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Vancouver

Updated: May 22, 2012 01:59 PM EDT
A totem pole in Vancouver's Stanley Park - one of the world's largest urban parks. (©Tourism BC/Tom Ryan) A totem pole in Vancouver's Stanley Park - one of the world's largest urban parks. (©Tourism BC/Tom Ryan)


By Chris McBeath and Chloe Ernst

Ringed by snow-capped, forested mountains dropping down to miles of sandy beaches, Vancouver is a city where you can snowboard and sail on the same day. Against the stunning scenic backdrop, you'll find a medley of sophisticated restaurants, leafy parks, and lively, earthy brew pubs. As Vancouver pulsates with a smug and sassy youthfulness, Victoria, British Columbia's capital city, is more seasoned -- like that of an elder sister whose English beauty is more than skin deep.

Things to Do

Giant, colorfully carved totem poles tower above an impressive collection of First Nations masks and sculptures at the Museum of Anthropology. Visit the belugas, otters, and dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park, before seeing historic and modern art at the downtown Vancouver Art Gallery. To reach Granville Island's plentiful Public Market, hop on a tiny ferry to cross False Creek. In Victoria, stroll the cobblestone streets of Old Town before taking traditional afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress.

Active Pursuits

When the sun is shining, you'll join a stampede of Vancouverites heading to the city's beaches, hiking trails, and mountain slopes. Biking, running, or walking the Stanley Park Seawall rates highly for its at-your-own-pace vibe and panoramic views. In Victoria, you can take a jeep-safari through farms and vineyards, or spot harbor seals, whales, and dolphins on a whale-watching tour.

Eating & Drinking

Amid a rich culinary region, seafood is king in Vancouver and Victoria. Try a six-course seafood medley, paired with a glass of wine from an Okanagan winery, at five-star Yaletown dining rooms. Dining options are plentiful and often cheap, be it delectable Thai in Kitsilano, a raw food menu near Main Street, or inventive Chinese tapas in Chinatown. In Victoria, you'll find a variety of culinary styles downtown.

Nightlife & Entertainment

In Vancouver, you can rub shoulders with the nightclub crowd on funky Granville Street downtown. Hip Yaletown offers up swanky cocktail bars and clubs. For more laid-back surrounds, join the relaxed beach crowd at a variety of watering holes in Kitsilano. In summer, picnic in Stanley Park and watch Theatre Under the Stars. In Victoria, stop for a pint at a convivial waterside brewpub, or visit the cool bar in the Fairmont Express for blue martinis with hot jazz.

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