feet above the Capilano River and 450 feet across the Capilano Canyon. This attraction takes visitors to towering evergreens – some 800 years old, serene trails, and the Treetops Adventure.
Carry on five minutes further by public bus up to Grouse Mountain, the Peak of Vancouver! It’s all about the views there! Enjoy a scenic, one-mile aerial journey aboard the Skyride, North America’s largest aerial tramway. Arriving at 3,700 feet above sea level, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city, sea, and surrounding mountains. And, on a clear day, you can see Vancouver Island and Mount Baker in the US. At the top, choose from a variety of activities, including snowshoeing, ice skating, mountain ziplining, and much more! For the snow sport enthusiast that needs one more run, hit the slopes and try the novelty of night skiing/snowboarding with the twinkling lights of the city below. Finish your Grouse Mountain visit with drinks and a fondue dinner in the cozy Chalet.
If you’d prefer to spend the evening back in the city centre, then consider a refreshing spa treatment before heading out on the town for, sadly, your last evening in the city.
Complete the evening by dinning at one of the many water view restaurants in English Bay, Coal Harbour or False Creek.
Optional activities for later in the winter include: cycling around the seawall, hiking on the North Shore Mountains, sailing, and golfing. Vancouver is one of the rare destinations where you can hike in the morning, sail in the afternoon and ski at night…all in the city and on the same day!
Day 3 – Farewell
On your departure day, if you’re not squeezing in more shopping before your flight, take a culture crawl and visit some of the museums and galleries, such as the well-known UBC Museum of Anthropology, Bill Reid Gallery and Vancouver Art Gallery.
After experiencing some of the best of Vancouver in two very full days, you will see that there’s nothing difficult about finding things to discover during a Vancouver winter escape – fitting everything in might be the biggest challenge.
Visiting Vancouver over the Christmas & New Year? Here are a few options to consider:
• Capilano Suspension Bridge’s Canyon of Lights
• Grouse Mountain’s The Peak of Christmas
• Skating at the Robson Square rink
• VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights
• Christmas Carol Ships Parade of Light
• Bright Lights in Stanley Park
• Yuletide Traditions at Granville Island
• Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum
Why not include a couple of nights in Vancouver as part of your holiday to British Columbia? Check out our selection of Vancouver hotels here.