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EXCURSIONS & DIVERSIONS:
I have listed most of the regular annual events taking place in this section, plus some other suggestions. There is a link at the very bottom of this page to an excellent web site (findfamilyfun.com) which lists specific events & dates on a monthly basis. I recommend paying it a visit after viewing this section. The menu above makes it easy to return here after.
This is a combination of a Museum & Disneyland. Located underground in Gastown, at Cordova & Water Streets, this huge Museum of Canadian History takes you on an 80 minute interactive journey through aspects of Canadian History. Admission is about 20 dollars. It's walking distance from Waterfront Skytrain Station & the Canada Place Cruise Ship terminal. See the link in the table below.
Rail excursions seem to come & go. You used to be able to take the Train to Whislter. Now it is an expensive tourist train run by the Rocky Moutaineeer, mentioned below.
"West Coast Rail Tours" offer several train excursions throughout the year such as Murder Mystery, Photo, Northern Wilderness excursions, etc. at quite reasonable prices. Phone 1-800-722-1233 or 604-524-1011. Fax 522-1293. See the link to their website in the table at the bottom of the page.
The Rocky Mountaineer is an expensive Tourist Train running between Vancouver and Banff. It will cost you about $1200 return. If your interested, see the link in my Tours section.
A new steam excursion on Vancouver Island called "Pacific Wilderness Railway" begins June 17,2000. This leaves Victoria 3 times a day and costs around $30 Canadian (less for children). I will add more information as I obtain it. For now try this link: http://www.wcra.org/features/pacific_wilderness.htm
Paddlewheelers & New Westminster Quay:
Westminster Quay is worth wandering around if you like public markets. The market is smaller and less interesting than the one at Granville Island, but worth a visit. There is also a small Paddle wheeler there, offering Cruises up the historic Fraser River. A much larger, gambling sternwheeler was bought here in October 1999. It sometimes sails up the river for an hour, weather permitting. There is nothing stopping you from going on board and taking a free cruise. The hope is that you will do some gambling while on board. There is more info in the gambling section of this site.
Starline tours at the quay offers boat excursions to Steveston, Pitt lake and Harrison on various days of the week. They also offer Sealion tours and sunset dinner cruises. They have a web site at Starline Tours.
Cheap Harbour Tour:
Ride the Seabus from Waterfront Skytrain Station across to Lonsdale Quay and back. This is a real cheap harbour tour and the market (Lonsdale Quay) on the other side is good as well. On the other hand, if you would like a proper harbour tour or maybe a trip up Indian Arm (like a Norwegian fiord), click on the Harbour Tours link in the table at the bottom of this page.
Cruises around Vancouver:
If you want a more formal water excursion, try a dinner cruise, a cruise up Indian Arm or a one to 3 day boat cruise around the many waterways surrounding Vancouver. This is a lot cheaper than you may think. Check out the link in the table below to "Seaquest" or "Vancouver Tours & Charters", two of the companies that offer these.
Take a Helicopter Tour:
Vancouver Helicopters, a Division of HeliJet Airways, a reputable company, offers several excursions around Vancouver by Helicopter. Its a great way to see Vancouver in all its geographic splendour. See Vancouver Helicopters Official Home Page. This company also has regularly scheduled flights to Vancouver Island at a reasonable price. See my "Getting Around " section for details.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride:
Fantasy Balloon Charters offers balloon trips over the rural Fraser Valley just east of Vancouver. It costs a couple of hundred dollars, but is a once in a lifetime experience.
Pacific National Exhibition (Aug-Sept):
The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) runs for the 2 weeks leading up to the Labour Day weekend. It is presently located at Hastings and Cassiar Streets and has run for over 50 years. It features Agricultural Displays, Logging shows, myriad other events and a Midway. The Midway has one of the worlds last large wooden Roller Coasters. The Midway, which is called Playland is open all summer. To get there from downtown, take a bus east along Hastings Street towards Burnaby.. See link in table below.
Celebration of Light (Jul-Aug):
The largest & most prestigious Annual International Fireworks display in the world, the "Celebration of Light " is held annually at the end of July and beginning of August at English Bay. What makes this particular display unique, is the fact it is staged from a barge in English Bay offering front row seats to the crowds of 300 to 400 thousand who view it from the various beaches, each night. The fireworks are visible from the beaches in the West End, Kitsilano Beach and the beaches out towards Spanish Banks (see my beaches section). You can also view them from Queen Elizabeth Park & Cypress Bowl, but you need binoculars. The best spot is First Beach in the West End, but it usually draws between 50 and 100 thousand spectators to that location alone, so you have to get a spot early. My favourite location is Kitsilano beach. You can usually find street parking 9 to 10 blocks north of the beach on 8th through 13th Aves, (around Cornwall street) provided you get down there before 7 PM. The fireworks start at 10, PM but Kits beach has spectacular sunsets, & you can have a supper of fish & chips on the beach from the concession stand. You cannot drive a car into downtown on firework days, you have to take transit. If you are not close to where they are being set off, take a portable radio and tune to either 980 AM (CKNW) or 101.1 FM (CFMI) for the sound track. You can also watch the event from a boat if you have access to one, but make sure it has proper lighting or the Police Boat will pay you a visit and make you return to shore. There is web site, a link can be found in the table below. There is also a large Fireworks show, annually, over the inner harbour on July 1st, Canada Day (the Canadian equivalent of Independence Day in the US). It should be noted that the Molson Indy car race is downtown the last week in July. This particular weekend will be very busy. Most Companies in the the table below under "Carol Ships" also do trips into the harbour to watch this event.
The dates for 2006 are now set, but they will be July 26th, July 20th, Aug 2, and Aug 5.
Latin SummerFest : August
Annual Festival, celebrating the Vancouver & area Latino coummunity which has been rapidly expanding over the last few years. The 2006 event is at Trout Lake (near Broadway Skytrain Station) on August 20th. 11AM to 7PM
Carol Ships & Xmas Lights:
The Carol Ship event occurs in December over about a 2 week period. You can book passage on one of several boats which then cruise the various inland waterways around Vancouver (different routes on different evenings). The boats are brightly decorated with Xmas lights and you sing carols as you cruise past the shorelines which are often crowded with spectators, bonfires, etc. There are a couple of links in the table below to companies offering these, or you can book through Gray Line at 604-879-3363. Seaquest, also listed below may also offer a cruise. By the way, if you are not from Canada or the US, it is traditional in Canada, to decorate houses with lights at Xmas. Some displays are spectacular. The local papers usually list the best addresses around mid December and you can also book bus tours of some of the better ones. Van Dusen Botanical Gardens and Softball City in White Rock (first town you hit crossing the border from the US) also have large Xmas Light displays. Until 1997 there was a huge private display at a home in Newton, a Vancouver suburb, that drew thousands each Xmas and raised money for charity. The people who produced this have now decided to stop, but most of the display has now been relocated to Stanley Park. Van Dusen gardens on Granville Street near 41st Ave has the VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights in December, just before Xmas. There is also another display at Softball City in White Rock.
Here is a link to a list of Xmas light locations: Xmas Lights including photos.
Santa Claus Parade:
Held the third Sunday in November in the downtown core around 11AM. This is enjoyable if you enjoy standing for 2 hours in the cold (& wet, maybe) looking at the back of other peoples heads. Get off at Burrard Skytrain station & follow the crowds.
Summer Music Festivals:
There are several Music events during the summer and links to concerts, etc. can be found in my entertainment section, however, the table below contains info on the major Music festivals of the summer. The three main ones are The International Jazz Festival in late June/early July, the Folk Festival in July and Edgefest (Rock), also in July. There is also a large Country Music Festival held in the town of Merrit (2.5 hours by car) in late July.
Vancouver International Children's Festival:
Usually held around the end of May/beginning of June, this week long event features entertainment oriented towards Children and is held at Vanier park in the Jericho Beach area. See the link in the table below.
Gay Pride Week & Parade:
Its interesting how attitudes change. No so many years ago, this event was viewed by the less tolerant among us as a gathering of perverts & social malcontents. Now its mainstream, and even the Police & Fire Departments take place. No matter what your sexual orientation, its all good fun and despite the opinions of some, no-one will try and turn your child into a homosexual or drag queen. The festival takes place in late July/early August annually. See the link in the table below.
If you are a TV and Movie Fan, there is a new company doing tours of Movie and Television sights around Vancouver. Vancouver is known as Hollywood North, and is only second to Los Angeles in production. The tour has an emphasis on the X-Files. It may seem a bit pricey, but you are getting a tour of the city in the bargain. See the link in the table below.
The main wine area of BC is in the Okanagan Valley 250 miles east, but there are a few wineries in the Fraser Valley, just east of Vancouver that do tours.
Seymour Demonstration Forest:
The Seymour Demonstration Forest is a large area with hiking trails. A good place to learn about the ecology of the West Coast Rain forest environment. Free tours on Sundays. See the link in the table below.
Abbotsford Air Show (Airshow Canada):
The Abbotsford Air Show runs annually at Abbottsford Airport, 60 km east of Downtown along Highway 1. It is North America's largest Airshow. It happens Friday, Saturday and Sunday, generally the second weekend in August. See the link in the table below.
The Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition runs annually on the Victoria day Holiday weekend (usually the 3rd week in May). This is one of the top Rodeo's in North America and the second largest in Canada, after the Calgary Stampede. It also features a Midway. I actually only visited this for the first time myself in 1999, even though I've lived here for years. I think it will become an annual event for me. You can get there on public transit. Take a #395 bus from King George Skytrain Station or a #340 from 22nd Street Skytrain Station. Get off at 176th Street & 64th Ave. See links in table below to both the Rodeo & Cloverdale itself..
If zoo's are your thing, the Greater Vancouver Zoological center is located in Aldergrove, about 60 Km east of Vancouver on 264th Street, just south of Highway 1. You need a car to get here. Its not much of a zoo when compared to those in cities such as Toronto or San Diego. It does have a large selection of large cats including 4 or 5 Siberian Tigers, Jaguars, Lions and Cougars. Maybe I'm a little jaded, having seen many of these animals in there natural habitats. See link below.
Walk down Robson:
This is one of Vancouver's most "alive'' streets, especially in summer. Usually there are lots of street entertainers & open air cafes, etc. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of panhandlers, but they are pretty polite. Start at Burrard, walk west to Denman, then south on Denman to Beach Ave. Total time about 1.5 hours round trip. See the link in the table below for Robson Street's web site.
University of BC:
There are several attractions out at the University, including the Museum of Anthropology (see Museums section), Nitobe Japanese gardens. You can even take a tour of the Triumf Nuclear particle Accelerator facility. They have tours from 11AM to 2PM.
Newton Community Days:
Several communities in the Greater Vancouver area have Festivals & Events throughout the year that are often free & usually family oriented. this particular one is held every year in mid June, and features a Parade, pancake breakfast, clowns, etc. (2002 date is June 15). If you represent a Vancouver Community & would like your event added here, E-Mail me.
Tune in, Turn on & Drop Out:
There are two Marijuana Cafes in Vancouver that I know of, almost right next to each other. The "New Amsterdam" is at 301 West Hastings and "Blunt Brothers" is at 317 West Hastings. This is the area where Gastown merges into Skid Row. These are the only establishments of their type in North America. Are they legal? No. Do the police turn a blind eye to them? Yes. Occasionally, I have heard the police pay them a visit and it's amusing watching all the Americans in there, scatter in 4 directions. I have never visited either establishment, despite the fact I'm an old pothead from the 60's (I don't do it anymore, and I didn't inhale when I did).
Canadian 2002 MotoCross Championships in Nanaimo:
This event is being held in Wastelands park in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, June 14th to June 16th, 2002. Nanaimo is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from North Vancouver or a 2 hour ferry ride from Tsawassen. Telephone: (250) 758-8299 or (250) 758-1603. E-mail: email@example.com. Web Site: Nanaimo Motocross
Native Indian Culture
Canada is not like some countries where our Aboriginal people dress up in native costumes for the tourists. Canadian natives are a proud people & generally are more integrated into Canadian society than is the case elsewhere. For that reason, I did not place a silly logo of an Indian in Headdress at the top of this section. There has been a movement over the past few years to restore & preserve native Culture & language & try to right some of the wrongs that were done in the past against Native people. If you want to experience some native culture, you can visit the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia or visit XA:YTEM in Mission, BC about 40 miles NorthEast of Vancouver where the Sto-Lo nation has a Longhouse & interpretive center set up. There is also a Longhouse located at the top of Grouse mountain, but I'm not sure how much of a "Tourist Trap" that one is.
If you like watching planes land, there is a small picnic area located at the end of one of the runways at Vancouver International Airport. The planes are so close to you, they will ruffle your hair. To get there, head south from downtown up Oak and across the Oak street bridge. Take the right hand exit at the end of the bridge, proceed west along Bridgeport to No. 3 Road, turn left and then right following the signs to the Airport. After crossing the small swing bridge turn left at the first light and its about 1/2 a km on your right.
Join the Mile-High club:
"Love Air" in Pemberton, just north of Whistler will accommodate you in a small private plane fitted with a bed for $250 for 1/2 hour or $350 for an hour. Seems like a lot of money, just to sleep in an airplane for an hour, but at least you get to keep the sheets. It's a subsidiary of Coastal Mountain Air. Phone 604-894-5850 or 1-800-953-7755.
Polar bear Swim:
If you are a masochist, you can participate in one of the Polar bear swims every New Years Day. The main one is at First Beach, English Bay in the West End. (Davie & Beach) There are also similar events in the southern suburbs of White Rock (Marine Drive) and Tsawassen. They usually happen around noon on Jan 1st. Water temperature is usually around 5-10 C. Its a bit warmer in White Rock & Tsawassen - maybe.
Sea to Sky Highway:
This is one of North Americas most scenic drives. To get there cross the Lions Gate Bridge and proceed westbound on Highway 1 until it becomes Highway 99 at Horseshoe Bay. Better still take Marine Drive West instead, after crossing the bridge and follow it along the shoreline to Horseshoe Bay and join Hwy 99 there. If you like mines, you can stop at Britannia Beach (link in table below) and take a tour. (If you are an X-Files fan, you will recognize this place). About 6 km before reaching Squamish, look for Shannon Falls on the right (its marked). These are one of the highest in North America. If you have 3 or more hours to spare, you can continue up to Whistler, the premier ski resort in North America. About 6 km before Whistler, also on the right are Brandywine Falls, also worth a visit. See also my Whistler and Ski sections.
Shannon and Brandywine Falls on Vancouver-Whistler Highway.
Here is a link to fantastic Web Site listing some of the activities available around the city. Go to Finding fun things to do in Vancouver