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Vancouver Travel Guide

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Top Outdoors Experiences

Walk or bike the Seawall: The 10-km (6.2-mile) paved path around Stanley Park is a civilized entrée into the coastal habitat where forest meets sea. The entire 22-km (13.6-mile) Seawall circles the city and is great for biking.

Hike the Grouse Grind: This two-hour climb up Grouse Mountain is a local rite of passage. The city and ocean views from the top are stunning. You can take the gondola back down, or both up and down and do your hiking along the trails up top such as to Goat Mountain.

White-water kayak the Capilano River: It's a serious tumble along canyons, through rain forest, and over rocks and rapids.

Play volleyball at Kits Beach: Vancouverites play a mean game of beach volleyball. Listen for the shouts of "good kill" on weekends from late spring to fall.

Kayak Indian Arm: Barely 30 minutes from downtown, the North Shore's fjordic landscape is stunning and best appreciated under paddle power.

When to Do It

Vancouver has a moderate climate, with temperatures rarely exceeding 90°F or falling below freezing for sustained periods, though winter storms that blend relentless rain with 40°F days can feel colder than the Canadian Rockies. Whatever you're doing, wearing layers is key, as a downpour may abruptly turn into a 60-minute sun break, or marine air can bring a sudden chill to a July day.

Year-round: If Vancouverites postponed jogging, biking, or golfing because of a bit of rain, they'd get outside only half the time (Vancouver's annual rainfall is 43.9 inches, compared to Seattle's 36.2 inches). Visitors are encouraged to venture out in all but the worst rainstorm to participate in adventure, whether crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge, hiking in Stanley Park, or kayaking on False Creek. Though water temps in Georgia Strait hardly vary from summer to winter, visibility improves significantly from December to March in what Jacques Cousteau declared the second-best scuba location in the world. Sportfishing and most wilderness tours take place year-round; you should check with operators for peak migration periods of sea mammals and birds.

Summer: True summer weather starts late in Vancouver, around Canada Day (July 1), but warm temperatures and sunshine persist into October. The beach scene is popular when the weather's good.

Winter: Most cities boast plenty of parks, but how many can claim three ski areas within the city limits? Welcome to the North Shore, where Cypress Mountain hosted the 2010 Olympic snowboard and freestyle ski events. February often offers so many sunny days that a T-shirt and jeans are the preferred ski clothes. The winter-sports season starts in November and runs through March—in addition to skiing and boarding, snowshoeing and dogsledding, too, are popular options.

Gear

Mountain Equipment Co-op. Something of a local institution, Mountain Equipment Co-op is a veritable outdoor-lovers' emporium with every kind of gear imaginable, as well as rentals, books and maps, and information from people in the know. There's a one-time C$5 membership fee. 130 W. Broadway, Fairview, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1P. 604/872–7858. www.mec.ca.

Special Events

The Bank of Montreal Marathon is early May; the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and 5K are in June; the popular 10K Vancouver Sun Run is mid-April. And every New Year's Day since 1920, thousands of Vancouverites plunge into the frigid waters at English Bay beach—often in costume for the Polar Bear Swim.

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