Stanley Park in Vancouver during the fall

Stanley Park is a dreamy place for an autumn stroll. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Discover a City-Meets-Nature Weekend Adventure in Vancouver, British Columbia

As one of Canada’s most vibrant cities, it’s no wonder Vancouver has such a smorgasbord of traveler-friendly activities on offer. From mornings on the beach spent surfing and swimming to evenings dining at world-class restaurants, every day in Vancouver is rife with possibilities.

Visitors looking for a restorative vacation will find an atmosphere that benefits both body and mind. Foodies will also feel right at home — this is a truly international city, which translates to a melting pot of restaurants that pride themselves on creative cooking and local sourcing.

You could do little more than stroll around Vancouver and still have a great vacation — after all, those dramatic mountain backdrops are seriously scenic, and there’s a reason the Los Angeles crowd turned it into “Hollywood North.” But the real pleasure lies in exploring all the quirky corners of this city by the sea — ahead, here’s how to make the most of a three-day visit.

As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Spend the Morning Walking Around Davie Village

Start your weekend trip with breakfast at Melriches Coffee, a cozy haunt known for its baked goods — don’t leave without grabbing an oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookie for the road.

You’re already in Davie Village, one of the most popular spots for visitors to Vancouver thanks in large part to its walkability. This area is a part of the larger downtown neighborhood, which measures in at just over 1 mile at its widest point — making it a dream for pedestrian visitors.

Your unofficial morning walking tour begins with a stroll to the Paper Hound bookshop to pick up a unique souvenir or a new novel to read during your beach day (tomorrow!). If the downtown streets are too packed for your liking, duck into the nearby Vancouver Art Gallery for some respite.

Once your stomach starts growling, grab lunch at the Legendary Noodle House. In colder weather, opt for some noodle soup to help thaw you out, otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the stir-fried cut noodles.

Hop in the car for the 15-minute drive to VanDusen Botanical Garden. The garden has a lineup of seasonal self-guided tours, each showcasing different blooms, so you can take in peak botanical splendor no matter when you’re visiting.

While in the area, check out the Bloedel Conservatory, which is located on the city’s highest point, in Queen Elizabeth Park. Inside the geodesic dome you’ll find a year-round tropical paradise, planted with 500 exotic species of flora and occupied by over 100 tropical birds.

Steak with garlic and French fries
You can’t go wrong with a steakhouse dinner. (Photo: Marriott International)

For dinner, head back to Davie Village for a meal at Elisa — get ready for all of the steakhouse classics, plus seafood so fresh it could swim off the plate. Favorites include the smoked-bison tartare, whole branzino, porterhouse and baked Alaska.

For a nightcap, check out Bayside Lounge. The menu of rotating seasonal cocktails is unmatched, and the thoughtful mocktail menu ensures even teetotalers can join in the fun.

Saturday: Hit the Beach in Kitsilano

Salad with soft boiled eggs and roasted veggies
Grab a light lunch to fuel up for a beach trip. (Photo: Marriott International)

One of Vancouver’s biggest draws is its natural beauty — every neighborhood has at least one heart-stoppingly gorgeous bit of scenery to take you by surprise. But nowhere is this more apparent than the waterfront escape of Kitsilano. Many of the attractions here involve the beach, so plan to spend a large portion of your day resting by the water.

But first, grab breakfast at Sunshine Diner — the seafood Benedict is a local favorite. From here, it’s a 20-minute walk to the water, but the scenery makes the trip a pleasure — views from Kitsilano looking over to the center of Vancouver can’t be beat.

Find a spot on the sand for a morning of reading, relaxing, soaking in the sun and, for the boldest travelers, a dip in the bracing Pacific. This is also a great spot for a game of Frisbee, so bring one along and get ready to make some friends.

Kitsilano has a number of popular walking trails worth exploring, or simply venture out along West Fourth Avenue for some shopping (find stylish home goods at Briers and Canada’s hands-down best selection of loose-leaf teas at Silk Road).

For lunch, head down to the Granville Island Public Market, full of local artisans and food stalls like Kaisereck Delicatessen (for brats and hot dogs piled high with caramelized onions) and Alimenteria Mexciana (for regional Mexican dishes that’d impress even the most discerning abuela).

Once you’re done, check out the planetarium show and science demos at H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, a Vancouver institution for 54 years. With your mind sufficiently blown by the magic of space, you’ll be ready for a meal to decompress (and consider the wonders of the universe).

Dinner favorites include the high-end AnnaLena, serving up contemporary Canadian fare in a modern and moody setting, with a range of creative cocktails to pair with your meal. Or head down to the Acorn, a vegetarian’s delight for ambitious plant-based fare.

Sunday: Embed Yourself in Vancouver’s Oldest Community

Gaston steam clock in Vancouver
Historic charm abounds in quaint Gastown. (Photo: Getty Images)

Wrap up your weekend getaway in the city’s most historic neighborhood. Like most of the city, Gastown was almost completely leveled by the 1886 Great Vancouver Fire, but the area quickly rebuilt and is now a haven for creative young entrepreneurs. Stop for a quick breakfast bite at Nelson the Seagull, a bright little spot serving unfussy tartines on house-baked, naturally leavened breads.

Many of the attractions in this Gastown will drop you right into the city’s past, complete with cobblestone streets and Victorian-era buildings. Wander into One of a Few for designer clothing and accessories, Dutil Denim for high-quality jeans or Old Faithful Shop for general-store vibes (and goods).

Once you’ve got shopping marked off the list, head further west, where the city seawall makes for a perfect kick-off spot for a bike ride or stroll along the shore. Stanley Park is packed with lush trails and attractions, including the Vancouver Aquarium.

The afternoon is all about the eats, so book your ticket with Gastown Food Tours, which, in addition to highlighting some of the best food in the city, also takes guests to several historic sites. Tours start at 2 p.m., making it a great lunch stand-in. Expect this to take around three hours.

Follow up the snacking with a hike: Venture beyond the neighborhood limits and check out Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, or hit up the picturesque trails overlooking the fjord at Deep Cove.

For dinner, check out the Flying Pig Gastown, a hip bistro, or grab a table and prepare for some seasonal fare in an old warehouse at Pourhouse Restaurant. Alternatively, just south of Gastown is the famous Robson Street, home to hundreds of stores and restaurants jam-packed into just a few busy blocks.

End the day on a spooky note by taking an evening ghost tour of the area. It’s a great way to round out your Vancouver history, and — who knows? — maybe even spot a Gastown resident from long ago.