BY JULIE OVENELL
BACK in 2019, when COVID-19 was just another unfamiliar acronym, Vancouver welcomed more than 11 million overnight visitors. But, even though we love showing off our beautiful city—brimming with nature, and culture, and food, and fun—we tend to avoid the very places that helped make Vancouver famous around the world (think: crowds).
Well, not this year.
In 2020, with borders and bubbles tight, the city isn’t seeing the same influx of visitors. Which means: locals can finally indulge their inner tourist and explore their own beloved backyard—safely and sensibly, with lots of elbow room and even more deals. (Example: book a Vancouver hotel getaway and you’ll receive a $100 credit to the city’s top attractions.)
Whether you’re looking for family fun or date-worthy diversions, there’s an activity with your name on it. There’s never been a better time. All attractions are observing strict health and safety protocols such as timed entries, physical distancing, mandatory masks, and cashless transactions; see their individual web sites for details.
CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE PARK
Capilano Suspension Bridge: The Lower Mainland’s oldest attraction (1889), this famous crossing spans 137 metres, towering high above a rocky canyon floor. Anyone who’s been there (including Mick Jagger and Marilyn Monroe), knows what a genuine thrill it is to make the long, rolling lurch across the Capilano River. Remember to book your time in advance to secure a spot.
GROUSE MOUNTAIN, THE PEAK OF VANCOUVER
Grouse Mountain, The Peak of Vancouver: There’s a reason—many good reasons in fact—that tourists flock to this mountain: The gondola ride is dramatic, rising 1,100 metres in eight minutes and offering stunning panoramic views of Vancouver and beyond. Reserve your Skyride time in advance and make sure you buy enough parking at the bottom because there’s a lot happening up top besides the jaw-dropping scenery: a bear sanctuary, ranger talks, mountaintop hiking (with physical distancing protocols in place), a Kids Tree Canopy Adventure, dining patios, and zipline adventures, to name just a few favourites.
Vancouver Aquarium: Canada’s favourite non-profit marine science centre took a hard hit when COVID closed its doors in March, but the public quickly rallied, purchasing artfully branded face masks to raise funds and show support. Now open with shorter hours, the aquarium has implemented a one-way traffic system, and requires timed tickets to be purchased online in advance. Don’t forget your face mask as they are mandatory inside the aquarium.
MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY AT UBC
Museum of Anthropology at UBC (MOA): With its soaring architecture, spectacular sea-to-sky views, and stunning Northwest Coast First Nations art collection, MOA is a must-see Vancouver museum. Though you’ll need to book an arrival time, you can stay as long as you like, so try not to rush your visit—the impressive collections of global art and artifacts at this acclaimed BC museum deserve your time. Face masks are encouraged while you’re inside. The café is now open Tuesday to Sunday, so grab a snack to enjoy on the scenic grounds.
Granville Island: On the plus side of the global pandemic, it’s much easier to find parking at Granville Island these days—and it’s all temporarily free. The downside: “pinch points” in the public market that necessitate occasional outdoor line-ups. But who’s complaining when what you’re waiting for is a Lee’s donut? Wear a mask if you can and make the most of outdoor pleasures, such as outdoor patios and the kid-friendly splash park.
BILL REID GALLERY OF NORTHWEST COAST ART
Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art: This small downtown space—named for the creator of the famous Jade Canoe sculpture at YVR and the new artwork on Canada’s $2 coin—is the only public gallery dedicated to contemporary Indigenous art of the Northwest Coast. It makes a perfect complement to the better-known Museum of Anthropology (above). On Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., gallery access is reserved for the elderly and vulnerable, and first responders.
DR. SUN YAT-SEN CLASSICAL CHINESE GARDEN
Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: Located in the heart of Vancouver’s historic Chinatown neighbourhood, this petite and peaceful park was named the World’s Top City Garden by National Geographic and Canadian Garden of the Year by the Canadian Garden Tourism Council. You’ll need to purchase a timed ticket to enter.
QUEEN ELIZABETH PARK AND BLOEDEL CONSERVATORY
Queen Elizabeth Park and Bloedel Conservatory: Vancouver’s “horticultural jewel” is home to the exotic Bloedel Conservatory—and quite literally the high point of Vancouver. Offering spectacular views of the city and the North Shore Mountains, this lush hilltop park is the perfect setting for romantic picnics and late-night stargazing. Book your entry in advance.
Flyover Canada: Still pining for an international vacation in 2020? Try the next best thing and experience an exhilarating flying ride that lets you soar, dive, and dip through incredible Icelandic landscapes without leaving Vancouver. Visit the land of ice and fire with Soar Over Iceland, on until August 30.
HARBOUR AIR FLIGHTSEEING TOUR
Harbour Air Flightseeing Tours: Ready for the real flyover experience? Book a Harbour Air seaplane tour and get high above it all for a fresh perspective on the gorgeous city you call home.
Originally published on: HelloBC.com