Burrard Bridge and Coast Mountains in Vancouver, Canada

The view of Vancouver's historic Burrard Bridge and West End towers--with the Coast Mountains behind--is yours when you walk across the Granville Bridge. Photo: (c) Randall Shirley

Every destination has its hidden gems—places that locals know, but many travelers never find. Having lived in the Vancouver area for many years, here are five Vancouver secrets:

  1. Stanley Park trails. Most Vancouver visitors will see Stanley Park, but they’ll only see it from a tour van (or bus or trolley), or from the seawall. Don’t get me wrong—those are fantastic ways to see the park. But to truly understand the place, go exploring the park’s inner, smaller trails (handy map here). Listen to the breeze in the towering trees. Smell the temperate rainforest. Notice the ferns and moss and even the occasional critter. This is truly an amazing slice of nature right on the edge of a major city…get inside it!
  2. Listel Hotel. This has long been among my very favorite Vancouver hotels. I’ve never actually stayed at the Listel (or most Vancouver hotels…living here, I don’t need to stay). I have, however, spent much time in almost all the major hotels around Vancouver, and have seen their guest rooms, eaten their food, etc. The Listel always stands apart because of its reasonable pricing, outstanding location, and unique floors dedicated to (and decorated with) fine art, and Canadian Aboriginal art. Visit the Listel Hotel website here.
  3. Cloud 9 revolving bar and restaurant. Rotating restaurants are a bit of a vestige to a bygone tourism era, but to me they still “work.” This one presents, perhaps, the very best views of Vancouver available to a traveler, even if the décor is somewhat dated. Go for late afternoon, nurse a couple of overpriced drinks, and watch Vancouver go around you. Magnificent. Visit the Cloud 9 website here.
  4. Tickets Tonight discount ticket booth. Looking to see a show? Vancouver generally has plenty going on in the performing arts. Tickets Tonight is the place to get discount seats for many local productions. It’s very hit-or-miss, but often a hit. It’s inside the Tourism Vancouver visitor centre near Canada Place. If discount tickets are available, they’ll be for same-day performances. They also sell full-price tickets for many shows. Sign up for their email alerts—they send out the shows for tomorrow today. Visit the Tickets Tonight website here.
  5. Walk across the Granville Bridge, on the west side of the street. From the centre of this busy bridge you have some of the most stunning views of Vancouver—especially of the Yaletown and West End residential towers with the iconic and historic Burrard Bridge in the foreground. On the far end, you can browse the tony shopping zone known as the South Granville Rise.

One Response to “Best Kept Secrets in Vancouver”

  1. Sujatha Arvind says:

    Hey Randall,
    As a traveller from the East, who spent a week staying on Alberni Street close to Stanley Park and tried to discover Vancouver by foot this summer (2013), here are my top 5 faves:
    1. Checking out the day’s menu at any of the little restaurants close to Robson Street – Rebellious tomato, the spot cafe, Lanna Thai…
    2. Yes, discovering the many secret trails, ponds, hidden gardens and even a mini golf course in Stanley Park
    3. Walking at the water’s edge on First Beach, Second Beach, English Bay…dipping feet in the water every now and again even if it is cold by Indian Standards
    4. Jiggling and bouncing along on the Capillano Suspension Bridge
    5. Browsing through Gastown to find that little hsop which sells “Made in Canada” stuff.. Yes, it’s rare everywhere in the world to find stuff made anywhere else but in China these days. Oh and standing by the steam clock watching it hiss away…

Please add your fave, or your 5 faves on this topic