There are few cities as picturesque as Vancouver, British Columbia, during the summer months. When the sun shines, the beaches, hiking trails and parks fill up with locals and travelers eager to enjoy the city’s great outdoors. Our guide to these 21 incredible and fun things to do in Vancouver in summer will have you soaking up all the great views, culture and amenities this vibrant west coast city has to offer.
21 things to do in Vancouver in Summer
Walk or bike around Stanley Park
Stanley Park has been voted the best park in the world via TripAdvisor time and time again. I think that we locals sometimes forget the awesomeness of this bucolic green heart of the city, but we shouldn’t.
This iconic park offers beautiful green spaces, scenic seawall pathways for walking or biking, beaches, and the Vancouver Aquarium. From the oceanfront Second Beach pool to picnicking at Brockton Oval and people watching at English Bay Beach, gather the family, meet up with friends, and plan a walk or bike ride around the Park’s Seawall.
And don’t miss the Totem Poles and the stunning views from Prospect Point.
Visit Granville Island
This vibrant island with its bustling public market in False Creek, Vancouver, is near me. With artisan shops, galleries, restaurants and theaters, it’s in easy walking distance from Kitsilano Beach, or accessible via False Creek Ferries or AquaBus from downtown.
You can also rent a kayak, motor boat or paddleboard to explore False Creek. Several touring and whale watching companies leave from the Island during the summer months. Seeing the Lions Gate Bridge from the water isn’t a view you’ll forget.
Eat an ice cream cone
Vancouver’s ice cream scene has exploded in recent years. And there’s nothing sweeter than a creamy cone or cup on a hot summer day or evening. Whether you love gelato, fro yo or artisanal hand made old-fashioned cones, enjoy some tasty treats while the living is easy.
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Picnic at Jericho or Spanish Banks Beach
We recently enjoyed a summer picnic with visiting relatives at Jericho Beach, and it was so delightful to be eating al fresco at the beach. The view is priceless and parking is a pittance – how great is that?
Vancouver has several stunning beaches, including Kitsilano Beach, English Bay Beach, and Spanish Banks. Spend a day sunbathing, swimming, or playing beach volleyball. The city’s beaches are among the best spots in Vancouver for free family fun.
Discover the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Take a trip to North Vancouver and experience the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. After some cultural interpretation, cross the 450-foot long suspension bridge, swaying across the Capilano River.
When you reach the Treetops Adventure on the opposite side, get the squirrel’s eye view from platforms and walkways suspended in the rainforest. Venture along nature trails, then explore the Cliffwalk, a gravity-defying cantilevered walkway high above Capilano Canyon.
Hike the Grouse Grind
If conquering this mountain hike has been on your To Do list, summer is THE time to hit the Grouse Grind on Grouse Mountain.
Choose early morning for fewer climbers and cooler temperatures. And remember that you’ll need to pay for the ride down on the Skyride Gondola. After that celebratory cold drink once you’ve conquered the climb, of course.
Explore Grouse Mountain
Instead of walking up the Grind, board the scenic SkyRide gondola ride to the top of Grouse Mountain. Enjoy hiking trails, zip-lining, wildlife viewing, lumberjack shows and stunning panoramic views of Vancouver, West Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Visit Vancouver’s museums
Vancouver is home to many excellent museums, including the Museum of Anthropology and Beatty Biodiversity Museums. Both are located at the University of British Columbia.
The Vancouver Police Museum in Gastown will be a hit with teens, while the Vancouver Maritime Museum will appeal to pirates and landlubbers of all ages.
Enjoy outdoor festivals
Vancouver hosts numerous festivals during the summer, including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Celebration of Light fireworks competition, and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in Jericho Beach Park.
Canada Day is also a popular celebration in downtown Vancouver, where free festivities take place throughout the peninsula, and fireworks can be enjoyed at Canada Place after sunset.
Go whale watching
Embark on a whale watching tour from Vancouver and witness majestic whales in their natural ocean habitat. If you’re lucky, you may spot orcas, humpback whales, and other marine wildlife like otters, dolphins and sea lions.
Popular whale watching tours include Prince of Whales and Pacific Coastal Cruises.
Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
If you haven’t yet, venture 30 minutes up the Sea to Sky Highway and enjoy a ten-minute ride on the Sea to Sky Gondola. Enjoy amazing views of Howe Sound Fjord, the Squamish Chief and local Garibaldi mountains.
There are easy walks and interpretive hikes from the Mountain Station for everyone in the family. The Via Ferrata is also worth a try, if you’re brave enough.
View the treetops at UBC Greenheart Canopy Walkway
Capture a bird’s eye view of the coastal forest at the UBC Garden’s Greenheart Canopy Walkway. The 310 m long walkway is carefully suspended 20 m above the forest floor, allowing you to experience the forest of 100-year old trees in an entirely new and adventurous way.
You can choose a guided tour, or walk at your pace along the walkway. Don’t miss walking along the beautiful UBC Garden trails during your visit, or popping into one of the campus museums.
Visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Explore an urban garden in the heart of the city. The Dr. Sun Yai-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is designed in the traditional Ming Dynasty style, without nails. Admire the intricate architecture, peaceful ponds, and lush greenery while learning about Chinese culture.
Go berry-picking in the Fraser Valley
Choose from strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries, and stock up for the winter. Berries, especially blueberries, freeze incredibly well.
My favorite blueberry recipe this season? A delicious summer salad of blueberries, watermelon, cucumber and feta cheese.
Eat popcorn at a Free Outdoor Movie
While we may no longer have drive-in theaters in the city, the next best thing are the many chances to enjoy outdoor movies with the family. Catch some family-oriented outdoor films in Stanley Park or Kerrisdale.
And don’t forget to bring your blankets, chairs, popcorn and a fleece for when the sun sets.
Ride the Wooden Coaster at the Fair at the PNE
Built in 1958, the Wooden Roller Coaster at Playland at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) attracts speed enthusiasts from miles around.
The annual PNE Fair is on from late August until Labour Day. Enjoy the coaster, deep-fried carnival food (don’t forget those mini donuts), and agricultural fair along with the all the Playland rides to close out summer in Vancouver.
Go plane spotting at YVR
The Vancouver International Airport is a busy place, and even if you’re not traveling, you can still enjoy the activity. Pack a picnic, park for free and watch planes come and go at the Larry Berg Flight Path Park in Richmond, just across the Arthur Laing Bridge.
Get cultured on Commercial Drive
Vancouver’s original Little Italy is busting with cafés, Italian and other ethnic restaurants, and some great retail shops. It’s also home to an annual Italian Day on the Drive Festival that takes place on the second Sunday in June.
Visit Vancouver’s gardens and parks
We began this article with a shoutout to the city’s largest park, Stanley Park. But Vancouver is filled with many beautiful green spaces scattered throughout the city, including the VanDusen Botanical Garden near Oakridge.
VanDusen features a wide variety of plant species, ponds, a rose garden, sculptures and a fun Elizabethan Maze.
At Queen Elizabeth Park in the Riley Park neighbourhood, wander through a former quarry now filled with flowering plants and trees. QE Park is also home to the Bloedel Conservatory, an indoor domed paradise of tropical plants and more than 100 bird species.
Take a Day Trip to Whistler
Just a couple of hours’ drive from Vancouver, Whistler is a popular mountain resort town in summer as much as during the winter months.
Enjoy outdoor activities like alpine hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining, or take a scenic gondola ride to soak in the stunning views from the top of Whistler Mountain.
For more cultured and wellness experiences, enjoy the silence of Scandinave Spa, a personal favorite activity when I’m in Whistler. Or appreciate the art at the stunning Audain Art Museum and Indigenous culture at the Squamish Lil-wat Cultural Centre.
Experience the Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market is an annual summer event just across the border in Richmond. It’s one of the largest and most popular night markets in North America, operating during evenings and weekends from May to October.
Take the CanadaLine from Vancouver and get out at Bridgeport Station to access the Market’s mind-boggling array of entertainment, food stalls, shopping opportunities and cultural experiences. There’s a lot to do, but like in the hawker markets of Singapore, it’s all about the food.
At the market’s food stalls, you’ll find a wide variety of Asian street food, including dishes from different regions of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and more. From meat skewers to bubble tea, takoyaki to stinky tofu, hurricane potatoes and frozen treats, there are numerous food options to satisfy every craving.
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Are you visiting Vancouver this summer? Share your favorite activities in the comments below.