From the rainforest to mountain tops and the cities in between, British Columbia is full of wonders sure to leave you breathless.
You don’t have to love flowers to enjoy the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. The gardens are home to fine dining opportunities, complete with local ingredients and wines. They host local art and entertainment, as well as Saturday night fireworks in the summer and Christmas lighting and an outdoor ice rink in the winter. Tour the surrounding waters and get a sense of the garden’s history in an eco-friendly boat. Or, stay on land and visit the beautiful, bronze and granite dragon fountain gifted by the People’s Republic of China and the City of Suzhou. And yes, if you do enjoy flowers, the 55-acre site has world-renowned floral displays. Breathe in that garden smell.
Squamish is often called the outdoor recreation capital of Canada, and the Sea-to-Sky Gondola fits right in with that nickname. The 10-minute gondola ride provides breathtaking views of Howe Sound, the surrounding mountains and forest. You’ll be glued to the windows, taking in rock climbers on their way up the Squamish Chief, or the unique views of Shannon Falls. The top of the mountain might signal the end of your ride, but it’s really the start of your adventure. Take in the views from three incredible lookouts, enjoy hiking and walking trails, go rock climbing and, if you dare, walk across the 328-foot high Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge
Royal BC Museum
Walk through Victoria in the 1920s, see a woolly mammoth in its habitat, and learn about the ceremonial masks of local First Nations, all under one roof. The natural and human history of British Columbia is permanently on display at The Royal BC Museum in Victoria. The museum strives to not only display its collection of artifacts and items—all 7 million of them—but to immerse them (and you) in a realistic setting. If you really want to learn about the province as you experience it, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting attraction.
In 2010, the eyes of the world turned to Whistler Blackcomb as an official venue of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. While the games have come and gone, everything else is still here! Sitting right next to each other you have two mountains absolutely covered in ski and snowboard runs for all skill levels, from glacier riding to bunny hills. When the lengthy ski season comes to a close, people trade in their boards for bikes and hikes. To relax after a day on the mountain, or relax without ever hitting the mountain, spend your day at the spa and end the night at one of the awesome local restaurants. But if you’re only going to do one thing, make it the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Look down 1,427 feet through a glass floor while riding the record-setting longest gondola in the world, which spans 2.7 miles between the two mountains.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour
Victoria’s Inner Harbour is a hive of activity year round. The harbor was once used by local First Nations to launch their canoes. Today yachts, small cruise ships and ferries have since come to call the area home. You can rent a kayak, sign up for a whale watching tour, or hop in a float plane all from the harbor. On dry land, kill an hour watching musicians, performers and artists as you walk along the waterfront, or visit the near-by legislative buildings and historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Best of all, you can actually take a ferry into the Inner Harbour directly from Washington, via Port Angeles, Bellingham or Seattle.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Beaches, rainforests and rocky islands form the incredible Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The 197-square-mile park really captures every setting that has come to characterize the Pacific Coast. Walk barefoot along the 10-mile Long Beach, or don a wetsuit and try your hand at surfing. Or fill your backpack with a week’s worth of supplies and head out through the rainforests, cliffs, waterfalls and caves of the 47-mile West Coast Trail. Listen to the mythology of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and then trace that history under the canopy of giant Sitka spruce in the old growth forest. The Pacific Rim National Park is a Canadian treasure.
Stanley Park is the icing on the metaphorical cake of downtown Vancouver. The 1,000-acre park provides a green escape from the urban setting, and is brimming with activities that you can take in year-round. Walk the famous Seawall for unparalleled views of the Burrard Inlet or head inland and marvel at the giant trees that still live in this preserved forest. Tan on one of the beaches in the morning and then play a round of pitch-and-putt in the afternoon. Stand beside the massive totem poles and learn about the First Nations that lived on this land. Or grab a lunch at one of several restaurants and head to the aquarium to spend the day. Stanley Park has been a star attraction for over 125 years. There’s no stopping it now.
No, not only trolls live under bridges. Beneath a major bridge near downtown Vancouver you’ll find a hotspot of dining, shopping and entertainment. Granville Island is a buzzing community full of artisans creating unique gifts, passionate foodies sharing the fruits of their labor, and aspiring musicians perfecting their craft. There’s always something happening on the island. You can stop in for a beer or you could spend the entire day browsing stores, treating your senses at the Public Market, and taking in the entertainment. Whatever you do, just don’t skip it.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Overcome your fear of heights in style, with the help of the 450-foot Capilano Suspension Bridge, which hangs 70 meters above the rushing Capilano River. Once you’ve conquered the big bridge, the Cliffwalk — a series of cliff side suspended and cantilevered walkways above the rainforest — won’t seem so daunting, right? And after those two experiences, the Treetops Adventure — seven bridges suspended by 250-year-old Douglas firs 110 feet above the forest floor — will really be a piece of cake. You get the picture. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is full of adrenaline-pumping attractions that immerse you in the beautiful outdoors.
Home to over 50,000 creatures, the Vancouver Aquarium is what you might call an animal-lover’s playground. From friendly sea otters to bright jellyfish, get up close and personal with wildlife from across the globe. Stop by and say hello to Chester, a young false killer whale that was rescued by the Aquarium team and now spends his days happily swimming alongside Helen, a rescued Pacific white-sided dolphin. Or buy tickets to one of the After Hours events and enjoy the aquarium with a drink in a hand and no kids running around. Oh, and don’t forget to see if you can find Nemo.