Things to do in Vancouver
If you want to orient yourself in the city, there are a variety of tours -- bus, walking, hop-on, hop-off -- based out of the City Centre that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.
Vancouverites love the outdoors and one of the most popular things to do is to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade the Seawall. It starts at Canada Place downtown, wraps around Stanley Park and follows the shoreline of False Creek through Yaletown, Science World and Granville Island to Kits Beach in Kitsilano. The most popular sections are around Stanley Park and along the north shore of False Creek. Bike and rollerblade rentals are available from a few shops near the corner of Denman & West Georgia if you prefer wheeled transportation over walking. If the weather's nice, go out to Granville Island, rent a speedboat and take a boat ride on the waters around Stanley Park and Coal Harbour. Golf courses are also abundant in the city, along with more cost-conscious pitch-and-putt courses.
If you'd rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamorous and lacking waves, there's sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. Kitsilano has a string of beaches, the most well known being Kitsilano Beach, Jericho and Spanish Banks. Kits Beach is the most popular and has beach volleyball, Spanish Banks is a bit quieter and popular with skimboarders. There are a few beaches on the south and west sides of downtown, with English Bay Beach (near Denman & Beach) being the largest and most popular. Finally, no discussion of Vancouver beaches would be complete without mention of Wreck Beach at the tip of Point Grey in UBC. As much rock as it is sand, it holds a place in the Vancouver identity and is the only city beach where you can bare it all.
For many, Vancouver is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. While there are no ski hills within the city itself, there are three "local" hills (Cypress, Grouse Mountain and Seymour) across the harbour on the North Shore. And of course, Vancouver is the gateway to Whistler, the biggest and one of the most highly rated snow destinations in North America.
When you tire of doing stuff outdoors, or prefer that someone else do the hard work, you can always grab a seat and take in the local sports teams.
The biggest draw in town is hockey (the variety played on ice, not a field) and the local professional team is the Vancouver Canucks. The team plays at Rogers Arena in the City Centre and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer when they make the play-offs). Tickets are pricey and the concessions are even worse, but it's a good game to watch live. The local junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, offer a cheaper but no less exciting experience. They play out of Pacific Coliseum in East Van.
The BC Lions, the city's Canadian Football League team (think American football with 12 players a side, three downs, a slightly larger field, and much larger end zones) plays during the summer and fall at BC Place downtown.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the third team to bear the "Whitecaps" name, began play in Major League Soccer in March 2011, becoming the second MLS team in Canada (they have since been joined by a third Canadian team). They have played at BC Place since September 2011, when that venue reopened after post-Olympics renovations. The Whitecaps initially planned to build a new stadium of their own near the waterfront, but local opposition led the Whitecaps to make BC Place their long-term home.
The Terminal City Rollergirls are Vancouver's first female roller derby league and are members of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. Created in 2006, the league now has four full teams (Faster Pussycats, Bad Reputations, Public Frenemy, and Riot Girls) as well as an All-Stars team made up of the best players in the league. The players are a diverse group of women, from nurses to construction workers, graphic designers, television producers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, PhD students and aspiring rock stars. The bouts are exciting and fun (there is usually an entertaining half-time show), and you may even see some hard hits that show up on the League's Hall of Pain. If you're thinking about attending a bout and know nothing or very little about flat track roller derby, check out the 'How Derby Works' section on the TCRG website. Bouts are generally held April to September and at various arenas around Metro Vancouver, although the PNE Forum in East Van has been a popular venue.
Vancouver has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver.
The two major universities in the Vancouver area both have comprehensive athletic programs, though not at the high profile of similar institutions south of the border:
- The Simon Fraser Clan represent Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. The Clan sponsor teams in seven men's sports and nine women's sports. Notably, SFU is the only Canadian school that's a member of the U.S. NCAA, though they are in Division II, competing with mostly smaller, regional U.S. institutions. Also worthy of note is that SFU's football team, as an NCAA member, plays under American rules and not Canadian.
- The UBC Thunderbirds represent the University of British Columbia, located in the University Endowment Lands at the west edge of the Point Grey peninsula. The Thunderbirds field teams in 15 men's sports and 14 women's sports. Unlike SFU, UBC is a member of Canada's governing body for university sport, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).