Canada is known the world over for its winter sports opportunities, and Vancouver especially so – each year, as the bears of British Columbia start their hibernation, tourists flock to the region to throw themselves down mountains. But with year-round attractions and some of the country’s mildest weather, there’s more to the city than just a winter sports base. Whether you're a keen skier, a keen shopper or a foodie with a taste for fresh game and seafood, here's why Vancouver should top your list.
Located just outside the city, Grouse Mountain provides a world-class winter sports experience, and the ride to the top on the Skyride gondola will show you a view of Vancouver like you've never seen before. The perfect destination for adventure-seekers, Grouse Mountain is the place to show off your skiing skills or explore the pristine mountainside on a snowshoe trail.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is not one for the faint hearted. Suspended among towering evergreens and over the Capilano river, the famous bridge is just one of a number of vertiginous experiences at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, including a high-altitude Cliffwalk and a Treetops Adventure canopy walk. Visit the park over the Christmas season and you'll not only be treated to spectacular forest views, but also the annual Canyon Lights festival which turns the rainforest into a sparkling wonderland featuring the eight tallest ‘Christmas trees’ in the world (they’re actually eight 250-year-old Douglas firs).
If you’re looking to go a little further afield, the Indian Arm Cruise takes you through an 18km coastal fjord on a four-hour exploration through one of Vancouver's hidden gems: its spectacular harbour. The inland waters are calm enough even for those with wobbly sea legs, and you'll want to bring a camera to capture the lush green landscapes in what was once a heavily glaciated area. Depending on the time of year, keep your eyes peeled for some native Canadian wildlife: bald eagles and bears can sometimes be spotted from the deck.
Usually falling sometime from mid-January to late February, the Chinese New Year's Parade in Chinatown is one of the city's biggest parades, attracting over 50,000 spectators and with over 3,000 performers. Festivities don't stop when the parade does, with a Chinese New Year Banquet and Spring Festival and Cultural Fair continuing into the evening.
If you’re visiting a bit later in the year, greet the change of seasons and the warmer spring weather at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. Running for most of the month of April and incorporating events ranging from outdoor concerts and a massive group picnic in stunning Queen Elizabeth Park to an always-popular haiku contest, this Japanese-inspired event is a perfect way to get a taste of Vancouver’s fantastic community vibe.
A must-do for food lovers visiting BC, the Granville Public Market is a Vancouver institution selling the best local produce, artisan foods and independent crafts. Stalls offering cuisines from around the world, made with the freshest British Columbia produce, will have you licking your plate and asking for seconds.
If you’re already sated and in the mood for some retail therapy instead, visit the Eastside Flea for all of your vintage, collectible and hand-made souvenir shopping. With a rotating roster of more than 50 local vendors, it’s the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a unique Vancouver keepsake or something special for someone back home. The Flea run special holiday markets right through December, but they’re open all year – keep an eye on their website for details.
In winter, keep an eye out for fresh British Columbia sea urchin, game meats and Pacific oysters. Wildebeest in Gastown is known for its incredible game dishes, and you'll find local umi, or sea urchin, at many Japanese restaurants in the city, like Ebisu and Miku.
Kiwi travellers looking for a taste of home will love Vancouver's vibrant café culture, with the city playing host to an ever-increasing number of quality establishments. The locals put a strong emphasis on quality, so expect to find locally roasted, single-origin and slow-brewed styles in abundance, as well as cabinets stuffed to the brim with delectable French-style baked treats – try Platform 7 in Kitsilano or East Vancouver for a charmingly old-school vibe, or head to Revolver on Cambie Street for a truly unforgattable, unmistakably high-end coffee experience.