Category Archives: Travel Vancouver Canada

The Vancouver Aquarium: More that Just an Aquarium, It’s a Marine Sanctuary!

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is one of the biggest aquariums in the whole of North America.  A visit to it is certainly a good idea when passing by the city of Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia (or B.C. for short).

Local tourism has given the entire province the “Beautiful BC” title that is true in many respects, especially as it applies to the Vancouver Aquarium, which has been in existence since 1956.  It is home to 70,000 beautiful marine animals, in a sprawling facility with a combined total of 100,000 feet; and, two and a half million gallons of water!

You will find Beluga whales and dolphins dancing to every tune, but you will have a profound respect for the Vancouver Aquarium soon enough.  For this is not your resort-style commercial aquarium where you can sometimes imagine animals “working” in sweatshops.

The foremost goal of the Vancouver Aquarium is to educate first and to entertain later.  What this means is the vast collection of marine species of Noah’s Ark proportions is not meant to exploit the entertainment value of cute animals—but to remind mankind that the clock is ticking before these creatures are gone.

This explains why the Vancouver Aquarium houses a special section for frogs to highlight just how many species of frogs around the world are up for extinction.  Apart from the teasers or bite-size information posted on aquarium glasses, many marine scientists walk the talk in this massive marine sanctuary.

The Vancouver Aquarium is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily.  But the work of marine biologists are non-stop here, conducting serious researches on say, orca vocalizations or the very delicate terms of whale adoption.  So if you see a Beluga whale jump in the air and splash water all over you, do not think for a second that the animal is just trying to be cute!

As marine scientists have found out in this Vancouver Aquarium and marine science institute in one, the whales do this specific act not to flirt with the audience, but to express sheer pleasure with hunting as a pack in true wildlife. But before you get any Free Willy ideas, hear out more about what the marine coaches in this institute have to say.

Indeed, the Vancouver Aquarium is threading that fine line between circus and environmental conservation.  And it admits to doing this for the higher calling of saving more endangered species in the long run.  Here is one fine example, try Googling for “sea otters” and chances are you will come across the YouTube video of two cute sea otters holding hands.  Yes, these two are (or one is) Vancouver Aquarium residents.  Their names are Nyac and Milo.  Nyac passed away in September 2008.  The two creatures were rescued from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Tragic the demise of Nyac the sea otter may be, the Vancouver Aquarium admits that sometimes you have to exploit cuteness to get the public’s attention to the more serious subject of good environmental stewardship.  Well life is just like that.

Doctors are now keenly aware that having a cute animal for a companion, or just looking at one, may relieve stress, which in turn leads to cardiac arrest prevention over the long term.  So before you turn your back on the price of admission at the Vancouver Aquarium’s doors, just imagine how many cute marine animals you will be missing.

And you’ll be helping their cause, too, here at the Vancouver Aquarium.  Like for example the Pacific White-Sided dolphins which serve as a reminder that dolphins are the second most intelligent animals on the planet, second only to man!  Mind you, these excellent performers were actually rescued by Vancouver Aquarium staff when they got entangled in fish nets just off the coast of Japan!  Many of them have actual scars to show in their fins or skin.

So when you watch the dolphin show out here at the Vancouver Aquarium, don’t think for a second that it’s just a show.  Just imagine the traumas that many of these marine animals have gone through.  Even the Steller sea lions have a story to tell.

Certainly, the efforts by the Vancouver Aquarium’s dedicated marine science staff will not be in vain if you come out of the aquarium with the realization that many of the animals here have a lot in common with people.  Many of them are true survivors who learned to overcome their trauma and have moved on.

With that realization still fresh in your head, try taking a stroll of world famous Stanley Park, Vancouver’s 1,000-acre forest conservation area opened in 1888.  Chances are, you came to the compound of the Vancouver Aquarium from one of the park’s main entrances, so why not? Complete the journey!

Canada Place Vancouver

Even if you easily get seasick, there is still a boat in Vancouver on which you must go aboard: a boat that never leaves the harbor, and whose sails began as a few large toothpicks, some white pantyhose, and thread.[i] This “boat” is known as Canada Place Vancouver.

Canada Place was built on an old B. C. pier that was historic for docking ships from the Orient long ago. It was built as a “daring” building for the 1986 Expo. A pier was a fitting place for the theme of that World’s Fair, Transportation and Communication: World in Motion – World in Touch. Unlike most World’s Fair buildings, Canada Place was also built for the future.

The building resembles an enormous ocean liner. Because of the five eye-catching white sails atop the building, it has become a chief landmark of Vancouver, B.C., and a great place to begin your tour of the city.

As a visitor, you don’t want to miss taking advantage of the “promenade decks.” In addition to the self-guided tour ( with fascinating historical photos and anecdotes, it offers outstanding vantage points for taking pictures. You can watch seaplanes landing and taking off, passengers on cruise ships embarking or returning from Alaskan cruises, and other activities in the Burrard Inlet and Coal Harbour. You will have fascinating views of Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver, of the North Shore and its mountains.

Another feature unique to Canada Place is one planned by the architects—“an emotional collage as you move through and around the building. … Perspective views are created that are constantly narrowing or widening, opening this view and hiding another—sculptural forms that can be understood only from one vantage point.”[ii] Walk around looking for these kaleidoscopic views; you will be entranced!

There are frequent special events to attend ( and other attractions. Among those that occur annually are:

Canada Place is home to a number of interrelated functions:

  • Small shopping centre near the Pan Pacific Hotel
  • Restaurants, including the Five Sails waterfront restaurant—offering an “unforgettable combination of breathtaking views of Vancouver, award winning West Coast cuisine and gracious hospitality”  (, the Cascades Lounge—“the place to unwind, sit back and indulge your senses” (, and the Café Pacifica, which—among other things—encourages you to “enjoy the irresistible combination of exquisite Italian cuisine and live Opera as the Café Pacifica is transformed into a charming Italian bistro Saturday evenings.”  (
  • At the southern beginning of the pier, atop the business complex, is the 503-room, 23-story Pan Pacific Hotel. All rooms and suites of this five-star hotel offer panoramic views of the harbor, mountains, or skyline.  The Hotel lobby, extending onto a public deck, unfolds a resplendent view over the harbour and up to the mountains. A fountain sculpture, imitating the coastline of the Pacific Rim, flows into the lobby, cascading down a 20 foot high waterfall. (
  • Below the Convention Center is the Cruise Ship terminal—where most of Vancouver’s legendary cruises begin—primarily to Alaska, but also along 500 nautical miles in the Inside Passage on the west coast of British Columbia.  In 2001, Canada Place was expanded to make room for an additional cruise ship berth, for a total of three berths. For more than 30 years, the Port Metro Vancouver has been the primary homeport for Alaska cruises, offering passengers more ships and departure dates to choose from than any other port (the port includes terminals at both Canada Place and Ballantyne, with a combined total of 850,000 revenue passengers on 254 sailings from May to September, 2008).
  • A bus terminal lies near the Cruise ship terminal.
  • A 200,000 square foot Convention Centre—(In 2007 a new building—the West building—more than doubled the size of the Convention Centre to 470,000.) The two buildings are designed as a series of modules that can be combined or divided to suit the needs of any imaginable event.
  • Theatre—the world’s first permanent, ultra modern IMAX 3D theatre
  • World Trade Centre (Office Building Complex) “Just steps from downtown Vancouver’s financial district, world-class shopping and major transit hubs, the World Trade Centre is the ultimate address for any business that wishes to establish a prestigious presence in Vancouver.”

Eberhard Ziedler succeeded in making this building design both functional and magnificent. His architectural philosophy is to “transform functional and technical meaning into the emotional joy of using architecture. Technology is not an end in itself but a tool to create buildings that express the complexity of being alive, to respond to our emotional needs, making our lives richer and fuller by creating visual joy.”[iii] Canada Place is a perfect expression of that philosophy—so, enjoy the building and the anticipated, as well as the surprising things it offers.

[i] [i] From a personal e-mail from Alan Munn of Ziedler Partnership Architects, May 1, 2009. Munn stated, “Because the exhibit hall should be column free the structure needed to [be] supported at the edges. … EB Zeidler worked with Horst Berger (of Geiger Berger, the leading authority on fabric structures at the time) using stretchy white fabric (from pantyhose), thread and large toothpicks to come up with the prototypical model. The resulting structure resembled sails.”

[ii] From an unnamed article by chief architect, E. H. Ziedler, April 30, 1986. Sent to the author by Alan Munn of Ziedler Partnership Architects, May 1, 2009.

[iii] Ibid.

Visit Vancouver BC

Visit Vancouver BC, a city surrounded on three sides by beautiful sandy beaches like Kitsalano beach, Jericho beach and West End beach. Warmed by Pacific Ocean currents, it is protected by snow capped mountains to the north. Vancouver was signed into existence in 1886 and is now Canada’s third largest city.

Greater Vancouver boasts a population of 2.1 million inhabitants equal to half of British Columbia’s total 4 million population. Over one million of Vancouver’s inhabitants speak a language other than English. English and Chinese are the most common languages, followed by Punjabi, German, Italian, French, and Spanish and a potpourri of other tongues.

Sports in Vancouver BC

If you are a sports person, then you should visit Vancouver. There is no better place in the world than Vancouver for the boating and fishing enthusiast. There are miles of stunning coastline and endless waterways. Granville Island, Horseshoe Bay and Coal Harbour are home to most of Vancouver’s boat charter companies. Ask them where the best fishing spots are then charter a boat and head for open water.

Anglers will love to fish for the salmon, rainbow trout, steelhead, and sturgeon when they visit Vancouver’s local waters. Whether you are fresh water or salt-water fishing, you are required to have a license. Don’t worry, licenses are readily available at tackle shops, Army & Navy department stores, and all the marinas.

Outside the city, outdoors enthusiasts enjoy canoeing and kayaking, backpacking, camping and mountain biking as well as snowboarding and skiing in the winter. Walkers and joggers, cyclists and skaters can all take advantage of the many tree lined paths and trails throughout the city.

Some great downhill and cross-country ski facilities are located on Grouse Mountain, Cypress and Mount Seymour. These are great winter sport locations for Vancouver’s inhabitants.  Two hours north of Vancouver BC, are Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, internationally renowned for their great skiing. Vancouver will host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Winter Games beginning March 10th.

Things to do in Vancouver

Some of the most popular destinations are Vancouver’s public parks including the world famous Stanley Park and especially Queen Elizabeth Park. Known as “Little Mountain”, Queen Elizabeth Park is Vancouver’s geographic center. There are beautiful ornamental gardens full of trees and shrubs indigenous to the British Columbian coast. Visit Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park for breathtaking views of the city,

Take a trip to Capilano Suspension Bridge; At 450 feet long, it is the longest suspended pedestrian bridge in the world. If you are squeamish or suffer vertigo, standing 230 feet over the Capilano River on a five-foot wide swinging bridge is not for you.

Yaletown, which used to be a rundown warehouse district, is now an upscale neighborhood full of boutiques and nightclubs. A trendy place and just a short walk from downtown; it is dedicated to entertainment and boasts many fashion and design shops.

The night scene in Vancouver is a mix of ultra-hip lounges, relaxing pubs and energetic live music clubs. If you are a night owl, there are plenty of fun dance clubs and late-night venues to keep you entertained. Enjoy the live music of any of the local bands and international groups that play the pubs and clubs.

Vancouver has many museums, theatres and art galleries, which you must visit as well as many great shops and antique stores. If you are a shopaholic, you really must come to the annual Shopping Festival held in early March.

Vancouver BC offers an amazing supply of attractions and things to do and see. No matter what time of year, there is always something going on that everyone can enjoy.

Visit Vancouver, it is the one stop shop for fun sport and entertainment. It has it all!

Things to Do in Vancouver

Through the airplane window, the view alone takes your breath away. Snow-covered mountains, a mighty ocean of deep blue, a cascade of low-lying misty clouds, and a cluster of shimmering skyscrapers join to create a unique landscape. Is it a movie set? A painted backdrop? A city existing only in dreams and imagination? No. It is Vancouver, the Canadian city tucked away beside the British Columbian Coastal Mountains and a corner of the Pacific Ocean. A visit to Vancouver is a perfect fit for all the members of a family. Nature-lovers,  urbanites, beachgoers, and culture buffs will all find many things to do in Vancouver, a West Coast haven.

Interested in the outdoors? Vancouver boasts two of the largest urban parks in North America: Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Both easily accessible by the city’s extensive bus lines, these parks offer dense forests of towering cedars, firs, and hemlocks,  explored via well-marked trails and pathways. Stanley Park is perched on the edge of the main peninsula of the city surrounded by the popular nine-kilometer Sea Wall. The highlight of any visit to Vancouver, the Sea Wall offers walkers, joggers and bikers breathtaking views of the city, Stanley Park, and the nearby mountain range. When you’re done enjoying the Sea Wall, be sure to visit the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre located inside the park, a popular spot for families. Catch a shuttle bus to the Aquarium from the park entrance. Pacific Spirit Regional Park, on the west side of the city, offers 763 hectares of untamed forest and several rugged pebble-covered beaches, ideal for exploring on a warm spring afternoon.

Vancouver also offers two botanical gardens for the delight of flower enthusiasts: the Van Dusen Botanical Garden at 5251 Oak Street and the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Farm, located on the UBC campus.

Looking to get a little sun? Be sure to visit between the months of February and September to enjoy glorious sunshine on the many free public beaches. Kitsilano Beach, located at the corner of Arbutus and Cornwall streets, is by far the most popular, offering volleyball nets, a seaside restaurant, tennis courts, and the largest salt water swimming pool in North America.

Looking for some art, culture, and history on your trip? The University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology is considered North America’s leading institution showcasing the art and artifacts of Pacific Northwest First Nations Peoples. The museum includes a gallery of works by Haida artist Bill Reid as well as a recreated Haida village open to visitors. You can find this museum on the campus of the University of British Columbia, accessible on the 99 bus line.

The Vancouver Art Gallery, located at 750 Hornby Street, features the world’s largest collection of works by BC artist Emily Carr, as well as several rotating exhibits. Vancouver’s Chinatown, located at Pender and Main streets, is Canada’s largest. Visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Park and the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum, or just walk the streets filled with exotic markets, medicine shops, and Chinese pottery stores. For a taste of Vancouver’s past, visit the historic area of Gastown, where the cobbled sidewalks, row buildings, and gas street lights reflect life in nineteenth century Vancouver. Other popular museums include the Vancouver Maritime Museum and the HR Macmillan Space Center, both located on a scenic piece of waterfront land at Cypress Street.

Eager for the classic urban dining experience?  Food lovers all over the world are beginning to see Vancouver as a restaurant mecca, as it offers many options that bring together East and West, modern and classic.  Vij’s, located at 1480 West 11th Street, is a modern, sleek update on the Indian restaurant, is fast becoming a Vancouver institution.  Visit Lumière at 2551 Broadway in Kitsilano, a French restaurant featuring the food of top Canadian chef Daniel Boulud. A fan of sushi? Vancouverites claim that their city boasts the best sushi outside of Tokyo. Try Tojo’s (777 West Broadway), the Eatery (3431 West Broadway), or Sushiyama (371 East Broadway). Looking for something a little more exotic? Try the Malaysian cuisine of Banana Leaf (2121 West Broadway) or the Indonesian food of Pondok (893 West Broadway). Or head to Commercial Drive on the number 99 bus line or Skytrain to try some Ethiopian or Salvadorian food! For a great place to buy groceries or grab a quick lunch, try the Granville Island Public Market, accessible from downtown by the number 50 bus or a short Aqua Bus ride across False Creek.

At the end of a long day of exploring, you will want a nice place to rest your weary head. Try one of the popular bed and breakfast options in Kitsilano or seek out elegance at the world renowned Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (900 West Georgia Street).

As you can see, there are many things to do in Vancouver. This city is a great weekend vacation destination, easily accessible from major cities in Canada and the United States.  Come and enjoy our unique corner of the world!