City Escapes

8 Easy Ways To Explore Vancouver, Canada, In A Day

Plus some delicious recommendations for a taste of British Columbia

The Vacationeer
Skyline of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

You could spend an entire vacation in Whistler, Canada, but with Vancouver just a two-hour drive south, plan to dedicate at least a day in the City of Glass.

Take advantage of Vancouver’s streets, seas and skies, and enjoy a day tour of the city — plus some tasty things to do to treat your taste buds to British Columbia. Check out these eight ways to see the city, with plenty of time to head back for a cozy nightcap at Hilton Grand Vacations Club Whistler.

1. Guided Foodie Tour of Gastown

Steam Clock in autumn in Gastown District, Vancouver,British Columbia, Canada 

Taste your way through Vancouver with a guided walking (and eating) tour of the historic Gastown neighborhood. See the Gastown sights, such as the Steam Clock, in between food and alcohol tastings.

What you’ll see: Local landmarks and the neighborhood’s favorite restaurants

Departs from: Waterfront Station

Duration: Two and a half hours

When: Every day at 2 p.m. (though weekend tours fill up quickly)

Insider tip: If Gastown is out of the way, try a food tour of Little Italy or North Vancouver’s Shipyard Districts.

2. Culinary Walking Tour of Chinatown

Dim sum, a meal of Chinese steamed dumplings and other small dishes 

Let a local chef show you around the best restaurants in the area with A Wok Around Chinatown without worrying about reservations or reviews. Prepare to taste your way through tea, dim sum, BBQ pork and more.

What you’ll see: Start at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, an award-winning urban garden, for a lesson on Vancouver’s Chinese culture before setting out.

Departs from: Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown

Duration: Four hours

When: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Insider tip: While food is the star of this tour, you’ll also learn about Chinatown’s history, architecture and culture along the way. Come hungry and prepared with questions for your tour guide.

3. Behind-The-Scenes Brewery Tour

A curbed sidewalk along a pound in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

Imbibe the best of Vancouver’s beer scene with a brewery bus tour. Don’t worry about assigning a designated driver and sip like a VIP across the city — without waiting in line.

What you’ll see: Expect one craft beer flight per stop, passionate brewery tour guides and a behind-the-bar tour of the brewing process.

Departs from: Waterfront Station

Duration: Three hours

When: Choose from Saturdays at 12 p.m. or 4 p.m.

Insider tip: Snacks are available for purchase throughout the tour, but guides recommend eating a full meal before. Grab lunch at Hydra Estiatorio Mediterranean, just around the corner from Waterfront Station.

4. Vancouver City Tour

Capilano Suspension Bridge and verdant forest near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

Give yourself a break from the hassle of navigating Vancouver and hop on a bus tour with Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing. Plus, local tour guides provide commentary about The ‘Couve’s history and offer free time for riders to explore independently.

What you’ll see: The tour takes visitors to the top Vancouver attractions, including historic Gastown, Stanley Park, Granville Island Public Market and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Departs from: Canada Place, though the bus may pick up from select hotels

Duration: Five to six hours

When: Noon, January to mid-November

Insider tip: While you could spend hours exploring Granville Island Market, head straight to local favorite The Lobster Man for a mouth-watering lobster roll. For foodies with a sweet tooth, Lee’s Donuts are worth the wait in line.

5. Whale Watching

Aerial view of Stanley Park and Vancouver Harbor in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

Set out on the Salish Sea on a guided whale watching and marine wildlife viewing tour with Prince of Whales and a crew of attentive and knowledgeable guides.

What you’ll see: Watch for orcas, humpback whales, sea lions, seals, sea birds and spectacular Canadian coasts.

Departs from: Granville Island in Downtown Vancouver

Duration: Three to five hours

When: Tours run from April to October.

Insider tip: If you’re hungry after whale watching, foray into First Nations cuisine at Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro, an indigenous-owned and –operated restaurant less than a mile from Granville Island. Freshly caught seafood is the star at this eatery, but don’t forget to try the bannock, a tasty fry bread.

6. Sunset Dinner Cruise

Sunset skyline of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, try a dinner cruise with Harbour Cruises, which has been ferrying passengers around Vancouver’s downtown area since 1911. Dig into a dinner cruise and listen to live music as you sail around Vancouver.

What you’ll see: Enjoy leisurely views of the Vancouver skyline, Stanley Park and, of course, a stunning sunset and starlit skies.

Departs from: A marina near Stanley Park

Duration: Two and a half hours

When: May, September and October, Vancouver’s shoulder season

Insider tip: Try an afternoon adventure and lunch on a cruise of Indian Arm, a coastal mountain fjord full of lush forests and panoramic views.

7. See V-Town From Seaplane

View of Vancouver's landscape from a seaplane in flight (British Columbia, Canada) 

Take a scenic seaplane flight with Harbour Air for a new perspective of Vancouver and unforgettable aerial pictures. While the flight may sound short, reviews say the excursion is worth every second.

What you’ll see: A sky-high view of Vancouver’s attractions, including Stanley Park, the 2010 Olympic buildings and more

Departs from: Coal Harbor, near the Digital Orca

Duration: 30-minute flight

When: Habour Air has up to 300 flights every day, so you’ll be able to find a time that works for you and your crew.

Insider tip: After your water landing, head to Urban Fare, a specialty food market with local favorites. Check out the Vancouver Christmas Market to shop for handcrafted gifts and seasonal treats during the winter holiday season.

8. Helicopter Excursion to Victoria

Aerial view of False Creek and downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, at sunset 

To see the most of Western Canada, consider a helicopter tour from Vancouver to Victoria with Lotus Land Tours. Skip the ferry and take a roundtrip flight across the Strait of Georgia for unparalleled views of the Pacific Northwest coasts — leaving you with plenty of time to explore Victoria’s museums, gardens and restaurants.

What you’ll see: A bird’s-eye view of Vancouver, Victoria and the stunning coastlines along the Strait of Georgia

Departs from: Pick up and drop off from a variety of pickup points throughout downtown Vancouver

Duration: 35-minute flight to Victoria, six hours to explore Victoria, and 35-minute flight to Vancouver

When: You set the schedule.

Insider tip: Lotus Land Tours can tailor the trip to your schedule, so make a brunch reservation at Cafe Medina — to avoid long lines of eager eaters — and fill up on Belgian waffles and other creative food before setting out. 

Check out “Adventure Like A Foodie With These 6 Culinary Experiences” for more ways to add something tasty to your next vacation. 

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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