I’m totally not biased, but Vancouver is basically the puurrfect location for the Canadian West Coast’s first cat festival. Not only do we have the city and the ocean, but also an abundance of lakes, forests and mountains—all within a walk or short transit ride between one another. The people are friendly, the sushi is cheap, and the summer temperatures are hot but not unbearable.
I could keep bragging for days about how great Vancouver is, but if you’re an out-of-towner visiting for meowfest weekend, you’ll soon get the chance to see for yourself. Whether you’re a foodie, an outdoors enthusiast, an avid shopper or a total kid-at-heart, we have something (actually, a few things) for you.
1. Embrace your inner treehugger.
You can’t visit Vancouver without admiring some of the ‘gram-worthy views. It’s a rule. If, like me, you love nature but aren’t exactly an experienced hiker, Vancouver offers a variety of trails that are manageable by hikers of all skill levels and easily accessible by transit. Hiking hotspots include Lynn Canyon Park, Lighthouse Park and Quarry Rock.
If you’re looking for something more ambitious to tick off your bucket list, the Grouse Grind, affectionately referred to by some as “Mother Nature’s stairmaster,” is a 2.9 kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain. At the top, have a drink, admire the incredible view, and be thankful it’s over (or, even better: forfeit the suffering and take the gondola instead. We won’t tell anyone).
2. Stuff your face with delicious veg food.
Vancouver is rated by PETA as one of the most vegan- and vegetarian-friendly cities in North America. Even if you’re a happy omnivore, Vancouver’s array of vegetarian and vegan restaurants may open your mind—and tastebuds—to creative plant-based cuisine. Must-trys include Virtuous Pie, MeeT, Chickpea, Po Kong, the Arbor, the Acorn and Vancouver’s O.G. vegetarian eatery, the Naam, which has been serving up comfort food staples such as bowls, burgers and burritos since 1968. If it’s a sunny day, request to sit on the patio.
Tomorrow was supposed to be our first garden patio day but the sun was so nice today that we couldn't resist ❤🌞 Psst: don't forget #happyhour starts in 15 minutes 😉 ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨ . . . . . . . #patioweather #summerdays #summer #happyhour #patioparty #alfresco #getoutside #secretgarden #youdomakefriendswithsalad #eathealthy #vegetarian #eatfood #vanfoodie #vcbfood #yvreats #yvrfood #vancityeats #kitsilano #foodcouver #buzzfeast #604eats #yvrfoodie #eeeeeats #feedfeed #dailyhivefood
3. Drink aaaaallll the beer (or whatever your beverage of choice is).
If you’re nineteen or older and like beer, Vancouver is the place to be. Some great local favourites include 33 Acres, R&B Brewing, Brassneck, Postmark, Granville Island Brewing, Parallel 49, East Van Brewing Co., Four Winds, Strange Fellow and the more unconventional Storm Brewing (which may be more like a garage than a “brewery,” but the beer is delicious and samples are by donation on Friday nights. It’s totally legal, I promise).
If you like to drink but aren’t a huge fan of beer, never fear—we’ve got you. Must-visit bars include the Cascade Room (an extensive classic cocktail list), Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen (for whiskey fanatics), Guilt and Co. (for drinks and live music), Six Acres (great Pimm’s Cups, a romantic atmosphere and a cute patio), the Alibi Room (always busy, and for a reason), and the Shameful Tiki Room (for super extra cocktails and an equally extra environment).
4. Take a wander through Granville Island.
No matter what your interests are, there’s something at Granville Island for everyone. See a show, shop for locally-crafted goods, (shamelessly) frolic with your kids in the water park or nibble the day away at the renowned Granville Island market. If only for the experience, catch the Aquabus back into town—it’s probably the most scenic form of transportation in the city.
5. Bring out your inner kid at Playland.
If you grew up in or near Vancouver, chances are you went to Playland almost every summer, yet somehow it never gets old, no matter what age you are. Enjoy an afternoon filled with classic carnival games, rides, and cotton candy. If you don’t have an aversion to heights, try to sneak in a ferris wheel ride at sunset.
7. Shop 'til you drop.
There’s certainly no shortage of shopping options in Vancouver. For locally-owned boutiques, head to Main Street in Mount Pleasant or West Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano. Robson Street, also known as the city’s oldest commercial street, houses retail chains such as Sephora, Aritzia, Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21, as well as souvenir shops to fulfil all your tacky souvenir needs (after all, it isn’t a trip to Canada until you buy a plush moose in a Mounties uniform).
Good vintage in Vancouver isn’t easy to come by, but some fun gems include Community Thrift and Vintage, Duchesse Vintage, F as in Frank (which is conjoined with the pay-by-weight Rag Machine), and Mintage. The Eastside Flea, which takes place biweekly in a beautiful heritage building, hosts over 50 local vendors selling hand-picked vintage, plants, antiques and collectibles, and locally-made goods. For the optimal ESF experience, grab something deliciously greasy from one of the food trucks or a cocktail from the bar while you browse. Check the ESF Facebook page closer to the date to make sure the market falls on the weekend of meowfest.
8. Be a tourist in charming Gastown.
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Gastown is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Vancouver for multiple reasons: First, some of my favourite cafés, bars and restaurants can be found there; second, the fairy lights and cobblestone make it insanely romantic, even on the rainiest Vancouver afternoon; and third, watching tourists react to Vancouver’s beauty reminds me why I love this city as much as I do. Don’t be ashamed to buy overpriced bottles of maple syrup for all your family members, snap a selfie or two in front of the steam clock, or take a “Hop On, Hop Off” bus tour. The world is your oyster!
9. Make some underwater friends at the Aquarium.
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The Vancouver Aquarium is not only a major tourist attraction in the city, but it’s a centre for marine research, conservation and marine animal rehabilitation. Whether you go for the sea otters, penguins, sloths or belugas, you’re bound to learn something new.
Afterwards, take a stroll through Stanley Park, relax at the picturesque Third Beach, or let the kids burn off any remaining energy at the outdoor pool and water park. You may even be able to catch a play at the Malkin Bowl for the park’s annual Theatre Under the Stars, a summer tradition since the 1940s.
It’s a moment of calm in an interpreter’s otherwise hectic day. On the other side of the acrylic pane, they can see the hustle and bustle of many visitors smiling and pointing. But inside the Strait of Georgia exhibit, all they hear are the bubbles of their mouthpiece as they float peacefully among the rockfishes and sturgeons. Join us for regular dive shows in the Pacific Canada Pavilion and in the Tropic Zone where the interpreter dives with the sharks.
10. Bike the seawall.
Vancouver is a very bike-friendly city—so bike-friendly, in fact, that you can even rent bicycles for a small fee from rental agencies and bike sharing stations. Take a ride around the seawall and cool down with something sweet from the nearest ice cream shop or stand.