Four things to do in Vancouver this summer – from tackling the Grouse Grind to taking a seawall stroll
If you plan to visit the ever-changing Canadian city this summer, be sure to make the most of the outdoors, with great hiking and walking trails available, or head out to support a local sporting team in action
You could almost call Vancouver the sister city of Hong Kong. About 300,000 Hongkongers hold Canadian passports, and a large number of them live in the area. So why not check out Canada’s top west coast destination? It’s basically a smaller, quieter version of Hong Kong, with a little less pollution.
Vancouver’s eclectic communities have grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years. Olympic Village, originally built for the 2010 Winter Games, is now a vibrant enclave, and East Vancouver has become the new go-to spot for foodies. Gastown has become hipster central as the tech workers flood the area, while downtown has become a high-end destination for luxury shoppers heading to places like department store Holt Renfrew.
There are lots of new attractions in Vancouver, and many people now speak Mandarin or Cantonese, so having strong English skills isn’t a requirement any more to navigate the city. With that in mind, here are a few things to check out if you’re thinking of hopping over the Pacific Ocean this summer.
1. Walk the seawall
Vancouverites use the seawall as their thoroughfare throughout the summer. Stretching about 30km, it wraps around downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park, all the way to Olympic Village and Kitsilano. You can hop on a bike (Mobi bike-sharing is an option) to explore the seawall or take a long stroll in comfortable footwear. If you’re staying in Vancouver’s downtown area, the walkway is not too far away.
Ask your concierge for a brochure of the area, as Google Maps can be confusing and the walkway has been drastically updated in the past year.
Tips: head down through Yaletown (grab a bite to eat in the restaurant district) and curl around the seawall to the east, stopping to explore the Telus World of Science. Finish the day in the Olympic Village and enjoy its ever-growing craft beer scene.
Best spots to eat: the truffled jumbo macaroni at Flying Pig is to die for, and the signature caesar at Tap & Barrel is a delectable drink that comes with a pepperoni stick.
2. Catch a Vancouver Whitecaps soccer match
Vancouver’s love of soccer has exploded in the past few seasons along with the rise of Major League Soccer in North America. The Whitecaps play out of BC Place stadium (next door to where the Vancouver Canucks hockey team plays in winter). It’s in downtown Vancouver within walking distance of a number of hotels. Tickets are cheap and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The stadium is also next to Vancouver’s newest casino, Parq, which offers 24/7 gambling with slots and table games, and has its own hotel.
Tips: the Whitecaps usually have home matches on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Head out to a local pub beforehand (Central City Brewers + Distillers on Beatty Street has become the go-to spot for fans). After the match follow the crowds to the aptly named Red Card for some post-match snacks, beer and highlights on the big screens.
3. Do the Grouse Grind
Think Hong Kong has some great hikes? Well, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve done Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. A short drive over the Lions Gate Bridge in North Vancouver, this trek is not for the faint of heart. It will take at least 45 minutes to climb the 2,830 steps if you’re a relatively experienced hiker. The fastest person to ascend the 2.9km trail did it in just over 25 minutes. At the top are two restaurants and a view that will take your breath away.
Tips: remember to bring your wallet, as it costs C$10 (US$7.60) to ride the gondola down. Wear good hiking gear and don’t go on a rainy day, or the day after, as there will be a lot of mud on the trail. Also, bring water and snacks in a backpack, as once you’re on the trail, it’s just you versus the mountain.
4. Walk Commercial Drive
Just outside downtown Vancouver, this strip of shops and restaurants is one of Vancouver’s hidden gems. If you’re looking to get away from the glitzy stores of Robson Street, take a taxi (Vancouver doesn’t have Uber) and head to Commercial Drive. It’s full of various cultural stores such as Italian restaurants, hipster eateries and some of the best craft breweries in the city.
Each weekend there are lots of festivals going on, and you can’t make it a block without hearing some live music (check out the Libra Room for the best jazz in town).
Tip: the “Drive”, as locals call it, is also conveniently located along Vancouver’s Skytrain line, so you can get there via public transport from downtown Vancouver.
Cathay Pacific, Air Canada and Hong Kong Airlines fly nonstop between Hong Kong and Vancouver.