I was recently back in Vancouver after my first visit 25+ years ago in conjunction with a ski trip to Whistler with friends. Today it has a bustling downtown with wonderful contemporary architecture, public sculptures, great shopping, cafes and restaurants. It also has a thriving art, theater and music scene as well.
It is an extremely diverse city with a large Asian population and influence. I remember on my first trip to Hong Kong in 1996, before Britain handed the governance of Hong Kong over to the People’s Republic of China on July 1, 1997, that many thousands of Hong Kong Chinese had settled in Vancouver in the late 1980s and early 1990s because of the uncertainty of the handover.
A large port city, it is surrounded by mountains and water, providing for great opportunities to experience boating, sailing, fishing, hiking, whale watching, birding, cycling, mountain biking, snowboarding and skiing.
When I was in town, I saw no need for a car. I found that the city’s rapid transit system, the SkyTrain, was a great way to get around the city. I took it downtown from the airport and back again for my return flight. I also used it to get to some of the neighborhoods and suburbs as I explored the area. My hotel was two blocks from the downtown Waterfront station. The Expo and Millennium SkyTrain Lines connect downtown Vancouver with the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. The Canada Line connects downtown Vancouver to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and the city of Richmond. You can buy a day pass or individual tickets.
To get around town, Black Top Cabs is a recommended company that I used several times.
There are also many ferries, buses and seaplanes to get to Whistler, Victoria Island and other locations nearby.
One word of caution, the city has a very large homeless population. I was amazed when I walked from Chinatown on E. Hastings St., through Gastown to Downtown in the evening after dinner, that there were many, many homeless moving in to camp out at night along the streets. You may want to avoid this area in the evening and at night and it was a little overwhelming to see and experience.