Vancouver is a gorgeous tourist friendly city on the western coast of Canada, British Columbia. If Vancouver is not on your to-visit list, add it now!
We recently visited Vancouver for the first time before boarding our Princess cruise to Alaska and I couldn’t have fallen more deeply in love with a city. Vancouver Canada is beautiful, fun, and full of the most amazing food.
This article is published in partnership with Princess Cruises. All content and opinions belong to Mama Loves Food.
Cruising from Vancouver
We were able to see Vancouver because our Alaskan cruise departed from the sea port there. One thing I always tell folks about cruising is if you’re departing or arriving from a city you haven’t explored yet, get there a few days early!
Hubby and I extended our trip an extra two days so we could see Vancouver and I am so glad we did.
Where to stay in Vancouver
We stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver and had the most incredible view (not to mention comfortable beds!). When we woke up the morning of our last day in Vancouver and looked out the window, the Island Princess was right there ready and waiting for us!
More popular places to stay in Vancouver:
- Fairmont Pacific Rim
- JW Marriott Parq Vancouver
- Rosewood Hotel Georgia
- Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver
- Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
What we did in Vancouver
- Explored on foot! The first day especially we hoofed around the city with no real aim. We popped into shops, grabbed coffee, watched the seaplanes, and got to know the city a little bit with no agenda. It was fantastic and a fun way to get to know Vancouver.
- Ate a lot! Oh my goodness, we hit up several amazing restaurants! Scroll own a little further to see exactly where we dined and what we ordered.
- Bought stuff! We sent home hockey jerseys and candy for all our kids that we found downtown, and shipped artwork and souvenirs for ourselves that we found in Granville Island. P.S. If you like art, quirkiness, crafty things, and good food make sure to check out Granville Island – we went twice in as many days!
- Rested! One of the perks of visiting Vancouver from the east coast (we live in Florida) is that the time difference allows you to sleep in without missing out on your day. Yay, for sleep, this mom of five needs it! Princess recommended the Fairmont Waterfront hotel, and we could not have been happier with it.
What to do in Vancouver
- Stanley Park – A lush rainforest in the heart of the city, this 1,000-acre park teems with wildlife and natural beauty. Enjoy a spectacular array of activities, including the famed Vancouver Aquarium and the majestic Totem Pole Park.
- Vancouver Lookout – Take a glass elevator 430 feet in the air to the city’s famed lookout and step into the heated observation deck for breathtaking 360-degree views of the city, mountains and your cruise ship below.
- Chinatown – Experience the vibrant Asian atmosphere in the second largest Chinatown in North America. Authentic architecture, exotic cuisine, and colorful specialty shops make each turn down the narrow alleyways a unique adventure.
- Granville Island – Connected to the city by a causeway from the south, it was named “One of the World’s Greatest Places” by Project for Public Spaces. It is a sophisticated home to performing arts, dining, and a fabulous public market that offers a wide array of fresh food and hand-made crafts.
- See excursions at these locations on the Princess Cruise site.
- Grouse Mountain – From sophisticated entertainment to unspoiled nature, Vancouver’s most visited attraction is the pre-eminent all-in-one destination, with something for everyone. The famous Grouse Mountain Skyride takes you on a one-mile journey to the Alpine Station, 3,700 feet above sea level, where you can choose from a variety of activities.
- Vancouver Aquarium – Home to over 70,000 fascinating creatures including majestic beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, curious sea otters, harbour seals and Steller sea lions! Long-established as a global leader in marine research, education and conservation, the Aquarium offers visitors an unforgettable experience through face-to-face engagement with a wide array of amazing animals.
- Gastown – The original site from which modern Vancouver evolved. The varied shops and boutiques make the area a popular shopping district. The famous steam clock fills the air with music every 15 minutes.
- Robson Street – Vancouver’s most famous shopping street set in the heart of downtown is a three-block commercial mecca including premier fashion stores, fine dining and amenities. The street to see and be seen on!
- See excursions at these locations on the Princess Cruise site.
Where to eat in Vancouver
- Vancouver food scene – The food in Vancouver was overwhelmingly deliciously fantastic. I know we were only there for three days-ish, but every single meal was fannnnnntastic.
- Day one – The afternoon we arrived, we had some snacks in the hotel and a quick costume change before heading out on the town to explore. We wound up at Steamworks Brewing Co where I very strongly suggest the stuffed mushrooms and the giant pretzel. We fully intended on ordering dinner, but after the huge delicious appetizers and a couple beers, re realized there was room for either dinner or dessert. Naturally we opted for dessert. Get the apple pie, it’s worth every single calorie. Mmmmm.
- Day two breakfast and lunch – For breakfast we ate at Scoozi’s (twice!) – my recommendation is the BC Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict on a croissant. Wesley would tell you to get the Big Breakfast with sausage. At lunch we hit a small food court located under our hotel (so random!) where they had lots of great quick places – I got a small bowl of Pho which was perfect after our big breakfast.
- Day two dinner – At dinner time we went to The Sandbar on Granville Island where I got a burrata and tomatoes appetizer (omggggg) and salmon for dinner, and Wesley got a seafood stew. Naturally we got ice cream before walking back to the hotel.
- Day three breakfast and lunch – On our last day in Vancouver we headed back over to Granville Island again after our breakfast at Scoozis where we enjoyed a light lunch (him: sandwich, me: Vietnamese summer roll), and bakery treats at A Bread Affair Bakery. Dinner was on the cruise ship! (Did I mention we could see the ship from our bedroom?!)
Where we ate in Vancouver
- Steamworks Brewing Co.
- Waterfront Centre Food Court
- The Sandbar
- Granville Island Public Market
- A Bread Affair
More popular places to eat in Vancouver
- Miku Vancouver – Sushi & sustainable seafood are served in a sophisticated setting with a patio & water views.
- Blue Water Cafe – Destination in a heritage warehouse space offering sustainable seafood with innovative touches.
- Forage – Farm-to-table bistro presenting creative, area-sourced plates, plus local beer & wine on tap.
- AnnaLena – Eatery serving contemporary Canadian fare & creative cocktails in a stylish, modern setting.
- Medina – Snug spot for coffee, & an eclectic daytime menu including waffles with unique toppings.
What you should know about Vancouver
- Be prepared to get wet! Much like Seattle, Vancouver is a very rainy climate. The city gets rained on around 170 days a year, and can collect between 60-100 inches of rain water! Don’t let this discourage you, it’s nothing an umbrella or windbreaker can’t handle!
- The city is super walkable! We only hailed a cab twice because we were running late (oops!), otherwise we walked everywhere. The sidewalks are nearly as wide as the streets and they are beautifully tree lined which helps with both shade when it’s sunny and keeping you from getting too wet when it’s rainy. Make sure to pack comfy shoes. These are my personal favorites!
- There is no Uber or Lyft! This was a big one for us as it’s how we primarily get around in cities we don’t know. Thankfully the cab service is pretty prolific and we never had a problem finding one. A trick I learned years ago if you’re in a downtown area and need cab – duck into the closest hotel and they will gladly call one for you. Sometimes the hotels will even offer you a ride on one of their shuttles!
What to pack for Vancouver
If you’re heading to Vancouver during the typical tourist season (April – September), you’re going to want to pack lots of light layers. When we visited in May, some of the days were shorts and t-shirt weather, and others were light jacket weather. Jeans and cardigans are your friend and don’t forget to bring a good rainproof windbreaker!
If you’re visiting during the snowy months, I still suggest layers (truth be told, I always suggest layers!). But in this case, bring along a warm coat as your outer layer and maybe some fleece lined leggings as your under layer – and don’t forget the scarf and gloves!
Make sure to check out our comprehensive (and printable!) cruise packing list!
Fun facts about Vancouver
- Vancouver has the 4th largest cruise ship terminal in the world (Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida being the largest).
- Vancouver is the largest film production center in North America (following Los Angeles and New York City).
- Stanley Park is 10% bigger than New York City’s Central Park coming in at 1001 acres!
- There are so many seaplanes! Vancouver has one of the best-designed float plane terminals in the world, and a facility that complements Vancouver’s Convention Center and waterscape while continuing to support the economic vitality of Canada’s busiest working harbour.
Things I loved about Vancouver
- The food was amazing! We didn’t have anything bad to eat there. In fact we didn’t even have anything mediocre. I can’t wait to go back and explore all the restaurants and bars we didn’t get to hit.
- Everything was walkable! The only times we grabbed a cab were when we were running behind. The city is beautiful and reminded be a lot of Chicago – but cleaner and nicer. (Sorry Chicago).
- The views! Being able to see the ocean, the mountains, and the city all in one view. Wow.
- There is so much to do! We were there for three-ish days and kept busy the entire time without even putting a dent in all the fun things things. I want to bring the kids back so we can explore the parks and the aquarium, and do some hiking!
Weather in Vancouver
Vancouver is warmed by Pacific Ocean currents and protected by a range of mountains, which makes the weather there quite mild as compared to most of Canada.
Average temperatures in Vancouver range from high 70’s in summer to a mid 40’s Fahrenheit in winter. Winters are especially wet, but it doesn’t snow often until you go up into the ski hills. The drier season is approximately April through October.
What months does it snow in Vancouver?
In Vancouver it typically snows December through February, but the first snowfall can start as early as October and the last can be as late as April. When I was there for business in April (well, actually I was headed to Whistler, but we landed in and drove through Vancouver), there was a whole lot of slushy snow.
It’s pretty safe to say that if you visit late April through September you won’t see snow.
When is the best time to visit Vancouver
The best time to visit Vancouver is during their warm and dry season (April – October). Typically cruises only run out of Vancouver in the late spring through early fall (May – September) – we did our cruise in May and the weather was absolute perfection.
Even in the dry season, you’ll still probably get wet in the coastal town of Vancouver (think Seattle type weather). We were lucky and had two stunningly beautiful rain free days, but even when it did rain, that didn’t stop us from getting out and having a blast.
The weather when we visited in mid May was warm during the day and cool in the evenings. Jeans or shorts and a light sweater were perfect.
When can you see whales in Vancouver?
Whale watching season in Vancouver coincides with the cruising/tourist season and spans mid spring through mid fall, typically April through October.
If you’re looking for Orcas head to Vancouver June through September, while you’re more likely to see grey whales in April and May.
Festivals and Events in Vancouver
- Festival of Light – A fireworks festival held at the end of July.
- Cherry Blossom Festival – Celebrate the over 40,000 cherry trees lining the streets of the city in March through Mid April.
- Dine out Vancouver Festival – A 17 day celebration of the city’s culinary scene with special events, menus, tastings, workshops and classes. Begins mid-January.
- International Jazz Festival – For 12 days in late June the city attracts over 500,000 jazz fans!
- Vancouver International Wine Festival – One of the oldest and largest wine events in the world, this festival brings together 25,000 enthusiasts in late February each year.
- Vancouver Pride Festival – In August, more than 20 official events bring together the LGBTQ community as well their friends, allies, and supporters!
- See more events here.
Where is Vancouver
Vancouver is a city found in British Columbia on the western coast of Canada in North America. If you’re looking for it on a map, Vancouver is located 49.25 latitude and -123.12 longitude north of continental United States and south of Alaska.
What time is it in Vancouver
Vancouver operates on the PTD time zone (Pacific time zone), which is three hours behind EST (Eastern time zone), two hours behind CST (Central time zone), and one hour behind MST (Mountain time zone). It also one hour ahead of AKST (Alaska time zone).
Where we cruised after Vancouver
- Hoonah (Icy Strait Point Alaska) – Amazing salmon dip and a beautiful night time hike!
- Juneau (Alaska) – Kayaking near a glacier, a fun bar, good beer, and great ice cream.
- Skagway (Alaska) – Canoeing to a glacier, the best fish and chips, and fun shopping.
- Whittier (Alaska) – A scenic bus tour, a scenic glacier cruise, and sad goodbyes.
More places we’ve cruised
Caribbean, Central, and South America
Food inspired by our travels
- Nutella Cookies
- Mango Pineapple Salsa
- Pickled Green Tomatoes
- Whole Fruit Popsicles
- Chocolate Overload Cake
Must-read cruising tips
Why you should cruise from Vancouver to Alaska
Our Vancouver to Whittier cruise with Princess Cruises was one of my very favorite trips to date. There’s really no better way to see the incredible glacier views than by sailing directly by them.
A cup of coffee or hot soup on the balcony with the majestic mountains, vibrant blue glaciers, and incredible sea life is an experience of a lifetime.