How to get the most out of your trip to the City of Glass
There’s no bad time to visit Vancouver. Shouldered by mountains and warmed by Pacific Ocean currents, Canada’s westernmost city is known for year-round mild weather that’s perfect for myriad outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, kayaking, and whale watching. Since every season has its perks, choosing the right time to go comes down to your personal tastes. To help you decide, here’s a roundup of what to expect during each season.
If you like crisp weather and less crowds, spring is the best time to visit Vancouver. With temperatures between 45-66°F (7-19°C), this time of year isn’t as warm as the hot, dry summer months, but it’s still warm enough to enjoy the city’s many beaches and parks.
1. Visit the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
With over 40,000 cherry blossom trees lining the downtown streets, Vancouver becomes a veritable bouquet of rosy pink blossoms each spring. To celebrate this annual event, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival organizes a packed events calendar of bike rides, viewing tours, and Japanese festivities throughout March and April.
2. Go whale watching
The waters surrounding Vancouver are migratory highways for whales of all kinds, including humpback whales, orcas, grey whales, and minke whales. The most popular month for whale watching tours is May, when southern resident orcas head through the Strait of Georgia in pursuit of salmon.
3. Kayak along False Creek
Nestled between downtown Vancouver and the rest of the city, False Creek is a short, placid inlet with unforgettable views of the cityscape. Kayak on Granville Island and head east towards Yaletown, the marinas, and Science World (built for Expo ‘86, the giant dome-shaped museum is a must-see landmark).
Unlike the rest of the year, summer in Vancouver is reliably rain-free. Daytime temperatures range from the mid to high 70s F (23-26°C) and lack the humidity of Canada’s eastern cities. With an array of music festivals, night markets, and other special events, this season is by far the busiest for arts and culture. It’s also the most popular time for travelers, so book your accommodations at least a few months in advance if you’ll be visiting between June and August.
1. See Bard on the Beach
The annual Shakespeare festival takes place in a waterfront outdoor tent with views of the city, mountains, and sky.
2. Go hiking
Even though the locals treat hiking as a year-round activity, the best time to hit the trails is really the summer, when daylight hours are the longest and the footpaths are always dry. For a challenge, scale the Grouse Grind, an infamously steep 1.8-mile trail that’s commonly called “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” You can find less strenuous trails in Lynn Canyon Park, Pacific Spirit Regional Park, and Capilano Canyon.
3. Watch the Celebration of Light
Arguably the defining event of the summer, the Celebration of Light is an international fireworks competition that takes place over three nights in late July. Each year, three countries are selected to launch their most impressive pyrotechnics off a floating barge in English Bay. Pack a picnic and join thousands of people on the shores of the Bay (and nearby Second Beach) for the free show.
Fall is cool, with average temperatures ranging between 50-60°F (10-15°C). Tree-lined streets and green spaces are everywhere, so you don’t need to venture into the forest to behold the fall foliage (though that’s always an option). Note that rain is common in fall.
1. Behold the changing leaves at VanDusen Botanical Garden
This sprawling 55-acre sanctuary houses over 255,000 plants from around the world. It’s a beautiful place to visit year-round, but the changing leaves of fall are particularly memorable.
2. Attend the Vancouver International Film Festival
The movie business is one of Vancouver’s most lucrative industries, and the city puts on a big show for its annual film festival. The 16-day festival screens nearly 400 films from all over the world, with an emphasis on Canadian and East Asian creators. What makes this festival unique is that you don’t need to be a celebrity or industry insider to attend—every screening is open to the public (all you need to do is buy a ticket).
3. Ride the Stanley Park Ghost Train
Every October, a miniature train inside Stanley Park takes passengers through a haunted maze with elaborate sets, spooky music, and live actors. It’s a fun experience designed for the whole family to enjoy.
Vancouver winters are mild, at least for Canadian standards, with daytime temperatures between 40-50°F (4-10°C). Though it rains frequently, it rarely snows, except on the mountains. The city becomes particularly photogenic over the holidays, when millions of lights illuminate the major streets, parks, and gardens.
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1. See the Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge
The best time to behold Vancouver’s iconic suspension bridge is during Canyon Lights, an annual holiday light show. Hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the suspension bridge, canyon, and surrounding rainforest, including Douglas fir trees towering 110 feet above the forest floor.
2. Go skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing
The Vancouver skyline is famous for its snow-capped mountains, so it’s no surprise that the city’s winter sports revolve around them. The most popular local mountains are Grouse, Seymour, and Cypress, which all offer day passes and equipment rentals. If you’re really gung-ho, travel two hours north of the city to Whistler, a world-famous mecca for snow sports (and host of the 2010 Winter Olympics).
3. Watch a hockey game
Vancouverites take their hockey seriously. Whether you shell out to see the
Canucks, the city’s all-star NHL team, or get less expensive tickets for the Giants, the top junior team, you’ll have an unforgettable night cheering alongside fiercely loyal fans.
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