As far as international visits go, Vancouver is tough to beat. Its easy access makes it budget-friendly; you can fly into YVR, easily one of the most vibrant airports in Canada, or visit by boat, bus or car. You're there in less than three hours if you're driving from Seattle. And once you arrive, the natural beauty that surrounds (and defines) Vancouver, the lively nightlife, the booming culinary scene, the shopping, the arts and its unique cosmopolitan, globally inspired flair are sure to fill the senses. Some draws are perennial favorites, like Stanley Park, Granville Island and Chinatown. But that's just the beginning.
Go Bare, Skip the Suit
Wreck Beach is ideal for sun worshippers, but perhaps not for the faint of heart. It's a clothes-optional beach, but hey, no one knows you when you're on vacation, right? The beach attracts fans of the au naturel of all ages; faculty and students from the nearby University of British Columbia campus are known to pass the time there. The most accessible stretch of Wreck Beach is at the end of Trail 6 inside Pacific Spirit Regional Park, just west of Vancouver; 483 steps take you down, making the walk back up its own workout. You'll find a variety of vendors peddling their wares, too, selling drinks, snacks and clothes. (Even swim trunks, should you change your mind.)
Pack a Picnic, Skip the Café
After you nab some cheese at one of Vancouver's phenomenal gourmet food shops, and a bottle of regional wine next door, treat yourself to a picnic at one of the most beautiful open spaces in Vancouver. Lighthouse Park is home to an actual, working lighthouse, which is closed to the public. But the wilderness that surrounds it, from jagged cliffs to towering firs, makes it the perfect spot to throw down a blanket. And when lunch (and the nap that follows) is over, go for a hike to beautiful Jackpine Point.
See Salmon, Don't Just Savor Them
The Capilano Salmon Hatchery in North Vancouver is a unique attraction, made even better by the fact that it's free and open year-round. Located right along the Capilano River, this hatchery offers a glimpse into the life cycle of salmon and trout, from egg to juvenile to adult. The young ones are released into the river in the spring and, depending on the species, adults return throughout the summer and fall. If it's spawning season, you can see fish literally jump out of the water as they swim upstream. You can do a self-guided tour of the facility and even enjoy a hike or a picnic on the surrounding grounds. Bring the kids!
See the Vineyard, Skip the Bar
Wine bars have become big draws amidst Vancouver's burgeoning food scene. But visiting the real thing – one of the many BC vineyards that continue to garner industry acclaim – is as easy as taking a one-hour drive from downtown Vancouver. Wineries like Lulu Island and Township 7, located in BC's Fraser Valley, feature varied portfolios, from chardonnay to merlot; sipping on some local ice wine is not to be missed. A few of the wineries welcome visitors year-round, though best access will be from April to September. And if you'd rather leave the driving to someone else, several tour companies offer half-day tours that include visits to four or five tasting rooms.
Go to Church, Skip the Museum