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Vancouver - Discover historic Vancouver

Named after the British Captain George Vancouver, who explored the area in the 1790s, this city has a population of around 500,000 in the city and 1.2million in the surrounding area.

The Fraser Gold Rush of 1858 brought over 25,000 men to the area searching for their fortunes, rapidly boosting the population, but it wasn't until 1863 when the logging industry was established, that the fledgling city started to grow and expand.

Forestry is now the largest industry here with tourism a close second due to the ample picturesque surroundings just outside the city.

Downtown Vancouver, with its historic Gastown and trendy Yaletown areas gives ample opportunities to explore the old and enjoy the new, however it's the surrounding area that tourists usually come here for.

The beauty of the natural environment, the ocean, mountains and expanses of tree-covered parkland is a haven for those wanting to get close to nature.

vancouver.ca

Top 10 things to do in Vancouver

Stanley Park

The park is a-typical of modern-day urban parks in that this one hasn't been landscaped by an architect. The park has evolved over many years of different uses to it's present form today.

On September 27, 1888 the park was officially opened, where it was named after Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada at the time.

The park is approximately 10% larger than Central Park in New York and has over 200km of trails and roads.

Much of the park remains forested with an estimated half million trees that can be as tall as 76m and hundreds of years old.

The forest gives the park a more natural character than most other urban parks, leading many users to consider it an urban oasis.

Recreational facilities are abundant in the park, having long co-existed, albeit uneasily, with the aesthetic and more natural park features preferred by those looking to the park as an enclave of nature in the city.

vancouver.ca/PARKS/parks/Stanley/

Gastown

The marketing slogan for this area is great and says it all "Vancouver began here. So should you."

Located to the northeast end of current Downtown, this was the first area to be known as that and is named after "Gassy" Jack Deighton, a Geordie seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area's first saloon.

Due to the north side of the port being a "Dry Town", this area soon became popular with the loggers and fishermen and quickly developed into an economic hub.

Today, Gastown is a mix of contemporary fashion, interior boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and night clubs.

Gastown's most famous landmark is its steam-powered clock, located on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. Built to cover a steam grate, part of Vancouver's distributed steam-heating system, the clock was built as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather.

Popular annual events that take place on the faux-cobblestone streets of Gastown include the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Tour de Gastown international bicycle race.

www.gastown.org

Aquarium Marine Science Centre

Located in Stanley Park, the aquarium is a centre for marine research, conservation and marine animal rehabilitation.

It was one of the first facilities to incorporate professional naturalists into the galleries to interpret animal behaviours and the first aquarium in the world to capture and display an orca.

The Vancouver Aquarium is currently home to around 300 species of fish, almost 30,000 invertebrates, and 56 species of amphibians and reptiles. They also have around 60 mammals and birds.

There are a number of different galleries each grouping together related species of animals.

The centre quite frequently holds special events so it's well worth checking the website to see if anything is happening around the time you're there.

They have recently just added an audio visual experience called Planet Earth: Shallow Seas 4-D Experience; a cinematic adventure filled with thrilling sensory effects such as wind, mist, scents and dramatic lighting.

www.vanaqua.org

Granville Island

Granville Island can be found in False Creek which is directly across from the CBD. It's a haven for shopping and entertainment.

Originally setup for the manufacturing industry, the area is now a very popular tourist attraction providing amenities such as a public market, a large marina, a hotel, many unique craft studios and various theatres.

The craft studios include a Glassblowing studio, two Co-op Printmaking studios, a Fine Art Print Studio, a Luthier, a master saké maker, various Jewellers, the B.C. Potter's Guild Gallery, The Crafthouse Gallery, The Circle Craft shop, art galleries, boat builders, a Wood Co-op Shop, Woodworkers studios and so on.

The public market is host to fifty permanent and over one hundred temporary vendors selling a variety of food and crafts. The market is normally open from 9am till 7pm seven days a week except Christmas and New Years day.

There really is an abundance of places to eat from with hip and casual waterfront cafés, a top stylish restaurant or just simply buying an ethnic snack from the market and sitting down on the marina launch.

You can get there by ferry or a more personalised, and quicker, water taxi service.

www.granvilleisland.com

Chinatown

Centred on Pender Street in the Downtown area, Vancouver's Chinatown is the second largest in North America after San Francisco.

Chinatown was once known for its neon signs but like the rest of the city lost many of the spectacular signs to changing times and a new sign bylaw passed in 1974. The last of these was the Ho Ho sign (which showed a rice bowl and chop sticks) which was removed in 1997.

Today the neighbourhood is complete with many traditional restaurants, banks, open markets and clinics, tea shops, clothing and other shops catering to the local community and tourists alike.

The 'China Gate' on Pender Street was donated to the City of Vancouver by the Government of the People's Republic of China following the Expo 86 world's fair, where it was on display. After being displayed for almost 20 years at its current location, the Gate was re-built and received a major renovated facade employing stone and steel.

The night market is well worth the visit if you're in the area between May and September and is styled after Asian marketplaces where shopping is personal, local and bartering is the name of the game.

www.vancouverchinatown.ca

VanDusen Botanical Garden

Opened in 1975, the public garden was named after local lumberman and philanthropist Whitford Julian Van Dusen.

The garden can be found in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood of Vancouver at the North West corner of 37th and Oak Street.

The Garden covers 22 hectares and displays plants gathered from all over the world and includes a garden shop, a book and seed library, and a restaurant. There are several special attractions, including carved totem poles, large stone sculptures and a Korean Pavilion whose architecture is the focus for the Asian plant collection.

If you are lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Vancouver, it may well be worthwhile going to see the Festival of Lights that are held at the gardens between December 10th and January 2nd. A treat for the kids and adults too.

Guided tours, lectures, and workshops are available. Admission is free and the gardens are open every day except Christmas.

vancouver.ca/PARKS/parks/vandusen/website/

Maritime Museum

This Maritime museum devoted to presenting the maritime history of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Canadian Arctic and is located just west of False Creek on the Vancouver waterfront.

The main exhibit is the St. Roch, an historic arctic exploration vessel used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The museum also has extensive galleries of model ships, including one with historic model ships built entirely from cardboard or paper as well as a particularly fine bone model of the French warship "Vengeur de Peuple which was built around 1800 by French prisoners of war.

As well as general history and models the museum also houses the W B and M H Chung Library. The Library provides public access to information about maritime history, art, culture and technology.

If you can reach the museum by public transport, you'll avoid the quite expensive car parking rates.

www.vancouvermaritimemuseum.com

Science World

This attraction is closed and will reopen on March 8th, 2010.

The science centre is located at TELUS World of Science at the end of False Creek.

The centre features many permanent interactive exhibits and displays, as well as areas with varying topics throughout the years.

There is also an Omnimax theatre at the site. Similar to Imax theatres, this one has a giant domed screen that literally makes the whole film jump out at you.

You can just tell it's going to be fun inside as there's a gigantic ball maze machine at the entrance. You can watch the balls go down corridors, round curves and make big drops, setting off one chain reaction after another, until they finally hit the bottom. Mesmerising!

Most of the 100's of exhibits are interactive which make it exciting for the kids and there are live demonstrations there too. Try the Brain Test where you try to outwit your opponent in moving a steel ball towards them just using the power of thought (and some whopping big headbands linked to a big computer).

www.scienceworld.ca

Queen Elizabeth Park

This municipal garden is located on Little Mountain.

The site was originally an ugly quarry site, the rock from it being used to build Vancouver's first roads in the early 20th century.

In the 1930s, the area was transformed into a sunken garden and then turned into a park. In 2007 the Dancing Fountain was unveiled which is comprised of 70 jets using 85,000 litres of recirculating water to create a very inventive water display.

Apart from the floral displays, the park includes a pitch-and-putt golf course, a tennis club, a lawn bowling club and a restaurant.

The park is also used extensively by locals for picnics, Tai Chi and nighttime stargazing.

Several episodes of the long running and very excellent TV show Stargate SG-1 were filmed here.

vancouver.ca/parks/parks/queenelizabeth/

Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain is one of the North Shore Mountains of the Pacific Ranges in North Vancouver. This winter alpine ski resort overlooks Greater Vancouver and has four chairlifts facilitating 26 runs.

Grouse Mountain's first lodge was hand-built by Scandinavians in the 1920s. They hauled planks up what would become the Grouse Grind hiking trail.

The ski and snowboard area, located on the southern slope of the mountain, operates in the winter months between December and May. The most prominent run on the mountain is the Cut, one of two beginner runs, which is easily visible from the Vancouver area.

In addition to the 305 centimetres of annual natural snowfall, the mountain uses 37 snow guns, covering 75% of the ski and snowboard terrain, for artificial snowmaking.

Other facilities at the site include a 100-seat mountaintop theatre and a wildlife refuge.

In the summer, the mountain features lumberjack shows and a 2.9 km hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind.

Access to the mountain top is by a Swiss Garaventa aerial tramway, the Grouse Grind hiking trail, or the Old Grouse Mountain Highway (foot and bicycle access only)

www.grousemountain.com

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