Vancouver Travel Guide

Vancouver is a Canadian city in the province of British Columbia. It is the largest metropolitan centre in western Canada and third largest in Canada. The city's population is 2,132,824. Vancouver is one of the cities of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and of the larger geographic region commonly known as the Lower Mainland of BC.

Vancouver is internationally renowned for preserving its natural beauty within the metropolis. Vancouver is home to one of North America's largest urban parks, Stanley Park. The city has all the urban amenities of a major city, as well as easy access to the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range. Real estate is largely limited by the surrounding mountains and water. The North Shore mountains dominate the city landscape, and on a clear day many scenic views are visible: the dormant snow-capped volcano Mount Baker in the State of Washington to the southeast; Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest, and the Sunshine Coast to the northwest. Breathtaking views can be seen from many locations in and around the city.

Vancouver is a relaxed city with many diversions and easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, boating, and skiing. There is a lively cultural scene. Some have called it a "city of neighbourhoods", each with its own distinctive character.

Tourism is a vital industry to Vancouver. Whistler, BC, 126 kilometres north of Vancouver, is among the most popular skiing resorts in North America, and will be the site of the downhill events in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Cypress Mountain, each with a variety of summer and winter leisure activities, are within 30 km drive of downtown Vancouver and all have bird's-eye views of Vancouver and the surrounding region. The city's numerous beaches, parks, waterfronts, and mountain backdrop, combined with its cultural and multi-ethnic character, all contribute to its unique appeal and style. Over a million people annually pass through Vancouver en route to a cruise-ship vacation, usually to Alaska.

Vancouver is home to people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions. According to the 2001 census, 37% of Metropolitan Vancouver's population are "visible minorities"—in other words, people of non-European backgrounds (not including Aboriginals). Vancouver contains the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Francisco's), and many multicultural neighbourhoods such as the Punjabi Market, Japantown, Little Italy, Greektown, and Koreatown which is developing synergy around Robson and Denman Streets in the West End. Street signs bilingual in English and Chinese or Punjabi can be seen at these centres of ethnic concentration. Prior to the hand-over of Hong Kong to China in 1997, many immigrants from Hong Kong made Vancouver their home, giving it the controversial nickname HongCouver. This continued a tradition of immigrants flocking from all around the world to call Vancouver home. Statistics Canada data shows that 17% of the roughly 2 million population of the census metropolitan area is ethnic Chinese.

The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreationists. The north shore mountains are home to three ski hills - Cypress Bowl, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour - each within 10 to 30 minutes of downtown. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the north shore. Three rivers - Capilano River, Lynn Creek, Seymour River - each within 10 minutes of downtown provide opportunities to whitewater enthusiasts during periods of rain and spring melt. Vancouver also attracts cannabis-oriented tourists because of the reputation of its indigenous drug culture and high-strength hydroponically-grown marijuana.

Vancouver can be an expensive city, as housing prices are among the highest in Canada. Various strategies aim to lessen housing costs. These include cooperative housing, suites, increased density and smart growth. Nevertheless, as with many other cities on the west coast of North America, homelessness is a concern, as is the growing gulf between rich and poor.

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) operates a regional rapid transit system, under the auspices of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, known as TransLink, an organization which is responsible for all aspects of municipal transportation, including roads and ferries within the GVRD. There is frequent bus service throughout Greater Vancouver. A foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus) crosses Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, while a two-line automated metro system, the SkyTrain, the world's longest automated light rapid transit system, links downtown to the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. There are plans to extend the SkyTrain to Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Vancouver is the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, 2005 Grey Cup, the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship and the 2006 United Nations World Urban Forum.


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